George says good morning

George says good morning by jesse.anne.o.
George says good morning, a photo by jesse.anne.o. on Flickr.

This is George, saying good morning. I feed 2 feral cats on someone else's front porch every single morning (long story) and sometimes they're there to greet me. Notice he won't come anywhere near my side of the railing?

The benefits of managing a feral cat colony (after you've already fixed them) are that you have to make arrangements to have them fed every day even if you're traveling, develop attachments and worry about cats who will never let you near them and talk to more folks from your neighborhood than you ever thought you would on their behalf (figuring out the least annoying place you can feed them, figuring out how to keep them off your neighbor's stuff, etc.).

Oh wait. Those were all the challenges.

Okay, the benefits are really:

- that I know George and Harry have food in their tummies and fresh water every day (especially those 90 degree days or the days it's snowing)

- that someone is watching out for them if they get sick or injured

- despite them not being good candidates for living in a home and being adopted, they matter to someone

- they are not making noise (mating, fighting over mating) or stinking up the place (male spraying) any longer because they're fixed

- baby factories are closed -- no more kittens (especially now since all the females are gone, hopefully I didn't jinx myself and a pregnant momma doesn't show up tomorrow!)

Harry and George are my last two feral cat colony members -- seven years ago I fixed 16 cats on this street and they are the only two who remain on this street.

So, I just thought I'd share a part of what I do every single morning!


  1. Handsome lad, that George!

    The campus here has a long-time feral cat problem. No idea why. They're all being fixed and fed, but I've never gotten used to the idea that NOT ONE of the pretty kittycats wants to snuggle with me. Don't they know I'm a top-notch cat-stroker?

    From 16 cats down to 2? Great work!

  2. 16???!!!!!! That's dedication. Thanks Jesse for making your street a better place for the kitties. George is a real cutie.

  3. @ Rebakah - By "problem" do you meant the numbers are increasing? I think there are a few incidences when Trap-Neuter-Return doesn't stand a good chance and it has to do either with proper colony management or immigration issues (also a people problem).

    1) When it's a highly visible colony that people know are being taken care of(like campus colonies - the human population is plentiful and transient and unfortunately students are supposedly known for sneaking in cats and then leaving them behind, urban legend?), people are very likely to dump cats there. When you have a significant "immigration" issue because word is out that those cats are taken care of, it's really hard to reduce the numbers of cats over time because you're getting more cats more frequently than the attrition rate of a cat's natural life span.

    2) Not monitoring the feeding stations - a big point of the colony caretaker TNR model is that your feeding stations need to be monitored every day. Any time you see a new cat, it needs to be fixed immediately. Kittens are pulled out of the colony for adoption as soon as they're weanable (6-7 weeks) and before it's harder to socialize them (8+ weeks) OR they are pulled out and fixed with a clinic well-versed in pediatric spay/neuter at 8 weeks/2 lbs (or whatever the clinic's specifications are). You can't wait until 3-4 months, because they can reproduce at that age (seriously!). So if you're not fixing the cats early enough when litters are happening, that's a big reason for increasing cat numbers as well - pediatric spay/neuter is really important for stabilizing and eventually reducing free-roaming cat populations.

    Anyway. That's the end of my feral cat nerd-out.

  4. @ Teeny - unfortunately that's nothing! The woman one block over fixed another 20+ on her block alone! I found out after an eartipped cat showed up on my side of the block (there were about 30-40 cats total at one point but the majority of them would stay in their own areas except for the 2 or 3 who would cross over between the 2 streets).

    But thank you! :)

  5. Wow, 16 down to 2! That's awesome.

    I take care of 2 feral cats. They are fixed but are not good candidates for adoption. I really worry what will happen to them when we move, but atleast for now they are taken care of.

  6. George doesn't not look like he lives outside, I think he's got a place on the DL.

  7. George is so adorable! I oftentimes try to feed the cats in my neighborhood. And I always find myself worrying about them, especially when I see them crossing the streets at night.

  8. Aww, he's wearing such an adorable gray tux!

    There's an enormous colony in my area that needs managing, but I'm not sure where to begin. They all need to be desexed, and I wouldn't even be able to host one of them. They are well fed, though.

  9. How did you trick them into getting to the vet to get fixed?

  10. You really are dedicated! I've recently realised there's a feral cat on my street... I thought he lived with the group of students opposite, but they moved out and the cat stayed. The cat looks healthy enough but I'm not sure what to do about it.

  11. @ Lauren - Aw! Do you have a local non-profit that has a TNR program? Here we can email out either on the message board or via a group's email list, asking if anyone can pick up feeding responsibilities for a particular colony. Just a thought! Unless there's a sympathetic neighbor? It's hard because I feel like a lot of sympathetic folks still feel like they're street cats so they don't need food and water every day like a regular cat, which isn't true.

    @ Dog - he does! I tried testing feeding them later and later to see if he had another meal coming from someone else but I just had them waiting for me, stressed out. I think they do shelter in someone's basement though. They never used the shelter I gave them and just disappear elsewhere.

    @ Jenn - that is very sweet!

    @ Sarah - if you want you can take the workshop so you are certified already and see if you can drum up any local resources to help recover them. In NYC there is a local message board for people to post to for things like that.

    @ Julie - we use humane box traps. The cats stay in the traps pre-surgery and post-surgery for a day or two and we give them food/water and clean their cages. The traps have a double-door and we use "dividers", which are essentially giant metal hair picks to separate the trap in half so we can clean cage paper and put in food/water in half the cage while the cats on the other side, without them getting out. You just take the dividers out and when the cat goes to the clean side, you put the dividers back in and clean the dirty side. When the vets need to take them out to fix them, they sedate them through the trap grates with a syringe so when they handle the cats they're already sedated and not freaking out - better for both the cats and the vets!

    @ jacky - if it was living with someone before, it's likely friendly and not feral? Is it pet-able? Usually rescue groups/humane societies will take those. It sounds like it was just abandoned. I'll only trap-neuter-return aka fix and put back the cats who are not friendly enough to be adopted into homes. I don't know if you want to reach out to your local animal rescue groups and see if they can let you know the resources available? You can always feed it and give it water outside, and potentially provide it with shelter, if possible. There are some easy ideas here if there's no one to rescue it and it has to stay outside and it's feasible to provide shelter:

  12. Hello again. Sorry to nerd you out---- I don't think the number of cats is increasing. The campus cat program does TNR, though I don't know how closely they're observing the stations.... and it'd never occurred to me that people might park unwanted cats there.

  13. it'd never occurred to me that people might park unwanted cats there.


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