Providing Food, Water, and Shelter
To keep a feral cat colony healthy, disease free , and less likely to roam through a community, it is helpful to provide food and water, as well as shelter from extreme weather.
Expect to need a full can (5.5 oz) of wet cat food, or a half-cup of dry cat food, per animal. A good gauge for whether you are providing enough is how fast the food disappears. You want to have enough that they can finish up in about 30 minutes. Add more or less at each feeding til you have it right. Don’t worry about some cats eating more than others, or any that push to the front to feed first. This is part of their normal social structure and they will work it out amongst themselves.
Remove any uneaten food after 30 minutes. Remember to clean up any debris or empty dishes from the area, even trash that is not yours. This will help keep good relations with the neighbors and maintain a positive example of Trap-Neuter-Return. For your safety and to avoid attracting other forms of wildlife, never feed at night and never leave food out unattended.
As with indoor cats, feral cats require clean water daily. This you will need to leave out, though the bowls should be cleaned and refilled daily, sometimes more than once in extreme temperatures. As always, keep the watering area neat and tidy to promote good neighborly interaction.
Feral colonies most often find shelter for themselves, but in cases of extreme weather, or hanging around neighbor’s properties, you might want to consider providing your own shelter.
A good size for a shelter is at least 2×3’ and at least 18” high. Smaller is better in battling extreme cold. You want just enough space for three to five cats to cuddle up together. Again, keep the shelter clean and well-maintained, maybe even paint it to blend in with its surroundings to avoid bringing unwanted attention to the cats. You don’t want neighbors thinking it might be trash.