Feral, or “community” cats always seem to find their way into a neighborhood. If you’re a lover of all things little and furry, your first instinct may be to try to make friends with the four-legged vagabonds. Unfortunately, some strays will always open the hissing booth if you get too close, but there are still ways to help them, even if they don’t want your snuggles.
Spay and Neuter
If you have a community cat hanging around your yard, the first (and most important) step in helping out the little guy is to make sure it isn’t going to spend its life exploding the feral cat population in your neighborhood by having it sterilized. Not only does this keep your town from being overran with cats, but it also keeps the ones you already have living there healthy. An altered pet has fewer health issues and is less likely to get into feline fisticuffs over territory. Check out your local Trap Neuter Release program, or TNR. Contact your animal shelter to find out TNR programs in your area. They’ll humanely trap the kitty, do the required surgery to make sure it can’t reproduce, clip its ear so it can be recognized as an altered cat in the future, and release it back into the area it came from, all at no cost to you.
Many times, these critters hang out in a specific area due to the shelter it provides. If you want to make your space more inviting to the feral cats of your hood, you can try providing a dry place to relax. If you’re not into spending a lot of money on a pet that won’t let you touch it, Neighborhoodcats.org has compiled a list of different DIY cat houses you can make. One of the designs is as simple as sealing the lid on a Styrofoam cooler and cutting a hole in it. If you live in a cold area, you can put straw or an outdoor heated pet mat in the bottom of a shelter. Never use hay that will turn soggy or fabric that will get wet and freeze.
Unless you live in some joyless town that has outlawed the feeding of feral cats, you may catch yourself filling up a little bowl of vittles for your furry buds. Cats are generally independent and self-sufficient, but why watch one stay svelte when you can have it looking like Garfield? If you feed her on a schedule, you may find she comes to your house at the same time every day, and eventually you may gain her trust enough for a chin scratch. A fresh bowl of water is also important, although you might find the little dude would rather drink from the gutter.
Cats are fun to watch, even if you can’t get close enough to hug them. Science says people who have cats around are healthier. Go ahead, erect a cooler shelter and care for those community cats from afar.