18 October 2018
18 October 2018,

How to care for feral cats




Though many cats are easy to spot as domesticated due to their large bellies and calm, loving nature towards humans, there also exists a large amount of homeless cats who could most definitely use as much of our help as they can get.


Feral cats will normally seek out whatever shelter they can find. They seek refuge on patios, under parked cars, in sheds and abandoned buildings, and many more gruelling places. While this might be okay for a limited amount of time, it is better for such animals to have a warmer, more comfortable place to spend their nights.


When it comes to food, feral cats generally sustain themselves by scavenging through rubbish bins, and in cases of extreme hunger, they’re known to kill small animals in order to survive.


While this is the way things are now, it isn’t the way things should remain. Each one of us can and should do our part in helping these creatures out in any way that we can.



Stray or Feral?


Stray cats are cats that were socialised when they were younger and have had some sort of positive experience with humans in the past. They usually see us as a source of food and protection, and know that we can be trusted. Stray cats are normally lost or abandoned pets, or pets that have somehow escaped from home. They generally aren’t afraid to approach us and can be rehabilitated into a new family with a little bit of extra love.


Feral cats, on the other hand, refer to cats that had virtually no contact with humans in their early years and are therefore not socialised. Feral cats are generally afraid of us and will not allow us to pet them or even come near them.


How can you help?


1. Provide some sort of shelter



Though feral cats are used to living outside, in winter it can be difficult for them to find a shelter that is warm and comfortable enough for them to survive the harsh elements. The best thing to do is for you to put your hands to work and build a suitable shelter for the feline friends living in your area.


Keep the following factors in mind when constructing a kitty safe shelter:

  • Raising the shelter off the ground will keep it warmer in winter
  • The shelter should be placed in a safe place with little or no foot traffic
  • The shelter should preferably be placed under some sort of shelter to keep it dry
  • The entrance to the shelter should be large enough for a cat to get in, but not too large that it attracts other wild animals



2. Leave out food and water for them



It can be helpful for you to leave out some water bowls and a little bit of food if you know that there are homeless cats living in your area, but it is extremely important that you don’t become their primary source of food. If you serve them plenty of food each day, they will become dependent on you as their feeder and if you suddenly stop doing so, there will be no one there to take your place.



3. Trap, Neuter, Return



Cats are everywhere. There are millions of homeless kitties in South Africa alone. Assuming that half of them are girls, this statistic can grow extremely quickly, as cats can shockingly give birth about 5 times a year! Assuming that they each only give birth once a year, that is still a lot of new born babies to care for.


The best thing one can do to prevent creating more mouths to feed is to trap, neuter and return the kitties to where you found them. Don’t worry if you don’t have the financial means to do this, as there are many vets who are willing to spay feral cats for free and will happily assist you in this process. You just need to take the first step.


It is clear that in order for you to improve the lives of feral cats in your neighbourhood, you need to be willing to offer up some of your time and love. We hope that these quick tips will help you in the future when you come across a feline friend in need!


Author: Carissa Engelbrecht

Editor: Andrea Wilkins


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