Friday, October 16, 2015

Six Ways You Can Help Feral Cats #FeralCatDay

Calico cat sitting outside
Today is National Feral Cat Day.  There are so many things we can do to help feral and community cats, and they certainly deserve the same love and care our indoor felines do.

Who Are Community Cats?

Though there are differences between stray and feral cats, the two can be difficult to tell apart.  Stray cats may have been abandoned by an owner when they moved or tossed from their homes due to any number of circumstances.  These cats are usually friendly, though they may be afraid of strangers initially.  According to The Humane Society of the United States, stray cats will typically eat food in your presence when you offer it to them.  The ASPCA states that dirty and disheveled cats are most likely strays.  Recently abandoned kitties may have difficulty finding food or may be driven away from food and shelter by local feral kitties.  The recently abandoned cat may stop grooming himself because he is so stressed.  

Feral cats are unsocialized cats.  They are afraid of humans and likely won't eat any food you've provided them until you walk away.  You may be helping a feral cat if he or she refuses to approach you even after you've been feeding him or her for several days.  Feral cats often live in groups called colonies, but if food is scarce, ferals may travel on their own.  Colonies typically defend and occupy a specific territory where food and shelter are available.  Some common places colonies reside include near restaurants or dumpsters, in barns or abandoned buildings, and under porches.  

How You Can Help Community Cats

Kittens sitting in the grass outside
Whether you're trying to help a stray or a feral cat, there are several things you can do to make their lives better.

TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return): Help control community cat overpopulation by getting involved in local TNR efforts.  TNR involves trapping feral cats, having them vaccinated and spayed or neutered at a veterinary clinic, and returning them to their territory.  If you believe you've found a stray cat, you may be able to get her into a carrier and to a veterinarian easily.  There they can check for a microchip as well as spay or neuter the kitty.  Any medical issues or injuries can also be dealt with at this time.  If the cat doesn't have a microchip, you might want to contact local shelters to see if they will help the stray cat find a new home.  

For feral cats, you'll need to set traps, which can be tricky because many ferals learn how to avoid them.  You can find an organization that helps feral cats in your area here.  A feral that has already been spayed or neutered will have an ear tip or notch - a small piece of one ear will be missing.

Educate Others: There's a lot of misinformation about community cats out there.  Print out some educational materials or order some of Alley Cat Allies' brochures to hand out.  Alley Cat Allies offers a wealth of information about community cats.  If your local library or bookstores allow it, leave some informational materials there for people to pick up.  I find out about a lot of interesting events and programs through the brochures people leave at our local library and Tattered Cover bookstore.  

If you have the knowledge and/or experience, hold a Community Cats or TNR workshop to educate others in your community about outdoor kitties.  Be sure to compile a list of local organizations that help feral cats and vet clinics that offer spay and neuter surgeries to these cats.  

A gray cat sitting on a patio outside

Provide Food: If you know of a feral cat colony, provide it with some food.  Try to feed the colony at the same time and place everyday so they know where to come to get nourishment.  

Hold a Supply Drive: If you actively take care of a feral colony, hold a food and supply drive.  This will not only help you save on food costs for the colony, but it's the perfect opportunity to educate others in your neighborhood about outdoor cats.  If you don't know of any feral cat colonies, donate the food and supplies you collect to an organization that helps community cats.

Provide Shelters: Build shelters for feral kitties in your neighborhood.  The Humane Society of the United States offers instructions on how to make a simple cat shelter here.  

Alternatively, leave your garage door open about 6-8 inches so that community cats can come inside during particularly cold nights.  My dad used to put blankets in boxes for the outdoor kitties that lived near us.  We have some friends in the Cat Blogosphere who have built nice heated cat houses for their community cats.  Any shelter - simple or fancy - will be much appreciated by feral cats on cold nights.  

Donate: Make a donation to Alley Cat Allies or to a local organization that helps community kitties.  

Feral cats deserve our love and care.  I hope these ideas have inspired you to do something for your neighborhood felines!  



  1. We pray every single day for more humans to show compassion to the dear ferals.

  2. Great post! TW has been feeding homeless cats since she was a teenager. Before it was even called TNR she teamed with a neighborhood boy and they got every stray on the block fixed. Today she still carries cat food in her bag at all times in case she runs across a hungry cat. Everyone doesn’t feel this way. Some nasty woman screamed at her and called the po po a few weeks ago. She won’t go back there but just donated a case of food to help feed them.

  3. Thanks for reminding us..and thank you to everyone who cares for ferals!

  4. What good information! We purr that more humans will take care of the feral kittie.

  5. Thanks for sharing about TNR - we've been doing it for 8 years in our town. They really need to be helped to stop breeding for the well-being of the mother and babies alike.

    Pet lovers please check out my homeless cat blog archives for some fun posts and archived stories about the abandoned/feral cat colony I manage.

    Debby in Prescott Valley, Arizona

  6. Thanks for this wonderful post... Just an FYI - some cities make it illegal to feed stray, feral or "wild" cats... mine is one of them. Anyone found feeding stray animals will be prosecuted here... And although Friends of Felines exists here... not supported...

  7. oh... this is something I found out about my city recently...

  8. I'm so glad you shared all this good information - it's so important that word about ferals, and how to help them, spreads.

  9. Great post- I wish everyone would be kind to these poor cats.

  10. We have a 'chapter' of Allie Cat Angels in our locale, and meowmy has even seen them at work:)
    Kudos to them!

    We used to see various stray/ferals here but not so much anymore in the last few years, that is a good thing. Howevfur there is a home down the street where the lady seems to just let her cats be cats, and there are always kittens. Meowmy sees them often at night when she drives home from work, Sometimes she has to get out of her vehicle to put one back in the shrubs...they are in the road and too young to understand the dangers of streets. Each day meowmy wonders if there will be a kitty in the road...sigh...those cats are not stray, nor feral, but they sure do not led a pampered life:(

  11. Good information ! Feral cats need and deserve our help. Purrs

  12. Pawsum posty. Weez awe so gwateful to all who help da feral kitties. Weez purray one day da cycle can end and all kitties can have a luvvin' furever home.

    Luv ya'

    Dezi and Lexi

  13. Fantastic article Sierra - very well written with great suggestions on how people can easily help community cats in their area. Purrs from Deb and the Zee/Zoey kitties

  14. Thanks for the great post, Sierra! This is such good and important information. Community cats need all the help we can give them!