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:http://www.thecatsite.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=195230
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 StrayPetAdvocacy.com picture in my siggy.http://www.alleycat.org
is a GREAT
site. So is the No More Homeless Pets campaign and library at http://www.bestfriends.org
And to search for rescues/shelters/low-cost (or free
- 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: http://www.alleycat.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=355
Hope this helps! And DO ask ANY questions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!