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Home > Cats > National Feral Cat Day 2024 Update: What It Is & How It’s Celebrated

National Feral Cat Day 2024 Update: What It Is & How It’s Celebrated

close up of two feral cats

While dedicated pet owners dote on their feline friends every day of the year, it’s important to remember those less fortunate and often hidden members of the cat community. Approximately 60–100 million stray and feral cats live in the United States. Lacking support and a dependable home, these animals rely on broad awareness to give them the best possible chance at life.

To that end, Alley Cat Allies started National Feral Cat Day, an annual holiday held every October 16. The day acknowledges cats of all types and backgrounds while promoting policies that help feral animals. Let’s explore how National Feral Cat Day makes a difference for the country’s cats and the communities where they live.

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When Is National Feral Cat Day?

National Feral Cat Day took place every October 16 from 2001–2017. Alley Cat Allies, an international cat advocacy group, founded the holiday to raise awareness for feral cats, an oft-forgotten group among the domestic cat population. The group ended the holiday in 2017, replacing it with the broader Global Cat Day focused on ending cat cruelty. Global Cat Day also takes place every October 16.

stray feral cat
Image Credit: Michelle Raponi, Pixabay

What Is National Feral Cat Day?

National Feral Cat Day celebrated cats from all walks of life while recognizing the hardships of those on the street. In their effort to drive positive change, Alley Cat Allies began the holiday with several goals in mind, including:

  • Increasing the visibility of community cats
  • Improving spaying and neutering rates
  • Promoting trap-neuter-release programs
  • Encouraging policy reform
  • Changing negative attitudes about feral cats

National Feral Cat Day seeks to improve the livelihood of feral cats and our relationship with them. Community cats face an ever-present threat of disease, starvation, predatory animals, and vehicle collisions.

Only 25% of community kittens live to see adulthood, which, for most, only lasts about two years. In shelters, cats are the most likely to face euthanasia. The upside is that shelter euthanasia numbers are decreasing. Rates have fallen by over 80% since 2015, continuing a decades-long decline due to more responsible ownership and an increasing number of no-kill shelters.

Animal welfare organizations have been instrumental in driving the trend through education, political activism, and awareness events like National Feral Cat Day.

Celebrating National Feral Cat Day

The name may have changed, but the spirit of National Feral Cat Day stays true as ever in the new Global Cat Day. Alley Cat Allies used October 16 as a day of action for their organization and the animal welfare groups supporting their cause to end cat cruelty and support cats at home and on the streets. Veterinarians and animal shelters across the world host spay-a-thons, educational events, vaccination clinics, and other activities aimed at helping cats in need.

Individual cat lovers can make their mark as well. Alley Cat Allies offers information on their top campaigns to end cruelty and kill shelters on their website,1 encouraging anyone to take the pledge against harm and hatred toward cats.

Other ways to support the cause include:
  • Getting your cats spayed and neutered and organizing TNR efforts in your community
  • Showing off official Global Cat Day gear from the Alley Cat Allies online store2
  • Voicing support on social media with #NationalFeralCatDay and #GlobalCatDay tags
  • Donating to your local animal shelter or Alley Cat Allies to help them build upon their successes

Reach out to local animal shelters and welfare groups to learn how you can support community cats. From volunteering with an organization to creating winter cat shelters in your neighborhood, there are numerous ways to make a difference this October 16.

Cat Spaying
Image Credit: Elwynn, Shutterstock

Is a Feral Cat the Same as a Wild Cat?

Feral cats are distinct from wild cats in many ways. A feral cat is a non-socialized domestic feline that lives in the wild or on the street. Wild cats in North America include only a handful of species, including the bobcat, mountain lion, and Canada lynx.

Unlike feral cats, wild cats enjoy a conservation focus. Populations are decreasing for some species, while others are near extinction. By contrast, many see stray and feral cats as a growing pest problem.

Some estimate that outdoor cats kill tens of billions of birds,3 rodents, lizards, and other animals every year in North America alone. And given the rate at which cats reproduce, the population can explode without intervention, further endangering native animals and the feral cats. The perceived impact has created a notable split in opinions.

Animal welfare advocates push trap-neuter-release (or trap-neuter-vaccinate-release) programs to ensure the survival and quality of life of existing cats. But plenty of others feel lethal culling is the only way to make substantial gains. In either case, population control is the goal, which is the most significant difference between views on feral cats versus wild cats.

What Is the Difference Between a Stray Cat and a Feral Cat?

Stray and feral cats are similar in that they live on the streets, but strays are still adoptable. Feral cats have either lived entirely without a home or become unsocialized after spending enough time away from people. While strays can become feral eventually, they may be able to re-acclimate to indoor life.

The following are a few common characteristics of feral cats:
  • Prone to hiding and avoiding contact with people
  • Often operate in colonies
  • Do not meow, purr, or otherwise respond
  • More likely to move stealthily and avoid eye contact
  • Often nocturnal

Feral and stray cats can be challenging to distinguish, especially when trapped. An ear-tipped cat sporting one ear with a clipped end indicates it was part of a TNR program. If you’re uncertain about a cat in your community, contact your nearest no-kill shelter for information on how you can help.

feral cat on rock
Image Credit: Dimitris Vetsikas, Pixabay

At What Age Is a Cat “Feral”?

Kittens are not born feral simply because their parents are community cats. They can become feral in only a few weeks if they learn to remain wary of people. Feral kittens can be adoptable when acclimated early enough, but the taming-out process can be challenging and time-consuming.

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Final Thoughts

Feral cats may not be as loving as your average indoor variety, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve appreciation and respect. National Feral Cat Day and the new Global Cat Day bring light to those most in need. With small steps at least one day a year and a commitment to changing perceptions, you can positively and permanently impact the lives of feral cats in your community.

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Featured Image Credit: katrin88888, Shutterstock

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