If you find a stray or feral cat(s) trying to survive near your home/neighborhood/community – what can you do to help? Simply shrugging your shoulders and promising yourself that “someone else” will do the good deed is not enough. All too often we are contacted by someone who has “noticed” a stray cat in the area but refuses to provide food, water or shelter as they do not want to become a caretaker. But if you don’t help the pet in need- who will? There are several small, basic ways that you can help stray and feral cats in need in your area. We have outlined them below.
FERAL OR STRAY?
Feral cats are wild. They do not wish to be touched or to be near humans- and they cannot be handled. In most areas, feral cats will be ear-tipped once they have been altered (a universal signal that the spay/neuter surgery has been performed). Feral cats prefer to stay in the area they reside. It is possible, but difficult to relocate feral cats, as they will often times try to go back to their original location. Feral cats are not “shy” cats- they are wild animals. However, they still need our help. Feral cats, like domestic cats, can reproduce quickly. All too often we hear well-intending citizens say that they refuse to feed the feral cat in their neighborhood for fear that he/she will reproduce. The truth is- they will reproduce whether you are feeding them or not. *Work with your local low-cost/high-volume feral cat program or with a local rescue organization to spay/neuter the feral cat and provide regular food/water and shelter for the feral cat in your area. Click here to learn more about feral cats and how you can help feral cats in your area.
Stray cats are friendly cats- they are not wild. Stray cats are often cats who have been left behind when their former guardians move, or they have often times been “dumped” by guardians who decided not to keep their commitment to them. Stray cats are friendly, enjoy being petted and are hoping for attention and affection. Most of the time they have been indoors most of their life and greatly struggle to survive outdoors with fast driving cars, yard equipment, and harsh weather elements. Stray cats should be spayed/neutered and provided with food/water and shelter. If you cannot adopt them cat yourself once he/she is altered, seek to find him/her a loving, forever home to call their own. They deserve a loving life indoors where they can be safe, loved and properly cared for. Click here to learn more about local low-cost/affordable spay/neuter assistance.
FOOD AND WATER
First and foremost, provide a quiet area for fresh food, water and shelter. The food/water area should be covered (so that inclement weather will not ruin the food). Fresh food and water should be available daily to ensure the cats survival. If your area is facing winter weather, if at all possible, provide a heated water bowl (one that will keep the water from freezing).
NOTE: Once you begin feeding, the stray cat will rely on you as a food source. All too often we are told by community members that they have fed a stray cat(s) for several months (or even a year) and then suddenly stop, “tired” of caring for the cat that is not theirs. Please continue to feed the stray/feral cat that relies on you. Suddenly stopping your regular feeding routine can put the feral/stray cat at risk for illness or death. If you feel you want to stop feeding the stray/feral cat(s) who relies on you, contact a local No Kill rescue organization and work with them to find a forever home for the cat in need- or to relocate the feral cat to a colony where regular food/water/shelter will be provided daily.
Straw is best to keep your feral/stray cat shelter warm in winter weather!
With just a few simple supplies and steps, you can create a low-cost (and sometimes free) feral cat hut(s)! Placing several feral cat huts in and around the feral cat colony you are caring for can provide the cats a safe, dry place to remove themselves from harsh weather conditions.
1 large plastic storage tub with lid (exterior tub)
1 medium plastic storage tub with lid (interior tub)
1 in. thick hard Styrofoam
Mylar reflective blanket (optional for added warmth)
1. Cut a 6” x 6” doorway in each tub using a box cutter and yardstick a few inches above the ground to prevent flooding. If your area has predators, cut a hole in the front and back of each tub so that there is an escape route. Tip: If you are having trouble cutting the plastic, use a hair-dryer to soften the plastic.
2. Cut some of the Styrofoam and line the floor and four interior walls of the exterior tub with it. Leave about a 3” gap between the top of the wall pieces and the upper lip of the tub.
3. Cut out two doorways in the foam that line up with the tub’s doorway. Tip: It helps to trace an outline on the foam before cutting it.
4. Place the interior tub into the exterior tub.
5. Fill the bottom of the interior tub with straw. Do not use hay, blankets, or folded newspaper as they will freeze and provide no warmth. Also, hay is moist and can become moldy. The cats need something they can burrow in, and straw is the easiest and cheapest material to use.
6. Put the first lid on the interior tub and then cut some Styrofoam to rest on top of the interior tub’s lid.
7. Cover the exterior tub with its lid.
8. *Optional for more extreme temperatures* Using a Mylar blanket will add extra warmth as it reflects body heat back onto the cat rather than absorb it like regular blankets. You can either line the interior walls of the tub with Mylar blankets or put one at the bottom of the tub in addition to the straw. Mylar blankets are very inexpensive and can be a lifesaver in the extreme cold.
9. *Optional* You can also add flaps to the door opening with a piece of vinyl mat.
And remember, it is important to regularly change out the straw to keep it fresh and dry. Also, place the shelter away from snow and wind to ensure the most effective and safest shelter!
This is a great way to keep outside cats safe and warm in the winter.
*This is just one example of a feral cat hut. There are a plethora of options.
*How to steps provided by: The ISO Foundation
NOTE: It is recommended to place several bricks (or a heavy object) on top of each hut when the hut is complete. The purpose of placing a heavy object on top of the hut: it will keep it from blowing over in harsh weather conditions.
WHAT IS A HUMANE TRAP AND HOW DO I USE ONE?
Humane Traps effectively used for TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) for feral cats, can be purchased at an affordable costs at any local Tractor Supply Co. store.
Contact local rescue organizations or shelters if you are in need of temporarily borrowing a humane trap to help feral cats.
Humane Traps are essential for working to alter FERAL cats.
*Also it is important to note- if you are helping a friendly stray cat in your area- if you are able to have him/her spayed/neutered and can foster him/her in your home — you can contact local No Kill rescue organizations and ask them to “courtesy post” the cat you are helping. Local rescue organizations can help spread the word via social media and other online resources- to help find potential adopters for the cat you have saved. This is a great way to work together and help save lives!
A NOTE ON KILL SHELTERS/POUNDS
Check your local pound/shelters statistics! In our local county, the pound kills upwards of 80% of the health, adoptable cats who enter it’s doors. Feral cats, shy cats, scared cats, ill cats, special needs cats and often senior cats are killed 100% of the time. It is HIGHLY recommended that you contact a reputable No-Kill Rescue Organization (501c3 non-profit) to help with relocating a feral cat in need (if relocation is a must) or to help find a forever home for a stray friendly cat in need. Do your homework! Too many times we are told of a cat who was “saved” only after it is too late— if you think you are “saving” a feral or stray cat by taking him/her to your local pound- think again! Most of the time feral cats are killed immediately at these facilities. Stray cats have little chance at survival in many county pounds. *To truly save a life- work as a team! Do your part- provide food/water/shelter for feral and stray cats in your area and team up with local No Kill rescue organizations to relocate (ferals) or to find forever homes/adopters for friendly cats in need.