We may not always see them – but they’re out there. Some hide in barns and outbuildings, some gather near restaurant dumpsters, some stop regularly at a backyard where a kind person puts food out. These are cats that live outdoors and most prefer it that way. They are our “community cats.”
Many have lived outdoors for their entire lives; others may be recently lost or abandoned pets trying to find their way home. Many are considered feral or wild, while others appear to be tame and friendly with humans. There are pregnant cats, newborns, older kittens, adults and seniors – all deserving to live full, healthy lives.
Often, an animal shelter will spearhead a humane approach to help through a comprehensive community cat program along with help from local animal control. However, in Hunterdon County there is no central animal shelter. Also, many of the contracts that our 26 municipalities have with various animal control providers do not include feral cats! We are compelled to rely on an atomized group of non-profit organizations and individual volunteers to react to pleas for help in random geographical areas – usually after cat populations have exploded out of control. (Most people don’t realize that a small community of 12 cats can become 50 in a season!)
Fortunately, this group of concerned and compassionate people is beginning to coalesce – and focus on a more strategic approach. To continue, we need participation from you, our community members. Can you give two hours this month to save lives? Pick one – or more – of the following ways to help:
Trapping – Learn about the equipment and techniques used to catch community cats, get paired with an experienced trapped who will mentor and help you hone your trapping skills.
Providing A Holding Area – After trapping (while waiting to go to the clinic) and after surgery, community cats need a safe place with a consistent moderate temperature. The total holding time varies from 2 to 5 days, depending on the project. Do you have a location with appropriate space that you’re willing to donate once or twice a month?
Transporting – Once the community cats are trapped, they need to be transported to and from a spay/neuter clinic (or a shuttle location that takes them to and from a clinic), then to the recovery area, and then back to the location where they were originally trapped. Do you drive a vehicle that can hold a bunch of cats, each in their own trap?
Feeding (Colony Care) – Our community cats depend on people to provide food and clean water. Do you want to become a colony caretaker or share the responsibility with a team of caretakers? Can you fill in periodically in case a caretaker is away on business or vacation?
Fostering – Young kittens, once weaned, need care and socialization with humans to get them ready for adoption into permanent homes. Are you willing to take in and care for kittens (or the occasional friendly cat) until they get adopted?
Bottle Feeding – Sometimes, very young kittens are abandoned or the mom cat is severely injured or killed. Are you willing to take in and bottle feed at regular intervals (frequency depends on age) for 4 weeks or longer?
Organizing An Event – There are other opportunities to help, such as fundraising or a food, litter and supplies drive or our monthly Spay/Neuter Shuttle or an effort to build feral shelters and feeding stations. Are you eager and adept at organizing, coordinating, promoting and managing an initiative?
Donating – Donate time, donate money, or donate supplies for any of the above-mentioned needs.
Want to help? Need more information? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org , call 908-969-1809 or comment below.
All new volunteers will be paired with an experienced community cat volunteer for training and mentoring.
Here are a few links from respected sources that provide some very good background information about community cats: