Wikipedia.org definition of feral:
A feral animal or plant is one that has escaped from domestication and returned, partly or wholly, to its wild state. Rarely will the environment have evolved to accommodate the feral organism into its established ecology. Therefore, feral animals and plants can cause disruption or extinction to some indigenous species, reducing the pristine quality of wilderness and other fragile ecosystems.
While we often refer to homeless and sometimes frightened house cats as ferals, they are NOT wild cats who are part of our natural environment. Maricopa County is classified generally as Sonoran desert habitat. Domestic pet cats would have a difficult time indeed surviving in our desert. They are able to reproduce and survive in urban populated areas. It is said the average life of a "street cat" is 2 years, not long compared to the 20+ years an indoor cat may live. However, 2 years is long enough to produce many more domestic cats. A large number of
"feral" street cats are found to be friendly and tame, often when they have had a chance to recover in a safe environment after being trapped. Their change to being friendly and affectionate is evidence of once being handled and fed by humans. They are either lost pets or have been dumped.
Unfortunately, as our cities and population expands, so do the numbers of homeless cats. The numbers of homeless cats euthanized in Maricopa County has been increasing. Thousands of kittens and older cats that could be pets are euthanized by over burdened shelters particularly in the months of May through September. Because of the expansive increase in urban areas, homeless domestic cats interface with increasing numbers of native wildlife species and migrating endangered and threatened species of birds, as many migration stops become urbanized.
A practical and humane solution is to responsibly use options and tools to reduce the homeless cat population. Families that are not prepared to keep kittens born to their pets should spay or neuter the pet before the age of 6 months. Dogs and cats do not need to reproduce once to become loving pets and altering increases the longevity of the individual pet. Many "no-cost" or "low-cost" programs such as Maddie's Fund exist to assist low income individuals in spaying or neutering their pet. Trap, neuter and release (TNR) is a tool that can effectively reduce "feral" populations without euthanasia. If feral colonies of cats are supplied food, it may partially but not completely alleviate some of the problems with native wildlife. The only answer and humane answer is to lower the number of homeless pets. This will also conserve valuable funds needed to aid human causes and increase the quality of life for all concerned ... homeless pets and humans!
The homeless cat problem in Maricopa County is now so extreme that it will take virtually everyone to make a difference. Goodkitties.org hopes to assist in education efforts leading to a solution to the increasing number of homeless animals that are currently euthanized in Maricopa and surrounding counties every year.
Some truly wild species of cats who are similar in size to our domestic cat are the Pallas cat and the Sand cat. Experiencing the reverse problem of domesticated cats, these cats are non-domestic species and part of the natural ecology in their native lands. Rapidly moving toward extinction due to hab[tat loss and disruptive factors, they need our conservation efforts. To learn more of their plight and help the many species of wild cats, please use this hot link Small cat conservation Alliance