Community Cat Care Tips
What you do when you find a kitten in your area during kitten season could mean life or death; but, bringing the community kitten home with you isn’t always the answer – for either of you.
Your first instinct when you see kittens may be to swoop them up and take them home with you, but that is not always in the best interest of either of you. Socializing and caring for community kittens is a time-consuming process which requires devotion, patience, and attention. The decision to bring community kittens into your home should not be taken lightly.
This chart may help you decide what is right for you and outdoor kittens. Click here to download.
Learn More About Kittens
FIV and FeLV in Community Cats
FIV and FeLV are incurable viruses that only infect cats. Humans cannot catch or transmit these diseases. Not all cats that become infected will become symptomatic. Many veterinary spay/neuter clinics do not test community cats for FeLV or FIV, because most cats enjoy excellent health and are no more likely to be infected with these viruses than owned cats. Owned cats and community cats contract FeLV and FIV at an equally low rate (about 4%). Read more about what Alley Cat Allies says about FIV and FeLV in Community Cats.
Keeping Cats out of Gardens and Yards
One of the most common sources of hostility towards community cats are people who don’t want them in their yards, gardens or other parts of their property. The best approach often is to respect their views and offer to work with them to keep the cats out.
Outdoor Cat Shelters and Feeding Stations
Even though community cats grow thicker coats for winter, they can quickly succumb to hypothermia. This happens particularly in rain & snow when their fur gets wet and doesn’t insulate as well. Community cats need shelter to help stay safe and healthy.
How many shelters do I need? Unless you operate a managed colony, don’t underestimate the number of cats in your area. You may only see one or two cats, but there are probably more. Try to provide more shelter space than you imagine needing.
What bedding should I use? Thick straw bedding allows the cats to “nest” and curl up into heat-conserving positions with the bedding providing a wind-break and insulator. In some cases, tacking strips of cloth over the shelter openings can provide additional protection from drafts, but it may make cats less likely to enter. In very harsh conditions, caretakers may wish to provide weatherproof dog-house heating pads. These are constructed of sealed, heavy plastic with damage-resistant cords. (Only use these if you can safely run power to the unit using a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). The GFCI will disconnect the power in the event of a short circuit or damage to the cord.) When plugging a heater cord into an extension cord, make sure the connection does not lay on the ground where it might be prone to water. Special waterproof extension cords are available at hardware stores.
Where should I put the cat shelter(s)? Locating the shelter is also an important topic. We recommend using neutral and earth tones to blend with the environment. Shelters should be located away from areas of vehicle & foot traffic. Locating it in a wooded area, or in the margin of a wooded area is ideal. This provides cover from the elements and makes the shelter less obvious. In more developed areas, locate the shelter behind buildings or someplace where it will not be disturbed. Cats will avoid a shelter if they are disturbed there regularly. Position the cat shelter to block the entrances from receiving direct wind and rain/snow. It may also be helpful to place sturdy building materials adjacent to the entrance to provide additional wind protection (about 12″ from the entrance). Make sure if you place anything over or around the shelter that it is anchored firmly and will not blow or fall over in front of the entrance. Ideally, we suggest that community cats have access to heated shelter with clean dry bedding.
Winter Protocol for Community Cats
Make sure trap is not set out all night
- Cold temperatures
- Can get below freezing
- Cat in trap = no place to hide or escape freezing temperatures
Make sure they have access to:
- Food (dry cat food won’t freeze)
- Water (deeper dish, rather than shallow)
- Shelter – insulation is best to cover against the wind. When temperatures are below freezing or stay below freezing, they MUST have a proper enclosement for staying warm. NO barn, or shed. Everything MUST be heated until temperatures rise back into the teens.
- If this cannot be followed, we will NOT perform surgery here.
Winter Care Tips:
- Provide fresh food and water.
- Use caution even when using ‘pet safe’ salt.
- Check your car and engine before you drive.
- PROVIDE A SHELTER!