How to Help Community Cats
Studies show that community and feral cats can live long, healthy lives. Remember that not all cats need to be brought inside and adopted. The majority of these cats have lived outside for their entire lives and a move to a home or shelter will be too stressful for them.
Is the cat ear tipped?
To help prevent the overpopulation of the community cats, check for an ear tip. When a community or feral cat is spayed or neutered, while they are under anesthesia, the vet will clip the tip of one of their ears as an indication that they have been fixed. If the cat already has an ear tip, you do not need to do anything! Just let the cat be! If the cat does not have an ear tip, the best way to help it is to get it spayed or neutered.
There are many low cost veterinary clinics that offer free or discounted surgeries for community cats. Each cat will need to be trapped in a live, humane trap. Best Friends Society has some great trips for trapping and release here. While the cat is trapped for surgery, asking the vet to vaccinate it will help keep it healthy and prevent the spread of disease.
Alley Cat Allies provides some great resources for the care of community cats.
What do I do if I find kittens
Do not touch the kittens! If you do not see the mama around, that doesn’t mean she has abandoned them. You may not see her, but she always has eyes on her babies. If mama feels her kittens are at risk, she will either move them or worse, abandon them. If you haven’t seen her for a while, you can spread a ring of flour around the kittens to see if you can see her paw prints!
If the kittens have become separated from their mama, it is urgent that they get care immediately! You would make a great foster! At eight weeks old, kittens can receive their first round of vaccines, and most vets will spay or neuter them at 12 weeks old.
Dallas Animal Services provides a great guide on what to do with found kittens, and how to determine their age!
1. Do Not Touch or Move the Kittens
The only exception is if a kitten has visible injuries or is in extreme danger (e.g. in the middle of the road in danger of being hit by a car). If mama feels someone is trying to interfere with her or her kittens, she will quickly move to a safer location. She may leave her kittens behind, which significantly decreases their chances of surviving. More importantly, we lose the opportunity to trap and spay mama to prevent her from producing many more litters.
2. Observe the Kittens From a Distance
Mama can only carry one baby at a time, so when she moves her litter, she has to leave the others for a few minutes. You may not be able to see her but she always has eyes on her babies. Some mama cats will abandon their kittens if they smell a human scent, so it’s best not to touch the kittens unless they are in extreme danger.
3. Be Patient
It’s best to keep kittens with their mama; this will ensure their best chances for survival. Monitor their behavior several times during the day and evening. (Cats are more active at night.) Mama will likely feed her kittens in the middle of the night when no one can see her. Even if you can’t see her with your own eyes, she’s likely hiding in plain sight.
4. Offer Food and Shelter
Fill a giant box or plastic bin with a blanket, turn it on its side, and place it in quiet, hidden corner of your yard or shed (be sure to keep the door propped open). This will help protect mama and her babies from the elements and predators.
A nursing mamma burns a lot of calories and needs to keep up her energy, so put out as much food and water as you can. Keeping her close by with food will earn her trust and ensure the safety of the litter. Be sure to keep resident pets from getting in her way and frightening her.
5. Call an Expert to Help
When in doubt, call a rescue group to assess the situation and successfully trap mama and her babies. Dallas Pets Alive! has experts who are here to help click here to connect with a member of our team