About a year and a half ago a local spay and neuter organization asked for volunteers to help feed a local feral cat colony. I didn’t know anything about feral cats, but being a cat person, I called the volunteer in charge of the colony.
I learned that there is a colony living behind a nearby hardware store, and that volunteers feed and manage the colony. I also learned what makes a cat feral rather than stray. Basically, stray cats are cats that have become lost or been abandoned. They’ve had interaction with humans, and can be approached and petted. Feral cats are much more wary of humans, and usually cannot be approached or petted. They are often cats who are the offspring of stray cats.
Because feral cats cannot be adopted into homes the goal is to humanely manage a colony through providing adequate food and water, a TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) program, and providing medical care for any cats that may become injured. The goal is basically to keep them healthy, and to keep them from reproducing.
Estimates vary as to the number of cats in our local colony, but most of us believe there are somewhere around a dozen cats. One gentleman who is retired largely heads up our little group of feeders, with about five of us taking a day or two a week to feed the cats. He’s also the person who coordinates with the local T-N-R group to make sure any new cats are spayed/neutered, and to get medical care for any cats that any of us notice with an injury.
Most of us have never met in person; we just exchange emails to work out feeding schedules and to discuss what’s going on with the cats. We’re all cat lovers, so we’re happy to work together to get them fed, adjusting the feeding schedule as needed to make sure they’re fed on holidays and any time one of us is out of town.
We’ve all managed to find a favorite cat, or two, and we update each other whenever we haven’t seen a particular cat in a while. One volunteer builds shelters for the cats during the cold weather, and most of us take them treats when we feed on a holiday.
It’s not a complicated or official system, but it seems to work. The cats look good, and the colony doesn’t seem to be growing. While none of us are able to pet the cats, or even get very close to them, they do seem to know and expect us. They sit and wait just a few feet from the feeding area in the mornings. It seems like they know we’re coming, and maybe know they can trust us, even if it’s only to bring them food every day.