Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon (FCCO)?
FCCO is a non-profit spay/neuter program that was founded in 1995. We have helped over 85,000 cats and remain the only organization in the area dedicated to providing the level of services that we do for feral and stray cats. For each feral or stray cat in our care we request a donation of just $30, but never turn a caregiver away even if they cannot contribute. This program is known as trap-neuter-return.
We also provide low-cost spay/neuter services for pet cats through partnerships with the Oregon Spay/Neuter Fund and Spay & Save program. Our pet cat program began in April 2016.
Are you part of the Humane Society?
No. FCCO is a separate organization, not associated with any other organizations or programs.
How is this program supported?
FCCO is a 501c3, not-for-profit organization supported solely through donations from individuals, foundations and corporations. We do not receive any public funding. Please consider making a donation today!
Do you ever need volunteers?
Yes! FCCO is a volunteer-based organization. We rely on volunteers to help plan our clinics, work at the clinics, help with fundraising and other administrative tasks. For more information on how to volunteer click here.
Do you round up feral cats and spay/neuter them?
No. The cats who receive our services have caregivers feeding them. The caregivers contact us for help, are loaned traps, and transport the cats to and from our clinics.
Does FCCO trap cats for people?
FCCO does not have the resources to trap cats for caregivers. We do have traps available for all caregivers bringing cats to our clinics and offer guidance over the phone. We also have trapping instructions on our web site. We are sometimes able to help trap cats for the elderly, disabled, or those with large colonies. FCCO traps are not used for trapping and removing unwanted stray or feral cats.
What services do the cats receive?
Services for feral and stray cats include the spay/neuter surgery. Additionally, each cat receives: FVRCP (distemper) and rabies vaccines; flea treatment; ear mite treatment if necessary; fluids if dehydrated; treatment for minor medical conditions if present; and his or her right ear tipped for future identification. Cats who appear to be suffering, as determined by a veterinarian, are tested for feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Any cat testing positive is euthanized.
Low-cost services for pet cats include the spay/neuter surgery only. For an additional fee, treatments such as vaccinations may be requested at the time of scheduling.
What is an ear tip?
All feral and stray cats who go through FCCO have the tip of their right ear removed. This is done while under anesthesia by a veterinarian or certified technician. Often cats in a colony are related and look very similar. Imagine you are feeding a colony of four or more black cats. It would be very difficult to look at each one and know for sure which one has been spayed/neutered. It is even more challenging when the cats are feral and you can see them only from a distance.
An effective visual identification is necessary. For this reason, “tipping” an ear is the international symbol of a spayed/neutered and vaccinated community cat. The procedure removes just the tip of the cat’s right ear and is performed by veterinary professionals while the cat is anesthetized for the spay or neuter surgery. You can see an example of an eartip in the photo here.
The eartip not only allows people to tell from a distance if a cat has been spayed or neutered; it also saves the cat the stress of being trapped, transported, and anesthetized a second time, or more, in the future. Tipping the ear can also help the person feeding them notice new cats that show up and get them the care they need.
If you see a cat with a tipped ear, you can rest assured that he or she is not adding to cat overpopulation. Someone has taken the time to look after the kitty and improved his or her life – and that is a really good thing.
I am feeding a stray or feral cat. How can I get him spayed/neutered?
Please call 503-797-2606 or click here for more information.
There is a cat(s) living on my property and I want them removed. Can you help?
The FCCO does not trap and remove cats and our traps are not used for this purpose. If you are not willing to feed and provide shelter for the cat(s), then you can hire a company to trap and remove the cat(s). There is a fee associated with this service. If the cat(s) is feral, s/he will be euthanized when taken to the local shelter.
There is a stray/feral cat living in my neighborhood. Will you come get him/her?
The FCCO does not trap and remove cats. We recommend you contact your neighbors and post signs in your neighborhood to see if the cat has a home. If no home is located you may consider taking the cat to a local animal shelter, placing the cat on your own, or taking responsibility for the cat.
My aunt lives on a farm overrun with cats. What can you do to help us?
Feral cats make great barn cats! If your aunt is willing to feed and provide shelter for the cats, then have her call FCCO at 503-797-2606. Her cats can go through our clinics, thus preventing future unwanted litters.
About Feral Cats
What is a feral cat?
A feral cat is an untamed cat. Some may refer to the cat as wild. The cat was either abandoned and has reverted to a more wild state, or the cat was born outdoors to a feral or stray mother and has had little or no human contact. Feral cats are frightened of people and avoid contact whenever possible. Feral kittens can be tamed, but usually adult feral cats are not able to be socialized.
What is a stray cat?
A stray cat is a cat who has strayed from home--often in search of a mate--and become lost, or was abandoned. Stray cats may be friendly or may have become wary of people. Their offspring may be feral. Because they have had human contact, they are less frightened of people than feral cats and can usually be socialized and adopted into a home.
What is a free-roaming cat?
A free-roaming cat is any cat that is not confined in a house or other type of enclosure. This includes house cats, strays and ferals.
What does spay and neuter mean?
They are the terms used for sterilizing cats. Female cats are spayed by removing their reproductive organs. Male cats are neutered or castrated. Both surgeries require general anesthetic and are performed by a veterinarian.
What is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)?
Trap-neuter-return is a humane approach to ending feral cat overpopulation. Caregivers who are feeding feral cats, trap them in humane live traps, take the cats to be spayed/neutered and vaccinated, and after they are recovered, they return the cats to where they are fed. Adoptable cats or kittens are removed and adopted into new homes whenever possible.
Who is a caregiver?
A caregiver is person who has taken responsibility for a feral cat or colony of cats. The caregiver is committed to feeding the cats on a permanent basis, ensures they are spayed/neutered, may provide additional shelter and provides ongoing healthcare as needed.
What is a humane trap?
Humane or live traps do not cause any pain to the animal being trapped. The traps are metal wire boxes with a trip plate inside. When a cat enters the trap and steps on the plate, the wire door close behind the cat trapping him/her inside.
What is a feral cat colony?
Cats congregating together are called a colony. They typically form around a food source, or begin as offspring of a feral female.
About Kittens & Pregnant Cats
At what age can a cat begin having kittens?
Kittens can have kittens. A cat can have kittens at as young as 5 months of age. Please see our Kitten Timeline to learn more.
What is the earliest age I can spay or neuter a kitten?
Kittens can be spayed or neutered as young as 8-10 weeks of age if they weigh more than 2 pounds and are healthy.
How do I determine the age of a kitten?
Click here for an age breakdown of kittens from day one to ten weeks old.
What is the gestation period for cats?
The average length of pregnancy is just 62 days.
Can a pregnant cat be spayed?
How soon do cats go back in heat after they have a litter of kittens?
Immediately after giving birth. Cats can become pregnant while nursing kittens.
If I trap a lactating cat, what should I do?
If a lactating cat is trapped, there are two choices: release the cat and try to retrap her in 4-6 weeks, or have her spayed and then returned the same day if possible. Although a nursing female cat can be spayed and will continue to feed her kittens after surgery, it is a good idea to have kitten replacement milk on hand and be ready to bottle-feed the kittens for a couple of days. This way you can also feed the kittens while the mom cat is away the day of surgery if needed. If possible, wait until the kittens are at least 4 weeks old before taking mom in to be spayed. At 4 weeks, the kittens can probably survive 12-15 hours without her. It is very important to get the mother cat back to her kittens as quickly as you can.
Is it better to let kittens remain with their mother until they are weaned or should they be taken sooner and bottle-fed and socialized as soon as possible?
Optimally, you want to catch the mother cat and her kittens. Kittens benefit from their mother's milk and attention. Keep them together in a confined area with a box or other shelter inside this area where the mom cat can hide (if she is feral). The kittens will come out to see you and the mom cat will hide in the box/carrier. Handle the kittens daily, work on socializing them, and then put them back with mom. If you have them confined and you can't touch the kittens because the mother cat is protecting them, then remove the kittens from her at 5-6 weeks of age and begin socializing them.
At what age would you consider it to be too late to domesticate a wild kitten?
The sooner the kittens have human contact, the easier it will be to tame them. If the kittens are living outdoors and haven't had any human contact, trap the kittens no later than 8-10 weeks of age to socialize them. Kittens up to 8 weeks of age can take 2-4 weeks to tame. Kittens older than this will take longer. After 12 weeks, some kittens will not fully socialize to people.
Click here for more information about introducing kittens into a home.
How do I earn the trust of a feral cat or tame a wild cat/kitten?
There are several approaches to taming a cat or kitten, and they depend on the individual cat. Also, there are degrees to which a cat may be feral. Factors involved in determining this include the following: Age - Kittens up to 6-7 weeks of age are most easily tamed/socialized. With each passing week, socialization becomes more difficult.
Number of generations feral: The degree to which a cat is feral grows with each succeeding generation. An abandoned house cat will be less feral than her offspring.
Amount of human contact: The more contact a cat has with humans, the less feral she will be. Cats living in secluded or remote areas are more feral than those living near areas with a high level of human activity.
Personality: Some cats are friendlier than others, even when they are feral. It is not unusual for cats to become friendlier toward their caregiver after being spayed or neutered. Patience and understanding are the key traits the person taming a cat will need. It can take weeks to years to socialize a cat, and some cats may never become tame.
For feral cats, often the most compassionate choice is to allow the cat to live in her own territory where food and shelter are provided. Of course, the cat must be spayed or neutered. To gain the trust of a feral cat you are feeding, slow movement, a soft voice and a regular feeding schedule will start the process of gaining the cat's trust. Move at the cat's pace. Don't rush to try to touch the cat. If he wants to be petted, he will let you know when he is ready for this step or more. Never try to grab the cat, or you will risk injury and any earned trust.
To tame a feral cat or kitten, you need to trap the cat, bring him indoors and keep him in a confined area like a bathroom or kennel. Don't let the cat run loose or he will find a place to hide, and it is difficult to get him to come back out. Food is a strong motivator. Always have dry food and water available. When you want to work with the cats, bring wet food or chicken/turkey baby food. Offer it on a spoon or, if you aren't at risk of being bitten, you might consider hand-feeding the cat. These are just starting tips. Check out this socialization guide and visit Alley Cat Allies for more information on taming feral cats.
How do you tell if a cat is truly feral or just a scared abandoned cat?
There is no one way to identify a stray cat from a feral cat. If a lone cat appears in your colony, there is a good chance he or she is a stray cat. Watch the cat's behavior. Stray cats tend to be more vocal, are more willing to eat in front of you right away, and will seek affection sooner than a feral cat. In some cases you may not know for sure until you have trapped the cat and he has had a few days to settle down.
Care & Feeding
Why should I get involved with feeding and spaying feral cats when I cannot commit to feeding beyond a few months?
In short, because the cats need your help. No cat asks to be homeless. Feral cats face many challenges, and you can improve their lives by feeding them and getting them spayed or neutered. Often people start feeding cats from the best intentions, but the consequences of feeding without neutering quickly result in a population explosion. That is why it is so very important to get the cats spayed/neutered as soon as possible. If you can only commit to feeding for a short time, ask your neighbors, coworkers, or others if they can help. You will be surprised to learn how many people care about feral cats. Please remember, if you are going to feed feral cats, you must get the cats spayed/neutered.
If the caregiver stops feeding, won't the cats just go away?
It is a common assumption that if you stop or don't feed the cats, they will go away. Unless there is another food source nearby, they won't leave the area.
Instead they tend to come closer as they grow increasingly desperate to find something to eat. Even though cats may be feral, all cats are still domesticated creatures who rely on humans for food. Without our help, they suffer unnecessarily. A cat can go without food for several weeks and continue to reproduce. Trying to starve out cats results only in hungry, unhealthy animals vulnerable to disease and severe parasitic infestations, such as fleas.
Also keep in mind that nothing is harder than trying to stop people from feeding cats once they know there are cats in need. People will risk their jobs, their apartments and even bodily harm to prevent the animals from starving. Attempts to make feral cats go away by banning feeding usually result in suffering for the cats and increased conflict with feeders, but little else.
Why not just trap and kill feral cats?
There are many reasons: TNR is the compassionate approach/solution. TNR teaches compassion and responsible cat care. While TNR actually reduces the number of cats breeding, education about the importance of spaying and neutering reaches out to the entire community. Trapping and killing teaches young and old that it is okay to create unwanted offspring and then kill the surplus leaving no room for education or compassion for life. Trapping and killing does not solve the problem. Trapping and killing has been practiced for many years (as the only option available) and it hasn't work. For all the years this approach was practiced, the cat population continued to explode. New cats replace those cats removed. When cats are trapped and removed from an area, new cats move in to take advantage of the food source. Alley Cat Allies, a national feral cat network, calls this phenomenon the vacuum effect.
Trapping and killing cats is actually more expensive than TNR and a taxpayer burden. It costs on average of $100 for an animal control agency to trap, house, kill, and dispose of one cat. It costs programs like ours an average of $30 to spay or neuter one cat.
Caregivers will not allow it. Thousands of kind people feed and care for feral and stray cats. Most will not allow the cats they feed to be trapped and killed, but welcome the opportunity to have the cats trapped, neutered and returned. If their only choice is to have the cats killed, they will opt to do nothing and the cats will breed adding to the overpopulation problem. Society does not support trapping and killing. When communities have tried to implement mass trapping and killing efforts, the community outcry has stopped the effort.
TNR Works. Information on how well TNR works is beginning to accumulate. The practice of TNR has repeatedly shown to reduce feral cat populations. Leading animal organizations have become more proactive in advocating for TNR, including The Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).For more information and specific examples visit the Alley Cat Allies web site at www.alleycat.org.
How often do I need to feed the cats?
Optimally the cats will be fed daily. If you are not able to commit to this, consider finding someone to fill in the days you are not available. If this isn't possible or practical, you can also consider an automatic dry food dispenser and water bowl. Be sure to put these items in a sheltered feeding station large enough to accommodate both.
Are there sources of cheap food?
Some food banks carry cat food. It is good to check with the one in your area to see if they have food and how often it is available. Local animal shelters or other nonprofits may also have food available, and we encourage you to check around to see what is offered in your area. Affordable food can be found at major pet stores, grocery stores or warehouse stores like Costco. People feed feral cats a wide range of food. We recommend feeding the best food you can afford. Feeding the cats is the important thing, and of course, spaying and neutering.
What are good ways to find people to help with feeding without endangering the cats?
People who feed feral cats are often quiet about their work. They fear for the safety of their colony. At times, everyone needs a break or will be out of town and needs help feeding the cats. Talk to your friends and others you trust. Invite them to join you when you feed so they can see what you do and how you do it. If there is a feral cat program in your area, volunteer with them and get to know others who care about feral cats and who you can trust. You can also talk with your veterinarian and see if he or she knows of other caregivers in your area.
What is a good way to feed feral cats so that other birds or animals do not get at the food?
It is recommended that caregivers feed cats on a daily schedule and remove the food after a short time. This approach helps in trapping the cats for surgery and is also helpful for knowing the number of cats you are feeding, their health, and will make it easier should you need to trap any of the cats in the future. Feeding on a schedule is also an important way to keep other animals or pests away from the food. A covered feeding station may keep birds away from the food, while feeding during daylight will prevent nocturnal animals such as raccoons away.
How can I approach a business to get permission to trap-neuter-return (TNR) the cats?
Attitudes about cats vary. Sometimes people are hostile; often they are frustrated and unhappy about the cats. Listen, try to understand and sympathize. Try to put yourself in their shoes so you can find common ground and move forward to help the cats.
The first thing to do is to learn all you can about feral cats and proper care and feeding. With this knowledge you can help shape attitudes in a favorable way. Talk to people and gather as much insight as you can about the prevailing attitude about the cats at the specific location. Share the message that you want to help so that there are no more kittens, no more noise, and no more odor. Direct people to resources to find out more about TNR.
Don't give up easily if people in authority won't agree with TNR. You might be able to get some official person from a feral cat program or animal welfare organization to speak to management. Keep the lines of communication open even if you don't get anywhere. If they pursue other methods to resolve the cat situation, they will likely not succeed and will then be more open to TNR. You want to have a good relationship with them, should this occur.
How do I prevent people from dumping their cats near my colony?
In most cases, colony locations are not made known to others. In some high-profile locations, it is hard to impossible for the colony to remain out of sight, and some people might see this as a possible location to dump their animal. One way to prevent this is to post friendly signs letting people know that the cats are a colony that has a dedicated caregiver, and that all the cats have been through a TNR program. It is a good opportunity to teach people about responsible cat care and perhaps even recruit caregivers to help.
If only one cat remains from the colony, is it better to leave her or relocate the cat?
The best thing for a cat is to stay in his or her territory. The cat is familiar with this area and where to find shelter and food. Relocating a cat is difficult and often unsuccessful. The cat may become friendlier toward the caregiver, which could lead to placing the cat in a home one day.