Cat Sanctuary

Adoptable? – Or Not? – Part 1: The Ferals

When visitors first come to the Cat Sanctuary, they are told that most of our cats are unadoptables, and that if they’re looking for a new cat, the No 5 Road City Shelter is the place to go. Typically, visitors will look around and say “but they’re so tame!” – but what they’re seeing is cats who are comfortable with their surroundings.

The usual four categories of non-adoptable cats are ferals, semi-ferals, behaviour problems and health problems, and on this basis, many of our cats would be killed by the typical animal control system.

The definition of feral is usually a cat that is born wild, or a stray that has had minimal socialization with humans, and has reverted to wild state. It does not include the typical “lost” cat, who may have many of the feral behaviours, but can sometimes be reminded that humans are friends.

There’s not much question about the true ferals – the majority of them want nothing to do with humans, and they are much happier living in a pen at the back of the sanctuary where people will let them be.


Our med staff know all these cats, and keep a careful eye on them; medical treatment usually means netting, and a certain amount of human blood shed. Typically cages with big red signs saying “Med staff only” house ferals who are in for care, and are not happy with the situation.


There are a fair number of ferals who prefer to live indoors. Nelly was one of our beloved Mario’s “harem”; when we lost Mario last year, Nelly was obviously searching for him. She lives entirely on the top of the double-wide cages and refuses to interact with humans other than the occasional disdainful finger-tip sniff. Her horrified stare is a typical feral look.


Cats like Rusty are very selective about the humans they will allow around them. Sometimes, like elderly people with memory loss, they forget that they should be scared, and a feral who becomes approachable is very often a sign of an aging cat.

Coming up in the Adoptable – or not? series:
Health problems / Behaviour problems / Semi-ferals and strays.

Blogger: Brigid Coult
Photos by Claire Fossey and Michele Wright