Friday, July 27, 2012

Heat Wave - Keeping Feral Cats Cool Naturally

Feral Cat lies next to mud

Feral cats are generally skittish about entering a garage or shed for shelter, however, some feral cats will enter an outdoor igloo house that is hidden behind shrubs.  

Many feral cats will take shelter by lying on the mulch in your garden, under a low hanging shrub or they will lie in-between the leaves of your plants.  

These foliage type shelters are no match to the scorching summer sun especially if your area has an extreme heat advisory.

Over the years I have tried many methods to keep the feral cat's body cool but none of my methods worked. The only method that works for a feral cat is derived from nature and it is mud.  Making a muddy area in your yard will provide outdoor cats with a comfortable resting place.  Mud is a natural way to lower a cat’s body temperature and to keep them cool during a heat wave or drought.

I take the woodland feral cats their food and water daily by hiking to their colony.   While at the colony  I count the cats to make sure all are present and I check them for health concerns and for stress.  In the morning when it is cool an average of 76 degrees the cats are resting and there is no stress but in the afternoon at 5:00 feeding I have noted that the cats are breathing hard and they are panting. 
Cat in woods
My husband and I decided to coax the feral cats out of the woods to our yard.  I achieved this by moving the feeding station closer to my yard.  By the 5th day, the feeding station was set up in my heavily shaded yard. I choose an area close to my Hosta garden that is shaded from two mature Oak Trees and one Silver Maple tree.  

There is morning sun followed by shade the rest of the day.  Which means the temperature is good 20 degrees cooler.  In this area, I created a mud bath for the feral cats.  Since my outdoor water is restricted I saved the bath and shower water.  I filled buckets of water and dumped the water into a rain barrel.  This water is used daily to create a muddy area for the feral cats.  

In order to provide the cats with an all afternoon natural cooling mud, I wet the ground until the top 3 inches of soil is muddy.  I then keep the top soil moist by setting the sprinkler on a slow drip from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.

The feral cats came into my yard and lay on the wet ground.  They slept comfortable because the wet mud lowered their body temperature.  I provided the cats with fresh water and set up a feeding station off to the side of their resting area.
Fiskars5998 Salsa 58-Gallon Rain Harvesting System

Another way to keep feral cats cool naturally is to take old carpets and lay them out in a densely shaded area close to the cat’s colony or in your yard.  Use your garden hose to wet the carpets.  (Drench the carpets with water.)These wet carpets will provide the cats with comfort.

To conserve on water during the drought I recycle all indoor water into a rain barrel and use this water to wet the ground.

I also choose to not water my lawn and my back gardens.  By doing this I will be able to provide the cats with a slow drip from the garden hose when the rain barrel runs dry.

Farm animals lie in mud during the hot summer months to keep their body temperature cool, thus this natural method works.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Trapping Feral Cats in your Neighborhood

Trapping feral cats in your neighborhood is a way to save lives.  

When you trap the cats and take them in for spay, neuter and their vaccines you are helping the cats to live a longer and safer life and you are controlling cat populations.  

"When I trap a cat or kitten I use Havahart 1089 collapsible one-door live animal cage trap it is the same trap that I use for raccoons, groundhogs and other medium sized animals that need to be rescued.  I always have good results with this trap."

Trapping is not difficult however you must be organized and take steps to be gentle and caring to the feral cats.  Understand that they are terrified of you, I always give the respect that they deserve by approaching them slowly and calmly with my eyes lowerd to the ground.    

Take steps to get the cat accustomed to you by feeding and providing them with fresh water  twice a day at the same time.  This is way for the feral cats to become dependent upon you.  When the feral cats are dependent upon you for food and water you would set a a humune live animal trap.

The humane trap will allow you to confine the cat safely while transporting the cat for medical care and sterilization. 

Contact your veterinarian or pet clinic and inquire about their procedure. My veterinarian will take the feral cats as soon as I trap them. I schedule my trapping for Monday – Friday.  Some clinics will give discount services for feral and stray cats. When in doubt join a cat network and ask about inexpensive cat spay or neuter clinics in your area.

Refrain from feeding cats the night before trapping.  Do provide them with water.   On the day that you set up the trap, the only food available will be inside the trap. 

Choose a safe area for trapping, I usually put the trap on my brick patio behind the ornamental grass garden or I will set it inside our garage shelter. I have trapped many stray kittens inside the shelter.  They tend to go inside to hide. 

Line the trap bottom with newspaper.  Take a large sheet and fold it over so that it fits the confined space.  

Trapped feral kitten waiting for transport to veterinarian
 I trap cats in parks and in the woods and for these cats I find it best to line the bottom of the trap with a layer of straw and is some cases I will put down a layer of leaves.  It mimics the woods and the cats are more comfortable and trusting of the trap.

Spray Feliway Behavior Modifier Spray 75 ml onto the blanket that will cover the trap once the trap door closes.  Also spray the paper that is in the front of the trap by the trap opening only. 

The feliway will help in keeping the cat calm.  It takes the stress out of an anxious situation as the cat will think the trap is their safe place and not the scary place.  

Fold the blanket back so that it does not conceal the trap opening, but does provide a cozy area in the back of the trap.

Bait the trap by with a strong fish scented and flavored cat food.  Set the food on the newspaper in the back of the trap.  The food in the back of the trap will draw the cat into the trap.

Havahart  Live Animal Trap  For Stray Cat

When the trap door closes, cover the entire trap with a blanket. The blanket will comfort the cat. Bring the cat inside your garage, basement or house if you unable to take the cat directly to the veterinarian's office.

When adult feral cats return from the veterinarian office, the female will need to stay inside for medical care for 3-4 days, release the male cat to the same area in which you found him. Allow cat to regroup with the colony.

Ask the veterinarian to tag the cats left ear. This universal symbol indicates to animal control workers that the cat is part of (TNR) trap neuter and release program.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Setting up Feeding Station for Feral Cats

Setting up a feeding station for feral cats is a big responsibility as the cats that you feed will become dependent upon you. 

This community service is not for everyone, before you take on the responsibility of being a feral cat colony caregiver, determine the hours that you have to volunteer your services.  

Contact cat networks in your area to see if there are volunteers that will help you with the cat colony.  It is not wise to take on a large colony without helpers.   For a colony up to 10 cats you will need a minimum of 3 volunteers.  For 20 cats six volunteers.  

Get organized as you will need to be ready to care for cats.  It is best to have everything that you need before you are assigned to a feral cat colony. 

Many cat caretakers will document their cat’s history by getting a journal.  Take the cats photograph and give them a name to identify them.  Write a description and date all notes about the cat.  Log in the journal daily with the time that you fed the cat and note the cats eating habits.

You will also need food and water bowls as well as a multipurpose food that is formulated for all ages.  

Choose a safe feeding station; an area that is away from human and car traffic.  You will need to protect the food from rain, snow and wind.  I bought a plastic storage container and turned it on it's side and set it close to a wind block; privacy fence, back of the house or if in the woods by a large rock or tree trunk. 

To secure the plastic feeding station I held it in place with bungee cords.  When the weather is good you can set out a freestanding feeding station.

Feed the cats twice a day, a bowl food and fresh water in the morning and at night. Hungry cats will arrive early and will sit close to the feeding station. 

Do not miss a feeding; if you cannot feed the feral cats at the specific time; ask a one of colony helpers to put out the food and water. 

For large colony’s you will want to put out a few bowls of food and water.  Otherwise for 1 to 6 cats you can put out a bowl of food and water and the cats will wait their turn.   

Feral cats get along however if they are hungry and no food is available they will become agitated and that is when fights occur.  It is best to provide the cats with a regular feeding schedule.  If you miss a feeding the cat will go to look for food in trash canes and dumpsters. 

Continue to feed the cats daily. By doing this, the cats are growing dependent upon you. After two weeks, the cats will be more comfortable and will wait for your arrival and walk or run toward you when you approach them with the food and water.

Watch over the cats while they eat and take away the bowls when they have finished.  Leaving bowls with food will attract predators; dog, fox, coyote.  I provide the cats with fresh water all day long. 

Never attempt to pet the cat. The cat has never been touched by a human and your touch will terrify them.  The cat will attempt to protect themselves by scratching and biting.  A bite will need to be reported and that cat will be trapped by animal control and put down.  It is best to watch and care for the feral cat only.