Sunday, August 28, 2011

Save Lives by Rescuing Feral Kittens

Save a feral kitten's life by being aware of kitten populations in your neighborhood and take steps to rescue them from a life of hardship.

 If you live in an area where it is continually warm then female unaltered cats will reproduce repetitively and when the kittens are weaned at approximately 8 weeks these feral kittens will seek food and shelter in residential neighborhoods, parks or woodland areas.  Feral kittens will be viewed playing in yards and gardens, eating out of dog’s food bowl, drinking the water in the pond, walking on your car and setting up a shelter under you deck.  Some kittens will venture out into the streets. Other kittens will be chased by a stray dog and some kittens will be hunted by wildlife. 

Only a few feral kittens survive living outdoors as the life expectancy of a feral cat is no more than two to three years. Some feral kittens will be saved from a life of hardship because you trapped and then socialized them before finding the feral kittens a forever home.  Take the steps that are needed to save feral kitten lives.    

How you can save a feral kittens life:

From a distance watch the kittens in your neighborhood.  Feral kittens look like domesticated cats, they are cute, playful and their coat is well groomed.  However feral kittens that are born outdoors are terrified of humans and are not friendly.  

Determine if the kitten is feral or friendly also look for the mother cat, she may be out looking for food or she may be watching her kittens at a distance.  Study the kittens by watching and waiting.  If mother cat is not available then try to lure the kitten to you with food and water.  

Put on heavy duty leather work gloves.  If the kitten approaches you and is friendly then this kitten may have been born indoors and put outside after it was weaned.  Pick up the kitten with your gloved hands by grabbing it by the scruff.  Put the kitten in a carrier.  If the kittens show caution and hisses or shows you their claws then this kitten is feral and they are sending you a warning; “I am afraid of you, please keep away from me or I will bite or scratch you”

The safest and most effective way to save a feral kittens life is to set up a live animal medium size  trap.  If you do not have a medium sized  trap then contact your local cat network, veterinarian, or cat rescue to see if you can borrow one.  Or you can buy a feral cat trap. Be a hero and save a feral or stray kittens life. 

Never grab a feral kitten with your bare hands.  They will scratch you or bite you. Wear a secure fitting heavy duty work gloves. 

Do not trap a feral kitten if you do not know what you are doing. Learn more about feral cats by joining Alley Cat Allies.  As a member you will be able to contact feral cat caregivers or trappers in your community and these caregivers will be able to assist you with trapping.

Become a colony caregiver and trap feral cats for sterilization, and vaccines. Enlist volunteers to help you with the colony needs; daily feedings, fresh water and providing shelter if need be.  

Save feral cat and kitten’s lives by spaying or neutering.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Heat Wave Shelters for Feral Cats

Cat Den
During a heat wave forecast it is difficult to provide shelter for feral cats as they are creatures of habit and they are accustomed to hiding in run off ditches, sewers, hallow trees and branch thickets.  

If the feral cat is able to dig a den under a large pile of branches the cat may be able to keep cool, if they have access to a deck that has a large mass of leaves underneath it the cat can burrow into the leaves and the earth may provide protection from the scorching sun.  

Many feral cats will seek overgrown shrubs or gardens as a shelter.  The leaves and plant life will not provide them with protection from the intense sun and the cat will suffer. 

Cat lovers and colony caregivers must watch the cats closely and take extra steps to care for the cats.  In many cases you will need to provide the cats with shelter and plenty of water.

Outdoor Shelter For Cats

The best way to care for cats during a heat way is to provide shelter for the outdoor cats. Buy an igloo insulated cat houses and fill them with straw.  Or buy a wood insulated cat house and again fill it with straw.  The straw will provide the cat with a soft surface to lie on and it will not be hot because of the pet house insulation.  Set the insulated shelter in area that is shaded; under a shade tree, under shrubs.

I provided the feral, stray and other outdoor cats with an air conditioned shelter.  My old garage is used as a shed/shelter for the cats.  I have installed a cat door and added a window unit air conditioner.  I also covered windows with insulated drapes.  When the forecast calls for extreme heat I add a commercial fan.  I set the fan in front of the air conditioner and turned the dial to medium. The fan pulled the cool air from the air conditioner and blew the cool air into the shed thus keeping the room at a comfortable 86 degrees. The shed/shelter is open to cats from 6 am to 8 pm and then the door must be shut due to area wildlife.   

The shed/shelter has insulated igloo cat houses that have straw bedding and there are 3 to 4 bowls of fresh water for the cats so they can keep hydrated and there are kitty litter pans. Provide the outdoor cats with shelter from the extreme heat by opening up your garage for them.  If you do not have a kitty door you can open your electronic door.  

My neighbor opened his garage door one foot to allow two feral cats an escape from the heat on a day when the heat index reached 104.  He told me that the cats hid under his car and drank some water.  The feral cats caused no disturbance and exited the garage when the sun set.  If you choose to allow the feral and stray cats shelter from the heat in your garage then leave the cats alone.  If you enter the area where cats are there they will run away because they are afraid of you or they will climb the walls to try to get away from you.   It is best to leave the door open wide enough so cat can come and go. Consider installing a cat door.

Do not attempt to touch the feral or stray cats and keep children and other pets away from them. Remember that they are wild animals and they are afraid of humans, if they are put in an uncomfortable situation they will react by scratching because they are terrified of humans.  

It is best to respect the feral cats and provide them with a shelter, a bowl of food and water. Leave the garage door open at a foot so cats can enter or exit. Close your garage at night to prevent wildlife; raccoons, possums or skunks from entering.


Keep outdoor cats hydrated by setting up water stations under shade trees, under awnings and close to dense shrubs.  Check the water bowls several times during the day.  Add fresh water to the bowls so that the water stay s cool and does not become hot from the intense heat. Check outdoor bird baths and fountains to make sure they are at the correct water levels.  

Set up a soaking hose in your shade garden and allow it to drip slowly during the late afternoon.  A feral cat will lick the water from the hose to keep hydrated.  They will also lie in the garden that is being water as it is a way to keep cool.

Colony Cat Lucy
The feral cat I call Lucy has been a under my watchful eye since 2008.  She refused to enter the shed this year and tried to stay cool in the colony thicket.  She was in the habit of coming to my yard at 5:30 in the afternoon for a bite to eat and a drink of water. She should have stayed inside her thicket but she  ventured out in the heat of the day for food and water.

Lucy’s routine is to lie in my hosta garden. 

I set up a fan to provide a continuous garden breeze.  I also set up a soaking hose and watered this particular garden from 4 to 5 daily.  It was the only method that I knew of that would provide this feral cat with some relief.  I fed Lucy canned food mixed with 1/4 cup water.  I did this to make sure that she had fluid.  There were many days during the heat wave that I thought that Lucy would not make it.  But she proved me wrong and survived the unbearable heat in the central states.

The best way to take care of an outdoor cat during a heat wave is to provide them with insulated shelter that has air conditioning or a fan.  Indoor outdoor cats should be kept indoors during the peak heat, they will need to learn to use a litter box and they may go out in the early morning or after the sun sets and the temperature drops.

Notes From Sgolis:
Feral and stray cats will go into the sewers during heat waves and extreme cold.  The sewer is not a safe haven for cats and colony caregivers should provide their cats with alternative shelters. 

Outdoor cats are accustomed to heat and thus your air conditioner should not be cold, set it at 86 and the cat will be comfortable. 

Here is a YouTube video that will show you how to make an insulated cat house.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Neighborhood Kitten Watch Saves Lives

When the weather is warm the queen cats will mate and reproduce. Feral kittens will start their lives out in sewers, hollow trees, thickets, forest, under your deck, under an abandoned car or anywhere that the mother cat feels that her young will be safe.  

When the kittens are old enough they will emerge from the birth den and venture out into the neighborhood.  Some kittens will be trapped, spayed or neutered, socialized and adopted and others will remain feral.  You can save kittens lives by watching for them in your neighborhood.

I am always on the lookout for kittens.  If I see them I document the location in a journal and then I respect the feral queen cat by not getting too close to her den, however I always set up a feeding station and I bring that mother kitten food to help her boost the kittens immune system.  

I will feed the mother cat 4 times a day in rain or shine.  By doing this I am building a bond with the feral cat and the kittens.  When the kittens are weaned I will trap them and the mother for spay, wormer and get the kittens spay, neutered and their shots.  I will then socialize the kittens for adoption and return the queen to the colony. 

Feral cat and kittens at the shelter
 Spring is a busy time of the year as the queen cat and her kittens must be located and then cared for by providing them regular feedings with food and fresh water, and trapping if they are in harm’s way.  Every year since 2009 I make it a point to watch for feral kittens in my neighborhood and to call animal control for all dogs that are not on a leash, you might say I learned this the hard way.

In May of 2009 the feral cat that I call Lucy was a first time mom, she had a small litter of two kittens; a little black long haired fluffy kitten with green eyes, and a light brown and gray striped tabby.  Lucy hid her kittens in an opening in the rocks in the forest close to an area that  was in heavy brush and was thick with branches and down trees.  The kittens were safe there when they were very young, but when they were three weeks old Lucy decided it was time to move them.  

A horrific storm was in the forecast and we were told to hunker down so we secured everything outdoors and I opened up the old shed door 8 inches and secured it with a rock so it would not be blown closed. I do this for the feral cats; the shed is where they go for safety.   

The winds were very strong, they knocked out the power and took many trees down.   After the wind storm there was a heavy rain.  I remembering looking out the window and I saw movement by my old shed I turned on the flood lights and saw Lucy with a kitten in her mouth.  She was moving her kittens to safety during a horrific storm.  Lucy brought both of her kittens to my old shed and that is where they lived and both my husband and I took care of them.

When Lucy needed a break from the kittens, a Norwegian Forest cat would lie at the front of the shed door and babysit.  Lucy then would eat at the colony feeding station and rest in the forest.  She would be gone for hours and the kittens would be groomed by the male cat.

When the kittens were 8 weeks old the black kitten would go with forest cat and he would take him down to the creek  and I guess show him where to go and where not to go.  The gray tabby kitten would go with the queen cat and she was teaching her the ways of the wild.  

Father cat eats while kitten watches
 One day Lucy was teaching both kittens how to hunt salamander and the kittens wanted nothing to do with the kill.  They saw me come out with the cat food and they ran to greet me.  After the kittens ate Lucy moved them deeper into the woods.  I guess she was telling me to keep my distance from her babies.  I did not see them for five days.

Kittens on Patio
Then one morning I looked out my window and saw the kittens lying on my brick patio and knew that Lucy brought them back to me because she knew they would be safe.  How I missed the kittens and was so happy to see them again.  I went outside with a bowl of food, shook the bowl and the kittens came running to me.  The kittens were  old enough to eat dry food however Lucy was still nursing them three times a day. 

All was peaceful in our yard and garden until our neighbors dog charged into our yard and went after the black kitten.  Lucy jumped up to defend her kittens and I ran out of the house with a broom.  My husband called out to the neighbor to get his dog and we heard the whistle and the dog retreated.  My husband spoke to our neighbor and he did not seem to care about the kittens and so my husband reminded him of the leash laws and told him to control his dog.

After that incident we were on high alert and were watching the kittens in our yard and neighborhood more closely. 

 Lucy took the kittens to the thicket thinking that they would be safer and they were safe until the neighbor let his dog out of the kennel.  Every day the dog would run down the alley and chaise the kittens. When the kittens were not fully weaned they learned that the dog was not their friend. We certainly had a problem on our hands and we decided it was time to set up the traps. My husband went to talk to animal control and they said they would send somebody out give the neighbor a talking to in regard to leash laws. We cleared our schedule and decided we would stay close to home until all the cats were trapped.

I let my neighbors know that I was trapping the neighborhood kittens and had lined up adopters for the kittens. I asked him to refrain from allowing his dog run in the neighborhood. 

The night before I set up the trap Lucy brought the 8 week old  black kitten back to my shed and he was playing in our old carpet, peek-a-boo I see you.   My husband and I sat out in the shed with him for two hours.  We used the time to get the little one use to us. He was comfortable and fell asleep on top of our old carpet.

I thought I would shut the pet door and trap the little one inside the shed.  My husband reminded me that if I blocked the entrance and Lucy could not get to the kitten that she may take them to the woods and then leave them there..  So I set up the trap and I left the pet door open.  I knew as soon as the kitten awoke he would be hungry and would enter the trap.  I went to bed at 4am and rechecked the trap at 6am.  The kitten was not in the trap.   I shook the bowl of food and the kitten did not come.  I thought Lucy had her kitten and then I saw Lucy sniffing the ground.  Then I heard her calling her kitten.

Both parent cats were sniffing the ground and calling out to the kitten. I watched the cats search, they walked down the alley into the woods to the thicket, they crossed the clearing by the rocks.  I took my binoculars to watch for the kitten.  I went to all of the neighbors houses asking for the kitten.  The women that helps me care for the cats, asked everyone to be on watch for the black kitten, we checked the sewers, the woods, the thicket den the hallow trees, we could not find the black kitten. My husband went into the woods, we took apart the thicket one branch at a time, he was gone without a trace. 

  Lucy the feral cat was mournful she called out in a way that I knew she was crying. Both cats lay in my driveway and mourned their kitten. That was two years ago, and I never really got over it.  I suppose it is because I did not have closure, I never really knew what happened to the little black kitten that was so small and brave.  He was the runt but his mom loved him.
The little black kitten was very small but very brave
Today I took a picture over to my other neighbor, it was a picture of Lucy’s kittens and I told him the little tabby is Daisy I trapped her when she was 12 weeks old and the little black one died and he said I know.  I said was it the dog and he said yes.

Spring is feral kitten season which means that if you have cats in your neighborhood you need to be on high watch.  If you see a dog running without a leash then you call animal control because most cities have leash laws.  

It is also against the law to allow your dog to run in your yard without a leash. All dogs must be on a leash or behind a secure fenced area.

Remind everyone in your neighborhood that cats were not put on earth so dogs could chaise them.  Feral queen cats have kittens during the warm seasons, this is the time that all cat lovers must watch in their neighborhoods for feral kittens. Watch, trap them and save lives.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Saving Community Cats - Rescue Photographs

Saving cats in your community protects the feral, stray, or abandoned cat from living a life of hardship. 

 I have been saving cats for the last 10 years with the help of my husband and two of my neighbors.  We watch all cats to find out if they have a home, if we determine if they are feral or a stray and then we will bait a live animal trap. When the cats are trapped we will take them to the veterinarian.
Image credit:  Alley Cal Rescue

 All cats that have been trapped, are examined by the veterinarian.  They are also tested for Feline Leukemia and Feline immunology virus.  They receive all preventative shots, including a vaccination for the prevention of feline leukemia.  The cats are wormed, treated for pest infestation; with a dosage of revolution and then they are spayed or neutered. We also have all cats tagged with microchip and all ears are clipped to help us to identify the cats.

As feral cat colony caregivers we  try to rehabilitate all cats.  Feral cats that are willing to be socialized will start a socialization  program.  If the feral cats are unwilling to give up their wild ways then they will remain in the colony and will be watched daily by the colony cat caregivers.

Here are some photographs of the cats that have been spared a life of hardship. I saved these cats with the help of my husband and two neighbors that volunteer their services to watch for feral kittens in the community and to care for the cats in the colony in the forest on a daily basis.
All photographs by Susan Golis© Please do not copy.
Abandoned Siamese Cate, rescued when he was skin and bones. We call him Sam he is a FeLV survivor
De-clawed cat was abandoned in the woods by my home.  She had been in a fight and could not defend herself because she had no claws.  We call her lucky Lucy as we were able to trap her and save her life.

Baby feral cat trapped at 7 months old, socialized and living with family
Daisy feral kitten trapped at 12 weeks old socialized. She lives with me

Bob adult male, knows his name will come if called, lives at the feral cat colony

Rescued when she was 8 weeks old, took her out of a tree
Black feral kitten born 6/2009 he was killed by neighbors dog on the day I set up the trap. Tabby kitten saved, socialized and adopted.

Adult Woodland feral cat comes to winter feeding station occasionally

Stray cat at winter feeding station

Gracie was rescued;  she was left on bitter cold day (9 degrees) Gracie was rehabilitated and adopted
Lucy, fought off wild animal to save her kitten.  Trapped and received medical care.  Lives in Colony
Rescued abandoned kitten and adopted into a forever home

5 month old kitten comforted after her miscarriage.  My husband rescued her.
Wounded feral kitten trapped for medical care
Feral cat and kitten at feeding station.  Both were trapped spayed or neutered and kitten socialized.
Lost Bengal mix cat reunited with master