I think your intentions are wonderful, and I really admire that you want to help them!
But most cats - even pets - have a problem wearing clothes (OK - Kenz's Bayley may be an exception!
) ...but sweaters are for indoor animals that go out for a walk, not strays that live outdoors. I think it could put them at risk. What if a sweater gets caught on something and they can't get out of it? What if it gets hooked on something, they get twisted up freaking to get out and end up strangling themselves? I think it's a very dangerous, though well-intentioned idea.
The fact of the matter is, they're there because they are survivors, and in an urban area, there are lots of places for them to keep warm. Cats can handle a lot of weather. We had a feral colony survive many winters - the first one had below zero actual temperatures for several weeks. VERY few of them used the cat-friendly enclosures we put out for them.
The best thing you can do to help them is find someone - if there is a group or person in your area, that can trap, spay, and neuter them.
It can be frustrating depending upon where you are. But persistence often pays off. Here is a list of resources that may help you.
To e-mail Alley Cat Allies to ask for the Feral Friends Network in your area write to them at: email@example.com
. In the e-mail, explain the situation.
To e-mail the Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Campaign to ask if there are any network members that may be able to help in your area, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
and explain the situation.
To search for TNR groups to contact (I always recommend contacting w/in 90 - 100 miles - you never know who they may have networked with - or that person that used to work with them but moved... )http://www.alleycat.org/orgs.htmlhttp://www.pets911.com/organizations/organizations.php
- you can also search for shelters and vets here.http://www.petfinder.com/
- this is to search for pets - but it lets you know what organizations or which people may be resources in the areahttp://www.worldanimal.net/
Again - I would call these places and explain your situation to ask if they can help or know of anyone or an organization that may be able to help.
The local yellow pages are always best to search for vets - whether calling around to them or driving around to them. I understand you can't afford even low-cost spay/neuter right now, but again, I'd explain the situation and ask if they're familiar with any people working with ferals, practicing Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR), or any groups that you can contact. We always offer to leave our number and ask them to pass it on to the person - or we offer to call back the next day (or whenever) to check, rather than ask them to provide the name and number of a client with someone they don't know. If they know of someone to contact, make sure you get the name of the person you're speaking to so you know who to ask for if you have to call back.
If you want to search for free spay/neuter groups to contact about your situation, if you can't find any groups or individuals to help, and you have time and the willingness to trap, you can also search here:
The same TNR group links as above,
and another list of links to help search are here: http://www.savesamoa.org/html/spay_neuter.html
But some of the best links for spay/neuter services are:http://www.lovethatcat.com/spayneuter.htmlhttp://www.angelfire.com/md2/mdpetrescu/spay.html
I would call any places in your area to explain the situation. You never know what may turn up, and while it can be discouraging, the most important thing is to keep e-mailing or dialing - just keep going. Persistence often pays off.
There are also lots of Rescue links where more shelters and things can be searched for (including info on orphaned kitten rescue) athttp://www.savesamoa.org/html/rescue.html
I hope these resources will help you turn up something or someone that can help you with the situation!