Providing feral cats with a separate housing area in the shelter has important benefits for other cats in your shelter and for the feral cats.
Why House Feral Cats Separately?
Feral cats are likely to pose health risks for other cats if housed together:
Feral cats may be less healthy than socialized cats.
Feral cats are more likely to be carriers of infectious disease and parasites.
If the cats are very difficult to handle, you may not be able to vaccinate them or even examine them closely for signs of infectious disease.
Agitated and aggressive behavior is stressful to other cats.
The feral cats, in turn, can be highly stressed by the amount of activity, light, and noise that are common in animal housing areas. By locating ferals in a separate space, you can accommodate their needs without affecting your general cat population.
In addition, some cats who at first appear unsocialized are actually just fearful. A quiet, secure place helps them calm down more quickly and display their social sides.
Everybody's Got Someplace to Hide
Provide each cat with a way to hide in their cage. The cats may settle more quickly with the option to hide while they adjust to their surroundings.
A Hide Perch and Go box or other cardboard box with ventilation
A small carrier that fits inside the cage and is turned away from the cage front
A paper grocery bag, opened and on its side, with a folded towel placed inside (the towel helps keep the bag open and makes it more inviting)
A hiding place that also functions as a carrier is ideal. You'll be able to transport the cats when necessary without touching them, which is safer for staff and cats. Feral Cat Dens are especially good for this purpose.
More Tips for a Less Stressful Environment
Keep lighting levels low. During the day, natural light from windows or skylights is best. In rooms without natural light, consider turning off overhead lights (except when cleaning and checking on the animals) and using nightlights to provide low light.
Limit noise, even conversation, as much as possible.
If possible, locate the feral cat area away from dog housing, public areas, and other places in your facility that tend to be noisy.
Limit the human traffic in and out of the area.
If possible, spot clean cages during a cat's stay so that the cat does not have to be moved out of the cage. Thoroughly clean the cage only after the cat has left. (You may need to fully clean the cages of some cats during their stay, such as cats who don't use their litter box.)
Post signs to remind staff and visitors of the purpose of the feral cat housing. You can use this sample (.doc) as a starting point.