Pet Advisor Blog
Cat Terms In Cat Rescues, Shelters and Care Centers
Cat Terms used in Cat Rescues and Shelters
Adopting a cat? Adopting a cat is a big responsibility and it certainly helps if you know even the minute details before getting your future feline companion. Start by learning the lingo before you head over to your nearest cat rescues, shelters or care centers!
Alter – neuter (applies to either gender)
Asslomar Accords – standardized definitions and statistics table for tracking shelter populations and a formula for determining shelter live release rates.”
Boar Cat– an old term for an non-neutered male cat (tom cat).
Caregiver – person responsible for a pet cat or for a feral colony; these days the term “owner” suffers from political incorrectness.
Castrate – to remove the testes (neutering of male cats).
Cat Collector – person suffering from a form of obsessive compulsive disorder with impulse to hoard cats in great numbers but has no means of proper not provide proper care. .
Cat Hoarder – another term, possibly a better one, for a cat collector.
Cat Rescuer – a person who takes in stray cats and kittens and tries to find good loving homes for them.
Cat Rescue Group – usually with non-profit 501(c)3 status group dedicated to finding new homes for stray cats or kittens.
Colony Caretaker – a person who cares for a feral cat colony. This person provides food, water, and shelter for the cats on a daily basis. This person is also responsible for making sure the cats are sterilized so they can’t breed.
Desex – neuter (applies to either gender)
Domestic – an animal which has become adapted to humans over many generations, has a genetic predisposition to tameness.
Entire – non-neutered, non-desexed, unaltered.
Ex-Feral – a feral cat which has been tamed and which now lives as a pet.
Feral – an ex-domestic cat which has reverted to being fully wild or the wild-born (never known domesticity) offspring of stray cats.
Feral Cat Colony – group of feral, and sometimes stray, cats and kittens that live in a particular area. These areas can be in apartment complexes, neighborhoods, behind stores or restaurants, in industrial areas, in gas stations, in rural areas, near rivers; the list goes on and on.
Feral-Domestic Hybrid – a misleading term which should really be changed. It means a hybrid between a wild cat species and a domestic cat. Strictly speaking it should be wild-domestic hybrid because a feral cat is not a wild species, it is a domestic cat gone wild.
Forever Home – the goal of every cat rescuer or rescue group. This is a home where the cat will live for its entire life without being abandoned or relinquished to the shelter.
Full Tom – non-neutered male cat; this term is used to distinguish intact males from neutered males now that the term “gib” has largely fallen into disuse.
Gib – a castrated male cat; most people use the term “a neuter” instead.
Guardian – another “politically correct” term for a pet cat’s owner or a feral cat’s caregiver.
Half-pedigree – a term only used by owners; means a cat with one pedigree parent. In true terms, a half-pedigree cat is still a moggy since a cat either is a pedigree cat or is not one, there are no half-measures. Often used when selling accidentally bred kittens as it sounds more attractive than moggy. Some individuals deliberately breed half-pedigree cats for the pet market.
Household Pet – in cat show terms, any cat which is not registered for breeding or exhibition in a breed category; may be random-bred, purebred (unregistered) or pedigree. Hybrid – a cross between two different breeds e.g. Persian and Himalayan (outcrossing) or two different subspecies e.g. Siberian tiger and Bengal tiger (intra-specific hybrid) or two different species e.g. lion and tiger (inter-specific hybrid)
Inbreeding – mating together closely related cats (sibling/sibling, mother/son, father/daughter) to strengthen desirable traits.
Intact – no-nnneutered, non-desexed, unaltered.
Kitten Season – time of year when kittens are born. It usually starts around March and ends in October. During this time of year, cat rescue groups are bursting at the seams and will usually have long wait lists. This is also the time of year when it is hardest for rescuers to adopt adult cats.
Kitten – a young cat. Some cat regulatory bodies define a kitten as a cat below a particular age; this is for the purposes of cat show categories. The popular definition of when a kitten becomes an adult is based on when it reaches full size and sexual maturity (5 – 6 months of age).
Kitten Taming – when a young feral kitten is fostered and tamed. While there is some debate as to how old is “too old” it is generally agreed that kittens 8 weeks and younger are the easiest to tame. Kittens 8 – 12 weeks are still fairly easy to tame but require a little extra work. Most people agree that most kittens 4 months and older should be sterilized and returned to their colonies. While these kittens can still be tamed, it requires a lot of time, effort, and most often the kitten will only bond to one person.
Moggy (Moggie) – mixed breed, cross-bred or random bred cat, one which is not pedigreed or purebred.
Moggy Breeder – a misguided person who deliberately (irresponsibly) breeds random-bred kittens purely for sale (or to supply pet shops); this person either does not believe in neutering or is simply trying to make money. Unlike the pedigree or purebred breeder they are not attempting to develop or perpetuate a particular “look”.
Mutt-Cat – mixed breed, cross-bred or random bred cat, not pedigreed or purebred.
Neuter (noun) – a castrated tom cat or (less usually) a spayed female cat; vets often use the terms “male neuter” and “female neuter”.
Neuter (verb) – to surgically render sterile; applies to males and females but is usually used as euphemism for castration.
Neonatal Kitten – kitten that is not weaned. Neonatal kittens usually range in age from one day to four or five weeks. These kittens require the most time and effort to care for. No Kill – means that only animals that are “unadoptable” or “non-rehabilitatable” are killed. The problem is that each shelter has slightly different definitions for “unadoptable” or “non-rehabilitatable.” The proper definition of this term is that no animal is killed unless it is irremediably suffering or truly vicious and a danger to the public. In practice this means that 90% or more of animals entering a No Kill shelter will leave alive.
Live Release Rate – formula that calculates the number of animals that left the shelter or humane society alive. They can leave either through adoptions, by being returned to their owners, or by being transferred to a rescue group that will then be responsible for finding the animals a new home.
Outbreeding – mating unrelated individuals to improve type or vigour.
Outcrossing – mating a pedigree cat of one breed to a cat of a different breed/type in order to strengthen/improve the breed or introduce new traits.
Pedigree – belonging to a particular breed and having a family tree registered with the breed regulatory body. A pedigree cat is not necessarily purebred since some breeds have allowable outcrosses (e.g. can be crossed to certain other breeds to improve characteristics). Some purebreds are bred for a subset of traits within a breed e.g. for their colour and the term indicates that they have not been crossed to same breed cats which are a different colour..
Purebred – having only individuals of the same breed in its family tree; no outcrossings; not all purebreds have pedigrees, some purebreds are unregistered or the variety is not a recognized breed.
Ram Cat– an old term for an non-neutered male cat (tom cat).
Queen – a female cat that is not spayed. Also spelled quean.
Save Rate – number of animals, usually stated as a percentage, that were not killed in the shelter or humane society.
Semi-Feral – a non-domestic cat which lives in close proximity to humans and which is accustomed to human presence while remaining wild e.g. a farm cat or barn cat.
Spay (noun) – a spayed female cat; a female neuter. Also spelled spey.
Spay (verb) – to remove the ovaries and womb (ovario-hysterectomy).
Sterilize – neuter (either gender).
Stray – a domestic (tame) cat with no home or owner.
Tame – tamed in its own lifetime, but born wild.
Teaser Tom – a vasectomised male cat; a teaser tom is sterile but behaves like a full tom and will spray, fight and mate.
Trapper – person who traps feral cats for the purposes of TNR. Most often this is the same person as the colony caretaker, but sometimes non-profit groups have specialized trappers that help the caretakers.
TNR – Trap Neuter Return. It is the method used of catching feral cats and sterilizing them so they can no longer breed. While programs differ, at a minimum, the cat is trapped in a humane box trap, taken to a veterinarian, sterilized, and one ear is cropped for easy identification.
TNVR – rabies vaccine, treatment for removing rotten teeth, providing antibiotics, de-worming the cats, providing flea treatment, and more.
Tom – a male cat, particularly an uncastrated male cat; also called a “full tom”.
Unowned – an ownerless cat; a stray.
Vasectomise – to snip the vas deferentia, but leave testes intact; the cat behaves like a full tom, but cannot make a female pregnant.
Wild – often used to denote a feral cat; a wild cat is strictly a member of a non-domestic species e.g. European Wildcat, Jungle Cat etc.