Almost everyone today understands the importance of fixing their pet cats. This goes without saying. Yet many still apply a different standard to the yard cats they feed. Fixing yard cats – especially if they’re not socialized (feral) – is a bit more challenging than fixing your adopted pet cats, but no less important. If left intact, it’s only a matter of time before their persistent kittening, yowling, spraying and fighting will try the patience of even the most committed caregivers -- and when that happens --the cats they once enjoyed feeding become a burden -- often abandoned outdoors or taken to a shelter where they will almost certainly be put down as “unadoptable”.
If you know someone feeding unsterilized outdoor cats find out why they fixed their pet cats but let their yard cats stay intact. Here are the most common reasons we hear and how we respond:
“They’re not my cats – I just feed them.” While that may be true, if the cats are fixed they’ll be easier to care for and better neighbors. And -- once you have a meal-feeding routine in place -- live-trapping for sterilization is almost a slam dunk. We provide full feeding and trapping information in our Feral Colony Handbook.
“The cats may belong to someone else who may not want them fixed.” There’s an easy way to test this theory. If the cats are tame, put inexpensive cat collars on them with a note taped inside asking if the cats are someone’s pets and if so would they call you to confirm this. If the cats do have a full-time guardian, they’ll see the collar and read your note. If the cats are feral you won’t be able to put a collar on them and can safely assume they’re not someone’s pets.
“They’re too wild for me to handle”. It’s true that you should never handle a feral cat – but hundreds of feral cats are live-trapped daily for sterilization. The process is relatively simple and safe so long as you leave the cats in the live traps to take to the clinic. The staff will anesthetize them through the trap, then remove them for surgery and return them to the traps while they’re still under anesthesia. When you get the cats home you simply return them to the outdoors by opening the trap door. Traps can be loaned, rented or purchased from a variety of sources ranging from friends, vet clinics, home rental businesses, pet or hardware stores.
“I fixed the last cat that came to my yard and he disappeared a few months later so I’m not going to pay to have any more done.” It always hurts to spend money on a cat and then lose them. This can happen – although not as often – with adopted cats too. If money is the reason you’re not fixing the cat, call your local cat groups and veterinary clinics to find out what organizations help with the cost. If there aren’t any, find a vet that willing to sterilize the cats without requiring any additional work to keep the cost as low as possible. And – act quickly – the sooner you fix your yard cats the fewer you’ll have to pay for. Cats have a talent for reproducing.