We Canadians know what Canadian winters all are about. The frigid cold that is relentless for days at a time before the next “warm day” make it difficult for us to simply run to our vehicles in the morning before work. Now imagine being stuck outside for 24 hours fighting to eat and survive. Unfortunately, that is the sad and difficult reality of stray and feral cats. In Canada alone there are estimated to be between 1,200,000 and 4,000,000 stray and feral. A feral cat simply means that they are too poorly socialized to be a household pet. The stray/feral cat pandemic is continuing to grow each day as a single cat and her kittens can produce 400,000 more cats.

This is an issue that our humane society’s and shelters are working on decreasing with a “trap-neuter-return” program. This program essentially is a harmless capture in a cat/racoon trap followed up with a trip to the humane society where they will spay/neuter the cat before returning it to its neighborhood. Many wonder why these cats are returned to their environment that they were previously in, and it is a great question to ask. Experts find that these cats will try and get back to their old home regardless of where we relocate them and being in a new environment also tends to make them more anxious and afraid. This program benefits both the cats as well as humans. Firstly, the cats who are neutered/spayed tend to gain and keep on more weight which allows them to stay warmer as well as fewer health problems generally speaking. The benefits for humans are usually there are more peace and quiet as a spayed cat provokes fewer fights between potential mates in the neighborhood. As well as fewer injured or deceased cats in the neighborhood as that can be very traumatizing. The average lifespan of a feral cat is between 2-3 years which is not long enough.

Helping stay and feral cats can be very easy. The best way right off the bat is to spay/neuter your own cat as early as you can because cats can reproduce at only five months of age. Another great way is to reach out to local organizations and see how you can help in your community. Becoming a community cat caretaker is another way to make a difference within the feral cat community. Providing a little outdoor shelter with food and water available will certainly be appreciated by the neighborhood strays as many go days without eating.

Unfortunately, the stray and feral cat problem is not going away anytime soon, but if cat owners all take the steps to be responsible and mindful, the stray cat population will eventually decrease. It requires a lot of work and cooperation with everyone involved but with all these steps considered and put into action, the stray and feral cat populations will start to decrease, and less cats left to suffer in homeless environments.

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