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Where to start with strays?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I live in a newish area, not directly in town but a subdivision on the outskirts of town....on the one side we have a huge field, the other side is country, the next side is heading into town and the last side is residental.

We don't have alot of kitties running around, but there are a couple. I would say they are strays, in that they once had a home and were left for whatever reason.

My back yard is not fully fenced, but alot of yards around are. Lately I've seen the kitties out and walking along the fences. The one looks soooo skinny

I only see them at night....never seen any kitty that didn't belong in the day time.

I would like to help these kitties out. I would like to care for them, and at least have them neutered/spayed so that our community is not over run with kittens..... especially this time of year being breeding season now.

So, I'm curious as to where to start?

I've thought about leaving food out (I have a bag of wellness core, that Kizzy won't eat and it has a strong smell) for them and observing, till I earned their trust enough to have physical contact with them.

But, I'm worried about other critters if I leave food out... like skunks, vermin, etc.

So, if I wish to care for the strays, how do I start?

thanks for any tips.
post #2 of 7
I too was worried about other pests eating the strays food, and have yet to deal with that. I choose to feed on my front porch as opposed to my back is it is covered.

I fed at the same time every day--8 PM any earlier and the food sat all day.

Sadly due to bringing home my pregnant stray I have lost the trust of my feral/stray tom, but I pray that he soon will return to the porch again for a meal as I have a voucher to get him neutered. I still see him many times a week.

Start looking for local TNR groups, I actually had someone here on TCS connect me to one and now I can get spay/neuter vouchers for the ferals/strays and the cost to me is $10 + $4 if I want the distemper vaccine.

Start slow--if they are strays and not ferals, the trust should build fast.

post #3 of 7
Look for posts by LDG. Some of them are real articles on How Why and Where about helping ferals and other homeless cats.
Use the search; choose advanced, and after it
author LDG and forum: Caring for strays and ferals.

In any case, it is excellent you see giving them food is good but not enough, you must follow it up with TNR and or preferably also some adoption.

What Im thinking now. Most of these cats you talk about dont seems to be born outside. Most of them were homecats once, right?
So they had an owner once.

If they were dumped or abandoned, there is obviously no point of searching after the previous owner. It is much better to seek after a new one...

But if they are strays, ie went astray or such - many of them do have an owner / family who do miss them, is searching after them and would be very happy to find them back.
Thus some system of writing them up somewhere as found should be useful.

Good luck!
post #4 of 7
Hi Chris! Save ya the searches.

First of all, you are SUCH a sweetheart for wanting to do this!

I don't know how many links I have that will be useful in Canada, but we'll get there. I'm pretty sure that area has a number of rescues that may be helpful.

The first thing to do is start feeding. To avoid the other critters (we're in a really rural area, and we had primarily squirrels, raccoons, skunks and possums), put the food out on a schedule and pick it up on a schedule. We put it out around dawn and left it out for two hours, and we put it back out at 7:00pm and picked it up at 9:00pm.

We also ended up putting it out on a slatted table where the legs were slightly inset - raccons can't climb those, it seems. (Gary made the table).

This isn't necessary, but just an idea for down the road IF there is a problem.

We did trap a lot of raccoons, skunks and possums. Never got sprayed opening the door to release the skunks - never got bitten releasing raccoons or possums.

You will need a trap. Here's a discussion of the pros and cons and where to buy. Definitely get a two-door model:

Our trapping tips are easy.

1) Any time you trap, wash the trap with a light bleach solution. It removes the smell of fear and urine (most trapped cats will at least pee in fear at some point).

2) Pour potting soil (no chemical additives) or clay (non clumping) litter over the bottom of the trap - it lifts right up through it and cats don't have to walk on the wires

3) Spray the ends of the trap with Feliway ("friendly" smell)

4) Use a REALLY stinky food (KFC, no skin or bones works great. We always used just some canned tuna and never had a problem. Others use salmon or mackerel or herring)

5) Even better if you can cover the trap with sticks and leaves

6) When transporting a cat in a trap, have a plastic tarp to cover whatever area of your car or truck you place the trap, and cover it (not the ends) with a light blanket. Kitties will usually pee or poop or vomit (or all three) during transit. Open a window in the car just a little bit.

Depending upon where you're going to get them spayed/neutered, you have to decide how to handle the release.

We did not use a low-cost place. We worked out an arrangement with our vet, who charged a discounted rate (but not as cheap as most low-cost spay/neuter places) - BUT for that we got to leave females there for up to 48 hours, but at least 24. We would just drop off the trap, they'd call to let us know when they got to the spay or neuter, and if it were foul weather outside, we'd leave the cats there until it wasn't raining or horrible, but the females would stay at least 24 hours before we'd release them. The males are usually good to go soon - if they were neutered in the afternoon, we'd pick them up the next morning.

If you use a low-cost spay/neuter place, they won't let you keep the animals there, so you need to have a room, a porch, a garage, or a shed or something where you can place the trap for them to recover a little bit before you release them. Again - do put a tarp down for them. And this is when it is good to have a divider version of trap - that way you can put food and water in there easily.

When trapping, we'd always skip meals for one day, then put the trap down exactly where we feed them.

Also, I would seriously consider asking the vet or whoever to make a small notch in the left ear. This way you can very quickly and easily identify if you've trapped a cat that you've already had altered. This saves a LOT of time and stress on everyone! If you feel uncomfortable with that, keep a journal of the cats you get sterilized - take a picture from a couple of different angles, and write down as detailed a description as you can. Around here there were a LOT of black & white males with white on their noses and white feet.

It is a great idea to talk to local rescues, shelters, and find one or some you can work with. You will likely be confronted with pregnant females, and you have to have a plan. Are you willing to have her spayed and the kittens aborted? If so - what if she's too far advanced, and she IS going to have her kittens? Can you foster her and the kittens? We can't. So you have to have some kind of plan. Either you just let her have the kittens and let her raise them, and you trap them all when they're old enough and get them all sterilized and release them all.... or you've got a shelter that will take them, or you've got a foster network that will take her pregnant, let her have the kittens, and work to get them adopted out... perhaps her too....

We never worked with other rescue groups. We do (after 7 years!) finally have a relationship with a foster network that we can go to with very young kittens, bottle babies, or pregnant females.... but what we did is, again, we worked out an arrangement with our vet. The pregnant female would go to the vet, be spayed if possible - if not, be boarded until she had her kittens. We got real friendly with the office, bought them lunch and stuff a lot, so the vet techs would end up taking the kittens home to foster. The whole staff got involved in helping find homes for all of them - and provided spay/neuter services to the adopters at a discounted rate.

Basically, it's just about being friendly, figuring out which rescues or shelters will be helpful, forget about the ones that won't (so many are under-staffed and just don't have budgets)... and at the very, very least, just getting them spayed and neutered and release them so they can't procreate.

Spend a little time on-line learning about the benefits of TNR so you can explain to people who ask - and maybe enlist some help from the neighborhood!

You can read up on it by clicking on the picture in my siggy. is a GREAT site. So is the No More Homeless Pets campaign and library at

And to search for rescues/shelters/low-cost (or free ) spay/neutering: - in this one, just scroll through ALL the cats listed in your zip code. Each one has an org that put it up - each org has a contact page. Contact them! You can either let them know you're starting to rescue - and do they know of free or low-cost spay/neuter services - and do they ever have space for cats or kittens, do they have a foster network, do they know who might? etc. etc. etc.

You can also fill out the form at Alley Cat Allies to find the "feral friends" in your area (if any) - this may be a person willing to help trap, or it may be low-cost spaying:

Hope this helps! And DO ask ANY questions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

post #5 of 7
Oh wait - duh - you're in Canada!

Don't know if the pets911 will be helpful. I also don't know if Alley Cat Allies includes Canada. Please still do visit the site - it has so much helpful info just in general for what you're about to do!

You'll know better than I do if any of these are helpful:

post #6 of 7
Again a marvellous post by LDG-Laurie!

It is interesting to read about this very successfull cooperation with this vet-clinic.
One point I want to stress, is them being so helpful, is they do have an enormous contact-network and Laurie gets thereby access to this network. Both as private persons, but also by knowing a lot of animal-friendly persons. Thus - many possible adoptions places, I think...

ps. So. Trying to get access to networks is useful. Vet is gold worth, but it may be others. Church group (remind them about the lost sheep and the shepherd), a sport club... Probably a women-sport-club.
Like Laurie tells: being friendly, knowingly telling what you are trying to do, how and why. Concentrate on friendly persons, dont misuse too much energy on persons you know wont help you... And you seldom get everything at once. The contacts takes time to work up. It takes time. So begin in small scale and see where you land.

Talking about strays and veterinary clinics. I shall retell a true story from Sweden told by one of the vet assistants on this clinic:
They get regularly found strays for putting to sleep, where nobody did find the owner and they didnt get adopted. The clinic staff didnt feel well about letting go healthy animals, so they usually tried once again to seek after the owner. This vet assistant had it on her as an voluntarily extra task.
And look here. Although she was no professional detective and had not much time for this extra task, every year did she found at least 4-5 overjoyed owners who missed their fur babies, and was seeking in wain after them. (I presume they also get some adopted, but this is another story).

Lesson? If you find a stray (=apparently a homecat being astray), do help it if you can. And always, always seek the owner. Chance is quite good there IS an owner who do miss them.
If you cant take the cat in, do at least write it up on FOUND message boards and so on, whatever is possible and usual in your country and your neighborhood.
Do it parallell: help and seek.
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 
Wow, thanks for all the info

I fully intend on looking and seeing if they have collars, or look like they belong in a home ( lost kitties ).

I also plan on talking to my vet to see if he will give a discount rate for spay/neuter.... ( normal price for a neuter is $65 at this clinic).

Enlisting the neighbourhoods help would prolly work too. I've heard several people complaining about the couple strays we do have, and have a feeling they would prefer helping out than having them reproduce and have more strays run around. Thanks for the suggestion, I didn't even think about it.

I am hoping they will come to my yard. I have a dog, who is on a "run"...meaning she gets hooked up and can run the length of the line. But there's a couple areas where she doesn't get to, so I was thinking of putting food out there..... in a back corner where other peoples fences meet.. because I do see the cats walking the tops of the fences.

Thx again for all the tips....I'll be along with more questions as they arise
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