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Animal Shelter
Animal Shelter


A "feral" cat is unsocialized and tends to be fearful of people. Feral" is a behavioral characteristic, not a biological one. As a result, the same cat can be feral and not feral at different points in its life. An outdoor kitten may be born feral, then be taken indoors  socialized and adopted out as a friendly pet if under 8 weeks of age when captured. Or an adult cat may be a gregarious pet for years then become lost and, after a few months of living on his own, start to act unsocialized. In addition, feral is not a black or white distinction and different cats will be feral to different degrees.

 Feral cats can live individually but are most often found living outdoors in groups known as colonies. The cats in a colony share a common food source and territory and may include not only ferals, but also strays - former pet cats who were recently lost or abandoned and are still tame. Most feral colonies originate from unneutered stray cats. 

While they live outside human homes and exhibit wild behavior, feral cats are not wildlife. The vast majority rely on some form of human-based food source for their sustenance, whether it's a caretaker who feeds daily, a dumpster behind a supermarket or scraps left on fishing docks. Very few subsist on hunting alone.


Trap-Neuter-Return, or "TNR," is the most humane and effective method known for managing feral and stray cats and reducing their numbers. The cats are trapped and brought to a veterinary clinic where they are spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies and ear-tipped. After they've recovered from their surgeries, the cats are returned back to their original territory. 

Because the cats can no longer reproduce, the colony has the potential to decline in size over time. Spaying and neutering also greatly reduce nuisance behavior. Once the cats are fixed, fighting, yowling and other noise associated with mating stops almost entirely. The foul odor caused by unaltered males spraying to mark territory disappears and the cats, no longer driven to mate, roam much less and become less visible. The cats themselves are healthier and less likely to spread feline diseases. Meanwhile, rodent control is maintained by the cats' continued presence. TNR is most effective on a colony level when a sterilization rate as close to 100% as possible is achieved and maintained.

TNR has been demonstrated nationally to be the most effective method of population control for feral cats.  For decades, the normal practice of animal control was to trap and remove cats with the outcome usually being euthanasia.  During these years, overpopulation of free-roaming cats increased and this approach failed to reduce feral cat numbers.  Removing one set of cats from a location where food and shelter is available creates a vacuum for a new set of cats to fill.  


Berkeley Animal Care Services does not trap feral cats or lend traps. FIX OUR FERALS has a trap lending program for people who are in need of trapping for the purpose of spaying or neutering and returning the cats to their location.  FIX OUR FERALS also has a Spay and Neuter Clinic for feral cats.  The FIX OUR FERALS clinic also accepts pet dogs and cats for spay and neutering as well. 

12226 San Pablo Avenue
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  1. Push wooden chopsticks or ten-inch plant stakes into flowerbeds every eight inches to discourage digging and scratching.
  2. Cats dislike citrus smells.  Scatter orange and lemon peels, or spray with citrus-scented spray.  You can also scatter citrus-scented pet bedding.
  3. Cayenne pepper, coffee grounds, and pipe tobacco also work to repel cats. Some people have also suggested lavender oil, lemon grass oil, citronella oil, eucalyptus oil, and mustard oil.
  4. Spray cat repellent (available at pet supply stores) around the edges of the yard, the top of fences, and on any favorite digging areas or plants. For information call your local animal supply store.
  5. Cover exposed ground in flowerbeds with large attractive river rocks, to prevent cats from digging.  Rocks have the added benefit of deterring weeds.
  6. Plant the herb "rue" to repel cats, or sprinkle the dried herb over the garden.
  7. Try an ultrasonic animal repellent.  These are available in lawn and garden stores.
  8. Use a motion-activated sprinkler.  Any cat coming into the yard will be sprayed but unharmed, and it is good for the lawn.
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