Creating a Better Haven for Feral Cats

by Kimberly Wade

Living in a small, coastal town in southern Maine, I remember seeing cats everywhere. Our cats adopted us—usually they were neighborhood cats who decided to call our home their home for a while, whether a month, year or more. They were all walks of life, some friendly, some not, but my mom tells me that from my earliest days, I would befriend them all. I would help care for kittens delivered by a mama cat in our barn, watching over them as if they were my own. Somehow, I attracted cats from all over—I think my days as a cat whisperer started here. Fast forward to our second home in southwest Florida, and through my teens I experienced the same thing. Neighborhood, cats, business cats, friendly cats and not so friendly cats—they all came to me. I think it goes without saying that I do not take offense to the crazy cat lady status (I’m kind of proud of it) and my love for the feline developed as soon as I could crawl. It also explains my desire to adopt my first cat as an adult, Cali, from a shelter—I was already savvy to saving lives.

I bring this to your attention in honor of National Feral Cat Day, which is this Sunday, October 16, a day to think about the outdoor cats in our neighborhoods. This celebration was started by Alley Cat Allies back in 2001 to raise awareness for outdoor cats and has since grown to educate people worldwide, allowing for neighborhoods to proudly provide for their kitties and defend their honor. Let’s be real, outdoor cats have been part of our landscape for thousands of years and always will be. We can coexist peacefully and animal welfare organizations like Alley Cat Allies are there to offer compassionate and effective solutions to help this happen, because though we hate to admit it, not everyone is a cat lover. But, as we believe animals are family too, we are here to stand up and be their voice.

Here are some of the basics to help you understand outdoor cats, both locally and afar*:

  • Feral cats exist everywhere. They live healthy lives outdoors in family groups called colonies. They are the same species as domestic cats, but are not socialized to humans and can really only be adopted as a working cat—non-toxic, natural pest control. (Yes, we have these cats for adoption in Reno and Carson City!)
  • 1 in 4 Americans have fed an outdoor cat.
  • More than 70% of all cats who enter shelters are killed. That number rises to virtually 100% for feral cats. This does not happen at Nevada Humane Society, but it does happen elsewhere.
  • More than 80% of Americans think it’s more humane to leave a stray cat outdoors, where she can live out her life instead of being caught and killed.
  • Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) for feral cats is a win for the cats and their human neighbors. TNR improves the lives of the cats and calms the neighbors. The traditional method, catch and kill, is cruel, endless, and costly. TNR makes feral cats healthier and ends the breeding cycle, which means no more kittens. It also ends a lot of common behaviors associated with outdoor cats. Yowling, fighting, spraying and roaming—all of these are mating behaviors that stop once a cat is neutered. TNR is successfully practiced in Northern Nevada!
  • A managed TNR program, with a set feeding area and schedule, further discourages roaming. Simple home remedies—citrus peels, decorative rocks or chicken wire—deter cats from digging in gardens. There are also a few useful commercial products available at most pet shops that humanely deter cats from areas like gardens and porches.
  • TNR is the only humane and effective approach to feral cats. That’s why there has been a huge increase in the number of communities with pro-TNR ordinances within just the past decade.

TNR and keeping outdoor cats healthy and happy is a big part of lifesaving for Nevada Humane Society. On October 16, hundreds of groups nationwide will come together to raise awareness about feral cats. We encourage you to take the time to find out more, and become an advocate for the cats too—we’ve posted a wonderful flyer on our website. If you have other questions, we welcome you to email us at kwade@nevadahumanesociety.org and thank you, for being there for our cats.

*All stats and studies are courtesy of Alley Cat Allies and more information is provided about National Feral Cat Day and the cats it honors at www.alleycat.org.

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