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General FAQ

What is a feral cat? 

I found cat and he or she won’t come near me! Help! What do I do? 

I found an unweaned kitten (still feeding from its mother) and for several reasons, I can’t keep him or her. Help! What do I do? 

This kitten appears to be weaned. Now what? 

Tell me the truth about shelters. That name, “shelter,” implies something very safe, but can be very misleading, can’t it? 

What about letting my kitten or cat near dogs? 

I’ve identified a sick cat in my neighborhood. How can I help? 

Yikes! I’ve been threatened by animal control officers and ordered to stop feeding. I don’t want to…What do I do? 

My cats have fleas. So does my house. 

I am moving. Who will feed my feral? 

My neighbors won’t spay or neuter cats roaming free between our houses. They appear to be offending owners. What to do? 

This is serious. I think my colony is being poisoned. 

I have unwanted cats in my yard—specifically my beautiful garden. What to I do? 

 

ANSWERS

What is a feral cat?

The cat is still a domestic cat, but just not socialized to humans. Many people think if a cat is feral, he or she is feral to other cats. This is not true: the term “feral” relates to lack of interaction with people, not with other cats.

Feral means “unsocialized to humans” and typically, a feral cat will stay away from humans, frequently hiding out during daytime.

If you trap a feral cat, expect it to be extremely quiet, stealthy and to avoid eye contact. However, many once-socialized cats, formerly someone’s pets, can behave exactly like this when they become unsocialized due not being handled by humans for a certain period of time. I’ve rescued lots of cats that behaved like this initially, and in a week or so, were totally tame.

Remember: Feral is not a dirty word.

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I found cat and he or she won’t come near me! Help! What do I do?

If you find a cat that won’t come near you and you are concerned about the cat, the best thing is to put food and water out. Then develop a relationship with the cat by consistently feeding him or her and if necessary, provide the cat some shelter—and we don’t mean take him or her to a shelter.

How? Get creative. Try putting the food in the garage, maybe in the empty dog house, but if placed in there, make sure no dogs or other animals can trap the cat there if the cat is eating.

The most important aspect is that this cat is fed and has water. Then you can prepare to get a humane trap and bring the cat in for spay and neuter. There’s no need to panic, so take it slow.

However, you’re so doing the right thing. You see, many people think cats can fend for themselves on the street, and this is not necessarily true. Cats do need to be fed by humans.

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I found an unweaned kitten (still feeding from its mother) and for several reasons, I can’t keep him or her. Help! What do I do?

This is an obviously emotional subject that is not without some controversy.

Depending upon the age of the kitten, you might need to leave the baby with his or her mother. Some very small kittens who are still nursing need their moms, you see. Many people think when they find un-weaned kittens, they need to bring them to the shelter or the pound. Please do not! This is a death sentence. If you find a kitten or kittens and they’re un-weaned, first make sure they’re warm. Take rice in a sock and microwave it (Yes, really!). Put the kitten or kittens in a sturdy box with the warm socks and wait a couple of hours for Mom to come back. She

may simply be moving kittens at that point and she can only carry one at a time in her mouth.

If Mom doesn’t return within three to four hours, then get ready to start bottle feeding.

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This kitten appears to be weaned. Now what?

Perhaps you’ve determined the kitten or kittens are weaned, you haven’t seen the mother at all and the kitten or kittens appear to be alone, abandoned. Note: A mother cat can be very good at hiding.

If the nest is dirty and the kittens are dirty, Mom is probably not there.

Kittens are not normally weaned or taken from Mom until they’re five to six weeks old.

If the kitten is eating solid food and you feel you can take the kitten either to adopt yourself or to find an appropriate home, yes, please do so.

When you do, place the kitten in a small, secure space, such as cage or bathroom with windows and cabinets closed. Make sure your kitten is secure and not near your other dogs or cats. Don’t assume they’ll think it’s “cute” and welcome the kitten.

Let’s say you can’t take in this darling kitten. Please make sure you leave food and water out. If the mother is nearby, you can leave kitten with his or her mother and wait until the youngster is old enough to spay and neuter or return.

Again, a shelter is not a safe place for kittens! It’s not the worst thing for cats to be outside in safe conditions.

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Tell me the truth about shelters. That name, “shelter,” implies something very safe, but can be very misleading, can’t it?

Yes, and you should know many rescue groups also kill. If a municipal pound EVER tells you they’re “no kill,” most likely it’s just not true. Staff there may tell you that because they inherently feel they are part of the “solution.” Or they feel the cats or better off dead than on the streets, but we could not disagree more.

Even the vast majority of self-proclaimed “no kill” shelters will kill an animal if he or she gets sick. Many will kill an animal to make room for a new animal coming in.

If you find a tame stray and you believe the cat has a home, put signs up without a photo. Have the person call you and ensure that the person identifies the cat and is not just someone wanting to get a free cat to sell to research or use for pit bull bait. It’s disturbing to contemplate either scenario, but it is reality.

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What about letting my kitten or cat near dogs?

As with an introduction, you must take it slow. Some dogs have a prey drive and you can’t train it out of them. Sometimes it’s the breed and sometimes it’s the upbringing but either way, be careful. Kittens are more vulnerable than cats and some dogs see kittens as rats. Just because a dog is friendly to some cats, that does not mean they are friendly to new cats. .

And we NEVER recommend leaving your larger-size dogs, 30 lbs. and up, with cats unsupervised even if they love each other. You could come home to a dead cat one day.

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I’ve identified a sick cat in my neighborhood. How can I help?

Many cats “on the street” that look ill just need some TLC. Most cats that I see on the streets that are sick, have mange or have upper respiratory disease: These two ailments can look bad but are easily curable without major expense.

For mange, drops of the medication Revolution® on the back of the neck will cure mange quickly. Revolution is a prescription-only, FDA-approved medication available only through a veterinarian and is NOT a pesticide registered by the EPA.  Revolution is a systemically acting, broad-spectrum parasiticide that has a well defined safety profile combined with excellent efficacy. If you order Revolution online from anywhere, especially abroad, you must make every effort to ensure it’s not counterfeit. To do this, contact the manufacturer, in this case, Pfizer, for information—you’ll be asked to provide ID numbers on the box.

For upper respiratory distress, antibiotics may be easily added to food.

Of course, if you can use a humane trap and bring the cat to a veterinarian who is compassionate and experienced with strays, that is always best. If you can’t do that or don’t know anyone to help, please e-mail us for simple solutions.

Again, please do not bring any cat, sick or well, to the shelters or pounds. The cat will be killed. For the most part, pounds do not treat ill cats.

People sometimes think that if a cat looks bad, it’s untreatable. That is just not true. Simple steps, like those above, save lives.

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Yikes! I’ve been threatened by animal control officers and ordered to stop feeding. I don’t want to…What do I do?

This can be a complicated issue, one we deal with frequently at Stray Cat Alliance. It depends upon the city or municipality—feeding laws are governed by city and local ordinances.

We suggest you absolutely continue feeding, or cats will starve. Try this: Move your feeding station to a discreet place nearby. The cats will move with you. Try feeding in morning or late afternoon and then picking up food and plates when sun goes down. If you can’t, feed your cats on leaves or tortillas, knowing birds will eat tortillas the next day.

Please do not leave a mess. Make sure your feeding area is as neat, clean and again, as discreet as possible.

Your goal is to interact with Animal Control in a logical, rational, calm, polite and respectful manner—We know that’s asking a lot, but you will get farther.

Each city has its own ordinances. However, stopping feeding strays would constitute cruelty to animals so you also have morality on your side. Please email us at info@straycatalliance.org.

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My cats have fleas. So does my house.

The world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company, Pfizer tells us on its Revolution product website (https://www.revolution4cats.com/default.aspx): “As a pet owner, you may have seen a recent update from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding safety issues with a number of the spot-on pesticides commonly found in pet stores and veterinary hospitals. (Please refer to the notes about Revolution above in the question about sick cats.)

We advise that you buy all flea products from your veterinarian. Without belaboring the point, in the last five years, some 1,600 pet deaths may be due to spot on treatments with pyrethroids. Hopefully, you’ve established a good relationship with your veterinarian, and can ask about flea control options including Frontline®, Advantage® and others.

One of our volunteers has recently had a bad experience with an over-the-counter flea treatment sold at major pet retailers and manufactured by a well-known company. Two of her cats had severe reactions to this product, which is also seen in a major product catalogue mailed to pet owners. Be so careful, and again, only use products recommended by your veterinarian.

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I am moving. Who will feed my feral?

Start early with everything…trapping ferals, then holding in humane cages, if you choose to take your ferals with you. Yes, many feeders do! Before you go, make sure they are healthy and spayed and neutered. Of course, if you can’t take them with you, also make sure they’re spayed and neutered.

Then proceed with identifying someone to be “you” when you’re gone. Join local rescue groups that place an emphasis on feeding ferals. Go to local pet stores and groomers, make signs, place ads on Craig’s List, but do not reveal the location of the cats until you know the new feeder is trustworthy. Ask everyone you know every place you go. And remember that asking someone to take over a colony is a big job. Most people kind enough to do it in your area are probably already doing it somewhere else. Please! Don’t up and leave your cats. They need you.

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My neighbors won’t spay or neuter cats roaming free between our houses. They appear to be offending owners. What to do?

Each city mandates its own ordinances. Surprisingly, most are not enforced anyway. We believe it is entirely ethical to spay and neuter the cats, no matter the wishes of the person who is feeding the cats. We do realize it’s a bit of a slippery slope for the responsible animal guardian who wants to halt overpopulation. We advocate fixing other people’s cats if the owners or guardians don’t choose to be responsible themselves.

Most of the time, neighbors on either side of the offending “owner” are upset with the cats and will cooperate with you and help. Why not try to lure the cats on to the property of any neighbor who will let you trap there?

Of course, you can try to reason with the person who won’t spay and neuter, but don’t rely on that to work, even if you’re politically astute and very likable. Many times, these people will never change their positions.

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This is serious. I think my colony is being poisoned.

If you believe someone is harming your cats, take it very seriously. Perhaps you’re suddenly “missing” cats, or you’ve found them sick or dead: You have hard evidence.

Know that cats do migrate and come back even months later. If you find a dead cat, treat the body like you are a CSI investigator. Wear examination gloves—buy at any pharmacy—then bring the body immediately to a veterinarian for a necropsy. In order for the doctor to do toxicology analyses, the body cannot be frozen, so it must be refrigerated. Time is of the essence, so please hurry—safely.

A veterinarian’s report, positive for toxins, is considered admissible evidence in court. Take the report to Animal Control or police and insist on an investigation.

Place warning signs all over your neighborhood. Suggested copy:

You are under surveillance for a felony under CA 597 (f) penal code.

Note: You can download a poster on the Stray Cat Alliance website via this link: Cat Cruelty Warning Poster

Many times, the mere presence of a sign will stop people from poisoning your cats.

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I have unwanted cats in my yard—specifically my beautiful garden. What to I do?

Build a scary scarecrow or purchase a sound-repelling device: You’ll find lots of effective and safe at pet stores and at:

a) Safe Pet Products: http://www.safepetproducts.com/cat-stop-cat-repellent-1-cat-repellent-on-the-market.html

b) Gardeners.com, for other cat deterrents.

Know that cats don’t like ammonia. Who wants to smell that? You can soak rags in ammonia and throw under a building, for example, to “evict” cats from that location. Of course, aim safely: You don’t want to throw a rag right on a cat!

Cats also don’t like: citrus peels, pipe tobacco and coffee grounds, the herb called “rue.” Decorative river rocks and plant stakes judiciously placed can also discourage that characteristic digging.

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