By: Robin Desmet – January 2018
For the past couple of weeks, those of us who live in New England have been subjected to bone chilling cold. Can you even imagine having to live outside in this type of weather? Sadly, this is a reality for many cats.
This is no time of year for animals to be outside, never mind live outside, but many cats find themselves in this position through no fault of their own. Some of these cats are strays. Many have been abandoned by owners who have moved away and left them behind, forcing them to fend for themselves. Others have been let outside when they displeased their owners or when they got too old and the kids lost interest in them. Some have darted out impulsively when a door opened and have become lost.
These cats spend their days scrounging around for food and shelter, trying to avoid predators, cars, and other dangerous situations. They have gone from getting a meal every day at home, to not knowing where their next meal is coming from. When it gets cold, they find shelter where they can under sheds, in abandoned buildings and garages, and in car engines. If left outside long enough, the ones that survive will become feral. They will be afraid of people and will be forced to spend the rest of their lives out in the cold fending for themselves.
Sometimes these strays try to join up with a feral colony of cats that have a caretaker so they can get some of their meals. But the important thing to note here is that these cats don’t have to spend the rest of their lives out in the cold. They can be coaxed indoors or into a cat carrier, or trapped with a Have –a- Heart trap. Once captured, they can be brought to a local animal shelter, such as Nevins Farm. Here, they can be scanned for a microchip, and if they are indeed a lost cat, they can then be reunited with their owners. If they do not have any identification, they can get the medical treatment that they often need, and then they can be adopted into a new home. They can go from living the hard life of a street cat back to living the cushy life of an indoor cat.
Other cats you may see outside are ferals. These are cats that are not socialized to humans. They are afraid of people and they would not make suitable indoor pets. They can be trapped and then vaccinated and neutered, but they cannot be placed into homes. After they have been spayed or neutered, they are put back where they were found. These are cats that are born outside and have lived their whole lives outside, or cats that have been living outside for a long time. These community cats often form groups, or colonies, and some are lucky enough to find a caretaker. There are some kindly individuals who treat these feral cats like their outdoor pets. They take care of the cats on a regular basis, providing them with food, water, and shelter.
In the cold, harsh days of winter there is no better time to lend a helping hand to the animals. Making a feral cat a bit more comfortable or rescuing a stray from the streets is not only rewarding, but it is the humane thing to do. If you find a cat in your yard and are unsure of what to do, take the first step and contact your local animal shelter for assistance or advice. Helping the helpless. It’s the right thing to do.