From little to big, there are many ways to help stray and feral cats. Here are some, beginning with one you can do at home:
- Don’t contribute to the problem. “It goes without saying that you should spay and neuter your own cats,” says Linda P. Case, MS, author of Canine and Feline Behavior and Training: A Complete Guide to Understanding Our Two Best Friends. She also suggests keeping your cat indoors — not only for her safety, but also to prevent her from getting lost and ending up part of a feral colony.
- Don’t feed and forget feral cats. Feeding feral and stray cats is generous, but they need health care as well. If you can’t manage ongoing care, “at the very least, get the cat neutered,” suggests Case.
- Show you care with cash. A little money can go a long way to help a cat. Spay/neuter surgeries may cost as little as $17 for shelters to perform, so a single $20 donation can dramatically change the life of a feral cat. Contact your nearest Humane Society to find out if they’ve got a TNR program; if they don’t, they’ll know who does. You can also donate money to animal welfare groups through an estate or will.
- Volunteer your time. TNR and similar programs are often run by nonprofit organizations that rely on volunteer help. If you can’t aid in a clinical setting, you can be involved at the community level — contacting local veterinarians and businesses, writing letters, fund-raising, or staffing a booth at a community event.
- Become a colony caretaker. “In a managed colony, cats can live to be 12 to 16 years old,” says Slater. In fact, she adds, studies of 100,000 managed feral cats in TNR programs found that most were in good health. If you think you can provide ongoing shelter, food, or health care to a group of feral cats, contact your local Humane Society, veterinary hospital, or other animal welfare group to find out how to get started. But before you do, understand that committing to care for a colony is a big responsibility. The colony will become dependent on you, just as a domestic cat would be. If you go away or move, it’s vital you find someone else to care for the cats in your absence.