What to do with stray cats?

Aug 6, 2009 at 2:25 p.m. ET

Stray cats can be a problem for the whole community, especially if they're not spayed or neutered. Learn some ways to help the cause and keep them off the street.

Feral Cats

The sad truth

Unfortunately, unwanted animals are a part of our society. They are the kittens that were dumped because they grew up, started being inconvenient and stopped being cute; and the cats that were too expensive (difficult, annoying, problematic) to move when their owners did and were, therefore, abandoned. Because many of these cats and kittens are not spayed or neutered, feral cat colonies have exploded.

These feral cats are a part of every community. And the more they breed, the bigger the problem becomes. Many of the strays are not suitable as housecats, either. So what can you do?

Contact a no-kill shelter

You could take them to the pound. But you should be aware they kill a vast number of animals every year, so you may be signing the cat's death warrant.

Instead, try to contact a no-kill shelter and find out about trap, neuter, return (TNR) programs in your area. While the TNR do not find homes for the cats, they neuter or spay the cats (clipping one of their ears to make them easily identifiable for people) and return them to where they were found. This will not only stop them from producing more unwanted cats, but can also reduce their need to mark a territory or fight -- giving them longer, healthier lives.

Bring them to a humane society

Most states also have humane societies. They are dedicated to handle situations just like this, and will have a website that can provide tips for bringing in a stray cat to the proper authorities. Some may even have suggestions on how to best integrate a homeless cat into your life.

Try a local veterinarian

What if you would like to bring a local stray to the veterinarian? There are safe and humane ways to trap a feral cat, and the best way is to get a special cage. Research the organizations in your area that practice TNR; they will often let you borrow one of their traps. These places, however, run on donations and usually operate beyond their means, so be generous. These organizations will also have vets who will neuter the cats for a reduced fee.

Adopt a cat or two

Now, if you would like to adopt a cat from the streets, be aware that feral cats do not make for friendly house pets. These chances do improve if it is a kitten or a young cat.

You don't have to feel bad feeding stray cats in your area. But make sure you help and have them fixed, as it will help stop the cat colony from growing further and give the strays a happier, healthier life.

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