Feral cats face dangers all year round, but winter is a particularly perilous time of year. It is also a time when people start to think about the actions they can take to help cats that are living on the streets. If this is something you have been thinking about, then you may find the following tips useful.
Buy Or Make A Shelter For Your Garden
One of the first things that you need to bear in mind when choosing a shelter is that it does not need to be too big. Cats will be able to retain their body heat easier in a smaller place that is fairly enclosed. It will also be warmer for them if the shelter is raised off the ground. There are many tips for building your own shelter which can be found on the Cat Time website. Another important thing to remember is that the entrance to the shelter should only be big enough for a cat to get through. This will stop predators such as dogs and coyotes from entering the shelter while the cats are in there. You will also need to make sure that the shelter is insulated. One of the easiest ways to do this is to place some straw inside the shelter.
Feeding Feral Cats
Cats need even more food than usual during the winter because they need extra calories in order to help them stay warm. Dry food is usually the best choice because it will not freeze in the same way that wet food would. If you do want to use wet food then you should heat the bowl that the food is placed in beforehand. This will make it harder for the food inside to freeze. As well as feeding cats, you will also want to make sure that they are getting enough to drink. Again, the water freezing when it is left overnight can be an issue. One way around this is to use a deep bowl as deeper water is less likely to freeze. It is also recommended that you use dark bowls that are made from thick plastic. You can also buy solar bowls that will keep the water warm so that it does not freeze. Another important thing to remember about food and water bowls is that they should be kept outside the shelter in case they get knocked over and spilled. The best place to put them is just outside of the shelter and they should be placed undercover if possible.
Trap Cats For Neutering
Winter is a very good time to trap cats in order to get them neutered. This is one of the most effective ways to reduce the feral cat population. If this is a course of action that you want to take, then you need to have a shelter for them to stay in while they recover from their operation. Female cats do not tend to get pregnant in the winter, which means they are less likely to experience complications from their operation. All cats will make a better recovery from an operation when they are less active, which is something that tends to happen in winter as they need to conserve as much energy as they can. Petfinder explains the importance of ensuring that feral cats are neutered. Female cats can have more than one pregnancy per year and their litters can be as many as nine kittens. If the mother is a feral cat, then the kittens are also likely to be feral as well.
Trapping and neutering is a far more humane way of controlling the stray cat population than putting feral cats to sleep. The trap should be set some distance away from the shelter that you made. This means that the cat will not associate the shelter with being trapped and is more likely to keep using it once they have been treated and released. When the cat is released it is likely to want to be in surroundings that it finds familiar. This means that you should always release the cat in the same place that you trapped it.
The trap should also be set somewhere that is enclosed and away from the cold in case the cat is in there for some time. A trap that has magnetic vents is also a good choice because vents that rattle in the wind could spook the cat and scare it away from the trap. Microwaveable heat pads should be placed inside the trap with food on top as this will make it easier for the cat to smell and warm food will be more appetizing for the cat.
Assess If Medical Care Is Needed
Stray Cat Advice points out that feral cats are more susceptible to injury and illness than domesticated cats. Feral cats face dangers all year round, but winter is a particularly perilous time of year. It is also a time when people start to think about the actions they can take to help cats that are living on the streets. If this is something you have been thinking about, then you may find the following tips useful.
If you do notice that a feral cat seems unwell then the best course of action is to take it to a vets as they will be able to provide any treatment that is needed. You may be asked to care for the cat after it has been treated and so you should make sure that your shelter is suitable. You should also be prepared to take care of the cat inside your home if needed.
If you feel as if a cat needs to be taken to the vets, then you can use the same sort of trap that has already been described above. As with trapping for neutering, the cat should be released at the same point as they were caught so they can find their way back to the place where they usually live.