Two of the most typical questions we get asked at Cat Haven
Ranch is: what is a feral cat, and why let them roam free?
A feral cat is a term that has been used to describe a homeless cat that is undomesticated. Many people confuse the term "Feral" with "Wild" or "Dangerous". We consider "feral" to describe a particular behavior a cat expresses when it is not used to people or feels frightened. It is virtually impossible to differentiate whether a frightened cat was born without human contact, formerly had human contact and became un-socialized from living on its own or if it is simply frightened. Cat Haven Ranch chooses to call these cats free roaming and uses the term "feral" to describe a behavior a free roaming cat may convey.
Cat Haven Ranch is considered a free roaming cat colony. A cat colony is a group of free roaming cats that live in close proximity to each other. Cat Haven Ranch's colony is formed around the Meow Motel/Kitten Cabin, and the 6 dedicated feeding stations.
Our free roaming herd was formed from many different locations. The source of free roaming cats is almost endless. Our herd was built from shelters, abandoned at pet stores, local rescues, hoarders, newspaper ads, online sites, etc... We try and intake as many free roaming cats as possible from the local/county animal shelters because of the high rate of euthanasia. Sadly, each year shetlers receive more cats than they are able to adopt. As a result, shelter employees must assess each cat to determine the probability of it being adopted. Cats who express "feral" behavior are considered poor prospects and are euthanized, regardless of their age or health. In most cases it is impossible to determine if a cat is simply frightened in a shelter environment or if it has lived without human ineraction. In Northwest Arkansas, this stereotype unfortunately most often results in many frighetend tame cats being euthanized under the label of "feral". We have many, many examples of this in our Herd Regulars. These are cats that were part of intake program due to their "feral" nature at the local/county shelters. Once they began to integrate into our herd, and our daily colony life, they quickly warmed up to us, and can be held, petted, played with the same as a typical domestic house cat.
Can a free roaming cat bond with it's human colony caretakers? 100% absolutely. Our full time volunteers have bonded with all the Herd Regulars, and they have bonded with the volunteers. Our cats know their feeding schedules, and their treat locations, as well as the daily routine schedule. They will wait at the Meow Motel every day, within 10-15 minutes of their normal feeding time. We do have a few that will only come down the valley as we call out everyday during feeding. They wait for that particular noise, then they appear from their hiding spots.