|Big Guy and Nick outside the evolving shelter.
October 16 has been declared National Feral Cat Day by Alley Cat Allies, a national feral cat organization. They hope to make people more aware of the plight of feral cats and what can be done to help them.
Most of you know that all but two of my cats were feral cats living in the wooded area behind my farmhouse when we moved to North Carolina.You can read about them in last year's Feral Cat Day post here.
Many people, and this includes many so called humane society shelters, feel that ferals are the equivalent to a wild animal and should be killed to keep their populations down. This is cruel and inhumane and certainly not the solution. Once a feral colony has been displaced, another will come to live there since it usually is a place with access to food, shelter and relative safety.
|Big Guy (cow cat), Nick who have gone to the Bridge and Ivy who lives inside with us now.
The most important thing we can do for ferals is to Trap, Neuter and Release them back into their colony or into a safe place for them to live out their lives. This way the females don't continue to have litter after litter, endangering their health and adding to the feral cat population. With the great educational programs in place by Alley Cat Allies, more communities realize this now and offer assistance to those who want to help feral cats. I was fortunate to have a compassionate veterinarian in my neighborhood ( Dr. Barbara Farmer who now lives in Raleigh and neuters for Alley Cats and Angels) who spayed and neutered my cats for a nominal fee. I set humane traps or dog kennel cages out with food inside and caught each cat one by one. I would drop off the cat at Dr Farmer's office and within a few ours, the cat was back at my place recovering to be set free later that day or the next if they needed more time. During surgery, ferals are ear tipped - the tip of their ear is cut off or a V shape nick is made so the spayed cats are identified from the non spayed ones. I did trap some more than once but knew they had been done and released them. Vets need to know how to handle ferals for the spay/neuter process. Not all vets will work with you on this but many do.
As I was providing TNR to the colony, I realized that while many neighbors were feeding the cats, they did not have a substantial shelter. They had been living under and inside abandoned trailers and cabins in the neighborhood. That first year I built an igloo of straw bales and covered the outside with a plastic tarp, layering straw inside for warmth. Straw allows them to snuggle deep and the natural air pockets keep them warm. Blankets get wet and stay wet while straw will air dry.
|Lily and her kittens lived mainly under the house - they are all inside with me now.
My husband got more involved the next year and we converted a kitchen counter into a shelter. We raised it off the ground on pallets and gutted the interior, insulating it. We added a cat door with a flap to keep the weather out and even put Plexiglas windows on one sunny side with wood doors to open on warm days. We made the top removable to have access to clean and lined the interior with straw. Eventually we added a lean-to roof on the front with place under it to for them to sit and us to use for their water and food. This kept them dry on rainy or snowy days. We also added another deck on a second level on the other side as well. This allowed them to be outside yet out of the weather. It was quite the shelter when we finished with it and housed them thru two hurricanes and many winter blizzards.
|Ivy, safe indoors now and relaxing on the back porch.
One winter we had temperatures at or below zero for days and I wanted to keep the cats warmer than they were. I don't advise everyone do this but it worked for us. We set up a warm place for them under the house in the crawlspace.We laid down plastic just inside the entrance and used large square plastic trash cans lined with straw for additional shelter. We covered the trash cans with insulation and more plastic. Then we put an electric heater in the crawlspace under the house (to keep our pipes from freezing as well as the cats) and left it on low. We closed up the entrance except for a small flap they could get in and out yet the wind did not. This worked well and they were under the house until spring. We set up a food station under the deck next to the crawlspace with water and dry food.
I checked on them daily, watching them play and interact from my kitchen window or from our back porch. As the years went by I took them indoors if their health was not good or to the vet for check ups if needed. Eventually our local humane society realized that they did indeed live lives worth living - the cats had all they needed - food, shelter, medical care and someone to watch over them.
|Lily and her kittens now - indoor only cats.
If you know of any feral cat groups that need someone to care for them, please contact Alley Cat Allies. They can point you in the right direction for local assistance. They provide information on how to do TNR, build cat shelters, tame feral kittens and who to contact in your area to help. Don't let your community mistreat them - they deserve our respect and love as any animal does.
If you are doing a post today for National feral Cat Day please leave your link below and if you want grab the code for your blog. (Click get the code, then click blogger, then easy link and then click generate code - it should work.)
Check out our Wildcat Woods Vintage Treasures (see sidebar for link) blog for great stuff - we are offering 20% off in honor of National Feral Cat Day - from Oct. 16-23. All proceeds help pay for our ferals. We are joining Camera Critters today too.