The result of un-altered feral cats
First we need to recognize that the large wild populations of feral cats in our cities and towns is almost entirely the result of unchecked breeding. These animals are either abandoned pets or the offspring of abandoned pets living in a nearly ‘wild’ state and breeding out of control.
Two unaltered cats can produce over 60 cats in a 2 year period and over 12,000 cats in just 5 years! It’s a sad fact that every year in the United States over 2 million cats are put to death. Estimates vary year by year, but no matter what the number in millions of pets (dogs and cats) destroyed annually – the majority of these animals are cats.
Feral cat colony management
When it comes to cats it has been proven in a number of independent studies that it is just as cost effective if not more so to capture, sterilize and release these animals as it is to euthanize them. This being proven again and again it seems morally unconscionable to kill animals by the thousands when we can just as effectively control excessive populations using trap and release spay and neuter programs as a humane and effective alternative.
A managed feral cat colony then is simply a colony of spayed and neutered cats kept free of disease by removing the sick and injured and population controlled via a trap neuter and return or relocate program. The benefit to the cats is vastly increased quality of life in addition to increased lifespan. The benefit to humans is achieving population control at or near the same cost in a much more acceptable and humane manner.
Maintaining positive community relations
An out of control cat population can lead to a number of unpleasant circumstances in regard to human relations. Cats getting into peoples and businesses trash, unaltered males spraying scent on peoples homes cars and property, loud cat fights in the middle of the night and so on. In addition to these annoying cat behavior issues, and far more relevant, is the possibility of un-healthy starving injured or diseased animals potentially putting our children and healthy pets at risk.
It is crucial that anyone attempting to make a difference for these animals take the time to communicate with and when possible educate those in the surrounding community in regard to the benefits of managing a healthy population controlled colony in comparison with either of the alternatives ( both of which are completely ineffective ). Namely euthanize or doing nothing.
The result of doing nothing is easy to deduce and euthanization only creates a population vacuum where resources are then in abundance compared to the surrounding overpopulated territories and in short order more cats flood in to take the place of those destroyed – costing a fortune and solving nothing.
When people in the community are made to understand that what you are doing benefits both the human population as well as the feral cats they will be much less resistant and more cooperative. You will need this cooperation if you are going to succeed so remember and plan to make the time to communicate so that you can succeed and make a positive difference!
Feeding and watering
Clean water and nutritious food provided in a location that is safe and acceptable to those living nearby is just the beginning. Once you start feeding you create an attraction that will bring more and more of the animals in the area out of hiding. Choosing a location where the animals will not be regularly crossing the road or otherwise exposing themselves to danger is important. Choosing an area YOU can observe from a distance without spooking them is a big plus but completely unnecessary.
DO NOT choose a location that others will find objectionable or you risk complaints to animal control and a disastrous outcome. Examples of bad feeding location choices include: near garbage dumpsters, parking lots and restaurants. Anywhere people can and will see the cats gathering in large groups and might object.
Examples of good locations would include: back behind and out of site places such as overgrown undeveloped lots, the back side of your home or apartment building where no one ever goes and if you can obtain permission from your boss where you work. Wherever feral cats live – but as out of sight as possible – both for the cats benefit and humans the less visible the better.
Most of these cats are almost completely wild and would rather starve to death than go near a human – if you wish to help them you’ll have to accept that most of the time many of them you will never see.
Proper methods of trapping and releasing
Humane and safe trapping might sound as easy as buying a ‘live trap’ and setting it. Please take the time to educate yourself before making this mistake – you may very likely save a life.
First you should read the trapping tutorial provided by feralcat.com - click here - Then you should add to that knowledge the fact that these animals are for all reasonable purposes completely ‘wild’ and terrified of humans. A terrified cat can REALLY hurt you – and will likely hurt itself trying to escape if you don’t take proper precaution.
If you don’t want to end up having to put the poor animal down because in panic it broke its own back or neck in your ‘humane’ trap then always observe the following precautions: Without exception you should always COVER the trap with a large towel or blanket immediately and then wait a minute or three before lifting so that the frightened animal inside will not see you picking it up or carrying it inside the cage. You will be amazed at how much calmer the animal becomes once covered in this fashion – the less stress the better.
Additionally beware that even if the cat seems docile in the cage or trap it can inflict serious injury to itself and you if panic is induced by you trying to handle it. Never attempt this without the proper equipment and professional help. Don’t mess around with an animal of unknown origin ( including kittens ) if you don’t have help and proper experience just leave them in the trap and deliver them trap and all to the vet.
Socializing and caring for feral kittens
Feral kittens are taught to fear humans by their mother at a very young age (3-4 weeks plus) If obtained early enough they will socialize with humans exactly like domestic born kittens. After they open their eyes and begin to venture forth mother cat teaches them rapidly and they learn well to fear people. To overcome this you must be patient – as forcing the relationship will only make them fear people even more.
If a kitten is completely impossible to catch or handle sometimes it is necessary to keep them in a cage for several weeks and allow them to see and become accustomed to your regular visits bringing fresh food and water daily at the same time feeling safe and protected by the cage. In doing this the young animal will quickly adjust to seeing you as a benefactor instead of a predator or threat.
Cats and kittens have a keen sense of time and thrive on a regular schedule. Keep this in mind when training and taming and you’ll be one step ahead of the game. Doing things at as close to the same time every day will help the animals feel relaxed and at ease. If you keep them in a cage indoors – buy a lamp timer and set it to mimic the outside light cycle to help them have a proper sense of day and night.
The sweetest kittens available are those that have been bottle-fed from a very young age. These have absolutely no fear of humans whatsoever and love to be held petted and carried about. Animals like this are hard to obtain unless you do all the work as once a person commits to feeding 6 times a day and otherwise taking over for mother cat in every way. The bonding effect in such a case is overwhelming and these kittens are rarely made available for adoption.
Low cost spay and neuter and vaccination
Almost every community has some type of low cost spay and neuter resource available. Most have several. The first place to start looking no matter where you live is your local SPCA, ASPCA, no kill shelter or Humane Society – search the web. Keep in mind when trapping feral cats you will not have the luxury of setting and keeping appointments with these cats because it’s nearly impossible to get the animals to cooperate and go in the traps when you need them too. Finding a clinic that can work with feral cats and will take them as you trap them is therefore the trickiest part. If this cannot be managed the next strategy is to find several clinics that can competently handle a feral cat and schedule with whichever one can take the animal first once trapped.
Before you begin trapping it’s best to have a list of at least 3 – 4 clinics so that you can get the cat out of the cage within 24-36 hours at the very most. We can recommend several good veterinary clinics depending on the area you live.
Take the initiative – make a difference
If you’ve got a feral cat in your community take the initiative where others won’t and do the right thing. For about $5-6 a month or less you can make a HUGE impact both on this animals quality of life and the prevention of unnecessary feral cat overpopulation in the future. Borrow a trap from your local Humane Society or Vet. Read the tutorials on how to trap ( very important ). Trap vaccinate spay or neuter then release it.
It is not hard at all really. Once the trap and release phase is over ( don’t be discouraged if the male cats run away for awhile – they will come back usually ) you simply put fresh food and water out every day. If you run into a snag ( like ants in your food dish ) go to the web and read one of the many great feral cat colony website how to areas for ideas and a workable solution ( like putting the food dish in a pan full of water ).
If you have an extra dollar a week and a minute or two each evening or morning to put out fresh food and water that is literally all it takes afterward. Cats that are vaccinated and altered enjoy increased health and resistance to disease significantly contributing to the improved quality and length of life for each animal.
What it usually costs to feed and care for a feral cat
A single animal will need to be captured / trapped and have the full array of pertinent vaccinations it will also need to be spay/neutered or sterilized. Many low cost spay and neuter programs can do all of this for around $100-$125 dollars. Call your local rescue groups for recommendations.
When it comes to fresh water, nutritious food and shelter, be aware that outdoor cats burn significantly more energy than indoor cats and can consume up to twice as much food and water per day as their indoor counterparts. We go through about $1.00-$1.50 a week per outdoor cat in food. and about $17 a year in booster shots (distemper and rabies) together this adds up to between $70.00 and $100.00 a year depending on the size of your cat. Average cost is $6.00 to $8.00 per month. If you would like to sponsor one of our feral cats or a feral colony please see the donations area for our contact information - thank you!
If you would like to help
If you like what you see us doing and agree with what we are trying to accomplish please consider giving us your support by opening your home to foster some rescued kittens or by volunteering or contributing needed supplies or funds.
We need volunteers to foster kittens and adults waiting for their chance at a permanent home through our ongoing adoption effort. In addition we are also in need of individuals willing to help with the feeding of established feral colonies for short periods ( 2-3 days to a couple of weeks ) so that others can take short vacations or manage business affairs out of town.
Please see our ‘Contribute’ area for more information.