When you see a cat roaming the streets, your first instinct might be to put out a tin of food or a bowl of water. After all, seeing animals without a home or caregiver is hard. However, before you put out that tin of food, you should know that feral cats (free-roaming or stray cats) are often safe and healthy despite living in the wild. Studies have shown that community cats actually have healthy body weights in spite of their lean physique. Feeding feral animals can also affect our ecosystem, including the promotion of disease and aggression.
Effects on the Local Ecosystem
While sometimes upsetting to witness, cat communities and feral animals do have a place in the local ecosystem. Many of these animals help to keep the population of pests like mice at a minimum in the community.
When it comes to feeding feral animals or strays, some believe that providing supplemental food improves animal welfare and makes up for the harm caused by humans. There is also the emotional benefit to humans of feeling as though they are helping the animals. However, some believe that feeding wildlife does more damage than good. Feral animals and strays can become accustomed to having food given to them, which in turn lowers their ability to survive in the wild, especially if that food source suddenly stops. There is also an added issue of domesticated food potentially causing harm or sickness to wildlife.
3 Ways to Help Local Feral Animals
Instead of giving food and water to local community cats, you can help them by donating to spay and neuter programs, volunteering at local rescue organizations or making DIY shelters to keep them warm in the winter.
1. Donate to Spay and Neuter Programs
Spay and neuter programs, or TNR (trap-neuter-release) programs, positively impact the community cat population. In fact, TNR has been known to save cat lives, while stabilizing the cat community. We’re a big proponent of spay and neuter programs. Florida Animal Friend gives grants to help cover the costs associated with these programs to organizations throughout the state.
2. Volunteer at Local Rescue Organizations
A great way to help feral cats is to volunteer at a local rescue organization that manages cat colonies. By working with managed cat colonies, you can help implement TNR, ensure the animals have food and shelter and begin to build trust with the animals.
3. Make DIY Shelters for Feral Animals
While Florida winters aren’t terribly cold, it’s still important for feral animals to have a safe, dry place to sleep. You can help by creating a DIY shelter that allows the body heat of the animal to circulate, thereby keeping them warm and dry. This video will show you how to create a shelter step-by-step.
If you want to help increase the implementation of trap and release programs, decrease animal overpopulation and save the lives of animals in your local community, contact a shelter or one of the Florida Animal Friend grant recipients.
Florida Animal Friend helps save the lives of cats and dogs through grants for low-cost spay and neuter programs. For more information on Florida Animal Friend, or to contribute to our cause, please purchase a plate or donate today.