Feral Cats

What are Feral Cats?
Feral cats are either house cats that have been abandoned, free roaming pets or cats born in the wild. Unfortunately, some cat owners feel that their cat should be allowed to run free instead of being kept indoors. Many of these cats have not been neutered or spayed, and when they produce litters, they are increasing the number of feral cats, thereby creating a problem nationwide. These cats form colonies, rely on their instincts for survival, and become fearful of humans.

When these cats are successfully caught, re-introduction to domestication for young kittens is generally successful. Domestication is very rare for adult cats resulting in the need for them to be euthanized by a licensed agency.

Feral cats are not protected under the Illinois Wildlife Code. The Village of Buffalo Grove will not set traps for them. Raccoons and opossums will find the bait as attractive and can trigger the trap. In such an instance, the village would be in violation of the Illinois Wildlife Code. There are other options available to deter the cats from harboring on your property.

How to Discourage Feral Cats
Cats will commonly utilize decks or holes under sheds to house their litter. A recommended method for sealing up holes or entrances, in which a cat or other wildlife can enter, is to use chicken wire or welded wire. The Department of Natural Resources recommends digging a trench at least 10 inches deep and shape the bottom of the fence in an L shape. Place the L portion in the trench, cover with dirt and attach the top portion to the deck or shed. This will prevent the animal from being able to dig under the wire to gain entry. It is important to first verify that the animal (including its litter) has been removed from its living quarters. Since most animals are nocturnal, place flour around the access areas. The animal will leave prints in the flour indicating whether it has left or not.

Once it is determined that the animal has left, temporarily attach garbage bags to the openings. If the bag has been torn, the animal has returned. McHenry County Conservation District recommends leaving the bag there for three days. Another option is to use a clamp on reflector light (with flasher disk), and have a radio playing. Strong smelling odors, such as moth balls and ammonia soaked rags, will also help deter the animals.

Cats in Your Yard.
If the cat does not live in your yard, but is a frequent visitor, the Humane Society offers some ways of deterring the animal:
  • Use commercial repellents. These need to be reapplied after every rainfall, dew and/or watering. Never use poisons. They are inhumane and illegal.
  • Place sharp edged pebbles where the cats like to lie or dig. Round and smooth ones will make a comfortable bed.
  • Place dry beans and macaroni in metal pans along the fence, deck, porch, railings, or anywhere else that cat has been seen. If the cat leaps onto the surface, it will knock the container over, and scare away the cat.
  • Criss-cross double-sided tape or use a plastic drop cloth on areas where the cat frequently visits.
  • Use a timed sprinkler or turn the sprinkler on in the area that the cat uses as a litter box.
  • Never feed the cats. It encourages the cat to stay, and will attract others. You will also be harboring the cat, and by definition under Illinois Law you are now the responsible owner of these cats.
  • Keep sand boxes covered at all times. Cats will use this area as a litter box and it is imperative that it remains covered to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Install motion sensor lights in your yard, make sure your garbage is secure at all times, and do not allow bird food to accumulate on the ground.
Help is Available
If none of these options are successful and you still wish to have the cats removed, the Police and Health Departments can refer you to several private companies for the removal of these cats. In the event that a cat has been caught and placed into a transportation carrier, the property owner can bring the cat to the Police Department. (The Police Department will not remove cats that have been caught by private agencies.)

Please keep in mind that cats in your yard could possibly be someone's pet. If you choose to utilize a private agency, the Police Department requests that you contact them with the description of the removed cat. The Police Department does keep an updated log on cats that have been reported missing in our village.

For additional information, please contact a Community Service Officer at the Police Department at 847-459-2560 or the Health Department at 847-459-2530.

Another option you have as a homeowner is to contact Spay and Stay at 847-289-4557 if you live in Lake County or the Feral Feline Project at 847-800-0095 in Cook County. These non-profit organizations try to humanely control the growth of the feral cat populations. They offer services to trap the cats and have them spayed or neutered and then returned. Over time you will see the number of feral cats decline as they are no longer able to reproduce.

Breeding season for cats can start as early as February and run through December depending on the weather. It is requested that residents do not disturb any kittens that are located on their property. It is quite common for the mother cat to leave the kittens for several hours, therefore appearing to abandoned the kittens.

At such a young age, it is imperative that the kittens stay with their mom in order to receive the antibodies and nutrition that it can only receive from their mothers milk. If it is evident that the mother has been killed, and the kittens are in fact orphans, please contact a local veterinarians office for advice on how to care for the kittens. The Police Department is not equipped to to handle these kittens. If you have any questions, please contact CSO Horbus at the Police Department, Monday through Thursday 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 847-459-2560.