Sunday, March 8, 2015

Tips on helping Feral Cats.

Looks as though you have identified that the cat (or cats) in your neighborhood are feral. We are glad you are taking action towards providing care. Below are a few simple tips that will properly guide you in giving them the assistance they need.
1) Food: 

Meow Mix - Letting the cat out of the bag.
Meow Mix – Letting the cat out of the bag.

Our partners at Alley Cat Allies suggest that, “an adult feral cat to eat roughly 5.5 ounces of wet (canned) cat food and 2 ounces of dry food daily (increase to a half cup if only feeding dry). Cats vary in their needs, and so some will eat considerably more food, others less.

While gauging how much to leave, observe the cats and use your discretion based on the time it takes for the food to be eaten. If the cats eat all of the food in 15 minutes or less, consider putting out a bit more. If there is consistently food remaining after a half hour, put out a bit less. Although most cats clearly enjoy canned food, feeding a colony dry food alone is fine as well. It is less expensive and just as nutritious.

In the winter, especially in colder locations, expect the colony to consume more food because they will need extra calories to maintain energy levels. In places where wet food may freeze, it is advisable to just feed dry food. If you know the colony will eat right away, and you plan to feed canned food, consider warming the food prior to arriving at the site and using insulated bags to keep the food warm during travel.

Do not expect all of the cats to eat at the same time or worry that some may not be getting their share. Within a colony, cats with seniority or stronger personalities may eat before those who are lower on the social scale. Those who eat first leave food for the others. Do not be concerned about or try to manage this social interaction. It is perfectly normal.

Keep the feeding location neat and clean, for the health of the cats and for community relations. Keep the food dishes in one place to facilitate cleanup and to provide a tidy appearance, and again, remove feeding dishes within 30 minutes. Be careful – food that sits out may attract insects and wildlife.”

Are you low on coins but you realllly want to help?
Don’t give up! There are many avenues of support for caregivers to find affordable or free food:

Thinking out of the box
Thinking out of the box
  •  Check for surplus food at your local humane society or human food bank.
  • Ask your local market or pet supply store to donate broken packages or dented cans. Some retailers will also donate out-of-date products, which are still good for a few months longer than the sell-by date.
  •  Ask local vet clinics if they have surplus or just-out-of-date premium pet foods that they are willing to donate.
  • Announce a cat food drive in the local paper to collect donations from the public. Your place of business, local religious institutions, and civic or youth groups may be willing to help with the cat food drive as well.
  • Ask local markets and pet supply shops if you may put out an attractive bin requesting cat food donations.
2) Water:
Alley Cat Allies also suggests, that outdoor cats need clean water daily and during all conditions. Throughout the winter months, here are tips to keep the water from freezing:
  1. Use heated water bowls (if near an electrical outlet);
  2. Keep the water in the sun and use dark colored bowls that will absorb the sun’s heat;
  3. Purchase a Solar Sipper, a solar powered bowl that experience has shown works only at temperatures of 30°F or higher and must be kept in the sun;
  4. Use wider and deeper bowls;
  5. Insulate the bowls;
  6. Use double-layered bowls—they have an insulated air layer between the surface the water touches and the surface against the ground;
  7. Place the water dish inside a small styrofoam cooler to slow the freezing;
  8. Use microwavable disks called Snuggle Safe Disc under the water bowl;
  9. Surround the top and sides of the feeding area with plexiglass to create a greenhouse environment for the water;
  10. If there is a water source like a spigot, run the water slightly, since it won’t freeze as quickly as still water; and
  11. Shield the bowl from wind.
If you notice that the cats are not using the water you provide, try moving it a short distance away from their food. Cats sometimes prefer this arrangement.
3) Shelter:
  • This idea inspired by the CSM Stray Foundation in Kew Gardens, Queens. We think this is a great way to provide quality shelter for your new found friends.
Materials needed are: a large Rubbermaid storage bin, an eight foot by two foot sheet of one-inch thick hard Styrofoam, a yardstick, a box cutter or utility knife, and straw, shredded newspaper or other insulating material. Then assemble as follows:
  1. Cut a doorway six inches by six inches in one of the long sides of the storage bin towards the corner. To prevent flooding, cut the opening so that the bottom of the doorway is several inches above the ground.
  2. Line the floor of the bin with a piece of Styrofoam, using the yardstick and box cutter to cut out the piece.
  3. In similar fashion, line each of the four interior walls of the bin with a piece of the Styrofoam.  Perfect cuts are not necessary. Don’t make the Styrofoam go all the way up to the top of the bin, but leave a uniform gap of at least three inches between the top of these Styrofoam “wall pieces” and the upper lip of the bin. There needs to be room for an interior Styrofoam “roof” to fit.
  4. Cut out a doorway in the Styrofoam where it is lined up with the doorway that has been cut out already in the storage bin. Trace the outline of the doorway on the Styrofoam first before cutting.
  5. Stuff the bottom of the bin with straw or other insulating material to hold the Styrofoam interior wall pieces in place.
  6. Cut out a Styrofoam “roof” to rest on top of the Styrofoam interior wall pieces
  7. Cover the bin with its lid.
This shelter can be cleaned by taking off the lid and the Styrofoam roof. It’s also lightweight and may need to be weighed down. A flap over the doorway is optional. Catnip can be sprinkled inside at first to attract the cats.
  • If it is an emergency and funds are a bit low, you can build this quickly with items around the house. This alternative provided by Neighborhood Cats is a great way to go.
In an emergency, such as the aftermath of a bad storm or a sudden cold snap, you can quickly make an adequate temporary shelter out of a cardboard box, plastic sheeting (or trash bags), duct tape and shredded newspaper.  The cardboard provides some insulation, the plastic will keep the shelter dry and the newspaper will let the cats burrow in.
Take a cardboard box and tape all the seams shut with the duct tape.  Wrap plastic sheeting (a drop cloth 3 mm thick is best) or a heavy duty trash bag (3 mm thick contractor bags are best) around the box, securing it by liberally and tightly wrapping duct tape around the sides of the box.  Make as few seams as possible with the plastic and duct tape over any that are there.  In one of the shorter sides and a few inches above the ground, cut open a doorway about 6 inches by 6 inches.  It’s important to leave a lip at the bottom of the doorway and not have the opening right on the ground.  Use duct tape to hold the loose plastic around the doorway in place.  Fill the interior up to the bottom of the doorway (and a little higher towards the back of the box) loosely with shredded newspaper.

Special tip!  Put a smaller cardboard box inside a slightly larger one for added insulation.
If possible, place the box shelter underneath something to protect it, like a tree or a porch, and on top of something to raise it off the ground, like a pallet.  Weigh it down with a couple of bricks or rocks, heavy enough to keep it in place but not to crush the top.  For permanent winter shelter, consider one of the alternatives below.

4) TNR and Monitoring the Cat(s).

Feral Cat Trap
 Feral Cat Trap
  • Trap: Humanely trap all of the cats in a colony (a group of cats living outdoors together).
  • Neuter: Take the cats in their traps to a veterinarian or clinic to be neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped (a universal symbol indicating they have been neutered).
  • Return: Return the cats to their original outdoor home.
Please be sure to monitor the cat(s) you care for and be sure they are healthy & are not growing in number. In order to prevent the feral cat population from growing, TNR must be done ASAP. We will specifically inform you on how to do your own TNR on another post soon.

We suggest you contact your nearest feral shelter or organization to assist with TNR. Click the Petfinder box below to find a listing of organizations near you:

Click to find assistance near you.
Click to find assistance near you.

Thanks for reading.