At our house, with its two “doggie doors” and big fenced-in yard, we get a constant stream of visitors. On a daily (and nightly) basis, our guests include Sudini, Tom, Tom-Tom, Daisy, Ringer, and Charlie. Three of these callers, named Oogie, Buddy, and Fluffy, have decided to reside with us permanently. Our cat, Misty, of 18 years, tolerates them, but makes sure they know that she is the queen of the house!
To give you a little history:
Our neighborhood cat population had skyrocketed about 12 years ago, so concerned animal lovers decided to institute the spay/neuter and release program offered by our local humane society. Many unfixed cats and kittens were trapped and taken to the local veterinary clinic to be spayed or neutered. The vet gave them a physical and a rabies shot; then the strays were released back into our neighborhood. The younger, more adoptable kittens were found homes outside our area.
The spay/neuter program ensured that these particular cats would not be able to produce new offspring, thereby limiting the feral population in our area.
Many of the homeowners in our area are pet lovers and make sure there is plenty of food, water, and shelter available for their nomadic visitors. As the years passed, some of the older cats passed away, while some of the males found new territories in other parts of town. The remaining felines established their own “territories” inside the neighborhood.
An article on PetMed.com explains:
Before we go on, let’s consider why you might want to help your neighborhood’s feral cats. In any community that supports a healthy (i.e., neutered and released) wild cat population, rodent populations are kept in check, eliminating the need for harmful chemicals and poisons, and protecting the residents of these neighborhoods from the diseases and damage rodents can cause to life and property. Cats are a practical and “green” solution to this universal problem. Also, a family and neighborhood commitment to caring for a controlled feral cat population teaches our children that we respect life and appreciate the work these cats do for us.
I have found that there are two types of felines in our area. The first type is the domesticated cat that “lost its home” and the second type is the cat that was born “on the streets.”
And, at our house, we have our routine visitors. There are the strays that brazenly jump through the doggie door in search of treats and toys, stay awhile, and then wander off down the road. There are the nightly visitors who are only interested in us because we have a food bowl on our porch.
Sudini, whom we have known for 18 years, was born “on the streets.” She will not venture into our home but will jump onto the cat stand to be petted behind the ears and on her belly. I believe human contact had a lot to do with changing her demeanor. She understood that we would not harm her and that we supplied her with food and shelter. It took several years of talking to her and “making our presence known” to get her to trust us.
Charlie, on the other hand, is a domesticated cat that “lost his home.” He will venture onto the porch for food, but as soon as he sees us, he flees into the backyard. He is distrustful of humans and has become a somewhat feral cat. In the last few months, however, we have noticed that he will linger a little, looking at us, before walking away. Hopefully, with a bit of interaction, such as talking in a soothing voice and moving slowly and nonaggressively, he will become more trusting of us.
We also ensure that our outside guests stay warm in the winter months. Two medium-sized dog houses, with outdoor heating pads and pet beds, keep these felines protected from rain, snow and windy conditions. You can purchase outdoor, heated cat houses on retail sites like Amazon.com. Or, if you are a DYIer, you can construct one out of old plastic containers or wooden pallets. Any structure that is waterproof will help protect these animals from the elements and ensure their survival.
The summer months are somewhat more manageable for our cat population. Most felines enjoy the heat and will seek shade when necessary.
Our recommendations for helping your feline visitors would be:
- Change their water twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.
- Place food bowls on a carpeted cat stand or another surface that ants and other insects cannot climb.
- Shelter them from the elements.
- If you notice a sick or injured feline in our area, call your local humane society immediately. The volunteers can trap the animal and get it medical help, if necessary.
On the ASPCA.com website:
The ASPCA uses the term “community cats” to encompass any unowned cat. Included under this umbrella are feral cats, those who have been lost or abandoned, and cats who might receive food and intermittent care from one or more residents in a community. Feral cats are cats who are too poorly socialized to be placed as a typical pet.
The ASPCA supports the management of community cat colonies primarily through TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return) and scanning for the presence of a microchip, vaccination, sterilization, ear tipping and, when feasible, microchipping.
If you have a “cat community” in your area, I would love to hear from you. You can use the Comments Section on this page to share your experiences and stories with other cat lovers.
You never know, one day you may have a feline wander into your life and decide to adopt you! You may become its guardian, but it will be the master of your house and your heart!
Photo by Wayne Low on Unsplash.