Community Cats

They’re not strays; In fact, they own the neighborhood.

When I say community cats I’m referring to outdoor cats both domestic & wild. Outdoor cats tend to have a tougher exterior than inside-only cats, but that doesn’t make them less vulnerable.

There are many things humans can do for our feline friends to make their lives easier or better. From big one time projects to smaller everyday gestures: there’s no end to this kind of list.

All cats have bare necessities (food, water, shelter) that have to be met to ensure survival.

Food

Rules & regulations for feeding wild/outdoor animals varies from place to place, but is generally not legally allowed. Feeding animals encourages them to come back for more food. However, if you do so discreetly, you can avoid unwanted guests (like animal control). Furthermore, outdoor animals will eat whatever they can get to & I’d rather control where they look for food by “baiting” them than having to defend my garbage cans.

Since we’re talking about Community Cats specifically, we’ll talk about what’s safe & what’s not to feed felines. For starters, cat food might be the best option for outdoor cats, especially if they’re completely feral. Cat food provides whole nutrition for cats & can offer them a lot of vitamins that scavenging can’t, without pumping then full of what they don’t need. Dry food is easier to contain, but wet food will be more enticing. Maintaining consistent feedings can help you manage a colony of community cats & even trap those that need medical attention.

When kittens are born, the colony may trust you enough to bring them around – offering a rescue & rehabilitate option for the babies.

Water

While wild animals may have many options for drinking water, they may not all be the best. Precipitation can be acidic straight out of the sky. Ground water can mix with chemical runoff quicker than most animals can get to it. Collecting fresh spring rain can be dangerous if pests, like mosquitoes, lay eggs in it. Even running water in nature can be laced with toxins. Pollution threatens all of nature because it threatens any of nature. As we learned from Necessary Pests, altering any part of an ecosystem can have damning consequences. Leaving fresh water daily for outdoor animals seems easy, but could get exhausting.

Shelter

Sealing off unsafe spaces to prevent cats from getting comfy where they don’t belong is an easy way to ensure their safety, at least on your lot.

If I fits, I sits

Is a cute meme about the fact that cats can & will sit anywhere & everywhere. The same is true about where they will try to explore as well. Cats are naturally very nimble creatures. They tend to have good spacial awareness & are very flexible. Until they don’t & once they don’t there’s a problem. Cats are stubborn & persistent & impatient. Cats who don’t know you will not likely accept help without letting you know who’s boss, if they can. Hopefully, you never need to rescue a cat out of a tight squeeze, but in the event that you do it is important to stay calm. Get on sleeves if you can, but you’ll usually need your hands to feel around in those situations. Sometimes calling local Animal Control is helpful, sometimes they have less ideas than you might. It’s always good to try to help the animal yourself if you can safely. Waiting could lead to more issues. Ignoring it will lead to certain issues. Foreseeing it will prevent issues. Keep cats out of crawl spaces, garages & sheds, but ensuring their sealed off all the way around. Cats have been known to crawl into cars in the winter to sleep; knock on your hood of the car to alert cats whom are hiding. A free cat will run, a stuck cat will cry. This is where you have to call in experts & I hope you never have to. Most cats are smart enough to avoid getting stuck, but they will cry out for help if they need it.

Offering feral cats a shelter not only provides them safety throughout the year, but also much needed warmth in the coldest times of year. Building outdoor cat homes is easy & you probably have more of what you need than you think. The first one I made was out of an average sized storage tub with the lid, foam sheets/boxes & an old sheet set with a saw & two bricks to weigh it down. First, outfit the bottom of the tub with a thick layer of foam & mark about an inch above from where it sits. Then, cut a medium sized hole to one end of one of the long sides of the box above that mark. Use the rest of the foam & the sheets to insulate the box. I used the fitted sheet for the very bottom, wrapped the foam from the bottom & put it in the pillowcase & then folded the loose sheet to the size of the box & put that on top. I wedged sheets of foam along the edges of the box, but had no way to insulate the top. Place the box discreetly, but where you know the cats go regularly. This is great if your lot has a lot of property. I’m not quite sure where I saw this idea, but it’s certainly not mine, though I only used what I already had, so I had to break away from many individual tutorials.

My Tips:

  • If you see a cat that comes to you & isn’t yours: bring it immediately to the nearest no-kill shelter & say you’ve found a lost pet, unless you can adopt them. Even in the event the cat isn’t someone’s pet, it’s adoptable & that’s what matters.
  • If you see a cat & it’s moving slowly or not at all, even after seeing you, they make be sick or hurt & it’s important to call local Animal Control to take the cat for medical care.
  • Keep track of the cats in your colony by acknowledging them every time you see them. Once you do this often enough, you’ll know when you haven’t seen them in a while.

Side rant: Human overpopulation is forcing many wild species out of their otherwise natural habitats as we commender them. While many communities blame wild cat populations for driving species extinct, humans are the blame for the same thing only we’re not killing anything off in the name of instinct.


The kitty from the featured image of this post is Pliskin. He’s a Philadelphia stray turned snuggly house cat who loves giving kisses & scaring the dog. His owner is my boyfriend’s brother.

My cat was a South Jersey stray I co-rescued with my former college roommate. That was 5 years ago yeasterday! He’s a marbled tabby who’s come a long way from living alone under a shed. He’s now a registered ESA & my best little buddy. Check him out on Instagram @garoldthachary

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