Ask Ms. Kitty: How can I help my outside cat?
By Sara Ferguson
Dear Ms. Kitty,
A hungry kitty showed up on my porch last year. She had kittens, but we don’t know where they went and weren’t able to get her inside. Now she’s back with more. Is there anything we can do to help these little ones this year?
Sad on Shooks Lane
Thank you for wanting to help! Kitten season is here, when homeless outside cats and their kittens show up under decks, in woodpiles and anywhere they can shelter. These cats come from humans who abandon their own pet cats.
An unspayed female can have babies by the time she’s 6 months old. Without human care, her kittens grow up unsocialized to humans. The cycle continues, adding thousands to the community cat population each year.
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the best way to control these populations. TNR cats are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and surgically ear-tipped on one ear, as the universally-recognized sign of a TNR cat.
They are then returned to their territory where their colony managers feed and provide shelter, monitor them for illness and adoptability, and trap and fix newcomers.
Without the drive to fight, mate and raise kittens, fixed community cats become much better neighbors. Every spay or neuter prevents hundreds if not thousands of needless feline deaths in our region, mostly in vulnerable kittens.
Within the city limits of Colorado Springs, The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region has a TNR program for these Community Cats. If you live in the city, you can call them at 719-302-8786 or go to their website for more information. If you become a sanctioned colony manager, they will provide you with free cat sterilizations, vaccinations and instruction for trapping.
Happy Cats Haven receives dozens of calls each month from people outside the aid of HSPPR. If you find kittens in your neighborhood, we will try to help. We first bring kittens into safety, but we always make sure the mother cats are taken care of too.
Even if the mother is outside, she is still the kittens’ best chance for survival. Of course, our goal is to spay her so that this doesn’t happen again.
Bumblebee was found outside with two mom cats and all their kittens. They needed a little medical help, along with patience and love to build their bond with humans. In just a few weeks with a caring foster family, Bumblebee was ready for her forever home. Her mothers are happy outside with food, shelter and care by their Colony Manager.
We can support you with resources if you join our Foster Program to help these families. We are always looking for people who can bottle feed kittens, if they are orphaned. If you can’t help the kittens you find, we will try to locate a foster parent for them as soon as we can.
We assist HSPPR by showing the benefits of TNR and helping people sign up to be Colony Managers within their agreements. We have a number of humane traps for loan, and our TNR Coordinator Barb Jones can instruct you on how to use them to trap, transport and release each cat. Our goal is 100 percent sterilization in every colony we support.
Our TNRCare Fund helps us pay for spays and neuters for cats outside the targeted focus of HSPPR. We are grateful to community members who help our community cat friends with their TNRCare donations.
Abandoned cats don’t survive outside unless they adapt to acting feral. It is common for abandoned cats to end up at an outside colony, searching for food. Sometimes these scared pets get put through the TNR program.
Colony caregivers often spot these refugee cats who desperately want to find a home again, but are scared to trust humans. Each year, we help dozens of these cats recover from the trauma of being abandoned.
Big Daddy showed up one day at a managed colony with an eye condition that would have eventually blinded him. We gave him medical care and found he was very happy to be inside again. In a few weeks, he found his forever home.
If you find cats on the street who appear to be friendly, please consider getting them inside to safety. Please contact us so we can get them on our waiting list and help you foster them, if you are able.
Working together with volunteers, veterinarians, other rescues and people just like you, we can make life better for abandoned cats like Big Daddy. When we rescue cats like your mother cat, we can prevent feral kittens from being born on the street. In addition, we save the ones already born, giving kittens like Bumblebee a chance to be someone’s Happy Cat!
Sara Ferguson is the Director of Happy Cats Haven. Ask Ms Kitty is a free helpline offered by Happy Cats Haven and Colorado Cats Boarding, and sponsored by Maddie’s Fund.