While some cats are easy to spot as domesticated, others are obviously homeless and could use a little assistance from humans. Most feral cats will seek shelter almost anywhere they can — under raised buildings, in sheds, under porches, and under the hoods of cars. While this might be okay for a limited time, it is better for the cats to have their own space to live that is warmer than a porch and safer than on the warm engine of a vehicle. When it comes to food, feral cats scavenge the ground and garbage bins, but can end up killing small wild animals and birds if they get hungry enough. This can be prevented by providing an outdoor cat feeding station for cats that would otherwise go malnourished and hungry.

Your kind offerings of food, water, shelter, and more will help to care for feral cats year-round through any season!

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Provide a homemade shelter during any season

Before you construct a shelter, make sure there’s a good space to place it that’s away from busy and noisy paths. If it is cooler weather, find an area that backs up to a large object like a wall or fence to block out chilly winds. In warmer temperatures, place under shady areas to protect its occupants from the hot sun. Homemade cat shelters are easy and cheap to construct! You can make a simple DIY shelter using a plastic storage bin or styrofoam cooler, dry straw (for cold winter weather), and lumber or bricks to lift the shelter up off of moisture. You can find instructions for winter feral cat shelters here and a video here.

Provide food and water

Setting out a bowl of cat food is a wonderful thing to do for neighborhood feral cats. A wet canned cat food is best for digestion, but dry food is very affordable and will be just as welcomed by the cute furballs. As there may be more hungry feral cats than you first thought, observe how many cats are eating from the bowl and put out more, if needed. Decide on a good spot for a feeding station that is away from busy foot and road traffic, while being near your homemade shelter (if you’ve provided one). Make a regular daily schedule for when you put food out, and to not attract insects or other animals to the food, remove the bowls after 30 to 45 minutes. Also, provide fresh water daily and throughout all weather types. If it freezes where you live, use a wider, deeper insulated bowl. Keep bowls sanitary by cleaning frequently.

Foster kittens of feral cats

Kittens of feral cats that are young enough have the chance to be socialized and adopted by loving families. Foster pet parents to such kittens are always needed to help provide care until they can be fully tested, spayed or neutered, and placed up for adoption. Check with your local animal rescue organizations, animal shelters, and animal control department for more detailed information on feral kitten fostering opportunities. And instead of immediately taking a feral kitten into your home, it is best to contact an animal care organization if you see young kittens roaming around your neighborhood to ask what you have to do to foster one of these kittens.

Talk to your neighbors, and trap-neuter-return

Let your neighbors know if you choose to build a homemade shelter and feed feral cats. Some people may be okay with having the cats around, but if a neighbor expresses that they do not want feral cats near their property, be courteous and place shelters and food away from that neighbor’s side. Also, let neighbors know if you are participating in Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), so they are not questioning the cat traps in your front yard! TNR is a humane method that improves the lives of feral cats by trapping them in cages so they can be taken to be spayed or neutered then returned to the exact location where they were trapped. Learn more about TNR in this One Green Planet article, “Get Involved to Improve the Lives of Feral Cats Through Trap-Neuter-Return.”

It is advised that you do not bring feral cats inside of your house. These cats are not socialized and may become aggressive if you approach and attempt to touch them. Since they are not housebroken, they won’t use a litter-box and could run around tearing up your house. You are already helping enough to significantly improve the lives of neighborhood feral cats simply by providing an outdoor shelter, food, and water.

Image source: sakurai_dayo / Flickr