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How do I even start?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Its weird, I never really thought there were feral cats around the area Im in. I figured with the cold temnperatures in MN, they would be rare. But in the last few months I started to really look and pay attention, and Im seeing what I believe are wild cats.

Theres a black and white tuxedo in my neighborhood that likes my yard. Ive seen her about a dozen times now, but suspect its possible she has a home somewhere but shes just let out. I dont think shes neutered though, because she often visits the male cats next door and wails when she is in heat. So that leads me to believe shes homeless.
Ive attempted to get close, and she lets me in about 5 of 6 ft from her and then runs. I tried setting out wet food for her once, but she left my yard and didnt eat it overnight.

Then near my moms, much more out in the country, Ive seen a specicif area that always has cats nearby. Its very woodsy and around a few farms, so who knows. I recently saw a black cat run across the road carrying a dead mouse or rat or something. Im guessing she was bringing it to her babies because then today, very close to that area I saw 2 black kittens and 2 dilute calicos/torties. They were sitting near the road, and when I stopped my car to get out and approach, they ran away Im really bummed about that, as they were just beautiful kitties and probably about 4 or 5 months at the most. They were small.

So I just dont know where to even start. Can I leave cat food out in my yard for the tuxedo? Will other animals eat it so it would be pointless? Theres no pattern to when Im seeing them, so I cant really plan well. And the babies I saw today.. Im only there on weekends so its hard for me to really stalk them down and try to trap them.
Any suggestions? Is it pointless to even try in these scenarios?
post #2 of 9
Hi Kat-

It is an overwhelming problem in many areas. Once you start to feed, you have to be prepared for what happens. They start arriving in droves. If they are true ferals, you will have cat fights every night, cat urine sprayed in every conceivable place outside, and when mating season starts, you will have double the fights.

The only way to start feeding and caring for the colony is if you have the resources available to neuter the males and spay the females. You also have to know how to use the traps, and which traps are the best to use. Once you start this, if you are dedicated, there is no turning back.

We moved here to Oregon 10 years ago. There was a pregnant black and white under our house. We brought with us from Alaska 5 cats and two dogs. I captured Funny Face and brought her indoors and worked with her. She delivered 7 healthy kittens-two of which are still living with us today. She has since been adopted down the road a piece by a kind gentleman. Now, we have 20 cats and more arrive. With the exception of the three latest rescued kittens and 3 recent ferals who just appeared- all my cats are spayed and neutered.

So if you start to feed, please be sure you can follow through and stop the overpopulation that is occurring. Because if you can't, you will have a large population of cats that will soon start breeding among themselves, resulting in kitten fatalities, nasty cat fights, birth defects and other heartaches. If you can't TNR then don't feed. That is the sad reality of rescue work with ferals.
post #3 of 9
First of all, you're an angel for wanting to do something about the situation.

And cats can survive in very cold temperatures just so long as they have shelter. With farms and homes around, there would be lots of places for them to find shelter in winter. Barns, garages, under porches, etc. Cats are very enterprising characters, and they can survive in all kinds of climates.

I don't know if I can anser your questions directly, but here are some thoughts for you.

If you put out food, animals will come. It may be cats, it may be skunks, it may be raccoons or birds - I don't know what you have in your area. You can try putting out cat food and see what happens over time. If you have a table or something on which you can put the food, the cats would be able to jump up on it to eat it, but it would discourage other animals like skunks.

When I first became a moderator of The Cat Site, I struggled with what to recommend to people who want to feed cats. I want to encourage people to do things for cats - and that people have big hearts and want to feed them is so wonderful! But in the long run it is not good for the cats. It will help cats that might otherwise die in nature stay alive and propogate. That simply creates more homeless cats. The cat may be diseased, and may have a litter of diseased kittens before she dies.

I now believe that unless people are prepared to trap and have that cat / those cats spayed and/or neutered, they should not be encouraged to feed the cats.

It sounds to me like you're prepared to try to trap the cats to have them spayed or neutered.

For us, it started with one stray cat that started turning up regularly in our garbage can. We tossed her cheese. Then we started putting out cat food. Then lots of cats started turning up. Including the kittens we adopted, we had 28 cats spayed and neutered last summer/fall.

The only real way to attract cats to your property is to leave out cat food and fresh water. (Fresh water can sometimes be hard to come by).

Just be prepared - you may find there are a lot more cats than just the one Tuxedo kitty!

Strays that are owned will usually let you approach them. We encourage people to do things like put up posters, or place fliers in people's mailboxes to see if strays do belong to someone. Slipping on a break-away collar with a little note that says "Please call xxx-xxxx if I have an owner" works sometimes too.

On the other hand, if the kitty isn't spayed, she should be. You either need to find her owner and perhaps provide them with information on the benefits of spaying, the problem of feral cat overpopulation, and perhaps even resources for low-cost spaying in your area (if you can locate any). (Clicking on the links in my signature will take you to LOTS of information on all of the above).

If the cat isn't approachable, and she comes around when you put out food, if you're trapping "wild" cats (feral cats) you would naturally assume she was one. Once the cat or cats is used to coming to your property for food, the next step is to put the food in a trap to trap the cat. There are trapping hints here: Helping Ferals

You can use the link in my signature to search for low-cost spay/neuter services near you. If you can't afford to pay for spaying/neutering of one or many cats and can't easily locate any low-cost programs, then try calling no-kill shelters in your area to see if they have any programs, or veterinarians in your area. Explain that you are going to be trapping feral cats, and that you want to have them sterilized and release them - can they help by either giving you a break on the cost or by allowing you to pay over time (if this is an option you would consider pursuing).

As to the cat and kittens you saw near your mom's. If there are farms around there, there are very likely lots of feral cats. Many farmers like to have cats to help control the rodent population. Not all of them like to sterilize the cats, and barn cats - because of access to food, shelter and water - can easily start large feral colonies. That's what happened around here. Also - people with problem cats or cats that weren't spayed and had litters often dump the kittens or problem kitties in the countryside.

But without regularly putting food out, visiting the area frequently and monitoring the cats, I don't think you can expect to trap them. Others may know better than I do. We only have experience trapping cats that either we feed or that others regularly feed. Also, you can't put out traps and then not go back to see if you trapped anything for a week. Would your mom like to help you in this endeavor?

You can also search for rescue groups near the area. You can contact Alley Cat Allies (www.alleycat.org) to see if there is anyone near you who is trained at this, or you can click on the "Rescue" resources link in my signature line to find links to sites where you can search for rescue groups in your area.

Please feel free to ask away, and I hope this helped!

post #4 of 9
BTW - dry food works just fine for feeding outside. You may want to resort to wet food to help draw the cats into a trap.

And if you want to learn more about TNR (trap-neuter-release), the link in my sig will take you to links where you can see on-line videos, learn about on-line courses, or just to places where you can read up on how to practice TNR.

post #5 of 9
P.S. MA is VERY experienced - she has a lot of experience and wisdom to share!!! But once the females are spayed, the wailing stops. One the males are neutered, the fighting calms down and the spraying stops.

Hubby and I were fortunate enough to live in an area where when we had the colony around here completely sterilized, there were no more additions. This is unusual!!! More cats usually come, and it can be a LOT of work and very frustrating at times.
post #6 of 9
I'll echo the above. If you decide to trap, I have had the county animal control loan me live traps - they are happy to do this as it is less work for them. City animal controls will also have them available. I contacted the animal control thru my vet - it adds legitimacy to your request and they loaned it to me with no deposit or fee. My vet also now has a live trap that I borrow as needed. Lot's of resources out there if you only ask for help.

I hadn't read thru those threads before.....great ideas in there!!! I did the "Hissy grab" on the little red guy yesterday morning...and I thought it was an original idea!
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Wow you guys are the best. Not only full of info but quick too
Theres a lot to this, isnt there? Im amazed at what you guys do! Seriously, it has to be frustrating and heartbreaking at times. Im not sure at this point what Im going to do, or really what Im capable of yet. I'll have to think about it and just keep watching the cats Ive seen and think about it a bit more. I think for starters I'll stick with the Tuxedo since its more likely to work with her being so close. Although its so sad about those beautiful kitties! But I just dont think helping them is realistic, with me being almost 30 minutes away. My mom wouldnt be the type to help on something like that Unfortunately.

Im going to read those links as soon as I get more time. Probably tonight. Thats for referring me. It will be best for me to read up more before I decide anything.

Another thought, this must be incredibly costly for those of you who do it. I mean, even just the food has to be spendy!! I imagine you buy as much as you can in large bulk, eh?
post #8 of 9
I typically buy four large bags of dry food a month. My problem is that not only do I feed the ferals, but the skunks, the squirrels, the coons, and the possums! But I haven't found out how to stop feeding the wildlife.
post #9 of 9
I go thru about 2 20 pound bags a month for the ferals (my colony has shrunk in size). I chose a vet 10 years ago after interviewing all in the area on how willing they were to help me with my personal rescue efforts (10 years ago it was strays, it evolved to ferals when I bought this house). I'm not afraid to ride him when he tries to raise his rates on me. If you explain to your vet what you are doing, oftentimes they are more than willing to help you.

But yes, I spend a lot of my discretionary income on cats. They're worth it in my opinion!
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