Did you know that an estimated 70 million cats live outdoors, getting by the best they can? Some of these cats are homeless cats who have previously lived with humans and been lost or abandoned. But many others not socialized to humans and are afraid of them. Those cats are considered feral.
How You Can Help Feral Cats
Since feral cats are afraid of humans, you can’t just pick them up and take them home with you. Their idea of family isn’t humans and a warm bed. Instead, they often live in groups of other feral cats called colonies.
You can help take care of your local feral cat colonies by making sure they have food and shelter. Feeding your community cats isn’t enough. It is important that you also get them neutered to prevent them having lots of kittens. With unaltered cats breeding in feral colonies, overpopulation can happen in a hurry.
Since you can’t pick up a feral cat for a trip to the vet for a neuter the way you would a cat in your home, you can use a trap to catch a feral cat, then visit the vet for the cat’s neuter and vaccinations. Afterward, you return the kitty to the colony where she can live out her life without continuing to reproduce. This process is known as trap/neuter/vaccinate/return, or TNVR (sometimes shortened to TNR).
Cats who go through the TNVR process are usually identified by clipping the top of one ear while they are having their surgery. This allows you to tell a cat is already neutered without having to approach too closely.
Many communities have groups that can help teach you to use a humane trap. You can search for one in your community in one handy place. Some of them even organize affordable spay and neuter surgeries for feral cats going through the TNVR process. If there isn’t a local group in your community, you can look to the national Alley Cat Allies organization for guidance.
Other Ways to Help Feral Cats
You may not have a feral colony near you needing a caretaker, so you might wonder what else you can do.
Here are some ideas:
- Spay and neuter your own cats so you don’t accidentally contribute to the feral cat population in your area.
- Contact your local organization that supports feral cat caretakers and see if they need help. Local organizations may need people to:
- Make followup phone calls
- Do clerical work
- Walk through the local animal shelter to identify feral cats so they can be returned to their colonies
- Build shelters for feral cat colonies, especially in cold climates
- Spread the word that feral cats are part of our community, and these cats deserve our care and concern.