Anyone can help feral cats! Yes, even you! You don't even have to have a feral cat in your area in order to act today. Read on for some effective ways in which you can help feral cats - the last one will probably take you by surprise!
Note: We may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page.
What Are Feral Cats?
Feral cats are domestic cats born into the wrong set of circumstances.
Sometime somewhere along their lineage, an irresponsible human allowed a pet cat to breed and the offspring ended up abandoned and uncared for. That cat's kittens were born and raised with little or no positive contact with humans. The result? The kittens grew up to be shy of people and turned feral.
The life of a feral cat is a constant struggle for survival. With no human to provide them with the care and love every domestic pet needs, feral cats live short and often miserable lives. During that short timespan, prolific breeders that they are, these felines can bring more feral kittens into the world, a few of which will survive to be old enough to reproduce. And so the cycle continues.
Feral cats are the invisible felines. Shy of people, they often stay away from strangers, but make no mistake: They are every bit domestic cats as your pet cat and can be socialized given enough expert care, patience and time. It's not always the right solution for every feral cat though. Caring for feral cats in their natural habitat, providing them with shelter, food and medical care, is often the preferred course of action.
Learn more about feral cats. Start your journey here: 10 Facts You Should Know About Feral Cats.
How Can I Help Feral Cats?
You don't necessarily have to become a full-time caregiver of a feral colony in order to help. There are small things you can do for feral cats in your area that will help them survive, even if you have no experience with caring for ferals. In fact, if the plight of feral cats everywhere weighs on your mind (and it should!) there are ways to help indirectly as well.
Here are a few ideas:
1. Become a voice for feral cats
Not everyone likes feral cats. Some people may be opposed to feral cats because they think these cats threaten local wildlife. Others think that feral cats are a public health risk. Some people just hate cats and feral cats become an easy target for their anger. You can help defeat such attitudes by becoming an advocate for feral cats.
How? Learn all you can about the various aspects of the topic, and voice your opinion in social media venues, local media outlets, or simply by sharing your views with friends. There are many online resources on the subject and if you have any questions, experienced feral cat advocates can help you out in our Caring For Ferals forum.
2. Help create a positive atmosphere for feral cat colonies in your area
A colony of feral cats that's not managed by a responsible caregiver can indeed be a nuisance and negatively affect people's quality of life. The sounds of cat howling, the smell of urine marking and the gruesome sight of sick and injured cats can become a very real problem and cause the neighbors to reject the presence of the cats and act to remove them from the neighborhood.
There is a better solution to these problems and that is neutering the cats in the area. Neutered cats are quieter, don't mark territory using urine and are generally healthier. You can help educate people about this solution by handing out information sheets. Alley Cat Allies has created a beautiful PDF file that can help people change the perception of these cats from a nuisance to "community cats". You can even order printed versions of this brochure and others at their online shop at a value cost.
3. Local Action: Provide fresh water.
Especially during hot summer days, feral cats could use your help in gaining access to water. Provide the water in large stable bowls and place them in a discreet setting, so as to avoid potential conflict with neighbors or local business owners.
4. Local Action 2: Provide a warm shelter.
During cold winter months, especially in very cold climates, having an insulated box to take shelter in can mean the difference between life and death. Read more on how to prepare a safe winter shelter for feral cats: How To Help Feral Cats Stay Safe Warm During Winter
5. Local Action 3: Organize a local TNR operation.
TNR stands for trap-neuter-return. It's the only humane way to manage a colony of feral cats. As the name implies, it involves humanely trapping each cat, spaying or neutering, and then returning the cat to its original territory. TNR has many benefits and without it, generations of feral kittens perish in agony in each colony.
If you're interested in learning more about TNR and how to go about organizing a TNR operation (it does take a certain level of expertise!), check the following article: Everything You Need To Know About Tnr and post in our Feral Care Forum for advice and guidance from experienced feral caregivers.
6. Join a local feral care organization.
Many cities and counties have such organizations and they are always happy to take in new volunteers. Volunteers can help with TNR efforts, socializing feral kittens, managing colonies of cats or just doing administrative work. There is always something more to be done! Just Google the name of your town or county along with the words "feral cats" and see what comes up.
7. Donate money to a charity that helps feral cats.
There are many charities dedicated to helping feral cats. Some work on a local level, while others are national and even international organizations. They could all use your help. Check to make sure your donation goes to a recognized non-profit organization. Consider making a regular donation and/or becoming a member.
8. Help a local caregiver of feral cats.
Do you know of someone in your neighborhood who cares for ferals?
Hooking up with an experienced caregiver can help you learn how to care for feral cats. Of course, you can help him or her with caring for existing colonies. Remember: Feral cat caregivers are people who may have had a less-than-stellar experience with outsiders when it comes to their cats. They may or may not want help and it could take a while for you to strike a solid relationship with a like-minded individual. Considering the very limited resources most colony caregivers work with, there's a good chance that your offer to help financially or otherwise will be welcome, but don't be discouraged if a particular caregiver prefers to go it alone.
9. Do NOT feed feral cats that haven't been neutered.
Huh? Why are we telling you to deny cats in need of food?
You've probably noticed that we saved feeding for last. That's because with feeding comes great responsibility. For one thing, the cats will soon learn to rely on the food you provide and will lose access to other food sources. You shouldn't start feeding feral cats unless you're willing to make a long-term commitment. More importantly, feeding means more kittens will survive each year. That sounds like a good thing, right? It certainly is for the kitten growing up, but it also means you'll be faced with way too many cats to feed, really fast. Two cats can become 25 cats within a year. Can you afford to feed and take care of 25 cats?
Are we suggesting that you let those poor kitties starve? Absolutely not!
What you should do is take care of neutering any cat that you feed. Feeding and not neutering is nothing short of cruel. You mean well, but in this case, it is the proverbial road to hell that is paved with good intentions. The cats will breed. The cats will also get sick and injured due to mating-related catfights. Within a few months, you're going to be way out of your depth and you'll end up abandoning the cats as you won't be able to afford that many and they will likely die of disease and starvation.
Do not despair! There is so much you can do for feral cats!
Feeding may be tricky, but the rest of the suggested ways to help feral cats are not. From being a feral cat advocate to donating and volunteering with a feral-care association, all the way to being a responsible caregiver of a managed colony of feral cats. Every little bit helps and these sweet shy cats certainly need all the help they can get!
Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those.