Until we adopted our little Talley, all our cats were barn cats. They were all adopted to live in our barn because they were considered “unadoptable” for some reason or other. Some have been feral, others were just not people-oriented, and others had behavior problems that no one could fix. One and all, they had issues that made life indoors as a pet more cruel than kind. So they came to us.
We provide basic veterinary care, food, and shelter to these cats, and in exchange their presence keeps rodents away. But not all feral cats are lucky enough to have a safe place to shelter when winter turns ugly.
In this week’s Pet Connection newspaper feature, my writing partner, Kim Campbell Thornton, and I dig into the many ways animal lovers can create and provide shelter for feral cats in their community or neighborhood. These methods are simple and inexpensive (or free!), and can mean the difference between life and death for a cat in winter.
They can also make it possible for those who work to spay/neuter and vaccinate these cats, to reduce illness and overpopulation, to more easily trap the kitties.
If you have unowned cats near you, and have wondered how they’ll get through the winter, please take a look at the information we’ve pulled together, and share it with your family, friends, and neighbors!
Out of the Cold: Keep community cats comfortable and safe during winter’s chill
The more my life is full of blessings, the more moved I am by all those who extend their compassion to animals.
I went to the Bonners Ferry United Methodist Church the other day. This church is sacred to us; it’s where my wife, Teresa, and our children were baptized, where my wife went to Sunday school, where we were married, and where Teresa’s Dad’s funeral services were held. It has a wonderful minister and we love the church family there.
I got to church late (too many animals to take care of!), and I noticed a church regular had snuck out the back door of the fellowship hall and was putting out some food for what looked like stray cats. I smiled and then starting thinking about how veterinarians like me often invisibly wink or have a sly grin when someone brings a cat into our practice and says something like, “It’s not really my cat, it’s just a stray that I feed.”
Many people have fed this cat for 10 years but if they didn’t see the kitten come out of his mother’s womb, or the cat doesn’t live inside the house, they somehow don’t think of it as “their” cat.
And yet, these kind souls will be out there in all kinds of weather, making sure the cat — who they often can’t even pet or pick up! — has enough to eat and is warm and protected from storms.
They find a way to bring the cat to me for veterinary care.
They even often offer this same care to neighborhood cats who might loosely belong to someone else, or several famlies.
This holiday season, I want to give heartfelt thanks and praise for everyone who has ever gone out of their way to feed and spay/neuter feral cats, to rescue a sick or injured animal, or call authorities when they’ve witnessed animal abuse. You are my heroes, one and all!