The Caretakers'
                                Challenge - The Promise of Solutions
Feral Cat


Adopting a Feral Cat


For All Interested and Concerned Persons


Instructions for Humane Trapping of Feral or Rescued Cats & Kittens


Trap Information


How to Domesticate and Care for Feral or Rescued Kittens


How to Kitten Proof Your Home


Introducing a New Cat or Kitten To Your Home


Managed Care, Negotiating for and Relocating Feral Cats


Feeding Instructions for Caretakers


Feeding Priorities Under Challenging Circumstances


Food and Nutrition


Elderly Cats


Sheltering and Feeding Stations




General Adopton Agreement


Spay/Neuter Resources



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This educational information is being distributed with the intention that it will bring understanding and tolerance, save lives and prevent unnecessary suffering.

The Department of Animal Services estimates there are 3 million feral cats and kittens in the Los Angeles area alone. Feral cats (sometimes referred to as strays) are the sad result of irresponsible adults who have not spayed or neutered their domestic cats. They have been allowed to roam freely or are abandoned in neighborhoods, resulting in unwanted kittens and homeless adults. Succeeding generations are born in our cities, under the most horrendous conditions. With little opportunity to bond with humans, they struggle for survival, reproducing at random. Contrary to popular belief, cats do not fend well for themselves. Many will gravitate to humans for relief from starvation and some will become household pets.

Random surveys in our cities, by recognized organizations, have concluded that in any given area, four to fifty feral cats or more live in close proximity throughout our neighborhoods, public and industrial areas. Statistics over the past years have revealed that no one has successfully removed all feral cats in any one area, in an attempt at eradication. Every possible inhumane way that man could devise has been tried to exterminate feral cats and kittens, and all have failed miserably. Feral cats and kittens form colonies (families) near humans and raid garbage cans, eat discarded food, beg for food or prey on rodents. They are present everywhere throughout our cities and many industrial sites keep them for rodent control without population control.

There is only one proven, successful way to reduce the population and dramatically reduce births, and that is the method of humane non-lethal, trap, neuter and return, with managed long-term care by a caretaker.

In a national survey by the Humane Society of the United States, it is estimated there 60-100 million feral cats in the U.S., with approximately 17 million people feeding about half of them. The remaining millions are left to suffer, reproduce, starve and be randomly destroyed in a desperate and inhumane attempt to reduce the population. Since feral cats and their offspring have had little opportunity to bond with humans, they are considered unadoptable and are routinely euthanized in our city shelters. However, some of the feral cats and most of the kittens are adoptable. As of this writing, there are few places where feral cats and kittens, can find a safe and caring home. There is an urgent and overwhelming need for safe relocation, shelters and land.

In an attempt to "get rid of the cats", trapping and killing is usually the first line of defense. However, not every cat can be trapped and other cats in the immediate vicinity will claim the vacated territory. The surrounding areas are also home to feral cats who were born there. Some of the cats in the immediate areas will also include unaltered, owner-owned domestic outdoor cats that have not been spayed or neutered.

Since is not possible to remove all cats from any territory, those remaining and the new cats entering the territory, who have not been spayed or neutered will continue to reproduce. In a short period of time with no humane population control in place, the area will be repopulated. This unsuccessful, uneducated approach has resulted in the endless and needless suffering we now have in our cities. A no win situation occurs when feral cats living in well managed colonies, that have been spayed and neutered, are trapped and destroyed. Cats have been here for centuries and will continue to be here. It is up to us to address their plight with responsible compassion.

In London, caretakers and animal organizations, trapped, neutered and returned cats on a block by block basis until they had the situation under control. Reference Alley Cat Allies, Washington, D.C. Animal organizations that understand the necessity and success of spay, neuter and return, will not trap cats or kittens to be killed in the shelters. They know it is inhumane and IT DOES NOT WORK to control overpopulation.

Dan C. Knapp, former General Manager of the Department of Animal Services, Los Angeles, CA., the California Veterinary Medical Association and numerous other concerned agencies throughout this city and the nation have endorsed the only proven humane non-lethal, successful method of bringing the feral cat population under managed control. It is termed TRAP,NEUTER AND RETURN WITH RESPONSIBLE LONG-TERM CARE. This method has been successfully implemented in the United States as well as other countries throughout the world.

Michelle S. Chappell DVM, wrote A Model for Humane Reduction of Feral Cat Populations, as published in California Veterinarian September/October 1999 "The Feral Cat Coalition (FCC) in San Diego is a prime example of one of these types of programs. Founded in 1992 by Dr. Rochelle Brinton and feral cat caretakers, the FCC has since sterilized over 10,300 unowned cats. Euthanasia of cats at the county shelters was at an all time high at the inception of this program, with each feline internment costing an estimated $121. After just two short years, and with no other explanation, the total number of cats brought in dropped by over 35%, and euthanasias dropped 40%, instead of the usual 10% increase. The estimated tax savings for fewer cats euthanized was calculated to $795,976. These numbers clearly indicate the positive impact a trap, alter and release program can have on feline euthanasias and tax dollars. It is the opinion of the author that similar programs are needed and would be successful in any community""

The majority of all kittens born are from feral mothers and only 2% of cats who enter the shelters are reclaimed by their owners.

HOW DOES IT WORK? If required, in private residential areas, a permit to trap is obtained from the local shelter. Follow the guidelines of the trapping permit as to dates prior to trapping, etc. The permit is posted throughout the area where trapping will occur. It is also a good idea to inform your neighbors that you will be trapping. Check with your local authorities when trapping in public, industrial or non-residential areas with large populations of feral cats, as to their guidelines. It is important they understand that the cats are being returned to their original location and not to the shelter to be euthanized.

TRAPPING - Traps are usually placed near locations where the cats are being fed. Persons who are feeding are an important resource, as they usually stay involved in the caretaking. In a situation where the person who has been feeding is no longer available or the home site is being destroyed, those persons in close proximity, whether private property owners or businesses, should be contacted to help. Organizing locations for feeding stations and observing if there are shelter areas available, would be of immediate concern, as well as persons available for feeding. It is important that the colonies (families) remain intact and close to their original home site. There may also be options of moving present feeding stations at their home site, to places that have less human traffic, or are in more sheltered and less exposed locations. This has been accomplished quite successfully on numerous occasions. However, it must be done within the guidelines of our criteria for feral cat caretaking. Refer to Managed Care, Negotiating and Relocation.

Engage those persons who have cared enough about the cats to feed them, to become involved, to some degree, in this endeavor. Once the trapping is accomplished, the cats are taken to a veterinarian for spay, neuter, immunization against disease and Rabies vaccination. They are given a physical examination and treated for ear mites, worms and fleas. The right or left ear is nipped off 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch for identification purposes as being sterilized and vaccinated. Feral cats that have a Rabies vaccination create a barrier against Rabies from wildlife to domestic life. Ear nipping is a well-known identification for animal control agencies and veterinarians. After the cats have recovered from surgery, which can take 1-2 days for males and 3-7 days for females, they are returned to their home site for long-term managed care by a caretaker or caretakers.

Caretakers will need to establish a regular feeding schedule, providing nourishing food, fresh water, maintain shelters and keep the area clean. There are specific guidelines for long-term managed care of feral colonies and it is important that those responsible for their care are instructed properly. Scheduled trapping continues throughout the life span of the colony to insure humane population control.

IT IS ESSENTIAL, that following surgery, the family (colony) be returned to the original home site (provided it is safe and managed). Feral cat colonies can have as few as 3-10 cats in the backyard to 10-100 plus in public and industrial areas. When the colony remains intact, the cats being very territorial, will usually discourage newcomers from entering. Feral cat colonies are families. They look out for each other, play together and form close bonds. Nourishing food, water and adequate shelter should be available at the home site. Shelter is important, especially in cold and rainy weather. It will keep them warm and discourage them from gravitating to parked vehicles or unsafe places. If kittens are present, arrangements should be made, in advance, for their welfare, such as foster homes, permanent placement, etc. We recommend that any kitten that is trapped, should not be returned back to the home site, unless special sheltering and caretaking arrangements have been made for their safety and care.

ONE EXAMPLE of special sheltering and caretaking arrangements, is an agreement we made with a high profile communications organization in the city of Los Angeles. Initially, they had spent considerable time and money in an effort to "get rid of the cats", and were completely frustrated when we began our discourse. Through educational materials and meetings, we offered them a successful and humane way of controlling the feral cat population. Part of the agreement was to build a shelter on the premises, as the cats were scattered over a large area without adequate shelter and food. A substantial amount of money and labor was spent to build a warm and cat friendly shelter to house 40 plus cats.

Feeding stations were set up within the shelter and a good quality of dry food was provided, as well as water and wet food five times a week. Volunteers, who work on the premises do the caretaking and we coordinate the ongoing trapping. Two 6 month old kittens were trapped near the shelter. After thoughtful consideration and consultation, we felt that they could be released back to their home site following surgery, vaccinations and boarding. In this instance, they had a safe and warm shelter and plenty of nourishing food, with concerned persons looking after them. This type of commitment should be considered by any persons or organizations that have feral cats on their property, whether it is two or three cats in their backyard or sixty cats in a public area.

Without adequate managed humane population control, as is presently the case in our cities, we now have 3 million plus homeless, neglected, suffering feral cats and kittens trying to survive in our storm drains, alleys, yards, under houses and apartment buildings, abandoned buildings, industrial and public areas, or anyplace where there are rodents, discarded food or a kind person providing same. Contrary to popular opinion, cats will not remain healthy and good hunters on a diet of rodents alone. If rodent control is one of their duties they need supplemental food to continue their job.

Those who think there will be no more cats and kittens, if the feeding stops, are in for a stark reality check. Based on my personal experience I have found that people cannot be forbidden to feed feral cats and will do so under the most extreme conditions. I have heard stories about persons who have been threatened with job loss, and other types of intimidation, including bodily harm, that have become even more committed. There are persons who feed from their cars, late at night, drive around parking lots to feed homeless cats and so on. Not many people can endure the sight of a hungry cat or kitten. Untold numbers of persons in neighborhoods throughout our cities feed feral cats under extraordinary conditions. In Los Angeles, the homeless and indigent persons share their meager food with the feral cats and kittens. However, no one needs to feed ferals cats for them to reproduce and form colonies for survival.

Debilitated and hungry cats will reproduce, as will humans under similar conditions, with tragic outcomes.

Following surgery, the males stay closer to home, spraying is reduced or ceases and confrontations are few. The females no longer come "in heat", which discourages other males from entering the area. There are less unwanted kittens being born and the atmosphere becomes one of humane control, compassion and responsible management. This does not happen overnight.

There may be persons who will not understand the importance of what is being accomplished. But, if those persons who are interested in a proven, successful, humane method of population control are willing to assist and support this very urgent and important endeavor, eventually even the most skeptical individual will see positive results. This has been demonstrated in countless situations that seemed insurmountable.

An intelligent, humane solution is at hand for feral cats as the success of managed colonies is now being recognized and implemented nationally. This can only be accomplished with cooperation from all concerned parties.


Dona Cosgrove Baker President and Founder, Feral Cat Caretakers' Coalition

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