The outdoor cats… our little hunters in the wild. You’ve probably seen them… lurking around out there. Hunting, prancing, sleeping, and basking in the sun. Some cats you can easily tell are your neighbor’s cat as they may be wearing a collar or they’re super friendly with other humans. Other cats are obviously feral cats who are homeless, trying their best to survive, and avoiding humans and all other animals.
Living in the wild could be tough and many feral cats do whatever it takes in order to just survive the day. Feral cats seek shelter in all sorts of places that could include your garden shed, underneath a patio, in the bushes, under cars and trucks, and quite literally anyplace else that could shield them from the weather. These wild cats also try their best to obtain sustenance and food in many resourceful ways. Sometimes they will small rodents and birds, sometimes they will dig through your garbage for scraps, and sometimes they will even ask a human for help.
The Feeding Of Feral Cats
Cats really are interesting characters. Throughout ancient history, humans have domesticated many animals in order to make life easier. We domesticated cows for their milk and meat, and we domesticated dogs to help us on our hunts and for protection.
However, in the case of cats, it is said that these little furballs practically domesticated themselves! Around the time that humans began stockpiling food and agricultural harvests, a problem began to arise… Rodents. Rodents everywhere! This is when cats really began to prove themselves as distinguished hunters and masters of pest control.
Cats literally invited themselves into our lives and we began to fall in love. This beautiful symbiosis occurred between humans and cats. Humans needed cats for pest control and cats needed humans for food and shelter.
That is why you may hear stories of how cats and kittens would simply come up to humans for food and love. This is partially the reason why cats were so revered in some ancient civilizations such as the ancient Egyptians and Romans. I mean, cats are pretty much revered in modern day society!
That is why setting out some bowls of food and water would help these outdoor furballs tremendously! Cats are carnivores, so feeding them meals that closely resemble their natural sustenance works best. That’s why canned wet food is the best for cats. However, canned food can become expensive so dry food will be welcomed by ferals cats as well.
From my personal experience, some ferals need to learn how to eat dry food. My little feral, Diba, initially didn’t touch dry food until she got used to her food bowl. So I fed her wet food until she got used to her bowl. Then when I began to put dry food in there, she eventually got the idea that it was food as well.
I would place these food and water bowls in areas that do not have a lot of foot and road traffic. A place where you could observe from your window to see exactly how many cats come to feast. Place the food out at the same time each day and your feral cats will slowly get used the schedule. To avoid attracting bugs and other insects, I would clean up the food bowls after about an hour. Also, place fresh water outside each day as finding a clean source of water could be very difficult for cats.
Let Them Have Shelters
Another way to help your little neighborhood feline is to supply them with shelters. Shelters can be made by hand easily and only require a few amounts of material. They help tremendously with providing warmth and security for feral cats during the harshest weathers.
What you need is a Rubbermaid plastic bin of any size. If a cat is part of a colony, you could expect multiple cats to enter into a shelter in order to keep each other warm. So choose a plastic bin size that you think would be most effective for your situation. It’s important to choose Rubbermaid bins as other manufacturers’ products might crack and break during cold weather. Rubbermaid is built to last.
You then need to get some styrofoam and line the inside of the plastic bin. This will provide some insulation for the little kitties and ensure that they stay warm during the rain and snow storms. Be sure to cut a 6-inch diameter entryway in the plastic bin and styrofoam to allow the cats to come in and out. Any bigger than 6 inches in diameter is no good as it allows bigger animals, like raccoons, to get in.
Lastly, I would get some straw in and line whatever else you can in between the small spaces that you may see. This will provide further warmth. Also, the straw will give these feral cats a comfortable place to rest. It is important that you get straw and not hay. Straw does not absorb water. Hay does. Straw would help to provide a warm and dry area for cats to take shelter from the elements.
Place these shelters in places where the shelter will be stable and secure. I like to place these shelters with the entryway facing walls or other objects in front to allows the cats to easily get in but to help break the wind and provide further protection. You will find that these shelters provide a really warm place for cats to rest away during the harshest of storms!
TNR Stands for Trap-Neuter-Return
One of the biggest ways you can help the feral cat community is by doing something we cat lovers call TNR.
“What the hell is TNR?” you might ask?
TNR stands for Trap-Neuter-Return. Essentially, it is when you kidnap any feral cat, take them to the veterinarian, and have a surgical procedure performed to get their balls and ovaries removes, then you release them back into the wild.
“What. The. Fu-” you respond.
Now, before you judge… this is actually very helpful for the outdoor feline community. Believe it or not, there is an overpopulation of feral cats in the wild. There are simply too many cats. Experts estimate that there are about 70 million feral cats that live in the United States alone. Many of these cats end up in shelters to get euthanized. Many of these cats die from the harsh elements. Many of these cats die before they mature. Many of these die from human pest control.
TNR was universally implemented in order to control the cat population and its booming expansion. It is the most humane way to reduce the number of outdoor cats as it helps to prevent future litters of kittens from being born. It is also much better than trapping and killing cats. I love cats, but there are many people who find wild cats to be a nuisance and call pest control on these ferals…
Also, after the cat is neutered (for males) or spayed (for females), one of there ears are clipped. This is a universal sign that indicates that this feral cat has already gone through the TNR procedure.
There are many veterinarian clinics that offer TNR services for feral cats for free or reduced prices. Be sure to ask your local veterinarian clinic if they have any deals or vouchers. TNR a single cat could potentially lead to hundreds of lives saved! Generally, a female cat could have anywhere from 1 to 8 kittens in a litter. A mother cat could also give birth to two or three litters each year. You can see why the cat population grows at an enormous rate!
Kidnap The Feral Kittens
I am a big softie for anything small and furry. Like who would honestly wish harm on puppies and kittens? As strange as it might sound, I think it would be best if you kidnapped any feral kittens you see, foster them, guide them, and find them loving forever homes.
It may be difficult to adopt an adult feral cat, but it is doable with time, persistence, and patience. However, fostering feral kittens and socializing them at a young age is far easier than domesticating a mature feral cat.
The TNR procedure is best used for grown feral cats who might find it difficult to transition to an indoor lifestyle. Many people simply do not have the time to socialize feral cats. Adopting a feral cat does take a lot of time and effort. But if you stumble upon kittens, you might as well keep them! You can help them live much better lives in the hands of a loving cat owner than trying to survive out on the streets.
There are many ways for you to help out your local feral cat. Feeding them, giving them water, building shelters, and helping to control the wild cat population. Being homeless could be a real challenge and life is hard enough as it is.
As you take care of any particular outdoor cat, you will find that feral cats do learn to appreciate your efforts. You may even start a beautiful bond between human and cat… and maybe you’ll even adopt one!
No matter how you help, just know that your efforts are appreciated! Thank you for taking the time to learn more about how to take care of feral cats. All we can do is try our best to make the world just a little bit better, each and every day. Be safe!