Feral Cats Ireland
Caring for Community Cats
Community cats are stray, abandoned or wild (feral) cats who live in our neighbourhoods. In back gardens, lane ways, derelict houses, car parks, shopping centres, industrial estates, commercial properties, indeed anywhere you care to mention. Most of these cats will have been abandoned by their owners or have strayed from home and become lost.  All of them are hungry and homeless through no fault of their own and are struggling to survive as best they can.  

Such is the cat over-population crisis in Ireland now that it is impossible for homes to be found for all of these cats.  According to recent ISPCA figures, there is an estimated 200,000 such cats in Ireland. We have to accept that most of these cats will, sadly, never find homes.  We have to accept also that, with the best will in the world, animal welfare organisations and rescues in Ireland cannot take all of these cats into their shelters and centres.  

This doesn't mean these cats have to live a life of suffering and misery.  There is much we can do to improve their circumstances and ensure they have a  good quality of life.  

1) Stop the breeding
The first and most important step is 
to stop their breeding. Every effort 
must be made to ensure the number 
of cats in an area does not increase 
as this could cause complaints and 
place their lives in jeopardy.  Cats are 
prolific breeders. A female cat begins 
breeding young at just five months of 
age and can have three litters of kittens 
in a year with an average of five kittens 
per litter. A male cat can, technically, 
father kittens every day of the year.

Because of this it is vital the cats are spayed and neutered immediately.  Along with preventing the numbers from increasing, it will decrease the undesirable behaviours associated with mating such as fights, noise, territorial marking and wandering.

If the cats are wild (feral), traps will be needed to catch them. Contact your local rescue or vet who should have some to loan or consult the list of TNR volunteers. 

Ear tip
Ask the vet to ear-tip the cat while 
under anaesthetic so it can be easily 
identified as spayed or neutered in 
the future.  See pic opposite.

Vaccination can protect a cat from 
debilitating and life threatening 
diseases such as herpesvirus (cat flu), 
calicivirus (cat flu) and panleukopenia  
(parvovirus) for up to three years.  
There is also a vaccination available 
for leukaemia virus (FeLV).
Read more on vaccinations here.
Parasite treatment
Treat the cat regularly for worms, fleas, lice, ear mites, etc. There are various spot-on treatments available for both internal and external parasites which can be applied to the back of the neck if the cat is tame. If the cat is wild, orally administered worm and flea treatments can be added to food as and when needed.  Please discuss the various options with your vet.

Microchipping a community cat can help prevent it from being put down if presented or reported as a stray or feral, as well as have it returned to it's neighbourhood safely.
Feed regularly

Access to food on a daily basis is vital to 
ensure the cats survive and thrive.  If the 
cats are in your neighbourhood or at your 
workplace, you can most likely feed them 
once or twice daily which is ideal.  If,
however, the cats are some distance away, 
a feeding station like the one in the photo 
can easily be set up.  A gravity feeder, 
which will keep dry cat food fresh for 
several days, can be placed inside a plastic 
storage container with a hole cut out to 
allow the cats access. Place it out of public 
view to prevent it from being stolen or 
tampered with.  Feeders come in various sizes which allows cats, regardless of the number, to eat for several days before the food runs out and needs restocking. A feeding station ensures cats won't starve though it's best to check it regularly between refills to make sure all is ok. The feeder will need to be cleaned on a regular basis.

Read more here on setting up and maintaining a feeding station for feral cats. 
More ideas here for feeding stations.

Access to water is vital for cats to prevent dehydration and aid kidney function.  This is particularly true for cats eating a dry food diet which can be concentrated.  Gravity waterers are available or place water bowls inside, outside or on top of the plastic container.  Bowls to collect rain water can be left around the area which is sometimes preferable to the cats.  Water bowls need to be cleaned on a regular basis.

Provide shelter

Shelter is vital for community cats in order for them to survive the elements; rain, wind, cold, frost, snow, etc.  Irish winters can be quite severe now with temperatures dipping well below zero.  

If the cats are coming into your garden, consider allowing them to shelter in a shed or garage via an open door or window or cutting out a cat sized opening in a door or installing a cat flap.  A dog kennel is another option.  Simple beds made with plastic containers lined with straw are easy to keep clean and the straw inexpensive to replace.  

If the cats are further afield, cheap weatherproof shelter such as styrofoam boxes can be set up with little effort. These boxes are available from hospitals, vets, restaurants, fish shop, etc.  Simply cut out a cat sized door in the box, tape the lid on, cover with a heavy duty refuse sack and line with straw to make a cozy shelter cats will appreciate.  Place out of public view and weight down by placing rocks or bricks on the top.  Check the boxes regularly and replace straw and box when necessary.  See links below for more shelter ideas. 

Link to shelters 1.  Link to shelters 2.  Link to shelters 3.  Photos of another cat shelter idea.

Litter trays
It's important cats have an appropriate place to use as a toilet as using neighbours gardens is not acceptable.  Provide covered litter trays or sand/compost boxes in an appropriate area and clean and refill regularly.

If you have found a kitten and want to find out what age it is, here is a terrific page with photos from Alley Cat Allies to help.  


Below is a letter to download, print and use if seeking donations from neighbours toward the spaying/neutering of community cats in your neighbourhood.

Donation letter.pdf