A feral cat is unsocialized, one not raised in captivity. Unaccustomed to humans, a feral cat will avoid contact with people.
Feral cats are everywhere. You can go years without seeing a feral cat because they are generally nocturnal, but they're there! They survive on rodents, insects, and handouts (or discarded food.) No one put the cats there – they are the generational offspring of abandoned, unsterilized neighborhood family pets and are part of the ecosystem.
You cannot simply "relocate" the cats. Feral cats are naturally territorial. Attempts at relocation do not work because the cats have strong homing instincts. Also, when cats are removed from an area, through whatever means, other feral cats simply move in to replace them, known as the "vacuum effect."
Most university campuses employ a "managed" protocol for their feral cats. Managed programs are normally staffed by volunteers from the campus, and are dedicated to TNR – Trap-Neuter-Return – spay/neutering and vaccinations, as well as providing food. This controls the numbers of cats with proven methods. Veteran-approved managed programs are the most humane, effective, and "green" approach.
Feeding stations help us manage the campus cats. Spay/neuter efforts depend on the cats being at a certain place at a certain time. In addition to providing a regular place to monitor the cats for optimal health, feeding programs help us to regulate TNR timing. Over the years since the program’s inception, we have reduced the population by half to about 50.
Feral cats are not candidates for adoption. Ferals differ from friendly, neighborhood stray cats. They are largely unapproachable by humans. While a few campus cats have become habituated to students and are quite friendly, most have no interest in bonding with humans.
We respect the fact that not everyone supports the campus cat program. While the program is a longstanding part of SMU, supported by the Office of the President and the Summerlee Foundation, we try to be as unobtrusive and cooperative as possible. Please contact us with any suggestions: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feral cats are protected by animal cruelty laws, and those in managed programs like SMU's are protected by animal law.