You may have noticed stray cats in your garden. If they seem to have no other home, they may be a wild cat. A wild cat is a domestic cat who has been born and raised without contact with humans, or a cat who has not had contact with humans for a significant period of time and has become unsocialized.
Usually this happens when they are dumped by owners no longer willing or able to care for them. Others have been left behind when their owners moved house or passed away. Some are lost. Many will have reverted to a wild state in order to survive. Their offspring will be wild as they will not have had interaction with humans. These cats endure a very difficult life, often struggling to survive in sometimes harsh conditions with not enough to eat on a daily basis, a lack of adequate shelter from the elements and with no access to veterinary treatment. All are trying to survive as best they can
If you would like to help wild cats in this situation we need to:
One female cat and her offspring can be responsible for a colony of 30 cats in an area in just one year. A Trap/neuter/return (TNR) policy will prevent more cats from being born and the numbers increasing. Too many cats in an area can cause problems, particularly neighbourhood disharmony, so it’s vital their breeding is stopped and their numbers contained as soon as possible.
Regardless of how wild a cat is, humane traps are available to trap them for transportation to a vet where they are spayed/neutered, treated for parasites and after a recovery period returned back to their location to continue to live and be fed by caring individuals.
The Fingal SPCA offers such a service so if you think a wild cat is in your area, please contact us on 089 461 2537 or by email.
Access to food on a regular basis is vital to ensure they survive and thrive. If you have cats in your area or workplace, feeding them once or twice daily will be ideal. Or you can set up a feeding station like the one in this photo. A gravity feeder which will keep dry cat food fresh for several days, can be placed inside a plastic storage container with a hole cut out to allow the cats access. Place it out of public view to prevent it being stolen or tampered with. Feeders come in various sizes to allow cats to eat for several days before the food runs out. Read more on setting up a feeding station for cats. More idea for feeding stations here.
Access to water is vital for cats. Place water bowls in, outside or on top of feeding stations to catch rainwater which is sometimes more preferable to cats.
Shelter is vital for wild cats to help them survive the winter weather. If cats are coming into your garden, consider allowing them to shelter in a shed or garage via an open door or window or cutting a cat sized opening in a door or installing a cat flap. A dog kennel is another option. Simple beds made with plastic containers lined with straw are easy to keep clean and the straw is inexpensive to replenish.
Cheap weatherproof shelter such as styrofoam boxes can be set up very easily. These boxes are available from restaurants, fish shops, vets, hospitals etc. Simply cut out a cat sized hole in the box, tape the lid on, cover with a heavy duty refuse sack and line with straw to make a cosy shelter that the cats will appreciate. Place out of public view and weigh down with rocks or bricks on top. Check the boxes regularly and replace the straw when necessary.
Examples of shelter boxes. We would recommend that these types of boxes are used in domestic, garden settings only. We can provide kennel type shelters if required, please contact us to discuss.
To keep your garden and area clean, providing a litter tray is a good idea. Provide covered litter trays or sand/compost boxes in an appropriate area and clean regularly.
Our thanks to Feral Cats Ireland Organisation for this information.