How to Care for a Stray, Feral or Abandoned Cat

Abandoned Cat
My cat, Scrappy, that some previous neighbors abandoned, before I rescued her in the winter of 2014.

April 5, 2019

Author: Melissa Sitzman

There are so many cats that are feral, stray or that have been abandoned by irresponsible owners, that I felt this was important information to share. However, before taking any action to help a cat, please find out the laws pertaining to stray and feral cats, in your area. There are places that prohibit feeding them and in some instances, by feeding a cat, you become it’s lawful owner. That’s why it’s important to know the laws, before you act so that you can decide what’s best.

It’s also equally important to make sure you’re dealing with a cat that really is a stray, feral or that was abandoned. In order to find out, it’s a good idea to ask people in the area if they know anything about the cat. You can even take pictures and distribute flyers so that any potential owner might see them. There are also groups on social media sites that publish pictures of lost pets, for most areas. I highly recommend looking there and on classified websites to try to find any owners. If you’re able to, you could even put a collar on the cat with a tag that reads; “If this is your cat, please call (your phone number).” If you do so, make sure it is the kind of collar that breaks off, if the cat gets caught on something. They’re called “break away collars.”

While waiting to hear from any potential owners, providing food, water and shelter could save the cats life! You can leave these things, in the area where you’ve repeatedly seen the cat. A mixture of dry and wet cat food is best because it could have problems eating dry food, if it has untreated dental issues. A shelter can be made very inexpensively. There are many options for doing so. A good shelter could be made out of a large, old cooler. Just cut a hole, big enough for a cat to get through, in one end. Another option is to use two plastic storage containers with some foam insulation, in between the two containers.

Example of home made feral cat shelter.
Here’s one that I made for my cat, Scrappy, when she was still outside.

The Alley Cat Advocates website has really good instructions on how to make your own cat shelter. Just click on the word “instructions” above and then click on the icon that reads: “Download Pdf.” Once you’ve made a shelter, place it in the same area where you’ve been feeding the cat. You do want to leave, at least, a little space in between the food and the shelter, as the food can draw the attention of other animals.

If you haven’t heard from someone claiming the cat, within a week or two, you need to decide what to do with the cat. If it’s truly feral, meaning it doesn’t want human interaction, at all. Then, it should be trapped and taken to a shelter that has a trap, neuter and release program. If you can’t find a shelter that participates, in your area, you can approach the shelters near you, about starting a program. The Alley Cat Allies website goes into much more detail about how to do so, here.

If the cat is trapped and taken to a shelter they will evaluate whether the cat is adoptable or not. If it is adoptable, they will put the cat up for adoption. After it has been sterilized, received shots and any needed veterinary care. If the cat isn’t adoptable, the shelter will get in touch with you after the cat has recovered from surgery, to take the cat back where you trapped it, for release. Doing this helps cut down the feral cat population.

If the cat is friendly and, like I did, you decide you want to try to integrate the cat into your household, it’s important that the cat receive veterinary care before you bring it indoors. Not only for the health of any other pets but, also for the health of yourself and your family. Cats can be carriers of parasites that can be transferred to humans. It’s also important that the cat be tested for Feline Leukemia (FeLv) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) before being around any other cats. There are no cures for either disease and they are contagious to other cats. A cat with FeLv should not be with other cats under any circumstances.

However, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is only spread when cats wound each other during a fight. So, if you do have other cats, you can decide whether you want to take that risk or not. If you decide to take the risk, please introduce the cats to each other, using extreme caution. You can read how to do so in my blog post titled, “How to Successfully Introduce New Cats or Kittens to Older Cats.”

My cat, Scrappy is FIV positive. My husband and I, integrated her into our home, with two other cats, without any issues. It took quite a while to do so but, I’m really glad that we did. She’s a good cat!

My cat Scrappy.
Scrappy, today.

Disclaimer:

I am not a veterinarian nor am I affiliated with or receiving compensation from any of the other websites that are linked to, in this blog post. Please always consult a qualified veterinarian for advice when dealing with cats.

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What Every Cat Owner Should Know About Feline Diabetes

Princess Overweight in 2006
Top cat is Gonzo. Bottom cat is Princess, who was very overweight, at that time. Taken in 2006.

March 22, 2019

Author: Melissa Sitzman

I look back and can’t believe how overweight my cat, Princess, was in 2006! At the time, I didn’t even realize how big she was. I went through a few tough years and in those years, my cats missed a few annual checkups. I highly recommend that you take your pets to the vet, at least once a year. Senior cats should be seen every six months. That’s how diseases are spotted and treated, before they become a serious issue.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t how it happened for Princess, and I still beat myself up for it, to this day. In the summer of 2009, Princess started losing a lot of weight, and fast. Her hind legs began sliding out from underneath her, as well. I suddenly couldn’t keep up with the litter box, no matter how often I scooped it! She was also drinking so excessively, that, she would lay next to the water dish, to drink. She was diagnosed with feline diabetes and neuropathy in June of 2009. Neuropathy was the result of having high blood glucose levels, for an extended period of time. It’s, basically, nerve damage that’s caused by uncontrolled diabetes.

Here’s a list of possible Feline Diabetes Symptoms;

  • Excessive and frequent urination
  • Breath that smells sweet
  • Excessive drinking of water
  • Excessive hunger or a change in appetite
  • Being overweight and/or weight loss (This is not always the case, some cats are diagnosed while at a healthy weight.)
  • Walking on hind hocks (not up on their toes, like they should be)
  • Feet that slide out from under their body and/or weak legs.
  • Dull looking and oily coat
  • Lethargy
  • Hiding
  • Irritability
  • Drooling
  • Unusual litter box odor
  • Urinating or defecating outside of the litter box and/or on soft objects

Not all cats will have all symptoms and overweight cats are at a much higher risk. Cats are treated with insulin injections and Princess received them twice a day. She was on them for four years! The veterinarian also had me put her on a dry cat food with lower carbohydrate and higher protein percentages. However, her condition didn’t improve and she also developed Inflammatory Bowel Disease!

That’s when I made the decision to switch her food! I, actually, wrote about this, in another blog post titled Raw Pet Food, The FDA and My Sick Cat. Instead of re-typing all the details, I’m going to continue by quoting myself, from that post;

“In 2012, I took a leap of faith and decided, against our veterinarian’s wishes, to start feeding both of my cats, a raw pet food. Rad Cat was just about the only raw cat food on the market, at that time, that could be purchased locally. So, that’s what I switched my cats to. At first, my cats didn’t want to eat it. It wasn’t until I mixed it with canned food, that they devoured it! I started weaning them off of kibble and slowly replaced it with more raw and canned food.

Then, one day, Princess didn’t seem to be doing well, at all. I rushed her to a vet hospital, where I learned that her blood glucose levels were dangerously low! Because I had changed her food, and because her regular veterinarian had kept her on the same amount of insulin (despite me telling him about the diet change), she nearly died! Her blood glucose had dropped to dangerously low levels. After the vet stabilized her, I decided it was time to switch veterinarians. The new vet taught me how to test blood glucose levels at home, and how to know when, and if, Princess needed insulin. She hasn’t had an insulin injection, since!

Feeding raw food, not only seemed to send Princesses diabetes into remission, it seemed to cure her digestive issues, as well. I had never seen my cats so healthy and happy!”

Princess after eating raw cat food.
Princess at a healthy weight in 2016, after feeding raw cat food!

On April 1, 2019, Princess will be turning 19 years old! If you want your cats to live a long, healthy lives, feed them a species appropriate diet! Dry food is not a good choice for cats, as it does not provide enough moisture and the percentage of carbohydrates in them, is far too high! (There’s a reason feline diabetes and kidney disease are becoming so common in cats!) Think about what a cat would eat in the wild.

Cats should be fed, either, a low carb, high protein canned/ wet food or a raw cat food. I, actually, mix the two. I was having issues with Princess, recently, after the company that made her raw food, went out of business. However, I found an alternative and she’s doing really well, again! If you would like to know what I feed her, leave a comment.

I highly recommend doing a little research, yourself, to try to find the right food for you and your cat. There’s a really good comparison chart on the website catinfo.org that’s written by Lisa A. Pierson D.V.M. that shows carbohydrate and protein percentages for a large variety of different brands and kinds of canned and raw cat foods. I’ll leave a link to that chart, below.

I hope you find this information helpful and that it keeps someone else from ending up with a diabetic cat!

Disclaimer:

I am not affiliated with nor am I receiving compensation from the website, it’s author or any of the food companies listed on the website or cat food chart that I am linking to below. You should always consult with a veterinarian when switching your pets food. I’m not a vet, I’m simply sharing what worked for me and my cat.

Here’s the link to the food chart mentioned above:

Cat Food Comparison Chart on Catinfo.org by Lisa A. Pierson

How to Successfully Introduce New Cats or Kittens to Older Cats

February 20, 2019

Author: Melissa Sitzman

Things You’ll Need:

  • A room where you can put the new cat, separate from the existing cats. Such as; a guest bedroom, an extra bathroom, etc.. (Just make sure there are child safety locks on any cupboards and any harmful substances are stored to where kitty can’t get to them. If it’s a bathroom, keep the toilet seat down.)
  • New Litter Box and Fresh Litter
  • Dishes for Food and Water (separate from any existing cats dishes)
  • Cat Food and Water
  • A Few New Cat Toys
  • A Cat Bed (you can make one out of some old towels and a box)
  • 3 Baby Gates
  • A Spray Bottle Full of Water
  • Patience!!

Instructions:

It’s a good idea to have a room set up before bringing a new cat home but, I know that’s not always possible. Whatever room you pick, make sure that there aren’t any hazards to the new cat or kitten. Kittens, especially, can fit into surprisingly small spaces! Any spaces under or behind furniture, should be blocked off. (Trust me, my cat Princess ended up stuck under my dresser, when I first got her!) Set up a new litter box, food and water dishes, some toys and some sort of cat bed, in the room you’ve selected.

When you bring the new cat inside, take it directly to the designated room it will be staying in. Make sure all existing cats are not in that room and shut the door. Only then should you let the new cat out of it’s carrier. The door to the room with the new cat inside, should remain closed, at least for the first day. If the new cat hasn’t been dewormed and vaccinated, the door should stay shut, until a few days after it has been to a veterinarian. Don’t leave the new cat alone that whole time! Frequently go in the room to check on him or her, check food and water, clean up the litter box and of course, spend some time playing with them. My husband and I always decide which one of us will spend the first night with the new cat. That way it feels safe and gives an opportunity to bond with it.

The other reason you want to keep the door shut, at first, is to allow your existing cats to smell and hear the new cat but, not see it. This gets them used to the new scent and let’s them know a new cat has arrived, without giving them a chance to fight. You also want to make sure you’re giving your existing cats extra affection and attention during this entire process. They may be agitated, curious, upset, scared and might hiss or even try to attack the door to the room where the new cat is. That’s normal behavior and it’s important to remember that cats are territorial.

After the first day, or after the new cat has had a few days after being dewormed and vaccinated, you can open the door. Before doing so, stack three baby gates, one on top of the other, in the doorway. This serves as a barrier between the existing cats and the new cat, while also allowing them to see each other. Make sure the baby gates are correctly installed and are secure, as one or more cats may try attacking the gates! The door should only be left open when someone is there to supervise what’s going on. If things get too heated and one of the cats is repeatedly trying to attack, shut the door and try again the next day. The time you’ll have to do this, depends on the cats. I’ve had a cat that was just curious and ready for a new playmate and I’ve also had a cat that hated other cats! Understand that it may take some time to get to where you trust the cats together.

When you have the door open, you should start feeding all cats near the baby gates, on their respective sides of it. You should not allow old and new cats to be together, without them, until they can calmly eat an entire meal, close to each other, without any incident. This could take a few days, it could take a year! Be prepared for that. Patience is an absolute must, if you want to make this work.

Once all cats can eat, without incident, you’re ready to let the new cat out of its room! Yay! Remove the two top baby gates and leave the lowest one. This allows the new cat to come out when they feel comfortable, it also allows existing cats to go in the room if they want but, leaves a small barrier they have to jump over, to do so. This should only be done under supervision.

This is when you may need a spray bottle of water. I know its controversial but, I would much rather spray cats that are getting into a fight, in order to get them to stop, then end up with injured cats! Cats don’t like water so, if they do get into a confrontation, a quick squirt of water should get them to stop. Doing so also sends the message that you won’t tolerate any fighting amongst them. You may want to give them a chance to stop before spraying them, by loudly saying, “no,” and clapping your hands but, if that doesn’t work, be prepared to squirt them with water.

All major bickering has to stop before you can take the final gate down and this should also be supervised, the first few times. Don’t leave the cats alone together until you’re confident that they won’t fight while you’re gone. Until you reach this point, put the new cat, back in it’s room and shut the door, anytime you leave. (Please, do not leave the new cat shut in its room for extended amounts of time.)

It’s worth noting that, not all cats will end up being buddies. With lots of patience and love, you should be able to get them to where they at least tolerate one another. Good luck!

I should mention, there are diffusers sold in major pet supply stores, that help calm cats. One brand is Feliway, and I’ve found that they do help.

Disclaimer:

I am not a veterinarian and am only sharing what has worked in my home. It’s always best to consult a veterinarian.

I’m not affiliated with or receiving compensation from any brands or products that I mentioned.

Raw Pet Food, The FDA and My Sick Cat

February 11, 2019

Author: Melissa Sitzman

My interest in raw pet food started when my cat, Princess, was diagnosed with feline diabetes, in 2008. At that time, her veterinarian wrote a prescription for insulin and showed my husband and I, how to give injections. She got them twice a day.

After a few years of insulin shots, and feeding an expensive food that her vet recommended, Princesses health hadn’t improved as much as hoped. In fact, the vet kept increasing the insulin doses plus, she had also developed IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease). I was scared we were going to lose her! That’s when I began my own, intensive research on feline diabetes and feline nutrition. My findings left me in complete shock! For eight years, I had been feeding her a food that might have been responsible for her poor health!

Let me pause here to say, I am not affiliated with, nor am I receiving compensation from any of the companies, brands, websites, people, agencies and/or organizations that I’m about to mention. I’m simply recounting my personal experiences. I am not a veterinarian and you should always do your own research and work with your pet’s veterinarian to make decisions about your pets health and diet.

Now back to where I left off.

Thanks to the website catinfo.org, authored by Lisa A. Pierson D.V.M., I learned what a species appropriate diet for a cat, really is. I was forced to ask myself, “what would a cat eat in the wild?” The answer; not kibble! Cats would eat raw meat. For example; mice, birds, rabbits, squirrels and maybe some fish (if they were lucky). Cats are carnivores, yet, most commercial pet foods are packed with grains, vegetables, and all kinds of mysterious ingredients (some of which I can’t even pronounce).

Veterinary offices profit from selling “prescription diets” that manufacturers and distributors sell, exclusively, to them. This isn’t because of any law or regulation. It’s simply a marketing tactic used by pet food manufacturers. Most people think that the food must be good for their pets health, if a veterinarian is selling it, right? That’s not necessarily true.

In 2012, I took a leap of faith and decided, against our veterinarian’s wishes, to start feeding both of my cats, a raw pet food. Rad Cat was just about the only raw cat food on the market, at that time, that could be purchased locally. So, that’s what I switched my cats to. At first, my cats didn’t want to eat it. It wasn’t until I mixed it with canned food, that they devoured it! I started weaning them off of kibble and slowly replaced it with more raw and canned food.

Then, one day, Princess didn’t seem to be doing well, at all. I rushed her to a vet hospital, where I learned that her blood glucose levels were dangerously low! Because I had changed her food, and because her regular veterinarian had kept her on the same amount of insulin (despite me telling him about the diet change), she nearly died! Her blood glucose had dropped to dangerously low levels. After the vet stabilized her, I decided it was time to switch veterinarians. The new vet taught me how to test blood glucose levels at home, and how to know when, and if, Princess needed insulin. She hasn’t had an insulin injection, since!

Feeding raw food, not only seemed to send Princesses diabetes into remission, it seemed to cure her digestive issues, as well. I had never seen my cats so healthy and happy! I wish I could end this blog post here but, I can’t….

Princess will be turning 19 years old this coming April and due to unforeseen circumstances, I’m now afraid for her health, once again! A few months ago, I went to buy more Rad Cat and was told that it was no longer available. Apparently, the manufacturer had gone out of business. I couldn’t make sense of what I was being told! When I first started feeding it, it was very hard to find. Over the years, it became widely available and quite popular! My local pet food store had an entire freezer dedicated to Rad Cat but, now it sat empty. So many questions ran through my head, and a sinking feeling washed over me as I realized what this meant for Princess and her health! There are no other raw foods that have the same ingredients, that are widely available, that I can switch her to! I, literally, cried.

I was forced to feed only the canned food that I had been mixing with Rad Cat for years. I had no idea how to make raw pet food, myself. I was scared to even try! I feared I wouldn’t be able to create a balanced diet, with everything cats need. Desperate and determined to help her, I bought EZ Complete mix for cats and started making raw food, myself. Despite my efforts, Princess was recently rushed to the local emergency veterinary hospital. She had blood in her stool. Her IBD symptoms came back, after all these years. It became obvious that I’m not able produce the same quality or recipe that Rad Cat could. Why was all of this happening!? Why did Rad Cat go under?

Upon visiting Rad Cat’s official website, and reading a page titled “The Rad Cat FDA Experience,” (which I’ll link to below) I was horrified to read what happened to their company! The FDA, seemingly, targeted them, and continues to target other raw pet food manufacturers, for unknown reasons. Reasons that don’t even make sense. All of Rad Cat’s products ended up being recalled and it was financially devastating to their small company. I hadn’t even been aware of the recalls and not one time, did my cats exhibit illness, while eating their food. In fact, quite the opposite. Plus, no one living in our house ever got sick from a food borne illness, either!

The FDA recently started collecting samples, only from raw pet food companies, and testing them for things like Salmonella and E. Coli. Why not collect samples from all pet food manufacturers. Does this really seem fair? I don’t think so and neither do the manufacturers, themselves! Please visit the Rad Cat website and read their side of the story. Please also visit some of the other, related, links below.

My issue with all of this is; First, my cat has been sick since Rad Cat went out of business and I know I’m not the only one going through this. I belong to a multitude of cat health groups on Facebook, where many people have expressed concern for their cats health now that Rad Cat isn’t available. My second problem is with the reason the FDA has given for cracking down on raw pet food… because it doesn’t make sense! On the website titled; “Raw Pet Food and the AVMA’s Policy” (which I will link to below) they quote the FDA as saying,

FDA does not believe raw meat foods for animals are consistent with the goal of protecting the public from significant health risks…”

Also, the FDA’s website states that raw pet foods are more likely to be contaminated with food borne pathogens. Which simply isn’t true!

If you go to the website Truthaboutpetfood.com and read the article titled; “Let’s Get the Facts Straight FDA,” the author breaks down, for comparison, how many pounds of dry kibble and how many pounds of raw food were recalled for salmonella, over a five year period. Dry kibble had far more pounds of food recalled than raw food did. I highly recommend reading the entire article (I will link to it below.)

Therefore, if the FDA is REALLY so concerned about public health, then why are they only testing raw pet foods? Why not test all pet foods, equally? Do they not care about the public health hazards that dry kibble obviously has? Why is dry food exempt from such scrutiny? Is there some sort of agenda to put the raw pet food manufacturers out of business? Could it be because raw food actually makes pets healthy and when pets are healthy, pharmaceutical companies lose business? The FDA’s actions seem to be at the very least, biased. At worst, completely corrupt!

So, who makes sure that the FDA is following laws and regulations? No one does and they apply them as they see fit. The law states that there has to be enough pathogen present in a food TO MAKE AN ANIMAL OR PERSON SICK, in order to force a recall. (This information is on the Rad Cat website.) Not any amount! The FDA clearly has too much power and that is power is being abused!

It also should be noted, that pets can be carriers of pathogens, themselves, without ever exhibiting any symptoms. Therefore, just because an animal or its feces test positive for a pathogen, DOESN’T MEAN IT CAME FROM THEIR FOOD! Pathogens are everywhere, wild animals shed them, humans shed them, etc.. Salmonella can live on hard surfaces and fabrics for hours. There is no possible way to conclusively determine where an animal was expose to a pathogen. Yet, the FDA wants companies to recall their foods based on such findings. Even when pathogens they find from food samples don’t match with pathogens taken from a pet or their feces! As is the case with another raw food manufacturer, Hare Today. (Again, I will leave a link below.)

So what are concerned pet parents to do? I’ll tell you what I’m going to do and I hope many of you will join me. I’m going to send a copy of this to the FDA, Congress, The White House, all local representatives, etc… and demand something be done about it!

Also, if you do feed your pets raw food; wash your hands, regularly sanitize all surfaces in your home including pets food and water dishes and handle feces with disposable gloves. If you practice safe food and waste handling procedures, like we have in our home, you will eliminate most of the risk.

If you don’t feed your pets raw food, I believe that you should know the percentage of carbohydrates and protein in the food that you are feeding. Because this isn’t required on pet food labels, a little math is required in order to figure this out. The website catsite.com has a really good examples of the required calculations in an article titled, “How To Compare Cat Foods & Calculate Carbs: Dry Matter Basis.” I highly recommend reading the information they share on that webpage. (I’ve included a link below.)

Just a little research, can go a long way when it comes to the health of your pets!

Website links in the order they were mentioned:

Feeding Your Cat: Know the Basics of Feline Nutrition

The Rad Cat FDA Experience

Raw Pet Foods and The AVMA’s Policy: FAQ

Let’s Get the Facts Straight FDA

Second Raw Pet Food Maker Refuses to Recall Product

How to Compare Cat Foods and Calculate Carbs: Dry Matter Basis

Other related websites that may be of interest:

FDA Recommendations Conflict with Their Own Data

Some Points on Two Recent Raw Dog Food Recalls

The Two Percent of Pet Food that is Hated by Regulatory

The Country’s Most Important Animal Raw Food Producer has Just Been Put Out of Business by the FDA