It all begins when you spot those two bright eyes glowing in the dark. When you take a step closer, the shadow comes to life and produces a fearsome hiss. Back arched, the creature lurking in the bushes stares you down, its posture a challenge.
You stumbled across a lost soul that needs your help.
Odds are you are dealing with one of several feral cats who have found a warm place to live somewhere in your neighborhood. It can be hard for an animal lover to walk past a cuddly creature left out in the cold, and the urge to help in some way will be strong. There are many things that you can do to improve life for your local strays, but it's important to understand the needs of these fluffy but feisty friends!
If you are curious about what makes a cat feral, as well as how to help feral cats in your community, this guide is for you. Keep reading to learn the many ways you can care for a single stray, or even wrangle a feral cat colony!
What Are Feral Cats?
Think about a kitten in a home foster or shelter environment. Every day, humans greet, feed, and handle the cat. It learns to feel safe and comforted by its caretakers, and will begin seeking them out for affection of its own accord.
In contrast, a feral cat is a cat that was born in the wild, or otherwise in a situation where it has little or no interaction with humans. To a cat without any prior socialization, humans seem like predators. Their natural survival instincts will begin to kick in, and they will demonstrate behaviors that you don't often see in house cats.
In some cases, feral cats begin their lives in homes, but run away or are abandoned. These cats often revert to a wild state over time. Even in these instances, it is rare for a feral cat to live happily in a home after spending time in the wild.
While it's possible to rehabilitate a feral cat, the majority remain unadoptable. If you are able to trap feral kittens, however, they have a higher probability of becoming socialized indoor pets.
While you may see a single feral cat in your neighborhood, odds are good that there are more where it came from. Cats tend to gather in "colonies" of two or more animals. Unfortunately, this means that many kittens are born in the wild, and the feral cat population can grow very large, very quickly.
How to Help Stray Cats
Without intervention, even a single feral cat can cause problems for a community. Feral cats often hunt local wildlife, reproduce many times, and create noisy or unsanitary conditions for you and your neighbors. As a result, these animals end up in shelters, where they often go unadopted.
If you would like to improve life for your local feral cats and your neighbors, there are a few things you can do to help.
Team Up with a Local Rescue
Rescue organizations often have resources and connections that individuals do not. Find a local rescue that practices TNR, or Trap, Neuter, Return. These organizations utilize humane traps so they can spay or neuter feral individuals and assess their level of sociability.
While these cats are often returned to their colony to live out their lives, it's a great way to identify kittens and cats that are ripe for rehabilitation. Many of these cats find new, loving homes as a result!
For those cats who return to their wild homes outdoors, life only improves. Spaying and neutering helps control the population size and significantly reduces the amount of fighting. Often, volunteers will feed the colonies so they always have nutritious food and water.
If any of the feral cats are sick, the rescue will be able to connect you with vets and other professionals who know how to treat feral cats safely.
Create a Safe Space
Cats usually gather in colonies because they have found a safe place. If you have a local stray that hasn't yet found its community niche, you can create a small shelter or feeding station. This is most effective if the animal has already undergone TNR.
You can build a small hideaway with a doorway large enough for cats. Consider insulating the space with a moisture-repelling material such as straw. A door flap can help keep predators at bay or keep out cold drafts during the winter months.
When feeding cats, make sure to provide the healthiest food possible to keep these feral felines in great shape. Go! Solutions wet food is easier for cats to digest, which can be important during the cold winter months.
Make Winter Warmer
If you have concerns about what to do with feral cats in colder weather, don't stress. Feral cats are resilient and can survive in extreme conditions.
Even so, if you wish to help make their lives easier, there are a few things you can do.
- Leave a spigot running so cats will have access to water that isn't frozen
- Warm-up any wet food before putting it outside for cats to eat
- Place a microwavable heating pad near where the cats like to sleep
- Offer dry food, which is less likely to freeze
- Shovel out their favorite hiding places so they don't get snowed in
In essence, do all you can to keep food and water from freezing. Provide places where kitties can warm up and stay dry when it snows. Maintain any shelters that you build, as they become high-traffic areas when it gets cold!
Support Your Local Feral Cats
Feral cats might appear a little threatening at first, but with the right amount of human intervention, they can become beloved members of the community. Remember that these animals are scared and are using their instincts to try to stay alive. The more support you offer your local strays, the less they will need to compensate with hissing and claws!
Whether you're looking to feed your pampered indoor housecats or your local feral friends, Go! Solutions has the healthful, environmentally-friendly dry and wet pet food for you. Healthy cat food makes a major difference in the overall health and lifespan of your beloved family member.
Visit our website today to learn where you can buy Go! Solutions products and start feeding your pets the best cat food available.