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Colony Care Guide


http://www.alleycat.org/view.image?Id=3148

All across the world, people are caring for stray and feral cats. Although roles that people choose to assume may vary, one thing remains consistent—people take great satisfaction in helping to improve the quality of life for cats. Some people carry out trapping and ensure that the cats are vetted: they may or may not be the caregivers. Others serve as both the trapper and the colony's caregiver. In circumstances where there are several people involved who work or live in the vicinity, the cats may enjoy a team of caregivers.

If there are caregivers, they provide food and water regularly and sometimes create shelters depending on the environment and if extreme winters or summers require additional protection for the cats. The caregivers provide something else that is critical: They give the cats a voice by educating neighbors and people who work in or near the colony's territory. Education and in some cases, mediation, is an essential aspect of Trap-Neuter-Return and colony care.

Feral cats live in all parts of the country, in about every kind of climate and habitat. They find shelter and a food source because they are opportunists. Feeding and providing shelter for feral cats allows them to peacefully co-habitate in an area. While some people welcome them for rodent control, providing nutritious food keeps them both from roaming in search of a food source and also less susceptible to disease and parasites.

Caring for a feral cat colony has tremendous benefits to caregivers, neighbors, and the cats. Though cats have been living outdoors for over 10,000 years on their own, there are steps that you as a caregiver can take to promote their well-being, make them good neighbors, and assist the people who live nearby in understanding and co-existing with the cats.


Consider sharing the following tips with other people you know who are caring for feral cats so that they too can be informed and supported. They may not be aware of all the resources that exist.

Basic care for feral cats can involve the following:

    1. Conducting ongoing Trap-Neuter-Return as needed.
    2. Providing food and water.
    3. Providing shelter.
    4. Monitoring members of the colony and provide ongoing health care.
    5. Helping cats and people co-exist – what you can do.
    6. Planning for back-up colony care.
http://www.alleycat.org/view.image?Id=3148

Monitoring members of the colony and providing ongoing health care.

Keeping track of members of your colony, their health, new cats who have joined the colony who may need to be neutered and your ongoing Trap-Neuter-Return program allows you to monitor your progress and provides you with back-up evidence that may be needed someday.


  • Health: It is a good idea to keep an eye on the cats for general good health. Common indicators of health problems or injury include: changes in behavior, changes in eating habits, dull eyes or coat, discharge from the nose or eyes, weight loss, fur loss, changes in their gait, and listlessness.

    Have a plan with your veterinarian for how to handle any health problems and for ongoing colony care. When a health problem occurs, speak with your veterinarian first and describe the symptoms so that you can decide together if a sick cat needs to be trapped and examined.

    For ongoing colony care, ask your veterinarian to provide you with deworming medicine and antibiotics to have on hand to care for minor health problems. Have a financial plan in place for any cats that may need veterinary care due to injury or illness.

  • Flea Control: Your veterinarian can apply a long-lasting topical flea control product such as Advantage when the cats are anesthetized for neutering. There are also oral flea medications (such as CAPSTAR) that can be added to the food, but monitoring the dosage can be difficult for feral cats, who share food.

    Change the bedding in shelters at least twice a year. At that time, spray or dust the floor with a cat-safe flea control product. Or, sprinkle diatomaceous earth beneath the straw to deter fleas. Sprinkling mint or dried pyrethrum flowers beneath the bedding may also help. Fleas are a natural part of life outdoors, so while you can try your best to control them, they are not something you need to be worried about excessively.
  • Tapeworms: It is not uncommon for feral cat colonies to have tapeworms. These can be treated with dewormer when they are taken in for neutering. If you find that your colony of already neutered cats has worms, it is not something you need to worry about a lot. Tapeworms will not harm otherwise healthy cats.

  • Record Keeping: You should hold on to all medical records for each cat in every colony for which you care. A medical record should contain a listing of each vaccination (especially rabies) and any other medical procedures. The record should also include documentation of the cat's neuter and, if the cat was micro-chipped, the manufacturer, and the number of the chip. Include a photo of each cat with his or her record. Make sure to update the photo occasionally as their coloring and size can change with age.

    You should always be prepared for the possibility that someone such as animal control could question the status of your colony. This is why it is important to keep current, accurate health records for all of the cats.

    One way to stay organized is to keep all information for a colony together in a three ring binder. Not only will you be prepared to provide documentation about your cats if needed, you will also represent yourself as well-organized and on top of the situation when conversing with neighbors about the cats.

Article Reprinted from Alley Cat Allies©

 


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