Tag Archives: caring for feral cats

Good News For FIV+ Kitties And Those Who Love Them

cat wellnessFinally, some good news for FIV  (the feline immunodeficiency virus) positive kitties and those who love them:  Dr. Annette L. Litster of Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine conducted a long-term study which shows that FIV+ cats can live with negative kitties without infecting them and that mothers infected with FIV do not pass their virus on to their kittens.

This is big news to shelters and many veterinarians who regularly recommend infected cats be killed, but not for those who love and care for FIV+ kitties. Even those shelters who do accept special care kitties like those with FIV often recommend that they only be adopted into homes with other positive kitties or that they be the ‘single’ cat for a family. This study clearly shows that there’s no need for these precautions.

As someone who has cared for a FIV+ kitty for many years and whose vet not only deals regularly with FIV+ kitties, but has one of her own, I can bear out the truth in these numbers. Not only have I never personally seen a FIV+ cat pass their infection on to another cat through day-to-day space sharing and interactions, but I’ve never heard of it being done from anyone else who cares for these cats. FIV is hard to transmit. Infection is primarily confined to male, free-roaming cats who fight and is transmitted through deep bites. Casual “play” bites that you see from cats who are housemates do not lead to infection. FIV is not spread by sharing food dishes, grooming, or other close interactions.

Although the two are often confused, FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) is a very different disease from FeLV (feline leukemia virus) which is easily transmitted through casual contact. These two diseases are retroviruses. Both affect the immune system, but the feline immunodeficiency virus does not easily cross the mucous membranes. This means that a cat can’t catch FIV through things like sharing a water dish or grooming another kitty.

FIV kitties can, but don’t always, require extra care. Basically, a FIV+ cat has a compromised immune system. That can mean that they catch things like colds more easily, but it doesn’t always. I’ve known FIV+ kitties who have lived very long lives (18+ years) without any complications. FIV+ cats need to avoid stress and have a healthy diet and exercise (as do all kitties). They can be prone to respiratory and gastrointestinal issues, as well as dental health issues so they need regular teeth cleanings. But their overall health risk is no greater than that of certain breeds of cats with genetic predispositions to certain illnesses. Best Friends Animal Society, who has a great deal of experience with special needs cats of all kinds, has recommended mixed households with FIV+ and negative kitties for many years.

Hopefully, these new and highly-publicized findings will make the world brighter for kitties with FIV and give them the same chance of adoption as other cats. So if you fall in love with an FIV+ kitty at a shelter or a cat that you are caring for tests positive, please don’t hesitate to give them a home with your other cats. And please spread the word that FIV+ kitties deserve a chance to live to your friends, family, and other cat-care providers!

 

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Caring For Stray & Community Cats In Summer

feral save summerIt’s hard to be a feral or community cat. Spring and fall seem to last no time at all compared to cold, wet winters and scorching summers. For caregivers, summer brings a relief from worrying about ice, snow, and below zero temperatures, but has its own set of challenges including summer storms, heat advisories, and parasites. Simple kindnesses like providing shade and cool water and making sure that shelters are tick and flea-free can not only make feral kitties happier, they can save lives.

If you’d like to give your ‘community critters’ a helping hand this summer, here are a few things you can do to help:

Provide Shelter

There’s no better way to beat the heat than a little shade. Offering feral and community cats a way to shelter from the sun is a great way to make their lives easier. Many pet and online stores offer shelters that are both insulated from the cold and reflective of sunlight and heat. But if you’re making your own warm weather shelters, you’ll want to find material that is reflective of sunlight (light colors work best) and weatherproof.

Although you can find ready-made dog and cat houses at your local pet store, it’s easy enough to make them yourself and much cheaper. You might even want to make a day of it with friends or your children. Lots of websites offer great tips on crafting ‘cat houses’ for feral kitties or strays who might need a little TLC this summer. For a few examples check out the Humane Society’s website, as well as Neighborhood Cat’s website and Alley Cat Allies. Although some of these designs are specifically for winter shelters, they can be used in summer as well.

If you do decide to use bedding or straw, you will want to change it every other week to keep the shelter clean and free of parasites. The most important thing is that the bedding be kept dry. So be sure to place your ‘cat house’ in an area sheltered from the wind and rain. Shaded areas will also help keep the heat to a minimum.

cat tryFresh Water & Kibble

Be sure to place fresh water and kibble near (by not right beside) the shelters. Leaving food right beside the shelters will attract predators and make the shelters less attractive (and safe) for their occupants.

Place water bowls in the shade and make sure you choose light colors to reflect heat. You may even want to place a large block of ice in the center of the water dish so it can melt throughout the day and provide your community kitties with a cool treat. I’ve seen a few kitties who enjoy playing with ice chips in water, as well as licking ice.

As for food, dry kibble is the easiest to provide (cost-wise and because it doesn’t attract insects like ‘wet’ food). But if you can afford some canned cat food, it is always a welcome addition to a feral or stray cats’ diet. If you feed your feral community at a set time each day, the cats will quickly adjust to your schedule and show up while the food is still fresh from the can.

As a warning, the strong smell of ‘wet’ food does tend to attract hornets and other stinging insects, as well as flies. So be sure to clean up any food left after your feral kitties have had their fill.

You can find many more tips on feeding and caring for feral and community cats on Alley Cat Allies website: http://www.alleycat.org/page.aspx?pid=295. They also have a great network for people who care for stray and feral animals in case you’re looking for help or just a sympathetic ear.

feral help3Summer Precautions

There are also some very simple things you can do to protect outside cats, dogs, and other critters year-round like knocking on the hood of your car to warn animals who may’ve taken refuge there that you’re about to start the engine. You may also want to honk your horn once so they can take flight before you do. This is good advice summer and winter. Your car is an attractive patch of shade to critters who are trying to beat the heat.

If you chose to use fertilizers, mulch, or other garden care supplies, look for products that are pet-friendly, as well as plants that both you and your furry friends can enjoy. Many fertilizers, insecticides, and even mulches are toxic to animals and harmful to people. You can find animal-friendly products at most larger garden stores or you might want to consider organic, do-it-yourself options, as well as plants that are pet (and child!) safe.

Summer pests like fleas, ticks, and mosquitos are another hazard to consider. You might not have the resources to apply tick/flea repellent to an entire colony of feral cats, but if you can afford Frontline or another similar product and heartworm products that protect against heart worms like Heartgard, they are the best option. In addition to repellents, you can help keep feeding and rest areas free of parasites by encouraging parasite-predators like birds and ‘possums. Consider setting up a bird and/or a bat feeder. Both will help cut down on ticks and mosquitos, as will changing water frequently. Stagnant water attracts lots of unsavory biting creatures including mosquitoes. If you live in an area with ‘possums, they’re going to show up for the kibble you leave out and will probably munch a few ticks while they’re visiting.

Consider a Donation

cat fosterSummer is kitten season. So it’s not only a hard time of year for outdoor animals, but also for those who care for them. You might want to consider donating your time or extra cash to a local organization that cares of stray and community animals or volunteer to become a kitten foster. At this time of year, volunteers are always needed to help socialize and feed kittens and pregnant cats, clean and clear out bedding, and provide food and water to the feral communities that sometimes double in size as kittens are born into the colony. Even donations of old (but clean) bedding, cleaning supplies, and wet and dry food are welcome.

Summer can be a beautiful time of year. Let’s make sure that it’s a safe and happy one for feral communities too.

P.S. If you’re a little confused about the difference between a feral and a stray cat, here’s a quick primer. But, in general, a stray cat is an animal who has had a home at some point and who is socialized. A feral cat is a wild creature who may or may not seek human attention.

Feral cats often live in colonies with other cats. These colonies, if given a little help, can be safe and stable places for the cats to live out their lives. TNR (trap-neuter-release) helps control the colony population and cut down on disease. Some feral cats may choose to become socialized and may find homes. Others prefer to live their lives ‘wild’ accepting help only when they need it.

Best Friends Animal Society maintains a very happy and successful feral colony in addition to providing support for other animal care networks and adoptions. To learn more about how you can help stray and feral animals near you, you can visit their website.


Caring For Stray & Feral Cats In Winter

cold nightWinter has always made me sad. Not because I dislike the cold or snow, but because if you care for stray and feral critters, you are keenly aware of just how difficult the colder months can be for them. But there are a few things you can do to make their lives a little easier this winter. Simple kindnesses like shelter and extra food and water can save lives, as can things like knocking on the hood of your car before you turn on your engine to make sure that no outdoors cats (or squirrels or even raccoons) have taken shelter there.

If you’d like to give your ‘community critters’ a helping hand this winter, here are a few things you can do to help:

Provide Shelter

Although you can find ready-made dog and cat houses at your local pet store, it’s easy enough to make them yourself and much cheaper. You might even want to make a day of it with friends or your children. Lots of website’s offer great tips on crafting ‘cat houses’ for feral kitties or strays who might need a little TLC this winter. For a few examples check out the Humane Society’s website, as well as Neighborhood Cat’s website and Alley Cat Allies.

The shelter should be small and cozy to trap in body heat and filled with a material that traps heat like straw, newspaper, or rags. You will want to change out the bedding at least monthly to keep the shelter clean and free of parasites. The most important thing is that the bedding be kept dry. So be sure to place your ‘cat house’ in an area sheltered from the wind and rain.

Fresh Water & Kibble

Be sure to place fresh water and kibble near (by not right beside) the shelters. Leaving food right beside the shelters will attract predators and make the shelters less attractive (and safe) for their occupants.

You can find heated water dishes at most pet supply stores. If they’re out of your budget, then you’ll need to change the water frequently to prevent freezing. Place the bowls in the sun and make sure you choose darker colors that absorb more heat. This will help (but not fully prevent) the water from freezing.

As for food, dry kibble is the easiest to provide (cost-wise and because it doesn’t freeze like ‘wet’ food). But if you can afford some canned cat food, it is always a welcome addition to a feral or stray cats’ diet. If you feed your feral community at a set time each day, the cats will quickly adjust to your schedule and show up while the food is still warm.

You can find many more tips on feeding and caring for feral and community cats on Alley Cat Allies website: http://www.alleycat.org/page.aspx?pid=295. They also have a great network for people who care for stray and feral animals in case you’re looking for help or just a sympathetic ear.

Winter Precautions

There are also some very simple things you can do to protect outside cats, dogs, and other critters during the winter like knocking on the hood of your car to warn animals who may’ve taken refuge there that you’re about to start the engine. You may also want to honk your horn once so they can take flight before you do.

If you chose to ‘salt’ your drive, be sure to use a pet-friendly agent and not a toxic one. Many de-icers are toxic to animals and harmful to people. You can find animal-friendly de-icers at most larger convenience stores or you can use good old-fashioned salt to clear your walkway.

If you have an indoor dog, always be sure to clean his or her paws after walks in winter. Even if you do choose a ‘safe’ de-icer, your neighbors may not and dogs may pick up residue on their paws. As a rule, it’s always best to clean your dog’s paws after a walk and before they enter the house – or you may want to invest in a good sturdy pair of dog ‘boots.’ You can find them at most pet stores and they’ll keep your dog’s paws dry and clean year-round.

Anti-freeze is another winter danger for pets and stray/feral animals alike. Be sure to keep anti-freeze and all other toxic and poison cleaning agents and car supplies out of the reach of your furry friends. Anti-freeze is yet another good reason to clean your dog’s paws after a walk. No matter how careful you are with your pets, you can’t guarantee that others will be as conscientious.

Consider a Donation

Winter is not only a hard time of year for outdoor animals, but also for those who care for them. You might want to consider donating your time or extra cash to a local organization that cares of stray and community animals. At this time of year, volunteers are always needed to help winter-ize shelters, clean and clear out bedding, and provide food and water to the feral communities that sometimes double in size during the cold months as new animals seek shelter. Even donations of old (but clean) bedding, cleaning supplies, and wet and dry food are welcome.

Winter can be a beautiful time of year. Let’s make sure that it’s a safe and happy one for feral communities too.

P.S. If you’re a little confused about the difference between a feral and a stray cat, here’s a quick primer. But, in general, a stray cat is an animal who has had a home at some point and who is socialized. A feral cat is a wild creature who may or may not seek human attention.

Feral cats often live in colonies with other cats. These colonies, if given a little help, can be safe and stable places for the cats to live out their lives. TNR (trap-neuter-release) helps control the colony population and cut down on disease. Some feral cats may choose to become socialized and may find homes. Others prefer to live their lives ‘wild’ accepting help only when they need it.

Best Friends Animal Society maintains a very happy and successful feral colony in addition to providing support for other animal care networks and adoptions. To learn more about how you can help stray and feral animals near you, you can visit their website.