Nicole Bode, CVT
Veterinary Information Specialist
Pet Poison Helpline
Most people are used to seeing a stray cat wandering here or there, but the problem of feral cats continues to grow as humans become more irresponsible about sterilizing their pets. These cats actually cause little issue if they are managed properly, and it’s very easy for you to help them survive and remain healthy.
What’s TNR? Trap, neuter, return is the easiest way to manage feral cat colonies. This entails individuals or organizations trapping feral cats, spaying/neutering them, vaccinating them (typically a rabies vaccination is all that is given) and clipping the tip of their ear. The clipped ear tip signifies that the cat is sterilized and helps prevent accidental trapping and leaving of these cats at the shelter. TNR can drastically reduce or completely eliminate the problems communities are having with the cats, such as the yowling, fighting and spraying that accompany mating. If you’d like to help, contact a group in your area, they always appreciate volunteers to trap and transport and monetary donations to cover the cost of vetting.
If you have a stray or strays around your home you can offer them a safe and warm shelter to survive the harsh winter weather. This can be an old cooler with some straw in it and a hole for access, or something as simple as an old plastic tote lined with Styrofoam and a nice straw nest in the bottom. This will provide the cat a dry and wind-free place to rest.
Food and Water
Some places with feral cat colonies set up feeding stations for the cats and have volunteers or neighbors feed the cats daily. You can always donate food to these groups or place out food and water for the feral in your area. Heated pet bowls are great in area with harsh winters since they keep the water from freezing.
If you’re in need of a good mouser or a barn kitty contact a local shelter or TNR group to see if they have cats in need of homes. Some of these cats aren’t welcome back in their original areas and need to be relocated. They get to live a happy life outside and you get some free pest control!
In the end, not all cats are meant to live indoors. With a little help from the community we can help control breeding and allow these cats to live safe and healthy lives.