University of Maryland Extension

Domestic and Feral Cats

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domestic cat

Both domestic cats and feral cats can be a problem for many homeowners. Feral cats are domestic cats that have reverted to the wild. Feral cats make dens in old buildings, under sheds, junked cars and similar places. In a few generations they revert back to being completely wild and are dangerous to handle. Wild cats also serve as an important reservoir for human and wildlife diseases like ringworm, toxoplasmosis, leptospirosis, distemper, and rabies. Typically, three litters are produced each year if there is sufficient food and habitat. All cats may become troublesome when they kill songbirds, fish and other aquatic wildlife around backyard ponds, defecate in garden soil, and males spray urine to mark their territory.

Feral cats should be trapped using a live trap baited with canned cat food or other strong-smelling food. Cats are very clever. If several cats are to be trapped, pre-bait the trap for several days prior to actually setting it to get the cats accustomed to feeding from it. Domestic cats can be discouraged from defecating in gardens by using commercial cat repellents or covering seedling or vegetable beds with chicken wire. There is no way to prevent cats from preying on wildlife except to keep them indoors. Most counties have leash laws for domestic cats that require the owners to keep them indoors.

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