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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!

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

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70 comments on “Tips on Caring for Feral Cats Year-Round and What Not To Do”

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Kathryn Stevenson
4 Years Ago

We had a group of feral kittens left on our aviation property. The coyotes and hawks were getting them one by one. I was leaving water and food for the cats and they had shelter, but couldn't get near them. Finally it was down to last one and I just prayed she would stay alive and gradually over a few months got closer and closer and then shoved her in a carrier and took her home. She hissed for months. It's been about 10 yrs and I named her Lucky and she loves living here.

Darren Currell
4 Years Ago

It's an obvious joy to connect with wild(ish) animals. I had a feral cat as a pet when I was a kid, after a few hours and my dad's packed lunch of corned beef sandwiches she was letting me pet her, so I'm assuming she used to be a pet. It is so important to spay or neuter cats. They are prolific breeders and are responsible for a huge decline in native bird and wildlife numbers if not kept in check. Of course not as dangerous to the environment as we are but I think that though it may be a good idea spaying and neutering of humans might be frowned upon.

Lara Tudor
4 Years Ago

they always tell you if need help-i listen-if want to be rescued then they will tell you, food gives them hope & feel safe-i would not leave them to fend on the streets, but give them to shelter, vet clinic if the cat lets me, if they are wild, frightened and depending on situation place id would happily feed them let them live their life-if in constant stress from other cats etc, prob kinder to put them to sleep-totally cruel to end their life but suffering is not okay either, if have wounds, fleas etc-not spayed.

Amanda Clay
4 Years Ago

Well cats don't eat tofu. They kill in the wild or Meow Mix does it for them.

Prescila Animal-rescuer
4 Years Ago

I honestly can't believe people would rather see cats starve then to see them hunt and kill birds naturally. Enjoy that chicken on your plates also.

Geni Barnes-Walton
4 Years Ago

I adopted a feral kitten from a coworker who had a whole family of them in her garage. She adapted to living in our home and eating her food and the litter box and all but she was never very friendly. She died last year and I miss her!

Prescila Animal-rescuer
4 Years Ago

I have cats that love being outside together. I also feed/ house birds in nests out doors. I discourage my cats from the birds and have actually taken hurt birds to the bird sanctuary bc of my cats. When it comes down to it, I see the strong prey drive in my cats but will not limit the joy in my cats lives bc a few birds might get killed. It is the circle of MY CATS lives to hunt and be outdoors like they enjoy. It's strong in their DNA. They hunt rats and mice from the field also. It's far better for them to eat in a natural environment, survival of the fittest, than for my cats to eat shitty canned food that was made by factory farming animals in stalls of torture and pain.

Prescila Animal-rescuer
4 Years Ago

Vilma Giulia

Jasmine Leigh Williams
4 Years Ago

The best thing to do for feral cats is trap them, fix them, and put them on farms. Farms need them to keep snakes down and you do that by keeping what snakes eat down.

Charles Sarver
4 Years Ago

Learn how you can eliminate your annual foodcosts by helping others do the same while enjoying organic grass fed beef. http://www.charlessarver.com/?page_id=37


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