We understand your unwavering commitment to helping these vulnerable animals. As carers, it is easy to feel like you are up against the world. Following best practice will allow you to help these animals in a more effective, conflict-free way.
If you are a cat feeder or carer, or you know someone who is, please take the time to read and understand the following best practice methods , as they are the best shot you have of making a positive impact on the cats that you care so deeply for.
COMPLAINTS KILL CATS
Before anything else, we must remember that anyone making a complaint about your cats has a right to not have them on their property. As a carer, it is beneficial for ALL parties (yourself and the cats included) to work with the complainants. Opening up a dialogue with these stakeholders that is non-argumentative will be mutually beneficial. Even if it is very difficult, try approaching those stakeholders living or working in the area on a matter-of-fact basis. It is in THEIR best interest to work with you as together you can decrease or eliminate their problems.
Take the time to introduce yourself and discuss their concerns. Listen to them and understand that their complaints are valid; remaining calm and open minded may be difficult but it is necessary. Once you have understood their position, take some time and calmly explain yours. At the end of the day, you are trying to do what’s best for the cats. You may suggest a combination or all of the following strategies in order to work with local business and home owners.
Futher information can be found at:
If the community know that you are actually trying to help them solve these issues, then they will be much more willing to work alongside you and will be understanding of your work. Explain to them your plans (either verbally or through notices in mailboxes or door hangers) and provide your details for a point of contact, if you feel comfortable. This may actually help you manage the cats; you will have local informants who may place their problems directly with you rather than council Animal Management Officers.
Some people will feel more at ease, and perhaps more accepting of the cats, once they know that no more kittens will be born, thanks to your desexing work.
However, do not provide personal details to any individuals who are threatening or downright abusive. We also suggest limiting any personal information given out. Setting up a non-personal email address that you can monitor regularly would be a good way to communicate (eg. firstname.lastname@example.org).
CAT REPELLANTS AND DEVICES:
Many complainants will be upset due to a sense of helplessness against these cats. As stakeholders, they DO have a right to not want these cats on their property. Either providing them with a cat repellent device OR providing them with the information on where to purchase or rent one may provide them with a sense of control. These devices are not harmful to the cats and are often available for less than $100.
Motion activated ultrasonic deterrents with work well. Use either “multifrequency” setting (will deter other animals such as possums or birds) or “cat” setting. Mulifrequency setting usually works best for cats.
- Set them up in the areas where cats are mostly leading to concerns. One in the front yard, one in the back yard.
- Try to conceal their location eg place it in a potted plant that can be moved around.
- Move the device around! Cats are smart. They will soon work out where the device is and how to avoid it. Occasional movement of the device will make it a more effective deterrent.
- If there are indoor pets, face the deterrents away from their house and have had no complaints of indoor pets being affected. We mostly use deterrents with a smaller range in small rowhome yards and save our more powerful deterrents for larger properties. Wildlife has not been an issue in Baltimore City.
- I have had a very hard time giving away Scarecrow deterrents because city residents do not want to run up their water bills. Another concern in our climate is that they are not useful in freezing temperatures. They seem like they would otherwise be effective, but I haven’t had the chance to see them in action.
Below are some recommended deterrents that have been used by groups involved in caring for community cats. However, there are many suitable options available on the market.
Ultrasonic, Solar-powered Animal Repeller by Aspectek
Signstek Waterproof Ultrasonic Solar Powered Animal Deterrent. A similar product, which may also be called a ‘Frostfire’
Hoont deterrent – well suited for larger areas
Other deterrents include a motion-triggered jet of water combined with noise and motion of the device (ScareCrow). They are required to be connected to a garden hose and are solar powered. https://www.sureguard.com.au/shop/product/scarecrow-motion-activated-sprinkler-solar-powered-1414
Slowly moving the cats away from the area
If you and the community can identify an area which is more suitable for the cats to live, slowly move their feeding area away from concerned stakeholders to a new more isolated area. This strategy may decrease community concerns and alleviate the stress placed on stakeholders. If they are less stressed and frustrated by the situation, they will be more willing to accept and understand your work and more willing to work with you rather than against you.
Move their feeding area very gradually, a few metres per night.
Make sure the new area doesn’t pose safety hazards to the cats e.g. busy roads.
Where and how you feed the community matters
Feeding the community away from stakeholders’ properties is a very good idea. However, for the safety of these cats you should also ensure that:
- the feeding location is out of the view of the general public
- uneaten food is removed within 30-60 minutes. As their carer, you should also use this time to observe the cats and record any medical concerns and new cats that will need to be trapped
- busy roads won’t jeopardise their safety.
Desexing of entire population
Successful Community Cat programs show that desexing as close to 100% of the cat colony is the most effective approach to reduce colony size and eliminate complaints. In addition to this, any new or “immigrant” cats to the population should be desexed as soon as possible.
Do not feed cats without having a desexing plan in place. Extra food will attract cats enable them to reproduce more easily. The resultant population increase is more likely to lead to complaints, which may lead to the council killing your cats , and even other cat communities. Remember, complaints kill cats.
Some simple tips for desexing the community include:
- Aim to trap and desex the whole community, as soon as physically and financially possible
- When you know who’s female and who’s male (eg tortoiseshell; previously raised kittens), trap females first. This will avoid more kittens being born into the community. To selectively trap individuals, use the ‘bottle and string’ technique with a standard box trap, or use a drop trap
- Use as many traps as you can on your first few nights; it is far easier to trap cats before they have seen a number of their friends trapped over a period of days
- Stay in eyesight or earshot of the trap and immediately cover it with a sheet when a cat is trapped. This reduces not only the trapped cat’s stress, but the risk that other cats will become trap wary. Never leave a trap unattended in a public place
- If some remaining cats are trap wary, place a number of traps around their feeding area and only feed inside the traps, making a trail of food from outside the trap to inside, all the way up to the pressure plate. Secure the door open so that the pressure plate doesn’t function. You can also remove the back plate for a while – when they can see an exit point, they may be more willing to walk into the trap. After about one week, return the back plate to position, gradually if you have to. The cats should now trust the trap and it will be easier to catch the remaining cats. If needed, try different types of bait. Meat from KFC drumsticks (original recipe) are popular with many cats
- If the remaining cats still won’t walk into a box trap, use a drop trap. You can build your own or buy one.
- Ask the vet to use intradermal sutures for females, so they don’t need to be returned for stitches removal
- Vaccinate and provide parasite control at desexing, along with minor health treatments if necessary or indicated.
- Microchip cats with the carer’s primary and secondary contacts and associated organization.
- Ear tipping is recommended to show they are desexed, and to protect them from being retrapped.
- Routing testing for FIV and FeLV is not recommended, because of the cost and frequency of false positives. Only test sick cats with signs consistent with FeLV or FIV. Use the resources instead for higher priorities such as desexing.
- Monitor the cats in the trap after surgery at your home. Males can generally be returned after one day, unless there is bleeding. For females, two to three days is preferred. You can place the trap inside an XXL collapsible wire dog crate, keep the trap and crate covered and slide up the back plate, so they can come out into the crate to toilet, eat and drink.
PLEASE BE AWARE THAT FEEDING OR RETURNING CATS AFTER DESEXING MAY BE ILLEGAL IN SOME JURISDICATIONS. BEFORE REMOVING OR DESEXING ANY CAT YOU ARE ADVISED TO CHECK RELEVANT LEGISLATION AND YOUR LOCAL COUNCIL’S POSITION ON THIS MATTER.
Where local councils are opposed to this method of control, you may apply for a permit under relevant legislation. In Brisbane, you will need a ‘restricted matter’ permit, through the Qld Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
SUMMARY OF BEST PRACTICE:
- Desex as close to 100% of the community as quickly as possible, prioritising females.
- Remove kittens and friendly adults for adoption, if foster homes are available.
- Quickly desex immigrant cats, especially females
- Vaccinate and provide flea and worm treatment
- Microchip and register carer and a secondary contact
- Ear tip
- Feed away from public view and remove uneaten food after 30-60 minutes
- Provide climate-appropriate shelters hidden from view
- Listen to neighbours’ complaints and work to resolve them, including through the use of deterrents
- If you need to relocate a community, move their food location very gradually to a safer place