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Feral cats: How can I help them?

1 Getting involved

Have you ever spotted one of the shy feral cats and kittens who tend to live around shopping centres, hospitals and office buildings? Perhaps you felt a twinge of anxiety, wondering whether the kitten or cat belonged to anyone and whether he or she was ok.

If so, you probably have the huge heart of a feral caregiver in the making. And that kitten or cat you saw? He or she most probably does need help.

A community kitten born on the street

2. What is a feral or community cat?

The dictionary defines ‘feral’ as ‘wild, untamed’, but the term is often used to describe any unowned or community cat living on the streets of our cities. Some are strays that have become separated from their owners. They may have been abandoned, or lost their way, or they may have escaped due to abuse or neglect. Many are born on the streets from either formerly tame or wild mothers. They therefore don’t come into close contact with humans during the first two months of their lives, and remain ‘wild’. In other words, they’re afraid of humans.

The best way to find out how you can help, is by chatting to any of the security guards on the premises. They almost always know whether someone is caring for the community cats in the area. They will also know where the feeding stations (if any) are.

Perhaps you’ve found such a feeding station, often consisting only of a few feeding bowls and a container of water. You might want to leave a note under one of the food bowls to make contact with the caregiver. You could introduce yourself, offer to help, and provide your contact details. Or you could leave the details with the guard you chatted to.

If no one is caring for the cats and their condition seems poor, you may want to step into the role of primary caregiver yourself. And don’t be concerned – it’s all pretty straightforward. The cats need food, water, and shelter. And once you’re into it, you can arrange for them to be sterilised.

3. Principles to bear in mind when caring for community cats

  • Keep it unobtrusive. When caring for community cats, try to keep it as unobtrusive as possible, as there will always be people who don’t like cats and may object to their presence or even demand their removal. Place any dishes, tubs, crates or igloos as unobtrusively as possible, and use only neutral colours such as dark green, grey or black. In some situations, you may not be able to use bowls or igloos at all, but perhaps only one or two inconspicuous water dishes.

  • Don’t remove community cats from their own environment. If possible, don’t relocate community cats, but leave them in their own environment, where they are happy and feel at home (even though it may not seem ideal to you). Also make sure as best you can that they are fed and sterilised. (Contact me or your nearest NPO if you’re experiencing problems with body corporates or landlords wanting the cats gone.)

  • Enjoy them. Caring for community cats has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I don’t regret one minute or one Rand spent on them, and would gladly do it all over again!

Feral cats gathering for a meal

Cat quote of the week

‘Time spent with cats is never wasted.

Sigmund Freud

Did you know?

A cat will give you a long, slow blink to say ‘I love you’ or ‘I trust you’.

Try blinking slowly at the next cat you see. He or she will probably blink back.

Cat Story 2: Huge colony in Limpopo, South Africa, need all the help we can give them!

There are approximately 400 community cats living around the University of Limpopo. For years they had to fend for themselves and were in terrible condition. Some of the kind students and members of staff did what they could to feed some of the cats. But over the long December breaks, many of the cats and especially the kittens didn’t make it.

Then, a few years ago, a compassionate and resolute woman accepted a post at the University. We’ll call her Angel. She made it her mission to feed and steri as many of the cats as possible. Every day after work, she visited 44 feeding stations, using about 40 kg of catfood daily. This labour of love took her about 5 hours every single night. She also arranged a number of steri campaigns with the help of NCat and a few awesome colleagues and outside sponsors.

Limpopo cats

A few of the 400 feral cats at the University of Limpopo

Eventually though, Angel had to leave the University, and very understandably she was no longer able to support the cats financially either.

Enter the two intrepid ladies of Urban Feral Cats Polokwane, who have been valiantly trying to continue sterilising the cats at the University. This task is made much harder by the fact that they live 30 km from the University. They’re prepared to travel there twice a month to sterilise and feed when funds are available, but they’re entirely dependent on donations by the public.

They need our help!

So: If you’re able to sponsor any amount monthly towards the feeding and sterilisation of the UL community cats, the members of Urban Feral Cats Polokwane would dearly love to hear from you. Please won’t you include a comment here to let them know you will help long-term? No matter how small your contribution will be – it will make a difference! I will be sure to pass your message on to them, or to let you have their contact details so you can chat to them directly. See for more info on them.

Banking details: NCat, FNB Sandton, branch code 250655, account 62362218440, swift code FIRNZAJJ, ref ‘Limpopo’ and your name. Any amount thus earmarked will be passed onto Polokwane immediately!

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