Spend a little time in any given Tempe neighborhood and you’re likely to see a population of feral cats. Perhaps some of these outdoor kitties have homes and are indoor/outdoor cats, but many of them do not have homes and live outside all the time, exposed to weather, disease and injury from other outdoor cats and wild animals, and a lack of regular food and water. You may ask yourself, what can I do to help these feral cats? The most helpful thing that can be done is spaying and neutering outdoor cats, as well as your own cats, to cut down on the population of new homeless kittens.
Some animal shelters and rescue organizations run trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs, where they humanely trap feral cats, have them spayed or neutered, and return them to their original environment. Removing the ability for feral cats to continue to increase their population will mean no new cats will move into the area. For cats that do have homes, whether they spend brief amounts of time outdoors or live indoors 100% of the time, it is important to have them spayed or neutered. It is always possible for an indoor cat to accidentally get outside unsupervised, so ensuring that your own cats are spayed and neutered helps remove them from the equation of contributing to the population of feral cats. If your neighborhood seems to have a large amount of feral cats, it is a good idea to check with your neighbors before attempting to intervene - perhaps someone else is already overseeing that particular cat colony, or some of the cats in the group do have homes and they just spend time outside. Contacting a rescue group or organization, such as the Animal Defense League of Arizona or the Arizona Humane Society will help with providing humane traps and advice on taking care of feral cats.
It is important to note that while it may be tempting to try to save a feral kitten or cat from its outside life and make it your own cat, there are associated risks. A feral kitten may be more inclined to approach a friendly person, but may not be so happy with an attempt to pick it up or bring it indoors. Conversely, adult feral cats are much less likely to allow any kind of handling and may cause injury to themselves or to the person who tries to pick them up. If you manage to find a feral kitten that will allow handling and being cared for, the responsibility of ownership of such a kitten is not a decision to be made hastily! This kitten will require several vet visits to ensure its good health, and that it is fully vaccinated and free of diseases and parasites, will need to be neutered or spayed and will need money and time.
For more resources and ways to help, click here. If you have taken in an outdoor kitten recently and have questions or concerns, give us a call anytime!