Caring for Stray Cats in Urban Neighborhoods
When a stray cat starts hanging around your yard, what can you do? Some put food out and most probably do nothing. When Amber, the kitty that was hanging around Lisa Craig Morton’s backyard for awhile, showed up one night with bleeding wounds, Morton knew she had to do something.
“In January of 2012 he was on our back porch, bleeding everywhere,” she says. “It was going to be a very cold night and I was frantic to try to help him.”
She felt stuck because Amber was a stray and would not let Morton nor Morton’s husband touch him or come near him.
So, she called a friend active in the pet rescue business who advised her to trap the cat.
“She let me borrow her trap and walked me through all the steps,” says Morton. “I put the trap on my porch, lined it with cardboard -so the cat’s paws didn’t slip through the cage- and put a can of tuna in the back. Within 15 minutes, Amber went in to get the tuna and he was trapped.”
Morton transferred Amber into a kennel crate for his trip to the vet. She then took him to Rascal Animal Hospital to be examined, stabilized, and also neutered. Rascal Animal Hospital works with cat and dog rescue programs, they offer a 24-hour emergency vet clinic, and they will do spays, neuters, and vaccinations at a reduced rate for stray animals. To calm a stray cat during transport a stray cat, cover the crate with a light blanket.
For Amber, the veterinarians cleaned all of his wounds, gave him an antibiotic, vaccinated him, and neutered him.
“$187 later he was officially ours,” says Morton.
The kennel crate was large enough to provide him with a small litter box, a water bowl, a food bowl, and space for his recovery. After a few days of rest in the crate in their garage, the Mortons released Amber back into the alley.
“We were not sure if he would ever come back,” she says.
Morton and her husband continued to put food out for Amber, and he did keep coming around. To try to ensure the intended animals eat the food, do not leave large amounts food out for extended periods of time.
“It took over a year before he would let us pet him,” she says. “Now we think of him as ‘our cat’ and he clearly thinks of our yard as his home. When I go out to feed him in the morning, he doesn’t even care about the food anymore; he’s all about getting petted first!”
The Mortons bought an outdoor shelter for Amber from Feralvilla.com. Another resource they use is Alley Cat Allies, where you can find other people in your area active with Trap-Neuter-Release. Most veterinarians will clip the ear of a cat that has been through this process so that others know that cat has been taken care of.
“The goal of Trap-Neuter-Release is not necessarily to find forever homes for stray, feral cats,” says Morton. “It is more to stem the tide of additional cats being born from stray cats that are not neutered. The process could also be used to catch a house cat that is lost or that has run away.”
Morton’s interactions with Amber have been so positive -learning to patiently build trust with him and the joy of knowing how much he trusts her- that it has changed the way she thinks about pets.
“The experience with TNR with Amber has been really positive for me,” says Morton. “I really think I saved his life or at least saved him from a life of hardship and suffering. It is heartbreaking and disturbing to see stray cats and dogs that are hungry and not well. In Victorian Village it is a big challenge.”
She continues, “I never in a million years thought I would become an advocate for something like this, but now I am very open about sharing it and encouraging or helping others to do the same in their neighborhoods.”
If you’d like to get involved with helping strays with Trap-Neuter-Release, check with your veterinarian about reduced fees for services and vaccinations.
Feature photo by Walker Evans. Story photos provided by Lisa Craig Morton.
From March 3rd to March 9th, Columbus Underground is celebrating Pets Week 2014! Throughout the week, we’ll be showcasing the extraordinary ways that pets can change a person’s life, fun places to take your dog, pet related businesses, and more!