You may have seen adorable street cats and dogs and wonder who owns them or who takes care of them. Those cats and dogs are not owned by anyone in particular and colonize around humans. Some of them are stray and some are feral. They are collectively called community cats and community dogs respectively.
Cats and dogs have become ubiquitous and their overpopulation has caused adverse impacts on the environment. Dogs and cats on the street need your help. It is widely believed that rescuing and adopting is the only way to help them. Well, that’s not always true. In fact, you shouldn’t try to bring home a feral animal. Let’s try to understand what you can do to help them.
What’s the Difference Between Feral and Stray?
Feral and stray terms have been used interchangeably, but both do not mean the same. Also, the term ‘feral’ has been perceived mainly as the ‘wild’ state of an animal. Again, that’s not completely true. To be called ‘feral’, the animal doesn’t have to be born in a forest region, far away from humans.
Feral animals can be stray animals and turn into feral ones at the later stage of their lives. The feral term refers to the state of an animal in which the animal has lost human contact, is not sociable, and hence extremely tough to tame.
They avoid any kind of interaction with humans and come only around us when they are in need of human resources due to overpopulation and other issues. Even if you try to feed feral cats, they will only come around for food when you’re not present there. Of course, this resembles a wild state of the animal but any cat or dog can become feral if it loses human contact for long and fends for itself in the wild.
Babies of feral cats can be tamed as they are sociable at the early stage of their life. All in all, the feral state of an animal is not defined by birth.
On the other hand, stray animals are somewhat sociable and can be tamed. In fact, some of them are owned by humans and allowed to go outdoors. They will be less afraid of humans compared to feral animals, however, more cautious than pets.
If you put down food for them, they will immediately come and eat but will always be wary of any potential harm from the feeder. Let’s now see how you can help community cats and dogs around you.
Check for Collar Tag and IDs
If you see a new cat or dog in your community, you should check for any collar tags or IDs on their neck. If there’s any, try to reach out to their owners as it might’ve separated accidentally from their parents.
You can provide help to them by informing them about the new cat or a dog to nearby shelters and register the pet in a ‘found pets’ section online. Your small big step can help reunite the pet with its parents. If it’s an abandoned pet, request their owners to surrender it at a nearby shelter.
Food is the most important resource the community animals rely on you for. If there is a lack of food resources in your community, the animals would try to invade other territories which results in conflicts among them. These conflicts often result in hurting each other, and sometimes even killing.
Decide a spot where you can feed them on a daily basis. This spot should be such that feeding them doesn’t cause conflicts between you and your neighbors. Not all people are okay with their garden being soiled by dogs and cats or getting the car windshield scratched. So make sure that you’re not unknowingly feeding them on anyone’s property.
Don’t free-feed them! The extra food present in the bowl may attract wild animals if there are any. This can cause new problems. Put just enough food out and go. Check after half an hour and if there’s any leftover food, dispose of it.
Ants can be a real problem. Cat Loves Best recommends using ant-proof food bowls to keep the food safe from ants. Just make sure that the bowls are not placed the way that any part of the bowl is touched to a wall or any vertical object.
Try to feed them every day at the same time, this will make them come around at the same time to eat. Moreover, make sure they always have access to drinking water.
When it comes to dogs, they are more human-friendly than cats. It will be easier to feed them.
Trap, Neuter, and Return Program
The first step is to neuter or spay your pet. Because if at all your pet is allowed to go outdoors, he may contribute to the overpopulation problem.
Trap, neuter, and return or TNR programs for community cats and dogs include trapping dogs and cats, alter them at a shelter or an animal hospital, and then release them back to where they’ve been taken from. The altered animals have a notch cut off from their ears so that they can be identified easily and not be trapped again for upcoming TNR programs.
Well, you might think adopting all stray cats and dogs from your neighborhood can solve their problems and there won’t be any more animals left. But this is wrong. If all of them are taken then more animals from other areas will be attracted to the food resources and start living there.
Adoption is always a good option but it won’t solve the overpopulation issue. It will surely get them a home but there will be more mouths to feed very soon. So, TNR programs should be done in order to control their population.
A cat or a dog can reproduce at the age of one year, mostly earlier than that. Unaltered cats or dogs can cause stress by producing more litter. And many of those newborns die due to the lack of resources and stress among animals present in the community.
You can volunteer TNR programs conducted by various organizations and also educate people in your neighborhood about community animals and let them know how to take care of them. You can also donate funds for TNR programs as well.
I hope you’ve now gotten a clearer idea of how one can help community cats and dogs. Getting stray cats and dogs adopted is the best you can do for them. A forever home and loving humans; all they can think about in their wildest dreams. But that’s not the only way you can help them. The biggest problem with community animals is overpopulation. Neutering and spaying them will help control it. Also, those stray animals can also be lost pets. You should try to contact their owners if they seem to be lost pets.
Let us know if you have any questions or want to share with us your experiences about helping community cats and dogs in the comment section below.