October 16th is National Feral Cat Day…so let’s make it National Feral Cat Week and continue to raise awareness about feral, stray and homeless cats in need. Find helpful tips, hints and info on caring for feral cats in your local community (see below).
I feed/care for a colony of feral/stray cats. What do I need to know?
If you or someone you know is feeding/caring for a feral cat or a colony of cats, the following three bullet-points highlight the essentials for proper care:
Spay/Neuter (use the Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage (TNRM) model)
Locate local low-cost spay/neuter sterilization clinics and programs in your area. Please CLICK HERE for a list of contacts for low-cost spay/neuter programs for feral cats in your local area (programs provided for all Ohio residents).
Spay and neuter of every cat in the colony is essential. It is recommended that you use a humane trap for successfully catching each feral cat. Many veterinary clinics use “ear tipping” to signal that each cat has been sterilized (this makes it easier for you to know which of the remaining feral cats in your colony still need to be altered. When you spay/neuter feral cats, they are able to live happy, healthy lives outdoors and unlike unaltered cats who will continue to reproduce at rapid rates, your altered feral cat(s) will no longer reproduce and the colony will recede through attrition. In addition, the cats will be healthier and in most cases any fighting among cats will cease.
Daily Feeding & Water
Designating a caregiver (or several) for a feral cat colony is essential to their care and well-being. Caregivers provide daily food and fresh water. Keeping food and water stations covered (as not to be ruined by weather conditions) can be very helpful.
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
Where can I purchase or borrow a humane trap for my feral cat colony?
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.
What is “ear tipping”?
Eartipping is an effective and universally accepted method to identify a spayed or neutered and vaccinated feral cat. It is the removal of the distal one-quarter of a cat’s left ear, which is approximately 3/8 inch, or 1 cm, in an adult and proportionally smaller in a kitten.
This procedure is performed under sterile conditions while the cat is already anesthetized for spay or neuter surgery. There is little or no bleeding, it is relatively painless to the cat, and the eartip does not significantly alter the appearance or beauty of the cat.
Eartipping is the preferred method to identify spayed or neutered and vaccinated feral cats, because it is difficult to get close to feral cats, and therefore the identification must be visible from a distance. Feral cats may interact with a variety of caregivers, veterinarians, and animal control personnel during their lives and so immediate visual identification is necessary to prevent an unnecessary second trapping and surgery.
No other method of identification has proven to be as safe or as effective as eartipping. Alley Cat Allies and other humane groups across the country do not support the following methods:
- Tattooing is not effective because the tattoo is not visible until cats are trapped and anesthetized.
- Eartags are ineffective because they can cause infection, drop off, or tear cats’ ears.
- Collars are not safe or practical for feral cats, because: as the cats grow and gain weight, the collars will tighten and could strangle them; the collars could get caught on something and severely injure or kill the cats; and the collars could also fall off leaving the cats unidentified.
- Microchipping alone is not effective because it does not allow for visual identification. It is only effective once cats have been trapped and taken to a shelter or clinic that uses a scanner to find implanted microchips. It does not prevent unnecessary trapping.
Some areas of the country may use another type of eartipping protocol (like eartipping the right ear, or ear-notching). While we still promote eartipping as it is described above because of its universal acceptance, you may want to research and use your local standard for the best outcome for the cats.
*Ear Tipping info provided by Alley Cat Allies
NOTE: If you feel it is essential to relocate the feral cats (for life-saving purposes), please be sure to read the following first: CLICK HERE.
Get Informed on Feral Cats:
*Below information provided by Alley Cat Allies
Feral cats are not socialized to people.
And therefore, they are not adoptable. Feral cats don’t belong indoors and are typically wary of us. However, as members of the domestic cat species (just like pet cats), they are protected under state anti-cruelty laws.
Feral cats should not be taken to pounds and shelters.
Feral cats’ needs are not met by the current animal control and shelter system, where animals who are not adoptable are killed. Feral cats live full, healthy lives outdoors—but are killed in shelters. Even no-kill shelters can’t place feral cats in homes. Learn more about animal shelters and pounds. Learn more about the animal control system.
Feral kittens can be adopted.
Feral kittens can often be adopted into homes, but they must be socialized at an early age. There is a crucial window, and if they aren’t handled in time, they will remain feral and therefore unadoptable. Learn more about kittens and socialization.
Feral cats live healthy lives in their outdoor homes.
Feral cats are just as healthy as pet cats—with equally low rates of disease. They have the same lifespans, too. Learn more about feral cat health.
People are the cause of wildlife depletion.
Studies show that the overwhelming causes of wildlife and bird death are habitat loss, urbanization, pollution, and environmental degradation—all caused by humans, not feral cats. Learn more about the human toll on birds.
Catch and kill doesn’t work.
Animal control’s traditional approach for feral cats— catching and killing—is endless and cruel. Cats choose to reside in locations for two reasons: there is a food source (intended or not) and shelter. When cats are removed from a location, new cats move in or survivors breed to capacity. This vacuum-effect is well-documented. Learn more about the vacuum effect.
Trap-Neuter-Return does work.
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) benefits the cats and the community. Cats are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped (the universal symbol of a neutered and vaccinated cat), and then returned to their outdoor home. The colony’s population stabilizes—no more kittens! Trap- Neuter-Return improves their lives and improves their relations with the community—the behaviors and stresses associated with mating stop. Trap-Neuter-Return is the humane, effective approach for feral cats. Learn more about the effectiveness of Trap-Neuter-Return.
You can make a difference and save lives.
Together, we can educate people about feral cats and the fact that they don’t belong in pounds and shelters, and spread the word that TNR is the humane approach for them.