Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How to Help When You Find a Feral

It happens all the time: homeowners go to clean out a storage shed in spring and find a mother cat with a litter of newborns tucked away in a corner. Someone takes the trash out to the dumpsters behind their apartment building and notices there are pairs of hungry eyes in the shadows all around. As one of the most adaptable mammals on earth, the domestic cat can survive and thrive in many different environments. If a cat is abandoned or becomes lost, she can revert to a wild state and rely on her instincts for survival, which can include forming social colonies to live in. Many intact cats wander too far from home and become lost while searching for mates. In the United States alone, surveys show that approximately 30 to 60% of un-neutered, lost, or abandoned cats will eventually live in feral colonies.

Many people want to scoop up all ferals and place them in homes or sanctuaries, but we must understand that this is impossible. The U.S. currently has a population of 30-40 million ferals and we are killing about 1.4 million cats in shelters each year. There are simply not enough homes for friendly cats, and certainly not enough sanctuaries. Remember, most adult ferals are too wild to tame and would be very unhappy in our homes. So, how can we help feral cats?

Humane traps hold cats safely and securely.
The best humane way to manage feral cats and their colonies is through trap-neuter-return (TNR). In this process, cats are humanely trapped, and then brought to a veterinarian for medical services. The cat receives a thorough health check before being spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and ear-tipped (for identification). When the cat has recovered from surgery, she is released back at the site of first trapping where her colony is located. Any kittens or socialized adults are diverted to adoption programs.

The guidelines for managing a colony have to be strict: (a) The cats must be in a safe place; (b) caretakers must commit to long-term care, providing food, water, and shelter and; (c) EVERY cat should be trapped, sterilized, vaccinated, and identified by "ear-tipping" the left ear (removing the top quarter-inch). New cats entering the area should be assessed (Friendly stray? Scared feral?), trapped, sterilized, and either released or put up for adoption.

Cats in such managed colonies can have a good life, provided caretakers supply them with all the basic needs and provide veterinary care when needed. This requires a long-term commitment, but with the proper tools and knowledge, colony management can be a fun and rewarding experience. To assist the compassionate people who become colony caretakers, we wrote Alley Cat Rescue’s Guide to Managing Community Cats.

Available now through Amazon!
Our new book lays out the process of TNR in detail and provides tips and tricks to help caretakers at every step. The book provides information about cat health and behavior in an easy-to-digest format, including things like common illnesses and their symptoms, how to tame feral kittens, and instructions for building a winterized cat shelter. And so much more!

Alley Cat Rescue’s Guide to Managing Community Cats is available now through Amazon Smile. It’s a great gift idea for new and experienced colony caretakers alike, and a comprehensive resource for anyone looking to learn more about feral cats.

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