I decided after working with feral cats since 2010 that it was time to share my experiences. I do not claim to be an expert or have all of the answers, but I have so many experiences that might be helpful to others learning to work with feral cats.
My knowledge of feral cats had been very limited until the summer of 2010. During the summer, I visited Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. It was here I had my first experience with feral cats. The island is full of feral cat colonies that are managed by caring residents and shop owners. I was amazed at the cat friendliness. My family and I picked up a few bags of treats and while riding bikes each evening, we would stop to give some to the cats. A few of the cats were more stray/feral than true feral as they would approach for a treat. For the others, we left a few piles or gently tossed them a treat. All the way home, I kept thinking about the cats. I felt deep inside that I somehow was meant to help. I even called out for the world to hear, asking why cats did not find me for help. I so wanted to be a part of helping.
On our way, we stopped to pick up our dog from my parents house. I was out in their garage and heard a strange sound. A bit later my dog was trying to get at something behind a cabinet. After a bit of searching a scrawny dirty grey cat came out. She was a mess, yet so very sweet. All I wanted to do was help her. Yet, with a large dog, another cat at home and no way to transport her, it was not an ideal situation. I talked it over with my husband and he went out to visit the cat. He had a severe allergy attack. The cat was longer haired and so full of dirt, dusts and mats. We were not sure if it was her fur or the contents of her fur that caused the reaction, but it was decided she could not come with us. Fortunately a kind neighbor was able to care for her before she found a permanent home.
A few days after returning home, I was still so sad about the grey cat and all of the feral cats in Hilton Head. I called out to the world again asking for a way to help. Just a few days later I was sitting on the computer, when a small gray cat trotted through the yard. I had only ever seen a handful of neighbor cats and this was a new one. The cat was so thin and quite small. Be careful what you wish for as my backyard feral experience quickly began! You can read about Shadow in the link above titled My Ferals.