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stray mama cat

Taming The Stray Kitty

Part 1: Has a stray cat in your neighborhood tagged you for food and companionship? If so, here are some suggestions on how to care for the animal, whether you plan to merge it into the family or “fix it” for a life spent outdoors.

There are thousands upon thousands of free-roaming cats living throughout our cities. Many will live their lives skulking around homes and businesses, scavenging food wherever they can find it. They breed, fight, mark property with urine and feces, and generally cause angst among homeowners.

Some of these creatures will find comfortable homes and affection, thanks to softhearted animal lovers. Others will continue to endure life on the street.

What does it take to convert a street cat to a family pet? Time and patience.

Mama Kitty came to my home a year ago, pregnant and hungry. It took months to gain her trust. I respected her space, fed her quietly, and graduated our relationship slowly to soft-spoken conversations and tentative pats across her back.

It wasn’t an easy transition for the household. The dog, fortunately, was accustomed to life with cats … nice cats. Mama, now caring for kittens, saw Katy as a huge threat. She’d attack with little provocation.

Katy was willing to take the high road and avoid Mama. Mama soon learned to do the same. I negotiated truces daily between the two and often chucked Mama outside so everyone could breath a little easier, for a short time.

Food, shelter and affection won out. When the kits went to new homes, Mama (now spayed and fat and happy) decided the house and the company was worth keeping. She sleeps inches from the giant dog, and reaches out a playful paw every once in a while to tap the dog’s leg.

If you do plan on adopting a stray cat, ask yourself first: Am I willing to spend the time and money to welcome this animal to my home? The cat should be vaccinated and neutered. At a low-cost clinic, this will cost between $50 and $75.

Over the next few days I’ll share some suggestions for anyone who is trying to either adopt a stray cat or trap, neuter and release a feral cat.

First step: The incredible bonding agent called FOOD

Nothing will attract a stray cat to your home more than food. Deliver it consistently and in the same safe spot, and the cat will come to depend on you for its food. Food tip: To lure Mama, I used a dry kibble bought at Costco — Kirkland’s Signature Cat Food.

• Pick a spot and feed the cat there, day and night. Consider an elevated location that will be seen as a safe perch for a nervous visitor.

• Keep family pets indoors during feeding times.

• Do not approach the cat as it eats and instead keep your distance.

• Move slowly and avoid sudden movements.

• Remove the food after the cat leaves the scene, otherwise it will attract the attention of wildlife such as rodents, opossums and raccoons.

• Over time, speak softly to the animal and pick a name that it will hear, day after day.

• Tell your neighbors to use a loud voice or clap if they want the cat off their property. Let them know you’re attempting to familiarize the animal so it can be contained and eventually neutered.

The Infinite Cat Project

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