napa humane

Feral Cat Information and Resources

What is a Feral Cat?

Although there is no precise definition of a feral cat, many times they are abandoned house cats that have become much too antisocial to be kept as a pet in a typical home. Often, they are born in the wild, and are afraid of people due to lack of human contact. They usually live in colonies near any food source that they can find: in neighborhoods, alleyways, apartment complexes, behind restaurants, on college/hospital campuses, and many other like places.  With no one to care for these cats, females spend most of their lives pregnant, resulting in feral cat overpopulation.

If you are here it is likely that you are aware of a feral cat situation and want to know how to handle it.  Navigating the many organizations and the networks of concerned citizens who contribute to managing feral cats can be confusing at first.  Each group or individual may be an important link to help you.  Our hope is that this information will help “connect the dots” for you for you to help the cats.

Reducing pet overpopulation is one Napa Humane’s main goals, believing that spay/neuter is the answer to decreasing the number of un-owned and unwanted animals in our communities and help end the suffering that such animal face.  There is an alarming number of feral cats colonies in our area and it takes concerned citizens, such as you, to manage these colonies.  We applaud your efforts in helping to decrease the numbers by making the decision to have one or more feral cat(s) spayed/neutered and returned to his/her original location.  We want to be your partners in this all-important quest and hope that this information guides you along the way.

Feral Cat Resources in Napa County

Generally, people who want to help manage feral cats in their neighborhood do one of two things:

  1. Trap, spay/neuter, test, vaccinate, and return to the neighborhood.  Some expand their role and become caretakers by providing food to and monitoring the health of colony.  This is the best way to handle a feral cat problem.
  2. Trap, surrender to the Napa County Animal Shelter.  Please note that the removal of a feral cat from his environment will most likely lead to another cat moving into his place. 

An unmanaged colony will result in an abundance of kitten births.  When a person decides to take responsibility of a colony, they will often take in kittens born to feral cats and either foster them until homes can be found or transfer the kitten to organizations that can foster them. 

Organizations that may be able to help:

Napa Humane Spay/Neuter Clinic
3265 California Boulevard, Napa

  • Low-cost spay/neuter, vaccinations, and microchipping
  • “Feral Cat Program”

Whiskers, Tails & Ferals
1370 Trancas Street, #206, Napa (mailing address only)

  • Financial assistance for spay/neuter
  • Assist with adoption placement for fostered kittens

We Care Animal Rescue and Refuge
1345 Charter Oak, St. Helena

  • Space permitting,takes in unwanted animals
  • Financial assistance for spay/neuter
  • Housing options for FIV positive cats

 Napa County Animal Shelter
942 Hartle Court, Napa

  • Rents humane traps
  • Accepts feral cats, able to re-home some in partnership with We Care Animal Rescue and Refuge
  • Accepts feral kittens, able to provide foster homes for some in partnership with Whiskers, Tails & Ferals

Napa County Animal Services
1535 Airport Boulevard, Napa

  • Respond to complaints of stray, sick or injured animals
  • Responsible for rabies control
  • Investigations of animal cruelty complaints and animal bite cases

County Trapper
Agricultural Commissioner
1710 Soscol Ave, Suite 3, Napa

  • Assistance with wildlife caught in humane traps

Humane traps may be purchased at Wilson’s Feed & Supply in Napa, Harbor Freight Tools in Vallejo, or purchased online at

Napa Humane Feral Cat Program

We understand that it can take days, sometimes weeks, to trap a feral cat therefore making scheduling an appointment in advance very difficult.  Napa Humane has made it possible to accommodate Napa County feral cat spay/neuter without having an appointment.  If you have a feral cat in a trap, you may bring him/her to the Clinic on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (with the exception of holidays).  We will do our best to fit the cat into that surgery day, but, at times, we may need to hold the cat overnight and place him/her onto the next surgery day.  If that is the case, we transfer the cat into a cage with food, water, and a litter box until surgery.  For the best chance of having the cat spayed/neutered on the same day, it is best to bring the cat to the Clinic between 7:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.

For every feral cat that you bring to the Clinic in a trap, we ask that you also bring an empty hard-sided cat carrier.  Once the cat is spayed/neutered, he/she is placed in the carrier for safe recovery and transport. 

Cats are tested for FeLV/FIV, vaccinated for Rabies and FVRCP, are spayed/neutered, treated for fleas and ticks with Frontline Plus® and are eartipped.  Cats under the age of 3 months do not receive a rabies vaccine.  We provide these services for $35 per cat for Napa County residents.  

If the cat tests positive for either FIV or FeLV, you, the caretaker, must decide whether or not the cat is to be euthanized.  Ideally this decision is made beforehand.  Understanding FIV and FeLV may help you decide how to proceed if your cat tests positive for one of these diseases.  If you choose to euthanize a cat with positive test result, we will administer the drug to the cat before he/she wakes up.  You then have the decision to either pick up the deceased cat and dispose of the remains yourself, or we will transport the cat to the Napa County Animal Shelter where they dispose of the remains.  There is an additional $33 disposal fee if the remains go to the Napa County Animal Shelter.

Cats going home after surgery must be picked up between 3:00 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. on the day of their surgery.  Once home, follow the post-surgery guidelines.

Again, we applaud your efforts in reducing the number of unwanted and unowned animals in the Napa Valley.

Post-Surgery Instructions for Feral Cats

After surgery, allow the cat to recover overnight in the hard-sided carrier. Keep the cat indoors in its carrier and make sure he/she is dry, in a temperature-controlled environment, and away from loud noises or dangers such as toxic fumes, other animals, or people. When the cat is recovering from anesthesia he/she is unable to regulate their body temperature. It is important that the recovery location is temperature-controlled to keep the cat from getting too hot or too cold.

Monitor the cat. Check the cat often for his/her progress; keep an eye out for bleeding and illness. If a cat is vomiting, bleeding, having difficulty breathing, or not waking up, get veterinary assistance immediately.

 Hold the cat until he/she recovers.  At a minimum, a cat needs to be held until the morning after surgery, depending on recovery speed. A cat should only be returned to the trapping site once they are fully awake and do not require further medical attention. In some cases, females may need 48 hours of recovery, depending on their specific circumstances. You may return nursing mothers as soon as possible, once they completely regain consciousness so they can get back to their kittens. Make sure the cat is fully conscious, clear-eyed, and alert before release.

Return the cat. Release the cat in the same place you trapped him/her. Do not be concerned if the cat hesitates a few moments before leaving the crate. He/she is simply reorienting hisself/herself to her surroundings. It is not uncommon for a cat to “disappear” for a few days after he/he is returned – he/she will appear eventually. Resume the feeding schedule and continue to provide food and water – he/she may eat when you are not around.

Thoroughly clean the trap and carrier with a nontoxic disinfectant when the return is complete. Whether the traps are borrowed or your own, they should be cleaned before they are stored. Then they will be ready for the next trapping adventure. Even traps that appear clean must be disinfected—the scent of the cat previously trapped may deter other cats from entering.

 Adapted from Alley Cat Allies. All rights reserved.


Eartipping is an effective and universally accepted method to identify a spayed or neutered and vaccinated feral cat. It is the removal of the distal one-quarter of a cat’s left ear, which is approximately 3/8 inch, or 1 cm, in an adult and proportionally smaller in a kitten.

This procedure is performed under sterile conditions while the cat is already anesthetized for spay/ neuter surgery. There is little or no bleeding, it is relatively painless to the cat, and the eartip does not significantly alter the appearance or beauty of the cat.

Eartipping is the preferred method to identify spayed or neutered and vaccinated feral cats, because it is difficult to get close to feral cats, and therefore the identification must be visible from a distance. Feral cats may interact with a variety of caregivers, veterinarians, and animal control personnel during their lives and so immediate visual identification is necessary to prevent an unnecessary second trapping and surgery.

No other method of identification has proven to be as safe or as effective as eartipping.

Copyright Alley Cat Allies. All rights reserved.

What is FeLV?

FeLV, or Feline leukemia virus, is a contagious, viral disease of cats. In addition to causing leukemia, it has been associated with various other types of cancer, anemia, and immune suppression leading to increased susceptibility to various infectious diseases. Although cats may clear initial infection, there is no cure for persistent infection and it is ultimately fatal.

Who gets FeLV?

It appears that cats are the only species susceptible to infection with FeLV. Kittens are at significantly higher risk for contracting the disease than adult cats.

How is FeLV spread?

FeLV is most commonly spread via the saliva of infected cats, either directly or by contaminated articles such as food and water dishes or toys. FeLV can also be present in other secretions such as urine or feces, but this is less common. FeLV can be spread transplacentally from mother to offspring, but spread via nursing or grooming is more common. Airborne spread is not a concern. FeLV is not very durable in the environment. It is inactivated by most commonly used disinfectants. It can survive for up to 48 hours in a moist environment at room temperature.

How is FeLV Diagnosed?

Blood tests are available for screening for FeLV.

How accurate is the test?

The blood test itself is quite accurate, but not perfect. Because cats can be transiently infected, it is possible that a cat will initially test positive for FeLV, and then recover and test negative at a later date. In most healthy cat populations FeLV is quite uncommon, and this leads to an increase in the relative number of false positive results. At minimum, all positive tests should be repeated to ensure that correct technique was used.

The blood test may also falsely identify recently infected cats as negative. To be absolutely certain, cats must be tested 1-3 months after their last known exposure. False negatives are more common when samples other than blood (e.g. saliva, tears) are used and when multiple samples are pooled.

Strategies for FeLV testing

Unlike FIV, testing for FeLV may be performed at any age. As mentioned, infection may take up to 1-3 months to develop, so results in young kittens are slightly less reliable. Samples should be tested individually; testing representatives from litters or pooling samples significantly decreases test accuracy.

What is the prognosis for cats with FeLV?

FeLV infection can cause various types of cancer, especially lymphoma and, as the name implies, leukemia. It can also cause anemia and deficiencies of other blood cell lines, as well as causing general immunosuppression that makes the cat vulnerable to numerous infectious diseases. Acutely infected kittens may have several years of good quality life before developing signs of disease, and some individual cats may live much longer. However, 50% of infected cats living in multiple cat households will die within two years of contracting the disease, and that number increases to 80% after three years.

Treatment consists of good nourishment, protection from stress, and management of secondary conditions. There is no treatment that has been shown to be effective in curing FeLV infection.

These are important considerations when considering re-homing an FeLV positive cat. Clearly a shelter or multiple cat rescue environment is a much less than ideal situation for a cat with a compromised immune system. Apart from the risk to other cats, the positive cat itself is at great risk for exposure to infectious agents that may be unapparent in cats with intact immune systems but can be devastating to a FeLV positive cat. These conditions range from many kinds of infectious diarrhea to upper respiratory infections.

 Copyright UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. All rights reserved.

What is FIV?

FIV, or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, is a disease of cats that is quite similar to human HIV/AIDS. Like a person with HIV, a cat can be infected with FIV and enjoy good quality of life for quite some time before developing full-blown disease. There is no cure for FIV, and cats with this disease are vulnerable to a number of secondary infections due to a suppressed immune system. Ultimately, this is a fatal disease.

Who gets FIV?

Although some wild cats can get FIV, there is no evidence that this disease is transmissible to any other species besides felines. FIV infected cats do not pose a risk for HIV infection in humans. Although it can affect cats of any age or sex, this disease is most commonly seen in intact adult male cats.

How is FIV spread?

Like HIV virus, FIV is not very readily spread. The main route of transmission is through bites. It is rarely spread through casual contact, and cats may cohabitate for years without transmitting the disease. However, bites are relatively likely to occur when a cat is newly introduced into a group. Introduction of an FIV positive cat to a household with FIV negative cats (or vice versa) therefore poses a moderate risk of disease transmission.  

Although transmission to kittens at or near the time of birth has been experimentally reported, in nature this appears to be extremely uncommon. Kittens born to FIV positive mothers are at low risk for infection, although they may initially test positive due to the presence of maternal antibodies.

FIV is not very durable in the environment. It is inactivated by most commonly used disinfectants. It can survive for up to 48 hours in a moist environment at room temperature.

How is FIV Diagnosed?

Blood tests are available for screening for FIV.

How accurate is the test?

The blood test is quite accurate, but false positives and occasionally false negatives do occur. In healthy, low-risk populations FIV is quite uncommon, and this leads to an increase in the relative number of false positive results. The blood test may also falsely identify recently infected cats as negative. To be absolutely certain, cats must be tested 1-3 months after their last known exposure. The test cannot be accurately interpreted in young kittens.

There is currently no test available to distinguish between infected cats and cats that have been vaccinated for FIV. 

What is the prognosis for cats with FIV?

Cats with FIV can live for a number of years without symptoms. However, most infected cats will develop “feline AIDS related complex” by the time they are 3-6 years old, developing a number of secondary conditions such as severe oral disease and various infectious conditions. Most FIV positive cats go on to develop full blown AIDS by the time they are 6-8 years old, and die soon after. Cats that are showing clinical signs at the time of diagnosis will likely die much sooner than those that are healthy at the time of diagnosis. Treatment consists of good nourishment, protection from stress and infectious disease, and management of secondary conditions. There is no cure for FIV infection, though the efficacy of various antiviral agents in treating the disease is an area of active research.

Copyright UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. All rights reserved.