With the spread of COVID-19, there is a very real concern that there will be an increase in the number of feral cats on the streets. TNR programs that are designed to curb the population of feral cats have been largely suspended due to the pandemic. Without active TNR programs, which include the spaying and neutering of free roaming cats, there will undoubtedly be an increase in kittens born on the streets, especially as kitten season nears.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most vet clinics have temporarily closed. This means that TNR groups do not have access to mass spaying and neutering as they did before. Cats breed rapidly, with a female able to give birth at only five months old. Similarly, she can become pregnant again while still breastfeeding. One cat and her offspring can produce roughly 420,000 cats in just seven years, with the female giving birth to two or three litters per year.
While it’s easy to think of the ramifications of this pandemic on human populations, it’s important to remember the impact it has on feral cats as well. Some clinics are still open on an appointment only basis, so if you are still practicing TNR, contact your local vet clinics to see if they can assist with spay/neuter services.
Have you been affected by the shutdown of vet clinics during this pandemic? Are you still able to effectively TNR during this time? Please share your experiences with us in the comments below.
During kitten season it’s not uncommon to find a litter of unattended kittens, or a seemingly orphaned kitten by itself. Although it may be tempting to jump in and help, take the following steps before doing anything.
Chances are, momma cat is somewhere nearby. She may be watching from a distance, or off searching for food. It is not uncommon for a momma cat to leave the kittens alone for several hours. If you find a kitten alone, she may be in the process of moving her litter from one location to another.
Before doing anything, assess the kittens’ apparent health. Does their fur look healthy full and fluffy? Or are they dirty and look sickly? Are they sleeping quietly? Huddled together? Or are they crying? Lastly, are they dry, or wet? Next, asses the environment. Are the kittens in immediate danger from rain, wet weather, or the cold? Are there potential predators around, such as racoons or dogs? Is there traffic, like pedestrian foot traffic, bicycles or cars?
After assessing the situation and determining that the kittens are not in immediate danger, it is best to wait and watch to see if the momma cat will return. You should stay at least 35 feet away, but the father the better. Do not place food near the kittens to try to entice the mother to return. She almost always hides her litter away from food sources to protect them from other cats or predators.
In some cases you may need to leave the area completely and check back in 4-6 hours to see if the kittens are still OK. Especially if momma cat is feral, she will most likely not return until she no longer senses the presence of humans. Keep in mind that healthy kittens can survive several hours without food as long as they are warm. Hypothermia is a much greater risk than starvation for neonatal kittens.
If momma cat returns and you’ve determined the area is relatively safe, leave the kittens along until they are weaned at approximately 5-6 weeks. You can monitor the area from a distance and offer shelter and food, but keep the two apart from one another. Mom won’t use the shelter if food is nearby.
At five to six weeks old, it is time to take the kittens from the mother for socialization and adoption. Any time after eight weeks is suitable to TNR.
Remember, female cats can become pregnant while she is still nursing, so make sure that the mother cat is spayed so she does not have any more kittens.
If momma cat does not return and you decide to intervene, be prepared to see the kittens through until you can get additional help, which may be days or weeks.
Many people think that declawing is a quick fix solution to solve the problem of unwanted scratching. However, the practice of declawing is far more harmful than it is helpful. Many countries around the world, cities in the United States, and the state of New York have all banned the practice, declaring it inhumane. Furthermore, declawing can also cause lasting physical problems for your cat, as well as behavioral issues such as refusal to use the litter box and a tendency to bite.
Often, people believe that declawing is a simple procedure that removes a cat’s nails, as same as having your fingernails trimmed. However, this is far from the case. Traditionally, declawing involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe. If the equivalent procedure was performed on a human, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle. Prominent animal welfare groups, such as the ASPCA, have condemned the practice unless medically necessary.
Aside from being extremely painful for the cat, there are additional negative effects from declawing. It can cause infection, tissue death, lameness, and back pain. There can also be a regrowth of improperly removed calls, nerve damage, and bone spurs. Litter can irritate declawed feet, increasing the chances of cats refusing to use the litter box. Some cats may begin biting because they no longer have their claws for defense.
There are several steps you can take to prevent damage to your furniture and to avoid unwanted scratching. First, keep your cat’s claws trimmed to minimize damage to items in your house. Second, provide scratching posts and boards for your cat to use around your home. Offer different materials as well as different styles, and use catnip to tempt your cat to use the posts and boards. You can also use a special tape on furniture to deter your cat from unwanted scratching. By adhering to these simple solutions, you can successfully mitigate scratching while keeping your cat happy and healthy.
Many common cleaning products can be hazardous to cats. They contain chemicals that can be toxic, and even deadly. Cats are especially at risk because they groom themselves, therefore ingest chemicals on their fur and feet. Additionally, cats can have allergic reactions to the chemicals and fumes found in commercial household cleaning products. Luckily, there are safe and cheap alternatives to these common products that are also environmentally friendly.
Using a non-toxic cleaner on floors is especially important because cats are low to the ground. Use a vinegar and warm water solution on wood, ceramic tile, linoleum or vinyl flooring. If you’re using a carpet steam cleaner, use a water and vinegar solution (one part water to one part vinegar) to clean.
Bathrooms and Kitchens
Use baking soda to dust surfaces in bathrooms and kitchens, then wipe with a moist cloth or sponge. Another option is to use vinegar and warm water. If you’re trying to remove mildew or grease stains, first spray them with lemon juice, let it sit for a few minutes, and then use a brush to scrub the residue away.
Unclogging a Drain
Drain cleaner contains numerous chemicals and comes with a multitude of warnings. Instead of a commercial cleaner, use baking soda and vinegar. Pour a few tablespoons of baking soda down the drain, then a cup of vinegar. The reaction of the two products will help unclog the drain. Afterwards, rinse with hot water.
Olive oil, or a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice (two parts olive oil, one part lemon juice) makes an excellent furniture polish.
The self-cleaning feature on ovens often release fumes during the cleaning process that can irritate cats and humans alike. Instead, make a paste of baking soda and water, then coat the inside of your oven. Let it sit overnight, and then scrub away the dirt the next day.
The chemicals contained in dryer sheets, as well as in fabric softeners and laundry detergents, are absorbed by your skin and therefore your cats’ skin as well. These products are known to contain carcinogens and neurotoxins.
Sometimes it is unavoidable to expose our cats to toxic fumes. When it comes to painting, ensure that the area being painted is well-ventilated. One way to do this is with an ionic air purifier. If you don’t have one, set small bowls of vinegar around the room, and change them daily. The smell of the paint fumes will be absorbed by the liquid. Leave these bowls out until all paint odor has dissipated.
While these homemade cleaning projects might require a little extra work, you will have peace of mind knowing that not only is your cat safe from toxic chemicals and fumes, but that you are also saving money and contributing to a healthier planet.
Alley Cat Rescue has been taking care of 11 colonies of cats for many years. We make sure all are sterilized and we feed them daily. Every day, on holidays and even when it rains or snows!
Most of the colonies have declined in size over time, but in just a few instances, new cats have joined the colonies, mostly when the cats are near an apartment complex. Many people move and leave behind their cats “to fend for themselves” ---this is a very bad idea as most cats cannot fend for themselves---many cats cannot hunt, despite the idea that environmentalists have tried to implant in our heads that all cats hunt.
Our outdoor cats are always in good condition. We provide them with shelters filled with clean straw (note - NOT hay, blankets, or towels) and feeding stations so the food remains dry. Cats live quite well outdoors, if fed and provided with shelters.
Years ago when we heard that often caretakers of cats-- indoors and outdoors -- died or became disabled, and left no provision in their wills for someone to take of their cats, we developed our Pet Trust Brochure. This brochure shows you how to plan for your own cats and for the colonies you take care of should anything happen to you.
If you want a copy please email the ACR office at email@example.com
Weaning is the process of transitioning a kitten from a liquid to solid diet. One key component is starting at the right age, as kittens’ bodies are very sensitive to premature weaning. Up until five weeks, kittens should be either nursing or bottle feeding. Around five weeks, kittens’ premolars will begin to come in. This is a sign that the kitten is ready to start trying out solid food. However, some kittens may need more time based on health issues or differences in weight or size. If you observe any changes in the kitten’s health during the process, immediately revert back to bottle feeding.
Having the right supplies is also important. Pick up some wet kitten food, making sure it says ‘kitten’. Kitten food is higher in calories, fat, and protein which will help them grow big and strong. Wet food also provides moisture to help them stay hydrated. Shallow food dishes are also necessary so that the kittens can easily reach the food.
Start the transition by beginning with slurry, which is a mix of formula and wet food. Begin by adding a small teaspoon of wet food mixed with formula, which lets the kitten become familiar with new proteins and flavors. As the kitten becomes more comfortable with eating meat, you can begin increasing the ratio of wet food to formula. There are a couple ways to introduce the slurry, so use your judgement on the best way. Some kittens prefer wet food blended with formula then fed to them in a bottle. Other kittens may be able to eat off a tongue depresser or from your finger. Over time, the kitten will learn how to eat the slurry from a dish. During this time, be sure to supplement your kitten’s diet with bottle feeding if you aren’t sure that the kitten is getting a full meal.
Once the kitten is comfortably eating slurry on her own, you can switch completely to wet food. Monitor this transition to make sure there are no concerning changes in weight, behavior, or condition. At this time, you can also begin to introduce water in a small, shallow dish. Large dishes can cause a safety hazard to little kittens, so keep the water dish to roughly two inches high. It’s normal for kittens to struggle with water initially, but she should be drinking comfortably within one to three days.
While bird advocacy groups are often quick to point the finger at cats for the decline in bird populations, it is becoming increasingly evident that humans are playing a significant role in the death of birds. Oil spills, drowning by fishing nets, and electrocution by power lines all account for accidental deaths of migratory birds, which for the previous decades, was a punishable offense. Under Republican and Democratic presidents alike, killing migratory birds, even accidentally, was a crime, with fines ranging from $250 to $100 million. This served as a deterrent that protected birds and allowed the government to hold companies accountable for environmental disasters.
But in part due to President Trump’s interior secretary nominee, David Bernhardt, the protection provided to these birds is being severely undermined. Bernhardt pushed a December 2017 legal opinion that declared the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) only applies when companies kill birds on purpose. This new policy has resulted in a significantly more ‘hand’s off’ approach when it comes to human action resulting in the harming or killing of migratory birds or their eggs. For example, when a tugboat spilled oil into Great Harbor in Massachusetts, which resulted in the death of dozens of birds. “As this spill involves the incidental take of birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, there is currently no enforcement action planned,” according to an email from a Fish and Wildlife agent.
This new interpretation of the century-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act places birds at an increased risk, but also could potentially further harm cats’ reputation as well. As cats have long taken the brunt of the blame for bird deaths, an increase in numbers of deaths could also be falsely attributed to cats. Therefore, it is in the best interest for both birds and cats that the MBTA is restored and strengthened to what it once was.
Cats are well known for their varied, and often feisty, personalities. Some are shy, some anxious, others playful. But what does it mean if it seems like your cat is acting depressed? Can cats even suffer from depression? The answer is a bit more complicated than yes or no.
While cats can exhibit depressed behavior, it is generally accepted that they do not share the same emotional changes with depression found in humans. In humans, depression is diagnosed by self-reporting, but as vets cannot ask cats how they feel, it becomes more difficult to determine. Instead, we must rely on the clues they provide us through their behavior and activities and make assessments based on those criteria.
Clinically, the way depression in cats manifests is loss of appetite, avoidance behavior, decrease in activity, and abnormal behavior, such as hissing. Some cats may exhibit changes in litter box usage, while others may have a disturbance in their sleeping patterns.
However, most of these symptoms can also be caused by other underlying medical conditions. Many diseases can mimic depression in cats, so it is important to take your cat to the vet to rule out other options. According to experts, pain is one of the most underdiagnosed conditions in cats, in particular senior cats, and is one of the premier causes of signs of depression. An accurate diagnosis and treatment can greatly increase your cat’s quality of life.
Vets begin the evaluation by taking a full history of symptoms and completing a robust physical exam. Tests will likely be suggested by your vet in order to determine a good overall picture at your pet’s health and organ function. Changes in behavior due solely to stress and anxiety can be difficult to differentiate from medical conditions, so vets often have to rely on process of elimination to come to a diagnosis.
If your cat gets the all-clear, your vet can help you determine potential external stressors. Cats can suffer from anxiety dues to changes in routine, feeling threatened, or the addition or loss of a family member. Anxiety is one of the leading behavioral issues seen by vets. Hair loss, aggression, or changes in litterbox usage are often symptoms of anxiety. If the stressors can be eliminated, it is likely that your cat will return to normal over time.
In more severe cases, vets can prescribe anti-anxiety medication, which is useful for some cats. Another option is to visit a veterinary behaviorist, who deals primarily in behavior issues and can help manage the problem through behavior modification as well as medication.
Any cat showing signs of depression can benefit immensely from an evaluation by your vet. By evaluating them from a cat-friendly perspective, there is often a lot that you can do to make your cats happier and healthier.
Declawing is an inhumane and incredibly painful procedure for cats to endure. It can lead to lifelong pain, discomfort, and behavioral issues. The procedure involves removing the first joint of the cat’s toe, equivalent to amputating the tip of a person's finger from the first knuckle on. As a result, cats can suffer from symptoms such as chronic foot pain, infection, arthritis and difficulty walking.
Owners may declaw their cats in an attempt to prevent unwanted scratching, but sometimes the declaw procedure will actually cause cats to exhibit new problematic behaviors. Declawed cats are more likely to urinate outside of the litter box because the litter becomes painful to walk on, and declawed cats may be more likely to bite because they can no longer use their paws and claws for protection. Furthermore, scratching is an important natural cat behavior that helps them exercise and tone their muscles.
Proponents of declawing claim that the practice keeps cats in homes. However, data from U.S. cities that have banned declawing shows a decline in the number of relinquished cats since the bans were enacted. Because of the problems that declawing can bring, it may actually make an owner more likely to relinquish their cat.
Effective and humane alternatives to the declawing exist, and ACR implores you to explore these alternative options and refrain from this torturous procedure.
Becoming a TNR volunteer is easier than you might think. If you want to help cats, becoming involved in TNR is a simple but impactful way to save cats lives.
TNR helps prevent kittens from being born on street and over burdening our shelter system.
How can you get involved? The basics of TNR are divided into three phases: planning, trapping, and treating. First, establish a feeding time, then count the number of cats. Next, make an appointment with a clinic for the spays/neuters. Obtain traps and other supplies that you will need.
Have the person feeding the cats withhold food for a day. Prepare the traps with newspaper and bait. Next, set the traps and wait for the cats to enter. Once trapped, cover with a towel and transport them home for the evening. In the morning, take the cats to the clinic so they can be spayed/neutered, ear tipped, and vaccinated. After the recovery period, return the cats back to their colony.
If that process seems a bit too overwhelming, there are many other ways to get involved. You can volunteer to help transport cats, trap cats, fundraise, foster kittens and much more.
Alley Cat Rescue is leading in the way in promoting humane and compassionate care for ALL cats.