I have a few current-day rescue stories to write up, but I can’t physically get around to them yet so they’ll have to wait until I can drive farther and/or walk better. But plenty of cat rescue and community cat activity is still available to write about.
Last month I wrote about preparing to help community cats as the weather grows colder, and this week we’ve had a massive cold front move in with temperatures well below the normal for November. This can hit outdoor animals hard because it’s sudden and they haven’t had the time to acclimate to it as they would with a slower temperature drop, by starting to eat more to build up a good layer of fat, and choosing a shelter or warm and protected place to sleep for the duration of the cold.
I’ve often mentioned Denise who feds her colony of more or less a dozen cats at the top of the hill. I often see one or two as I drive past Denise’s house too, and shared as many photos as I could get when I fed them earlier this year. Denise has been wonderful helping me after my surgery by running errands for me and taking me shopping and to appointments when I couldn’t drive yet, and she also fed the crew here while I was in the hospital. My car was having battery issues and her husband Dave helped with that as well. And even when I’m not convalescing, Denise will let me know when she’s going out and asks if I need anything she can pick up, and they’ve just been good friends. I met them when we started TNRing the first two litters of cats born under their deck in 2015 and there have been plenty of other cats come through there since then that we’ve TNRd or found homes for.
Denise had neck surgery last week and is recovering from that, and Dave had back surgery a couple of months ago, but this cold front was coming and they wanted to set up the feral cat shelter and feeding area on their porch before the weather changed. They asked me if I’d help and I was happy I could do something for them in return. The way it’s set up is a good example of creating a protected area where the cats can come for shelter and also find individual places to sleep, or places where they can lounge as a group. The food and water is right there.
Creating a neat and efficient community cat feeding and shelter area
Not only do you want to keep the feeding and sleeping area neat and comfortable for the health and welfare of the cats, but you also want to keep it easily used by the humans, and neat for yourself and others to look at. Feeders can be cited for paper plates blowing around, food spilled on the ground that attracts rats, ramshackle shelters that look like a pile of trash. When many people feed right around their home or in their yard, this is especially important.
The main portion of Denise’s sheltered area is on the patio by the front door. They are at the top of this steep hill (I was standing in the street on the side of their house when I took the photo from the top of the hill) and they get a lot of wind up there so they have to prepare for that in setting up. The roof partially covers the deck and they combine patio furniture storage with shelters to block as much of the wind and give the cats as many varied places as possible. They tie down tarps to the porch roof and posts on the two sides where most of the wind and weather blow in.
Most of the cats like the plastic shelters with straw and a small opening, but some prefer an open front box, especially Missy, a kitty with a thick, long coat who just might be almost warm enough with just her fur. When we lined up the shelters we added a piece of wood over the top that provided an open space for Missy underneath. We want to keep her happy because she’s not feral, and friendly enough to be adopted with a little fostering, and we hope to do that this winter.
This year they have two-level shelters someone made for themselves then sold online when they no longer needed them that have a light bulb in a case as a heating element and don’t need straw, along with several made from plastic bins. Other cats like to hop onto a chair or other surface for a bath and a nap and just curl up into blankets or chair cushions for a short period before leaving, or they curl up with another cat, and this is where the cushions and blankets on the stacked patio furniture come in. Blankets do absorb moisture and can become mildewed, but we all have so many donated and they are washed and changed regularly. Using blankets and cushions instead of straw on open surfaces like chairs and tables keeps the areas neat without straw blowing around. They have a few other shelters around the house as well for cats who don’t like to be with the group, and a few other places for food bowls.
The feeding station raises the dishes off the porch and adds extra cover for the platters of canned and dry food, then smaller dishes are set around for individual cats who don’t eat with the crowd for their own reasons. Denise feeds in the morning and late afternoon on ceramic dishes (plastic is blown over or blown away by the wind) and takes them in after an hour or so. A heated water bowl is available as well.
Denise can handle many of the cats she feeds, and regularly brushes Missy and others and picks them up for some love, though Spider apparently didn’t want me to watch. I can pet several of them, but they don’t see me often enough to be comfortable. I just want to grab that Spider, though—he makes me think of Giuseppe, big and rangy with some silly and some fearlessness.
I can’t feed near my house because with every family of cats who’ve lived with me strange cats on the porches or even in the yard is sure to start a pi$$ing contest. I’m glad to be able to help them at least this much with feeding their community cats. I’ll just mention that feeding a dozen or more cats is not cheap and if you’re ever interested in sending some cat food to Denise and Dave let me know and I’ll put you in touch, or you can send it to me and I’ll take it up the hill.
Read more articles about TNR.
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These signs started out with just doodlin around in my studio and I managed to narrow down the designs to just four. I updated each design just a bit to keep them all the same size making cutting up the wood much easier, and adding a little color here and there. Read more, and purchase.
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters Tuesday: Rescue Stories Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork Thursday: New Merchandise Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!