Feral Cats

It never ceases to amaze me at how uneducated the general public is about basic animal welfare issues.  One of those issues is feral cats.  Although we are Ring Dog Rescue are dedicated to pit bull type dogs, we are all animal lovers and one of our most recent ventures has been to help a few feral cat colonies that have been brought to our attention.  So lets start with the basics…
What is a feral cat?  Alley Cat Allies (alleycat.org) gives us a great definition:
A feral cat is a cat who has either never had any contact with people or her contact with people has diminished over time. She is not socialized to people and survives on her own outdoors. Most feral cats are not likely to ever become lap cats or enjoy living indoors.
Outdoor cats have existed alongside humans for 10,000 years. They are not a new phenomenon. Feral cats are members of the same species as pet cats—and are therefore protected under state animal anti-cruelty laws. The difference between feral cats and your pet cat is that they have had little or no contact with people, and so they are wary of us, and cannot be adopted. They have a home—outdoors. They live and thrive in every landscape, from the inner city to rural farmland. Since feral cats are not adoptable, they should not be brought to animal pounds and shelters, because there they will likely be killed.
Just this week we learned of a man that had trapped 68 feral cats and turned them over to his local animal control for eating his bird food!  The citizen had no idea the cats were being euthanized.  He thought he was doing the right thing which is what prompted this blog.  FERAL CATS ARE EUTHANIZED AT ANIMAL SHELTERS because they are not adoptable.
How can you help feral cats?
First start with shelter and food.  Ring Dog Rescue has been making cheap and simple feral cat shelters for the last few months using Styrofoam coolers, plastic tubs, and straw.  They cost less than $10 to build.  Here is how to build one:  
Cheap cat food, canned and hard, works just fine.  Try to be consistent with feeding so the cats are fed on a regular basis.  Our friends at Alley Cat Allies have given us some excellent info on this found here: http://www.alleycat.org/page.aspx?pid=295
Finally and most importantly Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the most crucial part of the process.  Think about this…
The average number of litters a fertile cat can produce in one year is 3.
The average number of kittens in a feline litter is 4–6.
In seven years, one female cat and her offspring can theoretically produce 420,000 cats!!!
The key is eliminate the possibility of more feral cats in the colony!  Again Alley Cat Allies does a great job at explaining TNR: 
Trap-Neuter-Return is the humane, effective approach for feral cats. Feral cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and eartipped (the universal symbol of a neutered and vaccinated cat), and then returned to their outdoor home. Socialized cats and kittens are adopted into homes. The colony’s population stabilizes—no more kittens! Trap-Neuter-Return improves their lives and their relations with the community: the behaviors and stresses associated with mating stop.
There are local low cost spay/neuter clinics that will help you TNR and even perform the surgery at no or low-cost to the caretaker.  Here in Richmond, VA the Richmond Animal Leagues Loving Spay/Neuter clinic, Prevent-A-Litter, Barron Surgery and the Richmond SPCA provides this extremely important service.

If you know of a feral cat colony and want to help them please visit the Alley Cat Allies website (www.alleycat.org) for a wealth of useful information or feel free to contact us at RDR and we can point you in the right direction.  At first the task may seem daunting and overwhelming but one cat/colony at a time makes all the difference!  Please do not assume someone else will do it!  Take matters into your own hands and DO SOMETHING!