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PO Box 68 / 6869 Morganton Road
Greenback, TN 37742
  (865) 856-PPAW (7729)

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The Care and Feeding of Feral Cats

So you’ve decided you want to help the colony of feral cats in your neighborhood. What do you do?

In our experience, the process of Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) offers the greatest chance of success both for you and the cats. TNR involves trapping the cats in a colony, getting them spay/neutered, vaccinated for rabies where appropriate and marked for identification, then returning the ferals to their territory. A caretaker provides food and shelter and monitors for any newcomers or other problems.

Start by setting up a feeding station. By arranging a regular feeding schedule, you will train the cats to show up at a certain place at a certain time, and you’ll be able to withhold food and get them hungry when you want. This will make trapping much easier. Improving the cats’ nutrition by improving the quality of their food will better prepare them for the stress of trapping and neutering. Adequate shelter also promotes their health and assists in locating them.

Feed your ferals the best food you can afford. This maxim recognizes two important things - first, that good nutrition is important and second, the caretaker's budget is important, too. So like so many aspects of being a feral cat caretaker, you do the best you can without with the resources that you have.

Provide the ferals with plenty of clean, fresh water. In our area during wintertime, a common problem for caretakers is keeping the cats' water from freezing. The cats need water, especially when dry food is the predominant food provided, which is often the case in winter when wet food itself can quickly freeze. Here are several different solutions - which one is best for you will depend on your own situation.

Place the water bowl inside a styrofoam cooler - one of the cheap white ones used for soda and the like. Cut a hole for the cats to enter on one end of the cooler and put the bowl at the other end. The styrofoam's insulation will slow down the freezing process.

If the cats come to eat right away while you're there, put a little extra water in their wet food. Also, you can put some in the dry food if you know they'll eat it soon.

The type of bowl you use in general can make a difference. Use one made of thick plastic, like a Tupperware container - it's amazing how long it takes for water to freeze in one of them. The best bowls are deep, insulated and have relatively small openings compared to their volume. Black or dark colored bowls will absorb solar radiation better. Position the bowl so it's protected from the wind and, if possible, exposed to the sun.

Provide your ferals with adequate winter shelter. In cold weather, shelter is actually more important to ferals than food. Even though feral cats build thicker coats for winter, they can quickly succumb to hypothermia, especially in rain or snow when their fur gets wet and does not insulate as well. Also, feral cats are more susceptible to parasites, respiratory diseases and minor illnesses. Combined with cold, wet weather, these minor maladies can quickly prove to be fatal. For more information about Feral cat shelters, click here.

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