HEART OF TEXAS
FERAL FRIENDS

Your Subtitle text
Caregivers' Corner

COLD WEATHER ALERT! “Winterize" your colony.
It’s that time of year where Central Texas will fluctuate between mild days and nights where temps fall below freezing.

Caregivers in the Central Texas area may want to prepare their colony cats for a couple of nights of below freezing temperatures.

This includes easy steps such as:
- Make sure entrances to warm protective shelter are not blocked.
- Add straw to those protected areas for warmth. Straw is better than hay for warmth.
- Since Central Texas rarely sees hard freezes that last for days on end, most of our community cats can make good use of simple shelters, such as a large sturdy board blocking the north wind.
- Make sure cats are fed today so they have a full belly tonight.
- Some caregivers may want to mix in some canned cat food when freezing night temps are expected.
- Keep your cats safe by picking up any remaining cat food before sundown... wildlife or stray dogs may be looking for extra food as well.
- Please be sure to keep fresh "unfrozen" water available to them, and increase the feeding (but not too much) from summer feeding.
- Consider making some inexpensive winter shelters.


                         Courtesy Photo

Read more about the easy-to-build winter shelters in these helpful articles:
*
Mike's Shelters
* Neighborhood Cats
* Shelters and Feeding
* Solar Heating Shelters



**************************************************


CAREGIVER MIXERS - You are not alone!!!
Our HOTFF Caregiver Mixers provide a "safe place" for TNR Caregivers to share information, support, advice abo
ut the TNR process, Colony Care and the emotions (good and bad) that we experience. CONTACT US for more information if you are a TNR Caregiver & would like to attend!




**************************************************


IMPORTANT NOTICE FOR CAREGIVERS: YOUR SAFETY FIRST!
As with any other part of your life, when you are Community Cats, please be aware of your surroundings. Here are some safety tips:
•    Carry your cell phone at all times.
•    Make sure someone knows when and where you are feeding.
•    If there is danger, leave the colony immediately and report the incident from a safe location.
•    Remember those cats are smart and they can run a lot faster than you. (And they will!)
•    Report suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities, like the police or the business owner. You may also want to keep a detailed log if you have threatening neighbors, suspicious activity, uncooperative business owners, etc.
•    Document any malicious activity with photos, too, in case law enforcement needs to get involved.


**************************************************


PAST CAREGIVER MIXER NOTES

GRIEVING THE LOSS OF A COLONY MEMBER - During our mixer, several caregivers talked about the heartache of losing a "feral friend" at their colony, whether by natural causes, illness, hit by car, etc. Several caregivers said they have recently lost feral cats, and said it would be helpful to have caregiver support group for coping and dealing with these losses. We can include a special time of remembrance during our Caregiver Mixers (followed up by a TNR "good news" item), but we think it would be a great idea if you will UTILIZE the friendships and networking that you're doing at the Mixers to call up one or two other caregivers and meet up for a "wake" of sorts in honor of your kitty. TNR Caregiving is an emotional job with very few "pats on the back" for all the hard work that you do, and to lose one of these kitties is (in most cases) no different than losing a family pet or family member. If you are uncomfortable making the first call to another caregiver, please let us know - we may be able to pair you up with another caregiver or two who has also recently lost a "feral friend."
 
USE A COLONY TRACKER - Using a simple Colony Tracker like the one from Alley Cat Allies helps caregivers keep track of who has been TNR and who hasn't... whether they're feeding 2 or 20! It has a place for the cat's name, description, TNR date, rabies vaccination date (so you know when it's time to re-vaccinate), and other helpful notes. Or you can use a spiral notebook with this same information. You will also want to keep all documents from the cats' TNR, like proof of spay/neuter and the rabies vaccination tag/certificate.

EMOTIONS OF A FIRST TRAP - Several caregivers talked about all the emotions associated with their first trap. We hope to have some testimonials soon to post to the website. We KNOW it's sometimes hard to trap your own feral cats, especially at the beginning, so a suggestion was made to utilize the "Buddy System" (I'll trap your cats, you trap mine!). Since many of you have already made GREAT PROGRESS in your colonies (several have reached 100% at least once - working on TNR new cats to the colony, but it's still a huge accomplishment!), please consider being a MENTOR or TRAP BUDDY as we get some new "rookies" into the program through online "Requests For TNR Help" and FIX MY FERAL! Sometimes, it's simply a matter of getting thru the first trap-and-return-process, seeing the benefits of healthier cats and no new kittens, and realizing that the newly-released TNR cat won't hold a grudge too long, especially when yummy canned cat food comes into play.
 
PRO-TNR LOCAL BUSINESSES - Caregivers would like a list of Pro-Feral business posted to our website. This includes business who have sponsored. PLEASE REMEMBER that just because a business says "no" to TNR today doesn't mean we can't keep "planting seeds of information" in a pleasant, professional manner so that they might change their minds in the future. We are a positive, patient and compassionate group, and please keep in mind it sometimes takes a few "chats" for the lightbulb of enlightenment to click for some people. Thanks for being a good representative of Heart of Texas Feral Friends!
 
FINDING HOMES FOR SOCIAL FERAL KITTENS - One of our caregivers talked about the success she's had for finding homes for her own social feral kittens. If you would like to know her strategy, please let us know. (FYI - she's not offering to do the work, but we can pass on her suggestions.) As the success of TNR "IMPACTS" our community, the number of feral kittens born in the greater Waco area will decrease. Remember in February when the Waco Humane Society had NO CATS to adopt out, in part to our aggressive trapping following the Bow-Wow-Meow Fun Run? Music to our ears!!! (That's not the case now, so please don't take them up there now!)
 
HOTFF TRAP TEAM - In addition to our awesome caregivers, we had two TRAP TEAM volunteers at the Mixer! We talked about the need to have non-caregiver volunteers for the TRAP TEAM (but caregivers are certainly invited to join!) since many caregivers already have full plates. We encourage you to ask around to help us find volunteers... your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, church or place of worship, and other contacts who would be willing to donate about 2 hours or less a week to trap/transport/return.
 
ANTIBIOTICS - Some caregivers mentioned that they have excellent relationships with their vets, who are willing to dispense antibiotics (Amoxicillian) that can be crushed up and placed in food for sick colonies or targeted sick TNR cats. We are not veterinarians, so please check with your vet first to make sure that whatever is ailing your colony can be treated in this manner. (We're just passing on information here.)

OPOSSUMS - Another caregiver brought up opossums… according to her research, opossums are not aggressive (although they are not the prettiest of things), and will typically not hurt cats (as some raccoons have been known to do). Her research also showed that possums are not as susceptible to rabies as other mammals, since their body temperature is too low.

RELOCATION – LAST RESORT ONLY! One stabilized colony has been forced to relocate their colony since aggressive stray dogs have been killing cats for more than a year. Even with stakeouts, help from animal control, and MANY modifications to the feeding stations, this is the only option for the remaining cats. We support the caregivers at this “Charter Colony” and we know that the caregivers have the remaining cats’ best interest at heart. They worked very hard to avoid this, but it’s life-or-death for the remaining cats. They are being relocated in groups of 2 or 4 to qualified, INSPECTED ranches to serve as well-kept barn cats and should adapt just fine.

BUILDING A FEEDING STATION - There are some great instructions for building simple feeding stations. We recommend that if the feeding station is on private or business property, that you:  
        1. Get permission.
        2. Paint the feeding station green (or other color to camouflage it).
        3. Place it in a very hidden or inconspicuous location, away from human traffic.
        4. Do not overfeed as this can attract more cats or wildlife/fireants.
        5. Keep the feeding station clean!
        6. We encourage our caregivers to bring a trashbag and while they're feeding, be a good neighbor and pick up any trash that has accumulated near the feeding station.
        7. Keep plenty of fresh water near the feeding station, too. Out of sight from human traffic is best.

PROTECT TNR CATS FROM HARM - Some tips to help protect your cats from unwanted guests (who may cause harm to the cats):
•    Make sure that you are not overfeeding!
•    Make sure you have a safe place to feed, like having a designated feeding station. Not only is it safer for the cats, it's better for the community to have a contained, clean feeding area.
•    Unless you are feeding on your own property, please do not dump large amounts of food on the curb or in the street. It's dangerous for the cats, plus it attracts fireants, wildlife and is a public safety hazard.
 
SHARE YOUR STORY! Do you have a story that you would like to share about how TNR has helped you and your colony, or your experience with your first trap, or a special TNR kitty who defied the odds to live a healthy life as a free-roaming cat in your colony? CONTACT US and send us your stories! We know there are a lot of "rookies" and caregivers considering TNR, and it may just be the story they need to hear to inspire them into action!
 
HAPPY TRAPPING!!!
 
Best regards,
Volunteers of Heart of Texas Feral Friends
www.HOTFeralFriends.com


***************************************


LEFT EAR TIP ENCOURAGED!!!!
The left eartip alerts animal control officers and the animal shelter that the cat is fixed, rabies vaccinated and part of a managed TNR colony! The eartip is done during surgery and is not painful to the cat.

The City of Waco (and other cities soon to follow!) specifically address “eartipped community cats” and provide with them with special provisions under the city ordinance, such as:
•    Exempt from mandatory microchip (since eartip serves as an identifier).
•    Will not be picked up by Animal Control unless life/death situation.
•    If brought to the pound/shelter, HOTFF will be notified and will return the TNR cat to the community.
•    If a neighbor dispute with a TNR colony, HOTFF will help arbitrate a solution.

CONTACT US if you need more information, or help with finding a peaceful resolution regarding TNR with upset neighbors or co-workers.



***************************************


FIRE ANT & FLEA PREVENTION FOR YOUR COLONY

FIRE ANTS – Easy ways to reduce fire ants at your colony.
•    DOUBLE DISH METHOD. Set the food bowl in a second larger bowl or aluminum pan. Fill the bottom (larger) dish with water. Not only can the cats drink out of it, but it will keep fire ants (and other crawling bugs) out!
•    BIG PAN METHOD. Place the food dish inside a larger pan, like an aluminum pie crust pan or turkey pan. Fill the larger one with water. Not too much water or the food bowl may float and fall over, but just enough to make a liquid barrier, with some extra added to compensate for evaporation.
•    DON’T OVERFEED! During the Summer, we recommend a ½ cup of dry cat food per cat – OR (“Or” not “And”) – ½ can of wet food per cat. If you feed both wet and dry, do ¼ for each. The exception is if (and hopefully you don’t) have a nursing queen. During Winter, pick food up by sundown.
•    KEEP IT CLEAN! We recommend that you do NOT leave food for cats, especially overnight. Cats will learn a routine and even the most stubborn will learn they need to eat, and eat now.
•    IVORY TO THE RESCUE. Get a mixture of Ivory dish soap (the original white) and mix with a bucket of water. Pour over the mound, watch your toes, they’ll be MAD! If you can get it to foam, that is the best!! Something in the Ivory soap kills the ants, and if done a couple of times (over the mound and surrounding areas), it will zap the ants, naturally!!!
•    If you must put down fire ant killer, put a bucket or some other protection over the area for a couple of days. Follow directions and do not overuse. You can also try sprinkling cinnamon on the mound, ants hate cinnamon! The only problem with cinnamon is that the fire ants will probably just relocate a few feet away.

FLEAS – Easy ways to reduce fire ants at your colony.
•    Sprinkle flea powder around feeding stations (but not near the food or water), areas where the cats lounge and other areas where fleas may gather (near the house, building).
•    Our friends at Neighborhood Cats also recommend Petguard's Yeast and Garlic wafers, which some cats may find to be a tasty treat.
•    Lyons Feral Cat Guardians suggests putting cedar in and around feeding stations as it is supposed to repel fleas and mosquitoes.
•    One caregiver noted that if you can put Frontline or other flea control on one of the “friendly feral cats” it can be of benefit to the others since they have a tendency to rub up against one another. At one of our past Caregiver Mixers, there was a discussion about the Hartz brand of flea control, and many agreed that because of personal experiences with pets & bad reactions to Hartz products, our group agreed that Hartz is NOT a good choice and can make a cat sick.
•    DIATOMACEOUS EARTH   (Usually sold at feed stores)Some of our caregivers use it, other don’t. Please read the directions and ask other caregivers for their experiences before you use it so you can determine if it is right for your colony.
o    PROS / DIATOMACEOUS EARTH –> Keeps fleas off cats and dogs. It mixes in with food so you do not have to get close to a feral cat to provide the relief. It claims to be very effective against fleas, ticks, lice, and other pests on dogs, cats, and birds. It can also be used as an organic wormer and will kill any worms or parasites the pets may have. For more info, visit http://www.earthworkshealth.com/ When using as a de-wormer, mix the Diatomaceous Earth into their food as follows: Large Cats: 1 teaspoon             Kittens: 1/4 teaspoon (we recommend you check with your vet)
o    CONS / DIATOMACEOUS EARTH –> Two main concerns: 1) The sharp edges of the fossilized material - what kills the bugs by cutting through their exoskeletons & causing dehydration - can also cause severe corneal abrasions and blindness in animals if it gets in their eyes at all. 2) The primary risk for humans is lung damage from accidental inhalation, also caused by those sharp little edges. In other words, the stuff isn't poisonous like some insecticides, but it has the potential to physically injure humans and animals.


***************************************


COLONY CARE TIPS!

CLEAN YOUR TRAPS: It is very important that you wash and sterilize your traps! Clean the trap(s) before and after each trap, even if it's cats within the same colony. It's simple to do: Just take a Clorox wipe to the inside of the trap after the cat is returned. Be sure to wipe the inside metal door flap. After about 15 minutes, take a designated scrub brush or waded up newspaper and hose off the trap.

CLEANING LOANED TRAPS: If you are using HOTFF loaner traps, we ask that you thoroughly clean the trap before you use it, and then as a courtesy to us and the next trapper, thoroughly clean the trap before you turn it back in. Washing with soapy water, then follow up with Clorox wipes does a great job! Thank you.

SHOES: You may want to change your shoes when going from the outside feral cats to your inside cats at home. It's a smart way to keep bacteria, viruses and other ailments from transferring - either way. Some caregivers use Crocks or a designated pair of shoes for feeding, and keep them in their car. Others wipe the bottom of their shoes with Clorox wipes when they get done feeding.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I'M OVERFEEDING?
•    LESS IN SUMMER – Just like with humans, cats typically need less food in the hot summertime than during cold winter months. This is partly because the heat causes mammals to eat less, plus cats are able to supplement their diets with a buffet of bugs and rodents.
•    DURING THE SUMMER, we recommend a ½ cup of dry cat food per cat – OR (“Or” not “And”) – ½ can of wet food per cat. If you feed both wet and dry, do ¼ for each.
•    EXCEPTION: The exception would be if you have (hopefully you don’t) a nursing queen (aka Mama Cat).
•    DO NOT OVERFEED! – If you overfeed, you run the risk of attracting unwelcome guests to your colony’s feeding area, including skunks, raccoons, possums, and dogs! Any one of these can pose a life-threatening situation to a cat in your colony. So please remember that overfeeding not only attracts other cats, it can also attract danger!


************************************************


WANT TO HELP? VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!
Heart of Texas Feral Friends needs help with trapping, transporting cats to/from ABC and then back to their “outside home”, as well as help with public information booths. Some of our volunteers don’t feed cats at all, but they do help out with critical volunteer positions. Please CONTACT US at the button above and let us know that you’d like to volunteer with trap, transport, fundraising or public events!


***************************************


TOUGH CALLS - Making hard decisions about sick or injured feral cats.
Of course, all of us WOULD if we COULD, but there may come a time when it is just not financially or physically possible to seek treatment for a colony cat.
It has nothing to do with being a “good person” or not… you are already a GOOD PERSON for taking good care of your colony! We know this.

We recommend that you take some time today to ask yourself these 3 realistic questions... BEFORE you are faced with a tough decision... so you will know what your limits are before you are in an emotional situation:
1.    Can I afford to treat the injured or ill cat?
      This is not intended to make anyone feel bad… most of us are pushed to the max with personal living expenses, our owned pets, plus the cost of buying food for the colony. Know what your financial limit is. Write it down, and promise yourself that you will be at peace sticking to this amount when/if you’re faced with a touch decision in the future.
2.    Is the cat suffering?
       If the cat is clearly in pain, immediate action should be taken to end the suffering. That should include whether to have the cat humanely euthanized. If you have a personal vet, you may want to call them in advance and ask what they would charge. There may be some vets willing to put down a feral cat at no charge, but do your checking in advance (when you’re not panicked or crying)!!! Another option is Waco’s Animal Control Facility. Call during regular business hours, 254-754-1454. Inform them of the situation and that the cat is part of a managed TNR colony. There may still be a charge. Or you may call your local animal control officer. Again, if the cat is suffering and will not get better, then humane euthanasia is appropriate.
3.    Is this an on-going illness?
      If the cat in question has always been sickly and starts to refuse food and/or water, or seems lethargic or disoriented, you may need to consider having the cat humanely euthanized.


***************************************


ANOTHER SAFETY TIP
AT ALL TIMES, We recommend that you use a humane trap to capture community cats for TNR or if you have a sick or injured community cat who needs medical attention.
EXERCISE EXTREME CAUTION WHEN TRAPPING ANY COMMUNITY CAT!!!  Even if the cat has let you pet him/her in the past, the cat may still react (“Fight or Flight”) if cornered or picked up. That can turn out very, very badly for you and the cat, so please don’t do it. Also, if the cat is ill or injured, s/he will be more unpredictable than ever. If it’s lethargic, you may want to use work gloves and a towel to cover the cat to move it to a trap, but be ready to let go and run if necessary!

Also, do NOT open the trap unless you are ready to return him/her, no matter how friendly, sad, frightened, or scared the cat seems. (The cat will run up and over your face to get out!)



***************************************


LOANER TRAPS –
While we offer humane traps for loan to do TNR, do not ever use our loaner traps to take any community cat to the pound/shelter. If the cat is injured or ill, you will need *permission in advance* from either HOTFF Volunteers Cindy or Sandy in advance. You will lose your Trap Deposit without question if you do not get permission from HOTFF before taking any cat to the shelter in one of our our Loaner Traps.


***************************************

Need help paying for TNR? Ask us about Volunteering for TNR!
Our group discussed some ways to volunteer with a partnering organization for "perks" such as vouchers for spay/neuter. Ask us for more details.


***************************************


SPRING CLEANING AT THE COLONY
•    Take a few minutes to REALLY scrub down your traps. Use disinfectant spray. If possible, allow the trap to set in the sun in a safe place (like a backyard)
•    Cut back on feeding… cats don’t need as much food in warmer weather than they do in cooler weather.
•    If you are using plastic food or water bowls that stay at the colony, (take them home and) clean them in a bleach / water solution at least once a month, or consider replacing them once a month.
•    Check out our tips here on the Caregivers Corner page for preventing/eliminating fire ants and fleas.


***************************************


SUMMER IN CENTRAL TEXAS
**It’s Hot! Keep Your Colony Cool!**

KEEPING YOUR COLONY COOL DURING TRIPLE DIGIT TEMPS:

1. EXTRA WATER BOWLS – We recommend at least one water source per cat. If you have a large colony, you may need to consider several larger bowls, but it is crucial to keep cats hydrated during this extreme heat. Remember, water evaporates very quickly in this weather, so you may need to water in the morning and in the evening. Another option is an automatic waterer – found at Wal-Mart or Target.

2. **CHECK THIS OUT** --> ICE CHEST – Set a clean ice chest on a small table and put a water bowl underneath it. Then open a bag of ice in the chest and open the little spout, just off the edge. The melting water will drip into the bowl, and it will do it slowly throughout the day.

3. TUMBLERS - Freeze large plastic water tumblers (like you get from the convenience store or sporting events), then wrap a small towel around it to insulate it.

4. ICE MILK JUGS – Clean out 2 gal milk jugs. Fill with water and freeze overnight. Place around areas that cats like to lounge, preferably in the shade so it will last longer. Lightly spraying the area with water will help keep it cool, too. – Tip from Caroline

5. ICE CUBES – If you feed at a home colony, put a few ice cubes in the bowls several times a day.

6. SHADE SHIFT – Be mindful of the sun’s movement, and having a shady place and cool water for each quadrant throughout the
day.

7. HEAT STROKE – Watch for signs of heatstroke. Cats naturally pant to cool off, so the symptoms described below are for excessive actions:

    Panting
    Rapid breathing
    Dark red or bright red gums
    Vomiting
    Diarrhea
    Lethargy
    Disorientation
    Unresponsiveness

If you suspect one of the cats in your colony has heatstroke, your first call should be to your vet, emergency vet clinic or Animal Control.

We do NOT advise that you try to pick up an unresponsive feral cat! Remember, YOUR safety first. An unresponsive cat may wake up in your car, and then you’d be in trouble! Try to get the cat in a trap and take to your personal veterinarian or an emergency vet clinic (at your own expense). If this is not possible, you may need to call Animal Control (In Waco, 254-750-7500).


***************************************


WANT TO FEED? COLONY CAREGIVERS NEEDED!
Some people enjoy the routine of feeding a colony of community cats. There are several established TNR Colonies in the Greater Waco area who would welcome your help, even if just one day a week!

There may be a colony near where you live or work!!! Let us know if you are interested - training provided! Donated cat food is sometimes available. Click on CONTACT US webpage (link above) and let us know that you are interested in being a Colony Caregiver!

Are you already feeding feral cats but not involved with Trap-Neuter-Return? CONTACT US and we can send you a TNR Assessment Packet in the mail. We are here to help and have a very successful program to guide you through the steps!


***************************************


Have a question we haven’t answered? CONTACT US!


***************************************


HELP OUR MISSION!

A very special thank you to all our Heart of Texas Feral Friends volunteers, caregivers, donors and supporters.

If you’d like to make a gift to help us help other caregivers with TNR, please make your gift to the “HOTFF/TNR Acct” at the Animal Birth Control Clinic.

You can make your gift in person, over the phone (254.776.7303), or by check/mail to:
ABC Clinic
Attn: HOTFF
3238 Clay Ave
Waco, TX 76711
100% of your donation is used for TNR!







                         Courtesy Photo

Read more about the easy-to-build winter shelters in these helpful articles:
*
Mike's Shelters
* Neighborhood Cats
* Shelters and Feeding
* Solar Heating Shelters

Website Builder