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Feral cats stir up a lot of positive and negative emotions across communities. A large number of animal activists work everyday to protect and control the stray cat population. Individuals and organizations offer them food and healthcare to ensure that they stay healthy. If you are interested in caring for the feral cats in your neighborhood, don't just go out to the pet store and buy a bag of cat food. You might want to think it through first.A primer on feral cat care
As you might have guessed, caring for the feral cat in your community involves a significant amount of time and money. You need to provide the following:
- Daily water and food
- Get them in a trap-neuter-return program where cats are trapped, sterilized and medically treated.
- Shelter them from the elements
- Monitor their health concerns by arranging vet care when available
- Keep them up-to-date on Rabies vaccinations
If you want to be more ambitious, you can also provide:
What about medical care?
- Parasite prevention medication
- Vaccines (apart from Rabies, to prevent cat-specific diseases like the feline leukemia virus)
- Care for the litter of kittens born to pregnant cats who weren't altered or trapped in time
- Find indoor homes for the more social cats. If you come across a cat that has strayed away from its home, report it to the local shelter immediately.
Medical care for stray cats can be overwhelming, both in terms of time and money. But there are certain basic steps you can take to make sure that they stay healthy. For starters, get them neutered or spayed. Not only is that the right thing to do it will also help you control the population of feral cats in your neighborhood. Your colony might have just six or seven stray cats at the moment, but if you don't spay/neuter them, you will end up with fifty or sixty. If it ever gets there, then you can kiss your dreams of caring for them goodbye.If you need assistance with medical care, find an animal rescue service and ask for their help. They have a working relationship with most of the veterinarians, and they can get the cats neutered and spayed at a much cheaper price than you will ever be able to on your own. Enlist the help of your neighbors as well. And most importantly, don't start something that you cannot finish. Don't ever welcome a cat into your home one day only to turn your back on him the next day. The financials are secondary to your commitment. Don't forget that feral cats are no different from domestic cats. Once you welcome them into your life, they become dependent on you. If you suddenly stop feeding them, they will wait on you for weeks before they give up, even if it means starvation.