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Living with Feral Cats

14+kitties
February 2nd, 2011, 10:58 AM
We’ve all seen them. The forgotten, woebegone cats who show up in our yard looking disheveled, starved, and miserable. Now what to do with them. You can choose to ignore them. Most do. Or you can choose to help them even if only in a small way. As a feral cat caregiver for the last several years I thought I may be able to provide some understanding about this issue and assistance in how to live with them in your neighbourhood.

You can feed them. That would be a start. But please understand if you feed them they will stay around. Yes, they can catch mice; occasionally. Keep in mind for every one they succeed in catching ten get away. However, not all cats are good mousers and in the winter there are not many mice around to catch. Therefore, they will be very dependant on that food source being there for them. The quality of the food doesn’t really matter. Friskies or even a store brand of cat food canned will fill their bellies in the cold winter months. You can feed dry but please ensure there is a water source nearby if that is what you are feeding. Hot water being put out and changed several times a day will help. Of course during the summer cold water (ice cubes can be added) is the answer.

Unfortunately feeding them is not the only part of the answer. They need to be trapped, neutered, and then released if they are truly feral cats or you can not give them a home. Many communities offer low cost spay/neuter programs. By speaking to a few vets you will quickly find a place to bring the cats to be fixed. Our cat population is now out of control. By allowing the feral/stray cats to keep breeding we are only aiding those numbers to grow.

The next step should you choose to get deeper involved is shelter. They need some sort of shelter so they can get out of the elements. It can be as simple as a Styrofoam container which has been filled with straw, weighted down, covered with a tarp and put in a sheltered area. Or it can be as complex as a garage or barn where the cats can go in to get out of the wind. To build a suitable feral cat house that will keep cats safe from the elements I make a large box out of chipboard, insulate it with the thickest Styrofoam insulation I can find (Home Depot, Lowes, etc), cut a hole at one end large enough for a cat to enter/exit, and fill it with straw. Unless you are planning on being there to change blankets in case they get wet please do not add blankets to the straw. Once a blanket gets wet it can freeze in our harsh winters. A frozen blanket will not keep any cat warm. In fact it can kill them as they will not be able to dry out properly. Straw is a natural insulator and, with the cats’ own body heat, works wonderfully to keep the cats nice and warm on the coldest winter night. I also insulate the bottom of the box and put it up off the ground to keep the cats using it as warm as possible. It is advised never to put their water in the shelter with them so there is no danger of it spilling and getting the straw and cats inside wet. Next find a sheltered area away from prevailing winds. To make it even more heat efficient you can cover it with a tarp. Some colony managers use Mylar to line the inside of the shelter. It reflects the cats’ own heat back so kitty isn’t working as hard to stay warm. Still others find old swimming pool covers and use those to cover the shelter. They work to attract the sun and hold in more heat.

Please remember if you take on this responsibility that is exactly what it is – a responsibility. These cats will expect their food to be there every day. If you are going away please make sure you have someone responsible who knows what to do, how much to feed, and how many cats to look for.

I am sure there is more information that can be added to this. I have probably forgotten things that I do as part of my every day wanders. If you have more information to add or would like to ask any questions feel free to do so.

14+kitties
February 2nd, 2011, 11:04 AM
This is what happens when I can't get on line for a day. :rolleyes:
After our horrendous storm last night and continuing today I was almost afraid to go feed the cats today. We are having ridiculously high winds which means lots of blowing snow and drifts.
Yesterday I took extra measures to make sure the kitties that are in the smaller single enclosures would be safe from the storm. I covered their opening with extra towels to cut the wind and did the best I could to block the enclosures more from the blowing snow. For the most part it helped immensely. There was a tiny amount of snow in one of the houses. The kitties were snug as bugs in their little homes.
My "big" houses were great! The kitties' heat is keeping them both fairly warm. Water was not even frozen. Some ice crystals but not frozen solid. All in all I think we have made it through the worse of the storm. :thumbs up

BMDLuver
February 2nd, 2011, 11:08 AM
Just make sure that your municipality does not have a bylaw against this. Our old town did.

I was the coordinator for our TNR program in our shelter and I could not believe the number of real sweetheart cats that came in. Sadly I think a good portion of them were folks throwaways.

14+kitties
February 2nd, 2011, 11:28 AM
Just make sure that your municipality does not have a bylaw against this. Our old town did.

I was the coordinator for our TNR program in our shelter and I could not believe the number of real sweetheart cats that came in. Sadly I think a good portion of them were folks throwaways.

I work through TCR at the moment. I have seen some gorgeous kitties myself being dropped off to get neutered. I've also seen the quintessential tough Tom who you know hasn't felt a loving hand his entire life. In fact I have one of them myself now. He is starting to know he is loved. :cloud9:

Love4himies
February 2nd, 2011, 11:43 AM
Great information 14+ :thumbs up.

BMDLuver
February 2nd, 2011, 11:46 AM
I love the old tom's big heads. we've had a few find great homes through adoption. I hope that folks begin to better understand that a stray cat was someone's responsibility to begin with and that they should consider helping them not complaining about them.

14+kitties
February 2nd, 2011, 11:50 AM
Great information 14+ :thumbs up.

Thanks mf. :grouphug:

I love the old tom's big heads. we've had a few find great homes through adoption. I hope that folks begin to better understand that a stray cat was someone's responsibility to begin with and that they should consider helping them not complaining about them.

All we can do is continue to educate. :thumbs up