Feral Cats: Caring for your colony in the winter
Story from a feral cat caretaker
Francesca Ciccodemarco has been caring for a six feral cats in her colony over the last 5 years. She has learned how to give them great care and attention, even in the freezing months of winter.
“It’s a very wonderful relationship, with a couple feet of distance,” she says.
It may be daunting for some feral cat caregivers to think of spending time out with their colony in the winter, but not for Ciccodemarco. She says she goes outside for 2-3 hours a day, observing her cats.
“Even when it’s cold, I’m standing outside, just to observe them,” she says.
Ciccodemarco says she names every feral cat she cares for. She says it’s important they learn they have a name. She says in time the cats even come when she calls them.
“To me it’s very important, so I can check on them,” she says.
In the morning, she says she counts them and observes if they’ve been hurt overnight, or seem sick. Ciccodemarco says if she sees they are sneezing or seem ill, she can add medications to their food to help them get better.
“I can assist that way, so it’s very easy,” she says.
Ciccodemarco says feral cats won’t ever bond physically, but they can learn to trust their caregivers as a source of food and water. She says caregivers can bond with the colony by being outside, making eye-contact, and showing them you are consistent.
“It’s a distant bond. If you respect them, they’ll respect you,” she says.
She says the goal should never be to socialize the cats. Ciccodemarco says cats that are truly feral would be unhappy confined inside to a home.
“You will not have a perfect pet, so you know what? Let it be outside,” she says.
It’s important, Ciccodemarco says, is to earn their trust so you can trap them for a spay/neuter surgery, but then they need to be brought back to their natural environment.
“You have to look at them like individuals,” she says, “You have to respect like you do with people.”
Ciccodemarco says it’s much safer for the cats to remain unsocialized, because it will keep them safer from predators.
“When someone comes to the property they disappear, and that’s what I want,” she says.
When the cats seem too friendly to be safe outside, Ciccodemarco says she socializes them, and brings them to her local animal centre to give them a chance of adoption.
“If they want it they choose you, let them choose you, never choose for them,” she says.
For more information on the Ontario SPCA’s feral cat program, and how we support feral cat caregivers visit us HERE.
Check out our video on How-To Build a Feral Cat Shelter.
Or listen to our podcast on the new feral cat program introduced this year!
Hats off to you
To all kind-hearted and hard-working people at SPCA: hats off to you. I love animals and admire the work you do.