FERAL CAT AWARENESS - Be part of the solution!
How to Live with Cats in Your Neighbourhood
What is a feral cat?
Feral cats are members of the domestic cat species, but are not socialized to humans and are therefore, usually, not adoptable. Cats have been living outdoors near humans for more than 10,000 years. They typically live in groups called colonies and have strong social bonds with their colony members.
Feral and Lost Cat
At times it’s hard to tell a feral cat from a lost cat because pets revert to feral behaviours when they’re lost and scared. Both come out at night and hide during the day. When approached, they can both show signs of aggression (hissing, growling, baring teeth, arching back) and will run if you make eye contact. The differences are subtle. A feral cat may be better groomed than a recently-lost pet who hasn’t adjusted to living outdoors. If you start feeding them, eventually both will trust you — but the pet will begin acting like a companion while the feral cat will stay skittish — especially around others.
Benefits of Feral Cats
Feral cats are often considered a nuisance, but remain a very real part of our eco system. Simply put, they make good neighbours, earning their keep by controlling populations of rodents and cockroaches, especially around restaurants, malls, apartments and office complexes. If there were no feral cats, there would be an overpopulation of vermin everywhere. People who help care for feral cats by feeding them enjoy many benefits. Cat caregivers may be elderly or they may live alone; these populations are at risk for depression, loneliness and feelings of isolation. Cats relieve these conditions and often bring a sense of purpose to people who help them.
An established, stable, vaccinated and sterilized colony of feral cats will keep other feral and stray cats from moving into the area.
The Vacuum Effect:
Animal control’s traditional approach to feral cats – catch and kill – won’t keep an area free of cats for long. Catch and kill is cruel, inhumane, and creates a vacuum as do attempts to “relocate” cats. Known as the ‘vacuum-effect’, this is a documented phenomenon in a variety of animal species throughout the world. Once the cats are removed from a territory, other cats (or coyotes, raccoons or foxes) move in to take advantage of the newly available resources and breed, forming a new colony. Catch and kill is an endless and costly cycle.
Trap-Neuter-Return-Maintain is an effective and humane way to stabilize feral cat populations. Cats are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinarian, where they are neutered and vaccinated. Kittens and socialized cats (cats who are friendly to humans) are placed into foster homes to prepare them for adoption. Healthy, adult feral cats (cats who are fearful of human contact) are returned to their colony site, where they are provided with continuing care by volunteers. Maintenance is an important part of feral colony support.
So, you’re seeing cats in your yard...
Like all animals, feral cats make their home where they find shelter and food, often in close proximity to humans. We understand that not everyone enjoys having cats in their yards, and these simple tips will help you divert outdoor cats away from certain areas. You may also want the cats to stick around; some ideas below will help make areas attractive to the cats. Coupled with Trap-Neuter-Return and ongoing care, these quick steps can help you co-exist with your neighbourhood cats!
Because feral cats are not socialized and not adoptable, they do not belong in animal pounds or shelters, where they will likely be killed. Instead, feral cats should be neutered, vaccinated, and returned to their territory.
Some Basic Solutions to cat behaviours:
*Cats are getting into my trash:
Solutions: - Place a tight lid on your trash can. Don’t put garbage out before garbage day.
*Cats are digging in my garden:
Solutions: Keep all children’s sand boxes covered. Apply non-toxic deterrents around your yard (available at Garden Centres). Make use of branches, lattice, chicken wire or river stone to cover open areas.
*Cats are living under my porch or in my shed
Solution: Contact a local cat rescue group for information and re-housing advice. Physically block access areas with lattice or chicken wire - after first making sure the cats and any possible kittens are out! Do not block openings in the winter months.
*Cats are yowling, fighting, spraying, roaming, and having more kittens:
Solutions: These are mating behaviours displayed by cats that have not been spayed or neutered, and these cats will breed prolifically, thereby increasing the problem.
A Trap-Neuter-Return-Maintain (TNRM) program will virtually eliminate these problems. Spaying or neutering and vaccinating the cats will remove the sex-drive hormones causing these behaviours. Male cats will stop competing and fighting, spraying, and roaming. Females will stop yowling and producing kittens. After sterilization, hormones leave their systems within three weeks and the behaviours stop. Contact your local cat rescue group who promotes Trap-Neuter-Return-Maintain for advice and help. Many towns are working on Feral Cat Colony Projects. Be part of the solution!
*If you want them to stay:
*Provide fresh food and clean water daily in a safe area.
*Provide shelter. This can be a plastic crate, lean-to-shelter or anything that protects from predators and/or bad weather. Most importantly:
*Contact your local Cat Rescue Group if you want to support a feral colony, or provide sanctuary in a barn or on your property.
BEST OF ALL
To be Part of the Solution:
*Contact your local Cat Rescue Group that promotes TNRM (Trap Neuter Return Maintain) for advice and information. They are your best first step resource!
*Contact your local Town/City Council and tell them you encourage Trap Neuter Return Maintain programs for feral cats – ask what THEY are doing about the problem!
IF you don’t believe in killing cats, you’re already an advocate!
*remember, over 70% of cats who enter animal pounds and shelters are killed. That number jumps to virtually 100% for feral cats!