Winter is a vulnerable time for everyone

Winter is a vulnerable time for everyone, people and pets included. We hear every day about the plight of the homeless and how these conditions present special challenges to them, but we don’t often hear about the plight of homeless pets, especially cats.

Feral cats do have a place in or city, and there are many heroes that do their best to help these furry waifs to survive our harsh winter. Easily found through internet searches for “feral cat sanctuary Winnipeg” or the like, you can see what these people do for our free range felines, and also how you can contribute with either time, money or resources.

Shelter is one of the biggest needs in winter for anyone. Cats do have fur coats, but that only goes so far in keeping the warm in the winter. Providing shelter from the wind and snow lets the fur coat do its job much better. Something as simple as a Rubbermaid bin with a hole cut in it and some straw inside can be the difference between life and death for a cat.

Sometimes, in seeking shelter, a cat may find a warm spot under the hood of a car that is plugged in. If you have a block heater, make sure that when you unplug it, bang on the hood / fender. This can startle a cat into leaving its hiding spot, and prevent you from starting your engine with the cat in a dangerous position. Even if you don’t have a block heater, you might bang the hood as well, just in case a cat was just getting out of the wind under your hood.

Most areas of the city have a person or group that works on controlling the feral population. They do this with trap, fix and release programmes. Some of these are 100% privately funded and there are some that the city may contribute to through the funds raised in licensing cats. These methods are very effective in keeping the feral population under control.

Why do we want to keep a feral cat population? Ferals are an important part of the city ecosystem, especially with the city’s regulation on not allowing out domestic cats to freely roam inside the city limits. Feral cats help control the rodent population, especially along the creek and river areas where they can flourish.

Many feral cats would never be candidates for adoption, so the only alternative to being part of the feral population is death. Being antisocial is something no one appreciates, but it shouldn’t carry a death sentence.

A large number of kittens from the feral population are captured, cleaned up, socialized and adopted. These kittens go on to be valued family members for years and years. Usually, when they are captured, the mother cat is fixed and if not sociable, released as part of the capture, fix and release program. As she has been fixed, she will no longer contribute to the feral population.

Demand for kittens is pretty much a year round thing, but there is a distinct breeding/birthing season for cats. Feb-Sep in general, but mainly in the spring. With gestation just about 2 months, we see the first litters of kittens starting in April, with the shelters flooded by May-June. Leaving them desperate for homing 8 week old kittens through the summer, when demand for kittens is at its lowest (people planning summer vacations, etc.)

So there you go, if you want to help, you can contribute in many ways. And if you want to open your home to an independent little furball who might just work its way into your heart, plan for it this summer, when the need is greatest. There is lots of time to make arrangements before then.

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