Written by Miranda Kurtz, Larimer Humane Society Behavior & Enrichment Supervisor
Cats are a domesticated species that have evolved alongside humans for thousands of years. They inhabit every continent except Antarctica, and have even sailed the seven seas as ship cats, responsible for exterminating stowaway vermin. There are an estimated 600 million to 1 billion cats worldwide, many of which are considered feral, stray, or community cats, who live all or part of their lives outdoors, and may or may not have caretakers. Larimer Humane Society cared for over 2,500 cats in 2022 and has already seen over 1,600 cats thus far in 2023. With this many cats, we see various levels of socialization and a wide variety of personalities from wallflowers to social butterflies, and fully feral to personal assistants.
Our Behavior & Enrichment Team looks at every individual cat’s known history, as well as any behavioral or medical information gathered while they are being cared for at the shelter to determine which home would best suit their needs. We also take great care to consider the needs and safety of the communities we serve, other animals in the community, and environmental health. Some cats that come to Larimer Humane Society are not well-adjusted to being strictly companion animals and have a successful outdoor history. These cats are placed in our Working Cat program. Working cats are cats who are seeking homes outside of city-limits where leash laws do not apply, and can help keep rodent and pest populations at bay. We require that these cats receive proper medical care, access to safety from the elements, and access to food and water, though many take care of their own food needs through hunting.
Socialization is a continuum. A feral cat is typically a cat who has either no socialization history with people or who have gone so long without positive exposure to humans that they have reverted back to a feral state, no longer willing to risk interactions with humans. These cats tend to avoid human contact at all costs and some may act aggressively if they feel threatened. Semi-socialized cats are likely to avoid touch but may approach people, especially if food is present, and in some cases may allow some petting but do not necessarily seek it. Fully socialized cats are what we typically think of as a pet, whether they are fearful, limit the amount of time they tolerate petting or are highly gregarious. You may also find these cats in colonies because let’s face it, everyone loves an easy meal!