Challenges & Solutions
Caretakers Meet Many Challenges
Since caretakers are the ones out in the neighborhoods. at all hours, they encounter the plight of the ferals up front and personal. The situations can be dire and deplorable, including:
- Starving and malnourished feral cats and kittens, as well as strays that have been abandoned, with little or no food available and no population control in place.
- Abandoned kittens (from hours to weeks old) found in all areas of the city.
- Cats and kittens that have been injured by traffic, guns, packs of wild dogs and other circumstances.
- Cats and kittens boarded up and trapped inside buildings.
- Demolition of habitat in areas under construction, such as houses and abandoned buildings.
- Emergency need for relocation or sanctuary
- Cats and kittens, starving and malnourished, being used for rodent control on private property.
- Cats and kittens discarded on freeways and in public places.
- They are subject to the realities of limited financial resources and assistance, including:
- Depletion of personal funds to cover large veterinary bills and additional caretaking expenses, resulting in inability to sustain themselves or their cats.
- Inability to purchase “minimum” food requirements.
- Inadequate shelters and feeding stations for winter months.
- One or more cats and kittens in need of immediate emergency care.
- Illness or death of the persons caring for several ferals, perhaps after many years of managed care.
- Encountering the influence of persons who oppose spaying and neutering.
- Feeding and trapping under hostile conditions, including threats of physical violence to the caretakers and/or the feral cats and kittens.
- Educating and negotiating with private and commercial property owners, management in large corporations, universities, refineries, government bases and other locations, regarding the successful trap, spay/neuter and return method, with managed care.
- Negotiating the rights of the feral cats to remain at their original location (if safe).
Caretakers Need Support To Cover The Costs Of CaretakingMedicine and Veterinary Services
In addition to the costs for spay and neuter, caring for feral cats and kittens requires veterinary care and treatment. This includes vaccinations, parasite control, flea control, boarding fees, diagnostic costs, x-rays, blood tests, extended care, injuries, emergency care, surgery, medicines and miscellaneous medical supplies.
Spaying, neutering and veterinary care can be prohibitive. Currently, few veterinarians offer a sufficient discount to caretakers. The caretakers generally pay for services out of their personal finances. Some caretakers have the money to pay for these additional costs, but many do not. If money is not available the caretaker will be financially depleted and emotionally drained. Lack of financial assistance and food will make it impossible for a caretaker to continue to spay and neuter the feral cats and kittens and implement long-term managed care. All too often, this miserable and inequitable situation confronts the dedicated caretaker.
Food and Supplemental Nourishment
Cats that live out of doors under stressful conditions require a good quality of food. Food supplements can be added and we recommend Brewers Yeast with powdered garlic and Vitamin C. It is available in all pet stores and can be ordered online. It is an excellent deterrent for fleas. It can be put into the wet and/or dry food. .If you are only feeding dry, shake it into the food. We highly recommend it!
Three Additional Components Are Needed For The Long Term Solution
Foster homes are a critical component of feral cat caretaking. Feral cats and kittens born and raised outdoors are in constant jeopardy. Theirs is a life without security. However, when this is provided to them in a loving foster home, it is possible for them to go from a semi-feral cat or kitten to a trusting and loving feline presence. However, feral cats can range from those who walk up to you while feeding and rub against your legs and allow you to pet them, to those that fly away the moment they see you. When an adult cat bonds with the caretaker and becomes “almost domestic”, it is recommended that they along with any feral cat in jeopardy be taken from the colony and put into a safe place indoors or Catio situation. This happens quite frequently They will need an extended period of adjustment in a home situation once they are taken from the colony.
Rescued kittens need foster homes while they are being socialized for adoption. If the caretaker does not have available space other persons who have offered to help and have room in their homes, such as bedrooms, bathrooms, laundry rooms, storage rooms and even garages, are contacted to help place the kittens and provide them with a loving and secure place to adjust before they are ready for adoption. Foster care is a commitment by very special people who are willing to give of themselves, their homes and their time to lovingly prepare the kittens for adoption. They are essential for the kitten’s survival and introduction into society. This can take several weeks or months. Under the best conditions, not all kittens or cats will be adopted. This will add to an already overburdened responsibility in many households. The need for foster homes is an ongoing urgent need and many homes could be available through networking, financial assistance, equipment, and education.
Relocation facilities for feral cats are a vital part of providing a humane solution for ferals. With the expansion of our cities and construction on locations that have been available to feral cats and kittens, their homes are increasingly threatened. Abandoned buildings, homes, apartment houses or any properties that may either be torn down or under construction, may suddenly become uninhabitable for the feral families living there. When the bulldozers arrive, they scatter in terror, sometimes leaving behind the kittens, older cats, and those unable to escape in time or are injured. The caretakers are usually the first ones called to help, as they are all too familiar with the urgency of the situation.
The first objective is to negotiate for time to assess the situation. If no other alternative is available, the ferals will need to be relocated to new location. Since we are dealing with feral cats and kittens, this will mean trapping with possible immediate relocation. As of this date, there are few places to relocate a feral cat colony. The need is so great, that many caretakers end up bringing them into their garages and homes or even boarding them, to prevent them from being injured, killed or facing an agonizing death from starvation. When the call goes out that a feral colony is in eminent danger of being destroyed, it is one of the most paralyzing situations that a caretaker can face. There are few feral cat sanctuaries available on an as-needed basis for the majority of feral cats in peril. Feral cats are in desperate need of safe relocation sites and sanctuaries. As the cats grow older, their need for a sanctuary can be vital to their survival.
Feral Cat Safe Spaces
Imagine that you are a caretaker and have been feeding and caring for a colony of 20 cats for the past five years in an undeveloped location somewhere in the city. You have devoted your time and resources to their survival and they are your passion and joy. All of a sudden, fences appear, places are boarded up and signs are posted that construction will begin on a certain date. Strangers and equipment are showing up daily and you know that the lives of the 20 beloved cats you have cared for so lovingly are now in jeopardy. The thought of them being homeless and destroyed or injured is beyond comprehension. You know, that you must fight for their survival and find a new place, but who can give a home to 20 feral cats? Property development and construction managers may tell you to “get rid of the cats or they will be destroyed during construction.” You may have 30 days, if you are lucky. The feelings of vulnerability, fear and grief can overwhelm even the most experienced caretaker.
These destructive circumstances are prevalent in all our cities and occur daily. As the cries go out for help, there is little that can be done under the present confines of our laws and the scarcity of facilities available for feral cats and kittens. Currently, the caretaker and their feral cats have no rights and there are few safe places to take them. Until there is recognition and support for the caretakers there is no safe and humane way to have population control at any site in this city. Trappers are a significant component, but they are not caretakers.
Feral cat sanctuaries are urgently needed as a safe destination. They can be established on modestly priced acreage away from the cities. The sanctuary would become the home for ferals that have no other place to welcome them and they could live out their lives in a safe and secure environment. The sanctuary could also serve as a center for workshops as well as educating the public and school children about the humane care of feral cats.
There is a pressing need for safe spaces!