Estimates place the number of feral cats in the US to be over 70 million, and growing. Most cats are pets, but unfortunately some of these animals get lost or abandoned. They are then stray cats, living on their own, fending for themselves. Even more unfortunate, is the fact that many of these cats are not neutered or spayed and therefore they reproduce, in large numbers. These kittens are then born in harsh conditions, and without human contact. These kittens are then feral, they are cats that are not socialized to people and therefore, are often not "adoptable" even when they are taken in to a shelter.
They struggle for adequate food and water. They are exposed to extreme temperatures and weather as well as a variety of diseases. Small injuries don't receive attention and can become debilitating quickly. Their lives are short and in worst case scenarios, they can create a nuisance or even a health hazard.
For most of us who love animals, helping a feral cat is an automatic response to this situation. But with many of them being nearly unapproachable, the question is what to do. The following will outline some of the most critical and meaningful things that will positively influence the quality of life for an individual animal as well as the larger issue of feral cats.
Things You Will Need
1. A Trap and some Tuna or Salmon to attract the cat.
2. Dry cat food and a bowl for feeding
3. A small bowl and water
4. A shelter- perhaps a large plastic tub, straw, or styrofoam for insulation
5. A large knife for cutting an opening in the plastic tub
1. Search for a TNR program
A Trap, Neuter, and Release program is a great alternative for a cat that isn't really adoptable. Most feral cats that are mature are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to "tame". There are thousands of stray and abandoned cats that need homes and are better suited for adoption.
With a TNR program, the feral cat is captured, taken in for neutering, and then brought back and released in it's previous environment to live out the rest of it's life without breeding or giving birth to more kittens. This is humane and yet helps stop the burgeoning population of feral cats. A visit to the ASCPA site should help in locating such a program.
2. Provide Food
The struggle to find food is always present for a feral cat. Certainly, cats are fairly capable of obtaining mice, chipmunks, and other small animals for sustenance but these food sources aren't as plentiful as one might imagine and they certainly offer health risks for the predator as well.
Providing dry cat food on a regular basis is certainly one option. Dry food is very affordable. Placing it in a bowl in the same location each day should assure that the cat or cats take advantage of it regularly.
3. Provide Water
Cats need water just as any animal does. Their aversion to water has nothing to do with a lack of need to drink it. Kidney disease in fact is frequently the cause of their demise even in domesticated situations. Making water available each day is best. In the winter, this will require special attention since the water will freeze when temperatures dip. Heated water bowls are available if the caretaker's budget will allow it.
4. Provide Shelter
Many cats have a great coat for helping them cope with colder temperatures, however extreme hot and cold temperatures can still take their toll. Cats, like all animals need shelter to get out of the sun, the heavy rains, and below freezing temperatures. They can experience frostbite, hypothermia, and death.
It is possible to create a shelter for feral cats that costs only $10 or $15. Using large plastic tubs, a small opening can be cut to allow the cats in and out. Straw can be added for bedding and added warmth. Styrofoam can be cut to size and inserted to line the tub for additional insulation. Certainly there are many other materials that can be used to make a secure outdoor cat shelter but this is one of the quickest and most affordable ways of doing it. From heated cat beds, insulated cat houses, and pet house heaters, there are a number of options when caretakers are willing to make the investment.
Most cats prefer small spaces and they feel most secure when up high or hidden away. Keeping the shelter tucked away or set up on a platform may be enticing for many cats. Keeping the doorway small enough to prevent other, larger animals from entering it can help too. In extreme cases you may need to cut a back door in the shelter for quick escape if the cat is particularly wary.
While feral cats can create a number of problems from keeping you awake at night to terrorizing small animals in your area, there are things we as individuals can do to humanely deal with the issue. Getting these animals spayed or neutered is the most important step, but providing for their most basic needs is easy and affordable.
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