How You Can Help Stray Cats

Whether you live in an urban or rural area, you will inevitably come across stray cats. Some owners fail to affix identification to their outdoor cats and true to their nature, when cats roam far and great distances, they are often mistaken for strays or considered lost by their owner. There are millions of both stray and feral cats around the world and many ways you can help them.

Don't Feed Stray or Feral Cats

Well-intentioned people often feed stray and feral cats but by doing so are adding to the problem. Cats that do not have to hunt or use survival instincts will become more sedentary and often set up small territory around a home that provides food. This stable food source can support more cats and if none are spayed or neutered, can lead to problems such as fighting, howling, tomcat spraying, diseases, and numerous unwanted kittens. The cats that have access to free food will breed earlier in life and have larger litters and more of them per year. The numbers will grow exponentially and spread out to neighboring areas very quickly leading to a host of neighborhood issues with cats.

Contact your local animal welfare agency to inquire about a Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program

Trap-neuter-release is the idea of treating feral cats as a wildlife species. By trapping cats in a colony or neighborhood, you can have them spayed/neutered at your local animal welfare organization, vaccinated and marked (usually by notching the ear), then returned to the colony (often there are programs to spare expense to the public). The idea is to prevent unwanted kittens and maintain a stable population of feral cats. The opposite method of trapping and killing has proven unsuccessful as removing cats from an area only opens up a void for more cats to enter, showing no end to the problem. Many animal welfare programs offer this option and for areas that don't Alley Cat Allies is a national organization that will help and educate people about feral cat issues.

Volunteer to help your local rescue or animal welfare organization

Every animal welfare organization needs volunteers and often the success of some programs is the result of volunteer workers. Contact your local agency to inquire about ways you can help cats as they will all have existing programs or are willing to help start a program to address stray cat concerns.

Work with your legislators to change laws pertaining to cat ownership and responsibility

Laws pertaining to dogs, such as required rabies vaccinations and leash laws exist in most every community and have been successful at shaping responsible dog care. However, there are very few laws pertaining to cats. Some communities have found that licensing cats has been successful in getting cat owners to put identification on their cats. Others have considered mandatory spay and neuter bills. Understand your community and approach legislators with some of these issues and maybe the media might do a story to shed some light on the cat issues in your area.

The stray cat problem is not going to go away on its own. If you want to help, start by educating the rest of the public to the realities of stray and feral cats and help them improve how they care for their own cats. Spaying and neutering, using identification, and helping animal welfare professionals are great ways to help out stray cats.