How to Care for Stray Cats

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio
While we may not be able to adopt stray cats, there are many things we can do to make sure they are taken care of.

Stray cats can be found just about anywhere, and they could definitely use some help to survive the elements throughout the changing seasons of the year, as well as get the food and water that they need to survive. If you’ve decided that you want to do your part to help stray kitties survive life outdoors, check out the tips below to get started.

Trap, Neuter, Return

Some strays can be socialized and adopted out, so if there is a colony of kitties that you want to help, contact local animal shelters, rescue groups, and foster networks. They may have the space and resources available to take some or all of the cats, get them accustomed to life indoors, and find forever homes for all of them.

Related: 5 Ways to Help Stray Kittens This Spring

Other strays, however, are too feral, so they aren’t good candidates for shelters or life indoors. And there sometimes aren’t enough rescues with enough space to take in all of the strays. Because feral cat populations can grow out of control quickly, one of the first and very best things that you can do for outdoor kitties who can’t be taken in by a shelter or adopted right away is get them spayed and neutered.

In order to keep stray populations as low as possible, contact a local TNR (trap-neuter-return) group or animal shelter that offers TNR services. These professionals can have all of the cats fixed and returned to their usual hangouts to live out the rest of their days without reproducing.

Every cat that is TNR’ed will have one of his/her ears tipped so you can easily recognize which cats have already been fixed.

Leave Food and Water Out

When feeding outdoor cats, you can opt to give them wet food or dry food, but don’t feed more than they can eat in a half hour. The cats will likely eat more food in the winter than in the summer, so you may also have to change the amount you feed depending upon the time of year.

Related: What is It And How Does It Help Feral Cats?

Don’t leave uneaten cat food out, as it will end up attracting wildlife and insects. Also do your best to keep the location where the cats are being fed clean and neat.

Outdoor kitties also require clean water every day throughout the year. To prevent the water from freezing, you can use dark bowls and leave them in a sunny spot to absorb the heat by day, as well as bowls that are deeper and wider. You can even buy a solar-powered water bowl or a double-layered bowl.

Provide the Strays with Shelter

In addition to food and water, stray cats need shelter, and you can build this quite easily using affordable materials. The kitties will be more inclined to use the shelter during the winter, when they need extra protection from cold temperatures and snow.

Stick with a cat shelter that is a minimum of 18” tall and a minimum of 2’x3’ long and wide. This will prevent heat from escaping easily, and it will be large enough for a few cats to squeeze in and huddle together to stay warm. The doorway to the shelter should only be around 6”-8” wide to reduce the chances of wildlife getting in, and you can even add a second doorway so the kitties won’t get cornered.

Make sure the shelter is camouflaged and in a safe and quiet spot, and use straw as the bedding, as it will help maintain a warm and dry space inside. For added protection from the harsh elements, elevate the shelter from the ground while making certain the shelter is windproof and waterproof.

Helping stray kitties doesn’t have to be challenging. Following a few simple rules regarding food, water, and shelter will ensure the cats, wildlife, and people in the neighborhood remain happy and safe.

Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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