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Chances are you’ve seen, or at least have heard of outdoor cats. Some may be cats who are allowed to roam outdoors by their guardians, other may be community (feral or stray) cats who call the outdoors home. In fact, the ASPCA currently estimates that there about 20 million free-roaming cats in this U.S. That figure includes a mix of truly feral cats, semi-socialized cats, and lost or abandoned cats.


For many, it’s hard to see felines living outdoors. The first instinct may be to give them a can of cat food, which is certainly a kind gesture, but in reality, feral cats are often just as safe and healthy as our own house cats. It’s been shown that feral cats have equally low rates of disease as indoor cats. The lean physique of some feral cats sometimes leads people to believe that they are starving or ill, but studies find that feral cats have healthy body weights and fat distribution. Outdoor cats tend to live much more active lives than the house cats who sleep on the side of our beds.

If a cat looks well cared for, they are more likely to return home without your help. If they do hang around, chat with your neighbors or post signs to see if you can find their family.  Feral cats are afraid of people and usually, run if approached. They will not allow you to touch them and you shouldn’t try because it can endanger you or the cat. They’ll only eat food you’ve provided after you’ve moved away. A cat is probably feral if he’s still unapproachable after several days of feeding.

Of the 70 million stray animals that live in the U.S. only about six to eight million make their way into the shelter system. Only about three or four million of animals in shelters are adopted into homes. Knowing these heart-wrenching statistics, animal lovers undoubtedly want to help their feline friends. If you want to help feral community cats, other than providing them with food, here are some suggestions that may go a longer way than food.

Ways to Help Feral Cats 

Make a Shelter

You can build a feral cat shelter yourself by constructing insulated shelter boxes to help to keep them warm and dry even on the coldest and snowiest days. This video tutorial will walk you through the necessary steps. Smaller shelters work best, as they help to recirculate cats’ own body heat. Also, be sure that cats don’t become snowed into their shelters by keeping doorways free of blowing snow and drifts.


One of the best ways to help cats is to volunteer with a rescue organization that helps manage feral cat colonies. Colonies are groups of cats that live in the same area and form a sort of family bond. Some volunteer groups work to provide shelter and food for colonies to help them get by. Although feral cats are usually very wary of people, they can come to trust volunteers – or at least, trust them enough to happily accept much-needed supplies. You can help even more cats by organizing a group of volunteers to aid feral cats while allowing them to keep their freedom.


Another way to help your community cats is to participate in Trap-Neuter-Release, or TNR, programs during the warmer months. This will help keep their populations under control in the winter. Experts debate whether TNR should be done in the winter since it requires a portion of a cat’s winter coat to be shaved and the trapping process may expose the cats to the winter elements. If TNR is attempted in the winter months, be sure that adequate shelter is provided through each step of the trapping and recovery processes.

If there’s no local group helping community cats, you can TNR the cats! You’ll find lots of great information to get the skills and confidence you need in the Neighborhood Cats TNR Handbook.


If you’ve never helped community cats before, don’t worry, you can still be an advocate.There are lots of resources, such as The Humane Society of the United States’ Lobbying 101 for Cat Advocates, to help you be the most effective advocate possible. You can also check out “Managing Community Cats: A Guide for Municipal Leaders,” which can be purchased in print form or downloaded for free.

Do you have experience with helping community cats? Leave a comment below and share with the One Green Planet community!

Lead image source: hkase/Flickr

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0 comments on “Why You Shouldn’t Just Feed Feral Cats”

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8 Months Ago


Image result for CATS KILL BIRDSwww.sciencenews.org
Cats that live in the wild or indoor pets allowed to roam outdoors kill from 1.4 billion to as many as 3.7 billion birds in the continental U.S. each year, says a new study that escalates a decades-old debate over the feline threat to native animals.Jan 29, 2013
Cats kill up to 3.7B birds annually - USA Today

How many birds are killed by house cats?
Domestic cats kill between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds and between 6.9 and 20.7 billion mammals (mostly mice, shrews, rabbits, squirrels, and voles) each year, according to a study published last year in Nature Communications.Dec 17, 2014
Cats Kill Billions Of Birds And Mammals Each Year - Business Insider
Search for: How many birds are killed by house cats?
How many birds are killed by cats every year?
Outdoor cats kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds a year, study says. Outdoor cats are the leading cause of death among both birds and mammals in the United States, according to a new study, killing 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion birds each year.Jan 31, 2013
Outdoor cats kill between 1.4 billion and 3.7 billion birds a year, study ...
How many animals do cats kill in a year?

Cats Kill Billions of Animals Annually, Study Finds. Cats are responsible for the deaths of 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds and 6.9 to 20.7 billion mammals every year, according to research conducted by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.Jan 30, 2013

Cats Kill Billions of Animals Annually, Study Finds - ABC News
Search for: How many animals do cats kill in a year?

How many garden birds are killed by cats?

Estimates of how many creatures are killed by cats each year vary significantly. The most recent figures are from the Mammal Society, which estimates that the UK\'s cats catch up to 275 million prey items a year, of which 55 million are birds.

The RSPB: Get involved: Are cats causing bird declines?

How many species have gone extinct because of cats?
33 species

The domestic cat\'s killer instinct has been well documented on many islands around the world. Felines accompanying their human companions have gone on to prey on the local wildlife, and they have been blamed for the global extinction of 33 species.Jan 29, 2013

How many birds are killed by cats every year?
Cats kill up to 3.7B birds annually. Cats that live in the wild or indoor pets allowed to roam outdoors kill from 1.4 billion to as many as 3.7 billion birds in the continental U.S. each year, says a new study.Jan 29, 2013
Cats kill up to 3.7B birds annually - USA Today

17 Sep 2017

You\'re sick! In your mind birds dying is bad but killing cats is good? There wouldn\'t be an issue with feral cats if Humans didn\'t just toss their pet cat away when it isn\'t any more fun. So why don\'t we just eliminate the irresponsible pet owners instead?! TNR works!

8 Months Ago


16 Sep 2017

YOU ARE KILLING BIRDS AND LETTING THEM MAKE MORE KILLING CATS/ READ THIS: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/cats-kill-billions-animals-annually-study-finds/story?id=18357853

17 Sep 2017

I have taken in strays got them proper medical care including fixing them. I have kept some and found homes for others and took care of one that lived outdoors. I rarely see any dead birds, but my kitty does catch mice. It\'s not all that many and other animals in the wild kill smaller animals as well. A well fed cat is less likely to kill so feeding them actually helps. Hungry or starving cats will catch and kill to eat more often.

CJ Duran
05 Jan 2018

I feed a orange tabby, now named Morris. He showed up skinny, ribs showing, just sad. I saw him eating scraps from the back fence where I feed a family of crows daily. I have a large variety of birds on my property cleaning up all the insects. Colder weather is here, I put a storage tote and rug on one side of the house for a windbreak. It seems he normally sleeps in a neighbor\'s boat. I have lived here 20 years, 3 acres away from CC Adventure Camp, no cats just an occasional dog. It seems this cat arrived at the same time asnthe latest renters next door. I do what I can since he\'s a Tomcat and cannot be retrained from what I\'ve researched.

8 Months Ago

I have just read the above statement! 3/4 of which I don\'t agree with.I have spent 26yrs of my life,taking abused dogs,AND FERAL CATS! I have lost count how many,roughly 324dogs & 132 cats (feral) all except 1 who lives with me.This cat had a broken rib and a huge abbcess in the side of face,caused by 3 pellet wounds (still in) He,as I thought,turned out to be a hermaphrodite (look it up,if you don.t know what that means) Now,with all sexual organs removed,he lives in the house with my 3 dogs,and even sleeps with them. He lives as a female,and he,s called Bonny,because that is now his nature. (THE 2ND HERMAPHRODITE i HAVE HAD IN 161/2 Years! Feral cats cane be tamed...you just need time,love and patience.

16 Sep 2017


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