Different from your Average House Pet
Several households all over the country take care of feral cats. “Feral cats” would be what you might call outdoor cats, as they are animals not allowed inside. They may be restricted to the outdoors, but that doesn’t stop a person from taking care of the animal. Though feral cats might look like the cat that lazes all over the sofa, their needs are somewhat different from your average house pet. Taking care of a feral cat imparts different responsibilities.
Your first step in taking care of a feral cat or a feral cat community is to make sure that all of the cats are vaccinated and neutered. You want to make sure the animal has a clean bill of health and a good start in the same way you would your house cat. Outside, cats run into far more threats of infection and illness. Without the certain shots that your veterinarian could provide, those threats become real risks. A check-in with a veterinarian ensures a longer, healthier life for the animal.
It’s just as important to neuter feral cats. For one, it keeps the population under control. When too many cats are around, food becomes scarce, and fights between males more common.
Keep an active eye out for your feral cats’ health in the same way you would a house pet. It might be easier to go days without seeing one of your feral cats, so when you do, always be sure to give them a good health check. Look for cuts, sores, limps, and infections. These will occur every now and again, as they do for any pet, so keep a close enough eye so that you can attend to any issues as soon as they occur.
Obviously, the sooner you get an ill or injured pet to the veterinarian, the sooner that pet will be happy and healthy again. However keep in mind that wild cats may bite and scratch, so a proper trap should be used to secure them to and from the vet to avoid getting hurt.
Designate an area around the house for food and water. It is best to do this out back since having a colony of cats roaming around your front door might become annoying, or frustrate neighbors and visitors. Feed on a regular schedule, and remove uneaten food within an hour, as it will attract bugs, insects, and raccoons. You can put a water dish out full time and cover it with a simple plywood box to protect it from the rain.
Provide shelter. If the cats don’t take it as an insult, then give them a dog house. This would even be a good area for their food. With a dog house or a similar structure, the cats have a warm spot to rest that hides them from the wind and the rain. It also adds to their well-being to have their own personal nest area, so to speak, or their own “home.”
A good filler for outside cat beds is straw, as it is bulky enough to keep them warm, cheap to supply and easy to clean up and replace.
A Rewarding Relationship
Maintaining a feral cat community is a great option for pet owners who simply can’t have pets in the house, be it for the safety of children, or because of someone’s allergies. Some feral cats give as much love and affection as indoor cats, and caring for them is just as rewarding, but that care requires different responsibilities.
The number one responsibility is the cat’s health. Then, provide them food and shelter. Beyond that, feral cats can handle themselves, and you will never again have to clean out another litter box.
Brett Packer owns and operates At Home Veterinary Care since 1997. He is an avid dog lover and enjoys helping other people’s pets achieve the best health possible.