Can a House Cat Live in the Wild?

There are sad instances where a family moves away, or an elderly person passes away, and the once-loved housecat is simply left outside to find a new life for herself. 

This is often done with the misconception that cats still have wild instincts, and they will learn to adapt. The truth is, they have never been taught what to do, as they would have if they had been born into a wild family. 

Cats who have been bred to be docile are helpless. Their claws have been trimmed, and they haven’t developed a thick coat and toughened paw pads for the outdoors. They don’t know what is safe to eat or drink, or how to find shelter, and they’re at risk of being attacked or eaten by wild animals, including hawks, owls and other birds of prey.

While a house cat can live up to 20 years indoors, those who are left to live outside often do not survive for more than 5 years, according to PETA. 

Truly undomesticated cats are very territorial, especially about their food sources. Even if a house cat has been let out every day to exercise, her feeding and fighting instincts have been bred out of her. She could easily be ambushed by territorial cats. So it’s not possible to simply let her out and think she can continue to live in the same area, if there are hardened predators around. 

Sometimes cats who survive do so by staying close to homes in the neighborhood, where, hopefully, neighbors will feed them and provide some outdoor shelter. They remain dependent on humans, but lose their medical care, and all the affectionate bonding they once had, unless someone special takes them in. It’s not a good way to live. 

If you know someone who is moving and can’t keep their cat, you may consider helping them to locate a foster parent or rescue group, or a friend who will take their pet before move-out day and continue to help find a good home. 

There are many small home rescue groups pocketed in the Atlanta area, in addition to the larger ones you hear about. If you are interested in helping out, you might check with your vet or the local pet store for recommendations to some of these networks. It is always good to know about such resources just in case someone is moving on and their cat suddenly — desperately — needs a new home.

Heron’s Crossing provides end-of-life care for pets in the Metro Atlanta area. In-home appointments with compassionate vets are available. If you’d prefer a home-like setting away from your home, our Decatur office is also available by appointment.