People and cats have been paired for millenniums. The partnership was probably first formed for utilitarian reasons, but today cats are the number one companion animal worldwide!
Unfortunately, not all people are responsible pet guardians. Sometimes pets become lost and separated from their caregivers.
Many domestic cats are abandoned – the former caregivers assuming the the cats can “fend” for themselves. As a result, many communities have sizable populations of “free-roaming” or feral cats.
For everyone who is concerned about our feline friends, feral or otherwise, here are some helpful suggestions:
1. When choosing a new pet, think “adoption”.
Unfortunately, due to pet overpopulation, many unwanted and abandoned animals die from disease or injury, or are euthanized in municipal animal control facilities everyday.
For those wanting to save a life, in most areas of the U.S., an array of “adoption options” are available. A good place to start is with your local animal shelter.
Also, pet supply store chains such as “Petco” and “PetSmart”, utilize in-store adoption centers and regularly sponsor adoption events in partnership with local animal rescue organizations.
If you are considering taking in a “neighborhood stray”, make sure to check with neighbors and your local animal control facilities to try to find out if the stray pet has an owner searching for them
(a veterinarian or animal control worker can scan for a micro-chip ID).
2. Donate your money and/or time.
Animal welfare and rescue groups usually fund-raise and seek donations to cover expenses (vet care is not cheap!). Many also provide spay/neuter assistance within their local communities.
Contact them to find out how best to contribute – New members are almost always welcome!
Many organizations have websites that allow you to make donations online. A great many non-profits are registered with “smile.amazon.com”, allowing you to make a small contribution every time you shop online through them.
3. Spay and neuter.
If you take in a stray cat, be sure to have it “fixed” as soon as possible! By the time a cat is 6 months old, it can potentially reproduce.
Unlike their wild cousins, domestic cats can have 2-3 litters per year, with the average litter containing 3-5 kittens or more!
Chances are that if you adopt a cat (over 4-5 months of age) from a reputable animal rescue group, that animal will already have been surgically sterilized (neutered for males;spayed for females).
These organizations generally charge an adoption fee to the new adopter, to help cover the veterinary costs for surgery and vaccines, etc..
When adopting an immature animal, usually the adoption contract that you sign will require you to provide proof back to the adopting agency that the adopted pet was spayed/neutered by the time it reached 6 months of age.
Most states have mandatory sterilization laws for pets adopted from city or county municipal animal shelters.
This is to help combat pet overpopulation and reduce the burden to the taxpayers for the cost of sheltering and euthanizing homeless animals.
4. Feral Felines.
If there are feral (wild domestic) cats on your property or in your community, it is not a good idea to just ignore them.
Feral cat populations can quickly escalate, so, it is always better to deal with them sooner than later! “Alley Cat Allies” were one of the first non-profit organizations devoted to promoting humane solutions to feral cat problems.
As a result of their educational efforts, more and more individuals and communities are implementing “TNR” (trap-neuter-return) programs.
Large dog crates (useful for housing feral cats before and after surgery) can often be purchased at a discount, secondhand.
Contact local animal welfare agencies to see if they can offer assistance.
Providing veterinary care, food, and shelter for free-roaming outdoor cats, greatly improves their quality of life!
Note: Feral cats are wild animals and should be treated as such. For safety reasons, never have direct contact with feral cats – always use equipment designed for safe handling!
5. You can start your own cat rescue organization.
If you find that there are limited resources for helping cats in your area, you might want to consider forming your own non-profit (we all have to start somewhere)! Social media networking is a great way to hook up with other like-minded individuals.
Some helpful resources are: “maddiesfund.org”; “petsmartcharities.org”; “animalsheltering.org/page/managing-community-cats”.
If there are animal welfare organizations in your area, but they do not cover all areas of animal-related community services (for example: adoption, TNR, spay/neuter assistance), contact them to see if they have considered expanding their programs.
Let them know how you would like to be involved.
You may find it easier to just work in one particular niche within the spectrum of animal-welfare related services.
Note: Donations made to state-registered, non-profit organizations are fully tax-deductable!
Thanks for being a friend to the felines, friendly or feral, and remember – “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted” ~ Aesop