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What Do I Do About Feral Cats In My Neighborhood Now That It’s Getting Cold?

The onset of cold weather in New England conjures up images of hot chocolate by the fire and cozy curl-ups with our favorite furry family members by the fire.  For us at the shelter it’s also when we start getting phone calls that sound like the title above. Good-hearted people worrying about the “neighborhood cat” and wondering if they should try to trap him and bring him to the shelter before the snow starts.  If the cat is clearly an abandoned pet or a friendly stray we say of course and schedule an appointment.  If it is a free-roaming cat, that is, a cat whose owners let it go out, we encourage you to let it be -she knows her way home.  (PS: if you’re not sure how to tell the difference between a free roaming cat and a stray we did a handy blog post earlier this year about how to tell, you can read it here). But what about the cats that are clearly feral, have adapted to life in the wild, and both want and need to live outdoors.  What do we do about them?**

Can We Just Bring Them To The Shelter For Adoption?

The first thing we want to tell you is that with 50-100 Million feral cats in the US, according to Alley Cat Allies, a Washington, DC based nonprofit, you’re not alone in wondering what to do about feral cats.  Unfortunately, adoption isn’t a good option for feral adults or even older feral kittens.  Essentially, once a kitten reaches 5-6 month of age as a feral they will always be that way.  These cats are not socialized and will not make good house pets, their brains have already developed to permanently adapt to life out doors away from people. That means that even if you brought that cat to the shelter we couldn’t adopt it out to a family.  The people wouldn’t be happy and neither would the cat.  It would most likely hiss, scratch, bite, and dart out the door as soon as possible, ending up outside but without the advantage of familiar surroundings. So what can you do if you have a friendly-enough-but-not-really-a-pet type of personality feral cat in your neighborhood? Well, the good news is that cats are wonderful survivalists and great at adapting to weather and other challenges. They’re actually pretty good at surviving on their own.  If you’re committed though, all they really need is some passive assistance to help them through the worst of the winter.

outdoor animal shelter
The link will take you to a tutorial for this DIY cat shelter

Shelter

Feral cats often rely on each other for heat and protection during the winter so winter shelters for feral cats can be a simple as a place for them to shelter from the worst of the wind and snow. If you want to make something specifically for them you can see a simple tutorial that the ASPCA offers here.

By and large though feral cats are adept at finding places to shelter for the winter.  Under porches and decks, in sheds or garages, or even under dumpsters.  It’s not a cozy warm house to be sure but ferals are good at staying warm and dry so if you see one and it doesn’t look like it’s in any trouble, it’s probably not.

Food

Cats are excellent hunters and can catch everything from bugs and mice to chipmunks, birds, and a host of other animals.  With that being said, feral cats require more food and water in the winter because they are burning calories  to stay warm in addition to their regular energy output.  Many people choose to put out cat food and water in the winter but you should be aware of some caveats before you decide to go this route:

  1. If you feed them they will come.  And bring their friends. And not leave.
  2. If they get used to you feeding them they will rely on you for food instead of hunting.  Then, if you stop they will go hungry instead of hunting because they’re expecting you to come and take care of them.  You could actually cause them more harm in the long run.
  3. Putting out a bunch of high calorie food in the winter may attract non-cat animals like raccoons, squirrels, or even predators like coyotes and that might cause fights, disease, and other trouble for your ferals.
  4. If you feed the cats but don’t clean up afterwards the neighbors will get mad and understandably so, no one wants a big cat mess of dirty plates and scattered moldy food in the neighborhood.  That could make things bad for everyone, cats and humans.

If you do decide to feed your ferals though there is one big upside, feeding them creates a safe location that they will go to with some degree of predictability and that makes it easier to TNR – that it, Trap, Neuter, and Release.

ear tip
Ear tips communicate that the feral cat is vaccinated and sterile.

TNR

TNR is our ultimate goal for feral cats that cannot adapt to living in a home with a family. The concept is simple and effective, trap the cat with a box trap, bring the cat to a veterinarian to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and have it’s ear notched (the universal sign that a feral cat has been neutered and vaccinated), and then return the cat to it’s cat colony outdoors.  The cat lives out the rest of it’s days without creating any more baby cats and with no new population the colony naturally dies out over a few years.

TNR not only controls the cat population without mass euthanasia but it reduces disease and improves the quality of life for the cats in the colony while addressing human concerns about the stray cat population.  If you have made the decision to care for a cat colony by putting out food or creating a shelter TNR is the next logical step to ensure that your efforts don’t go on forever, something both the cats and your human neighbors are sure to appreciate.

If you have a feral cat or even a cat colony visit our resources page for information about MA organizations that do TNR.

What To Do

In conclusion, if you observe a cat in your neighborhood and you’re worried about what to do as winter arrives:

  1. Determine whether it’s actually a stray or is rather a free-roaming cat or a pet that has gotten outside
  2. If the animal is hurt or injured call animal control immediately
  3. If the animal is feral and seems fine, it probably is. Don’t try to bring it to the shelter because we can’t adopt out feral cats. Instead decide how you want to do to support the animal through the winter and then reach out to a non-profit that does TNR for feral cats.

 

**  If you have found a hurt or injured cat please call your local animal control immediately.

 

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A Message From Our President

As we continue to celebrate National Animal Shelter Appreciation week, we want to do a big shout-out to our volunteers and to our supporters (sometimes they are one-in-the-same)!  Since our beginnings back in 2009, we have had the support of dozens of volunteers and countless supporters … combined with our staff, these groups complete the three-legged-stool that provides the platform for the Animal Protection Center to be the valuable resource to help animals and people in our communities.

Each day, our volunteers do an endless array of tasks ensuring the Center is clean; dishes are washed, laundry is washed, and so many other routines that are all part of keeping the pets in our care safe, healthy, and loved – and that is just what goes on in the Center!  There is a small army of volunteers in the background organizing events that help raise funds and provide guidance for the Center – Board of Directors, Paws in the Park, Dogtoberfest, Yard Sales, Bake Sales, Book Sales and the Tails & Ties Gala are just a few. As a fellow volunteer, I can attest that we all believe in the Center and its mission.

And without our supporters from the community at large – both people and businesses – the APCSM would not have been able to build a firm foundation and remain a stable organization here to help.  The generosity and the commitment to the Center has been and continues to be outstanding – whether it is a donation of paper towels and blankets raised by a child at his/her birthday party, someone making a monetary contribution, family & friends participating in an event, or a local business leader committing to a yearly sponsorship… we know it was done with love and is greatly appreciated.

So to our volunteers and fellow community members, thank you for the hard work, support and helping our organization help the animals and pets in our area.  – Chuck G (Volunteer, Board of Director President)

25532055_10208311546786099_8686737042129520238_oIn addition to being our board president Chuck Givonetti and his partner Renato are proud parents to APCSM Alumni dog Dory and long time locals. You can meet them at most APCSM events. 

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Home For The Holidays??

Donors are stepping up to pay adoption fees for our harder-to-adopt pets!  See them below!

It’s a little early for snow here at the Animal Protection Center but we are experiencing the best kind of snowball effect, donors are stepping up to pay the adoption fees for our harder to adopt animals.  Just this weekend 2 generous donors paid the adoption fees for Cupid and Lester, two dogs currently available.  Then on Tuesday an anony-mouse donor paid the adoption fees for all cats over 10 years old currently in residence.  Our hope is that having these animals be “free to good families”  will help these wonderful animals go home for the holidays!  If you would like to join this momentum to paw-it-forward you can sponsor an animal’s adoption fee (you can see the fees here) by donating and listing your intention in the notes.  Just choose an available animal.

STEP 1: Make your PayPal donation and let it take you to the “Special Instructions To Seller” page (This will be before you confirm your donation).

sponsor-1-935441321-1541520958263.jpg

STEP 2: Add your note about who you want to sponsor.

sponsor2

DONE!

 

Here’s a list of the animals who are currently being sponsored, click on their names to be linked to their profile!

Dogs

 

Lester

Lester

Cupid

Cupid

Cats

parmesan

Parmesan

sarafina

Sarafina

Photo-Not-Available-cat

Raja

 

Corey

Corey

pasquale

Pasquale

Photo-Not-Available-cat

Brittany

Gus

Gus

princess

Princess

 

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Holiday Photos With Santa On Dec 1!!

Why spend $30 on a mall Santa photo when for just a little more your whole family can have a holiday experience with the APCSM! Bring your whole family – furries too! – for cookies and milk and a mini portrait session with our professional photographer Ashley. You’ll get a digital copy in about a week and print ones by December 15.

The photos are taken on a first come-first served basis however we are asking families to pre-register.  No money will be collected at pre-registration but we will collect your mailing address for the photos and information to help Santa interact with your dogs and children.

Event Details:

Date: Saturday, December 1, 2018

Time: 10am-4pm

Location: APCSM, 1300 West Elm Ext., Brockton, MA 02301 (508-586-2053)

Cost: $30 (includes 1 final photo with additional poses/copies available for purchase)

Pre-Register!

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How Does A Cat Make It Into The Lounge?

The Cat Lounge is one of our most popular rooms at the shelter.  The room is just off of the lobby and can hold up to 6 or more cats who are free to roam the space, play, eat, and interact with the public.  Almost everyone who comes in to look at cats makes a stop in the lounge for playing, petting, and other positive interactions with the cats. In fact, if you’re a cat at the APCSM, the lounge is where you want to be.  So how do we decide what cats make it into the lounge?  The truth is that a variety of factors can make a cat eligible (or ineligible) for the lounge. Read on for a behind the scenes look into our cat evaluation process for: The Cat Lounge.

Factor 1: Health.  Our first job here at the shelter is to keep our pets healthy and safe on their Journey Home.  If a cat is sick with anything – even something mild – they can’t go to the lounge.  Examples of this might be a cold or respiratory infection, an open wound like from a dental surgery, or something congenital like Cerebellar Hypoplasia.  If there is a condition that could put either that cat or the rest of the lounge at risk, the cat can’t go in.

Also, the cat lounge is a free-feeding space.  That means we set out several bowls of wet food, dry food, and water for all the cats to share. Therefore, if a cat has a special diet he can’t go to the lounge.  Grain free? Nope. Diabetic? Nope. Wet food only? Nope. Really fat and needs a diet? Sorry.  If we need to manage the cat’s food for any reason from portion control to special digestive wet food that cat can’t be in the lounge.

Factor 2: Personality.  The health and safety of our animals is always priority #1 but personality comes close behind.  After all, if a cat is aggressive to other cats and we let her into the lounge, that would endanger the safety of the others.  We only even consider cats who seem to be OK around other cats AND people, and have no bite history.

Factor 3: Other Factors.  There are a few other factors that will make a cat (or cats) more likely to be considered for the lounge.  Bonded pairs that need to be kept together for example, do much better in the larger room than squeezed together in a cage on the adoption floor. Bigger cats that might need more room, or older cats that feel more comfortable resting on a big soft couch.   If we only have a couple of slots open in the lounge and there are a bunch of cats that qualify, these are the factors that will give a pet priority.

If a cat is healthy and meets those criteria we’ll try a supervised visit to the Cat Lounge.

The Visit.  A staff member will bring the potential lounge cat to the room and let him go to roam, sniff, and meet the other residents.  The staffer will stay and observe the interactions between the cats in order to make sure there’s nothing unusual.  We expect a certain amount of hissing, swatting, and challenging but by and large we’ll know pretty quickly if it’s real aggression or just posturing.  If it’s a good fit we’ll let the pet stay in the lounge and when we open our visitors will see a furry new face waiting for love in the lounge.

The Takeaway.  So here’s what the kids these days are calling “the cheat.”  The cheat is that if you need a family cat that’s got no significant health issues and is good with other animals, humans, and even potentially kids, the lounge should be your first stop.  Yes, the kittens are cute but the lounge cats are all pre-vetted for personality and ease of care or they wouldn’t be there in the first place.  Now are they all “the perfect pet”? NO! There’s no such thing as a perfect pet, just a pet that’s perfect for you and depending on your needs the right pet for you may not be in the lounge.  But it’s a good place to start.

See Our Available Animals!