Friday, December 17, 2010

Chilly days and lots of strays....
This time of year, when the temps dip low, we get a flurry of people calling the phone line about strays in their neighborhood. People are worried about these cats, but unsure how best to help. Maybe they belong to someone, maybe they carry a disease that could spread to other pets, maybe they will bite. All of these are valid concerns. But here are your options.

Could there be an owner? Sure there could. But if you've seen the cat around frequently and you're worried about it having shelter, you really should try and catch it, then assess the likelihood of an owner. Once the cat is warm and safe and fed, you can post flyers around the area, talk to neighbors, and have a vet clinic scan for an identity chip. If those efforts turn up no clues, you have done your best. What's best for the animal at this point, is being off the streets.

Could there be diseases? Sure. Diseases, parasites, infections, any cat living by its wits is susceptible to any number of things, and yes, these can be passed to your pets. So its best to keep the stray isolated from your pets until basic vet screening has been done. Screenings for Feline Leukemia and FIV, shots for distemper and rabies, screenings for fleas, earmites and worms. It can get very involved. If you're not looking to add a new pet to your own household, and you don't know of a friend or neighbor that would consider adopting your stray, then you have another set of decisions to consider. How to find your stray a home. Rescue groups like Pet Haven, who operate through a foster network, aren't often able to help with immediate surrender of an animal. Our foster volunteers care for rescued animals, plus their own pets, and adoptions don't happen on a predictable schedule. Pet Haven can help owners/finders of cats to find adoptive homes if the current owner/finder is willing to house and care for the animal and bring it to adoption events. Vet work needs to be up to date to be eligible to attend an adoption day. When you can't keep the stray and can't house it even temporarily, then you need a shelter option. The Humane Society or other rescue group with a shelter facility can often help.
If its not a "no kill" shelter, yes there's a chance the cat could be euthanized at some point, but there's also a good chance at adoption if the cat is basically healthy and friendly. If you contact a "no kill" shelter, don't be surprised if they're full. They can only house a limited number of animals, and there's usually a waiting list. There just aren't any easy answers to the stray over-population problem. But in the winter here in Mn, letting a stray cat try to fend for itself and possibly lose ears or tail tip to frost bite and slowly starve just isn't the responsible thing to do. Getting it off the streets and giving it a chance at adoption is wonderful, and getting it off the streets and humanely putting it out of its misery is better than the frosty alternative.

What about being bitten? Not all strays are feral cats. Many began as a pet and were turned out at some point. Sometimes owners have moved away and the cat remained on its own. But even a friendly cat can panic if you are restraining it or trying to put it in a carrier or box. So take precautions. Wear gloves, move cautiously and try not to startle the cat. Speak to it in a soothing voice. Have someone help you by holding the box or carrier to keep things stable as you move the cat into the container. If the cat won't approach you or dashes away if you step in its direction, you'll need a live trap. These are cages designed to close once the cat is inside. In this weather, you'll want to set it up somewhere out of the wind, and cover it with a couple heavy blankets to give the cat shelter until you retrieve it. Bait the live trap with food. Be sure to check the trap frequently, and don't set the trap if you won't be home to monitor it. Cats are frequently active at night, so that's a good time to set the trap, and be sure to check it right away in the morning.

This time of year, you don't have to be worried that a female stray has a nest of kittens somewhere. This isn't kitten season. And getting females off the streets now prevents stray litters of kittens born into a life of scavenging and dodging danger in the spring.

We have a few cats in our foster system right now that were live trapped and have a second chance. They are still settling into foster homes and going through treatment for parasites, etc but they are hoping for happy landings in a cozy home of their own. The orange fellow at the top of this blog is Otis. He'll be out poster child for coming in from the cold.

We will have an adoption event on Sunday Dec 19th from 1 to 3pm at the Petco store in Richfield (66th and Lyndale). A few new kittens have been posted on the website! Come and see the fuzzy faces who are waiting for homes. We can help you find a personality that will fit into your household. We have older kittens, young adults and mature adults of all colors and dispositions. Our foster volunteers can tell you all about them and share some of their favorite activities and toys. Hope you can stop by-- and better yet, bring a friend!

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