Stray Cat Strut

Lil Alley Cat by Rachel K Schlueter
Lil Alley Cat by Rachel K Schlueter
Black and orange stray cat sittin’ on a fence
Ain’t got enough dough to pay the rent
I’m flat broke but I don’t care
I strut right by with my tail in the air
Stray cat strut, I’m a ladies’ cat,
A feline Casanova, hey man, thats where its at
Get a shoe thrown at me from a mean old man
Get my dinner from a garbage can
Yeah don’t cross my path!
I don’t bother chasing mice around
I slink down the alley looking for a fight
Howling to the moonlight on a hot summer night
Singin’ the blues while the lady cats cry,
“Wild stray cat, you’re a real gone guy.”
I wish I could be as carefree and wild,
but I got cat class and I got cat style.
~Stray Cat Strut by The Stray Cats, 1981

 


Today, October 16, is National Feral Cat day.  Many years ago I fell madly, deeply in love with two feral cats.  Both of whom, during separate chapters in my life, taught me more than I could have ever imaged about stray cats.  Although we have said our goodbyes, they are still with me in my heart, and they are the inspiration behind this post.

My hope is that you will learn something new here, and in the process, gain compassion for these wise, street savvy souls.  Once we truly understand the myths (and truths) about feral cats and their communities, we can educate others on the many ways to care for and protect these very misunderstood animals.

Samantha
Samantha, our beloved feline family member, who was once a feral cat on the streets of New Orleans.

Myths and Truths About Feral Cats

 

Myth #1:  Feral cats are best cared for in animal shelters.

Fact: Adult feral cats are euthanized more frequently than any other dog or cat (this includes adult dogs, bully breeds, fearful and aggressive cats, aggressive and fearful dogs, and heartworm positive dogs).

Shelter life is incredibly stressful for any animal. Throw in a few sprinkles of feral, and you have a recipe for an all-out-fear fest.  Since feral cats are naturally afraid of humans, they are rarely adoptable, so the majority of  feral cats who enter shelters are euthanized quickly — even though 99 percent of these feral cats have no debilitating conditions, trauma, or infectious diseases.

Even no-kill shelters can’t place feral cats in the average home.  However, feral kittens can often be adopted into homes, but they must be socialized at an early age.  There is a crucial window, and if they aren’t handled in time, they will remain feral and therefore unadoptable. Learn more about feral kittens and socialization here.

 

Myth #2: TNR is cruel.

TNR is the practice of Trapping, Neutering, and Returning cats back to where one found them. TNR has been shown to be the least expensive, most efficient, and most humane way of stabilizing feral cat populations.  The very best thing we can do for a feral cat is to spay or neuter it, then return it to its original community.

 

Myth #3: Feral cats are sick.

Feral cats are just as healthy as your own companion cat, with equally low rates of disease, and equally long natural lifespans.

A 2006 study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery found that of 103,643 stray and feral cats examined in spay/neuter clinics in six states from 1993 to 2004, less than 1% of those cats needed to be euthanized due to debilitating conditions, trauma, or infectious diseases.

 

Myth #4: Cat overpopulation can be fixed by removing the feral colony.

Neighborhoods and communities will often roundup colonies of feral cats – either for euthanasia, or to relocate them, but neither of these choices are a permanent or humane solution.  The reality is that it’s impossible to catch all of the cats, and it only takes one male and one female to begin reproducing again.  Even if all ferals are removed, new cats will soon move in and take their place.

Relocation should only be an option when the cats’ lives are at extreme risk, and then responsible relocation practices should be followed.

 

Myth #5: Anyone can socialize a feral cat with a lot of time and patience!

Feral cats survive by avoiding intimate human interaction.  Socializing a feral cat can take years sometimes. Trust me; it took me a year to even touch my beloved Samantha when she was a feral cat.  If you have a feral cat outside your home that you want to befriend, I recommend learning more about feral cat socializing from the the experts.

 

Myth #6:  Shelters are a huge help for lost cats that are found!

Fact:  Only 2 to 5% of lost cats in U.S. shelters are reclaimed by their owners.
Fact:  Most lost cats will eventually return home on their own.
Fact:  Spending time in a shelter actually decreases a cat’s chances of being reunited with his/her guardians.

One of the easiest and most important things you can do for your cat (or feral cat that is living under your care) is give him/her a proper ID tag, AND have your cat microchipped!  This means that wherever they wind up, they can be identified.

 

Myth #7:  Feral Cats are decimating native wildlife and bird populations! 

Many people dislike the idea of stray cats, but science has cleared them of the blame for impacting wildlife populations.  The true threat to other species are human activities such as habitat destruction, fragmentation, pollution and encroachment.  Outdoor cats occasionally kill birds and other wildlife, but the bigger truth that we need to recognize is this: humans are the species that have most significantly damaged the environment, habitats, and ecosystems.

“The clear leading animal that’s really putting wildlife at risk is the human population.  We just don’t like to acknowledge that it is our fault. It’s not a case of the cat being the worst offender.  It isn’t even remotely the worst offender.  It’s us.”- Wildlife Biologist, Roger Tabor, one of the world’s leading experts on feral cats

Read more about How Much of an Impact Cats really Have on Native Wildlife.

Myth #8: Feral Cats are “homeless” cats

Feral cats are not homeless.  They have a home; it’s outdoors!  Feral cats are no more “homeless” than squirrels, raccoons, or rabbits; their community is their home.  It’s where they learned to live, adapt, and thrive — often with help from a compassionate caretaker.  The outdoors is the natural habitat for feral cats.

 coralinecat


Feral Cats and Stray Cats – What They Really Need

Outdoor cats have existed alongside humans for 10,000 years.  They are not a new phenomenon.  Feral cats and stray cats (yes, there is a difference) live and thrive in every landscape, from the inner city to rural farmland.  Although they greatly appreciate a delicious can of tuna, they don’t want to snuggle with you on your couch.  It’s important to recognize and respect that they belong outside, vaccinated, spayed and neutered.  Feral cats are members of the same species as companion cats.  This is why feral cats are protected under state animal anti-cruelty laws. Just like our feline family members who live indoors with us, shelter, food, and water are especially important to feral and stray cats in cold weather!

"Mama Cat" and her kittens.  Mama Cat was a feral cat that lived around my house in New Orleans. I TNR (spayed and released) her and then spayed and neutered her kittens and found homes for most of them.  I loved her so much.
“Mama Cat” and her kittens, one of whom lives with us now.  Mama Cat was a feral cat that lived around my house in New Orleans. I spayed and released her, then spayed and neutered her kittens and found homes for all of them.  I loved her so much, but I knew she could never live an “indoor life”.  I did what was best for her by allowing her to live outside, vaccinated, and spayed.



Cats are a Natural Part of the Landscape.

Cats have always been a part of the natural environment.  They have adapted to the changes that humans brought about in their environment, but their biological instincts and interactions with their surroundings haven’t changed.  What has changed in the last 10,000 years is how humans have impacted the environment. Our unrestrained use of natural resources has damaged crucial habitats and resources that species need to survive.  Instead pointing the finger of blame at wild felines, we need to take a hard look at what we can do to change the way we impact our world and the animals we share it with.

Feral Cats Belong Outdoors. They have been along side humans for 10,000 years. We can help them by spaying and neutering them, then leaving them be.
Feral Cats Belong Outdoors. They have been along side humans for 10,000 years. We can help them by spaying and neutering them, then leaving them be.

Why Should We Even Care?

Today, On National Feral Cat Day, we celebrate the growing movement to protect the lives of outdoor cats with humane and effective programs like Trap- Neuter-Return (TNR). ~ Becky Robinson, president and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies.

 

In the video below Jackson Galaxy reminds us that:

  • Feral cats are not socialized to people.
  • Feral cats cannot be adopted.
  • TNR helps reduce the number of cats being killed in our shelters each year.
  • More than 330 local governments have ended ‘catch and kill’ and embraced TNR, but there is still much more work to be done.

 


 

Common Questions about Feral and Stray Cats

 

IMG_1023-0

 

What is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)?

Trap-Neuter-Return is the humane and effective approach for stray and feral cats.  It has been in practice for decades in the U.S. after scientific studies in Europe show that Trap-Neuter-Return improves the lives of feral cats, improves their relationships with the people who live near them, and decreases the size of colonies over time.

Did you know that TNR:

TNR (Trap & Neuter Return)
A Conscious Companion doing a TNR (Trap & Neuter Return)

Informing friends, neighbors, and family members, about the benefits of TNR can be tough.  There are so many misperceptions about stray cats and feral cats. But Alley Cat Allies has a great resource on their website called Troubleshooting with Community Members.

In this Alley Cat Allies PSA,  Jackson Galaxy explains why National Feral Cat Day® is the perfect time to raise your voice to protect the cats you love—indoors, outdoors, and everywhere in between.  We can educate people about feral cats, how to help them, and what not to do.  Please help to spread the word that TNR is the humane approach for feral cats.  Do you have any experience with stray cats or feral cats? I would love to hear your stories!

coraline-cat-stray-cats-feral-cat_stray cat strut

“What’s your name?” Coraline asked the cat.

“Look, I’m Coraline.Okay?”

“Cats don’t have names.” he said.

“No?” said Coraline.

“No,” said the cat. “Now you people have names.  That’s because you don’t know who you are.  We know who we are, so we don’t need names.”

― Neil Gaiman, Coraline


SOURCES:

http://jacksongalaxy.com

http://www.alleycat.org

Matthew Bershadker – President & CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)

http://www.straypetadvocacy.org/cat_predation.html


Free Feline Resources!


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Inspiration
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Baby It’s Cold Outside


Originally Posted Winter 2013 Cold Cat Winter

I grew up in the harsh winters of Kansas.  As a kid, winter was bliss.  I didn’t have to shovel snow, or scrape the icy windshield;  I got to play in it.   However, my dad believed that the dogs were fine out there in the dead of winter, unless there was a blizzard or “big storm-a-coming.”  Only then would we prepare the basement for our black Labrador and German Shepherd-Golden Retriever mix, Sampson and Sheba.  They were both allowed inside, but had to stay down in a carpet-free, secured area of the basement for the night.  To a 7 year old girl who adored her canine companions,  this was fine to me because I got to see my buddies inside for a night!

Things are different now.

It’s not recommended that you leave your animal companion outside in the freezing temperatures, with or without snow.  Most dogs and all cats are safer indoors.   No matter what the temperature, the freezing wind chill can threaten their lives.

Fur isn’t gortex.  A dog or cat’s fur doesn’t always protect them from extremely cold temperatures.  In fact, when most pet fur gets wet from walking through snow, they actually become more susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite because their fur chills them instead of keeping them warm.



Cold Weather Protection 

Cat ShelterIf you know of any cats that live outdoors consider building (or buying) a structure where they can go to get out of the inclement weather.  Provide insulation in their shelter.  Use blankets.  Straw (not hay) is also a good insulator.  Provide a heat source.  Some houses have the capability of connecting a light bulb as a heat source.   Other options may be warm water bottles.   Be careful with heating pads, as they can chew through them.  Anytime you are providing a heat source, be sure that the animal is able to move away from it if they get too warm.   Alley Cat Allies has an extensive list of shelters that you can build.   You can build a basic shelter, or an elaborate one.  Check out their Cat Shelter Options!

Click on the image / Link below to learn how to make an easy shelter.

cat shelter winter outdoor cats

Building Winter Shelters for Community Cats




Slap The Hood!  Keep ’em on Leash! And Wipe Those Feetz!

We have all heard the stories about outdoor cats and their terrible injuries or deaths because they sought warmth in a car engine compartment.  You can prevent this by simply slapping the hood a couple of times or honking the horn before starting the engine.   The noise will startle the cat and hopefully encourage him or her to make haste and leave!

When you are out and about with your canine or feline, keep them on a leash at all times during a snow storm.  In snow, they can lose their scent and easily become lost.  The ASPCA states that more pets are lost during the winter than during any other season.  Keep their ID tags on at all times!Lonely cat waiting by the road by Shutterstock

Be sure to wipe off their paws, legs and stomach when they come inside from the sleet, snow, or ice.   The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can make them sick and irritate the pads of their feet and their stomachs.  Check to make sure there is no ice stuck between their toe pads. These pieces can be very sharp and tear their skin.

Consider getting snow boots and a coat for  for animal companions!

ruffwear_bark_n_boots_polar_trex_insulated_dog_boots_
RuffWear has amazing snow gear!

Keep those “Cold Blooded” Critters Warm!

While most exotic animals are housed indoors here in the northern part of the states, there are still some key things to keep in mind during winter.  When housing reptiles in the home, remember that your house temperature drops as the temperature outside drops, so you will need to adjust their enclosure heat sources accordingly.  The most important part of their heating set up is a good quality digital thermometer.  Place the thermometer where the reptile will be and measure the warm and cool ends of the cages as well as the night temperature.  If these temperatures fall outside of recommended ranges, then provide a supplemental radiant heat source.  Use a lamp -not a hot rock or heating pad — Burns can result from these.   Here are a few more tips for keeping your reptile friends safe and warm during cold weather.

NOTE:  Overheating (even from heat lamps) is much more dangerous than the cold is for reptiles.  Use caution!   Hibernation is not recommended for any reptile without a reptile veterinary consultation first.  Many pets die every year from incorrect hibernating techniques.

Little David in his pond

Even native turtles need a source of warmth in the winter. Here Little David is enjoying some rays of sun on a cooler day.


Feathered Friends Need Warmth and Shelter, too! 

winter_parrots_cartoon

Ideal Temperature Ranges For Parrots

The majority of birds should not be kept outside when the weather is below 40 degrees – unless adequate shelter is provided.  The ideal temperature for most birds is between 65 and 90 degrees F.  African greys, cockatoos, and amazon parrots prefer temperatures around 70 to 80 degrees.   Miniature parrots (parrotlet and fig parrot) cannot be kept in temperatures below 50 degrees.

How to Keep them warm

  • Get a heater!  Ceramic heaters produce a constant flow of heat without light that disturbs your bird’s sleep. Keep the heater away from the bird and enclosure; these heaters can get very hot.
  • Get a warming perch. Birds lose a ton of heat through their feet; heating perches are a great way to keep them warm.
  • Solo birds don’t have the option of huddling up with a mate to keep warm. Provide your loner bird with a warm soft fabric to snuggle with!
  •  More Temp Tips
  • More Winter Tips to keep your parrot healthy, including how to provide adequate UV Light!

Soothe the Seniors’ with Added Warmth!

These rapidly fluctuating temps dipping down well below normal can really affect aging pets with arthritis.   And since we always want to look at the BIG picture when it comes to our animal companions, we need to recognize that joint stiffness and pain can exacerbate (or create) behavioral issues and tension in the home, especially in multiple cat homes, or in homes with multiple species.  Chronic pain can lead to increased vocalization, irritability, aggression, fear, and a host of other behavioral issues.

One of the many ways that we maintain peace and harmony in our home is to make sure that each senior is content and comfy 24/7.   One way that we do that is by placing “warm spots” for them on each level of the house.  This allows him to retreat to a safe, warm, and soothing spot when they want to, they all have their own places, and it allows them to find a warm patch when a cold snap comes through. As you can see, this homemade heated bed is for our senior cats, who have a hard time navigating in and out of tall beds.

pet heating pads_senior cats_arthritis .png

We also LOVE these heated cat beds for the more agile cats in the home. You can view them here. thermo-kitty-bed heated cat bed

The image below is of our Beaux, who is twenty years of age. He, like most cats, gravitates toward warm spaces. Beaux is safely sleeping on a heated pet bed.  At a mere six pounds, he gets chilly easily, so Beaux loves to be covered up! 

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Although this sort of low heat source is not likely to penetrate deep into a cat or dog’s hip joints, many are soothed and comforted by having a warmed spot, and the warmth can encourage blood circulation through those stiff muscles.

Martin Conscious Companion_pet warming beds
Hocus Pocus is seen here sleeping on Mr. Beaux’s heating pad area. As you can see, the heating pad is directly on the couch, with a regular pet bed on top of it. When Beaux is ready to nap on this, we add a blanket over the pet bed (for extra safety and to prevent over-heating).

Safety First:  Always be sure your pet does not have access to the wires, or anything else that could be harmful.  And be sure the PET heating pad is set on the lowest setting, and it’s well insulated under blankets and other materials.  If you have a home with pets who can not be trusted around wires and such, here’s a non-electric option.  

Remember:  Heat rises, so the house may feel very warm to us, but at a cat and dog’s level, it’s considerably cooler.  If you have senior pets, talk to your veterinarian about what can help sooth those achy joints, especially during these cold weather months!

 


The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has some great tips on how you can help your furry family members in cold weather:

Did you know?

  • Animal neglect is considered a misdemeanor crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • All but nine states (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, and North Carolina) specifically require pet owners to provide adequate shelter for a pet outside, the definition of which generally includes some variation of “protection from the elements or extreme weather.”
  • Felony penalties can be levied in Massachusetts and Oklahoma for any animal neglect case.
  • Felony charges can be applied in animal neglect resulting in death in California, Connecticut, Florida and Washington, D.C.

Be a Conscious Companion!

PLEASE, If you see any animal that has been left outside in extreme temperatures (a neighbors pet, a business’s pet, etc.) find the courage to say something.  If you are not comfortable going on your own, take someone with you.  Be the voice for the ones who need your help.   Ask if the person if they need help setting up a shelter, if they need blankets, or if they would like help in anyway.   Don’t be accusatory.   Be helpful.  It will come across more meaningful and they may accept your help.  If they don’t respond well to your offerings, the HSUS suggests that you contact local law enforcement agencies.  Pets left outside in extreme temperatures without food and shelter are at risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and even death, and this places their owners at risk of facing criminal charges.  The HSUS lists details of how you can help neglected animals during these winter months.

Remember that even though animals have their own instincts, as their guardians we have to be responsible and take precautions for them on their behalf.  


Winter Weather Recap:

 

  • Never leave your pet outside during a snowstorm for longer than you’d would want to be out there with them. If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet.
  • Consider caring for and/or building a safe shelter for outdoor cats.
  • Prepare indoor play activities for your pets who are used to more outside time.
  • Stock up on pet food and medicines your animals may need, as winter storms can take out power, close roads, and even trap you in your home.
  • Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s paws and belly with a moist washcloth after going outside. Snow-melting salt can be very painful to dogs’ feet and cause illness if ingested. Clumps of snow can accumulate between toes and cause pain as well. Dog boots and salves can be purchased to protect sensitive dog paws.
  • During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep underneath cars for shelter. Bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give any resting cats a chance to escape.
  • Consider giving short-haired or smaller dogs a coat and booties to wear outside to protect them from the elements and the chilly temperature.
  • If you lose power, be sure candles aren’t in locations where your pet can knock them over.
  • Be aware of snow-melting salt, which can be painful to animals’ paws and make them ill if it’s ingested.
  • Create an emergency plan.
  • Stay up to date on storm conditions and warnings in your by checking with your local Office of Emergency Management.
  • The ASPCA’s free mobile app provides pet owners with critical information on what to do before, during, and after a disaster, and gives personalized instructions on how to search for and recover a lost animal in a variety of circumstances.
  • You may also store your pets’ medical records and other important information — such as microchip numbers and veterinarians’ contact information — often needed when bringing your animal to an evacuation shelter. Visit ASPCAapp.org to download on iTunes or Google Play.
  • The ASPCA’s shareable cold weather pet care infographic may be found here. For more information on cold weather pet safety tips from the ASPCA, visit aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/cold-weather-safety-tips.


How do you keep your animal companions safe during the winter months?  

Please share with us and help others!

Some cat and dog breeds are well adapted to cold weather, but the majority of them are not.
Some breeds are well adapted to cold weather, but the majority of them are not.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a breed adapted to a very cold climate.
The Norwegian Forest Cat is a breed adapted to a very cold climate.

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