Maintaining Feeding Stations for Community Cats | Lola The Rescued Cat
Monday, October 4, 2021

Maintaining Feeding Stations for Community Cats

So far in our Community Cat Awareness series, we have discussed building shelters for outdoor cats, helping community cats in cold weather, debunked five myths about community cats, and more. Today’s topic is feeding stations.

Every town is different, and it’s not possible for every colony caretaker to have feeding stations. In many municipalities, it is against the law to feed community cats. For the safety of the cats, and themselves, they need to blend into the environment and keep a low profile. In other instances, the colony may be on someone’s property who does not want a visible station, or someone could be feeding cats in an urban area where it just isn’t practical to have one. (I know someone in Manhattan who feeds cats through a fence because it’s the only way she can get food to them.) Most of these tips are for people who are lucky enough to be able to have a feeding station for their community cats, or perhaps someone who feeds cats in their backyard.


feeding stations for outdoor cats



Maintaining Feeding Stations for Community Cats


Advantages of Feeding Stations


Feeding stations set up a specific area where the cats know to come for food. They protect food from the elements by covering it and raising it off the ground, and the food is protected from birds and other wildlife. Alley Cat Allies made this feeding station for the Atlantic City Boardwalk Cat Project to protect the cats’ food from pigeons.

Atlantic City boardwalk cats


TNR projects can be easier to carry out with an established feeding area. Since the cats know they will be fed in a certain place at a certain time, it is easier to know where and when to set up traps. The caretaker can also keep tabs on the cats, monitoring their health and watching for new arrivals to the colony who are not spayed/neutered.

There are more benefits, also. A well-maintained feeding station brings credibility to a TNR project by making it look professional. The station can also be used to educate the community. Caretakers can post signs with information about community cats, TNR, and the colony. It can be a good way to recruit volunteers or get donations.



feeding stations for outdoor cats
Photo by Animal Rescue League of Iowa


Location Considerations


  • It is important to be mindful of placement. Do not place the station in high traffic areas. The cats will feel unsafe eating there.
  • Near a shelter. This can lead to fighting among the cats, and an alpha cat may decide to take over both the shelter and the feeding station. If a few cats are in the shelter, a timid cat may not feel safe eating there.
  • Near the nest of a nursing mother. The food could attract predators to the kittens.
  • On someone else’s property without permission and without agreeing on a specific place. Feeding on private property without permission can lead to conflict and can jeopardize the cats’ safety.
  • In an area that the caretaker cannot access easily.


If you are in an area where community members are not in favor of the cats being fed, it is important to be discreet. In this case, “out of sight, out of mind” is a good rule to follow. Try to blend the station into the surroundings as much as possible to keep it out of sight. Neighborhood Cats has a great suggestion of using an artificial rock to hide the feeding station.


feeding stations for outdoor cats
Photo by Neighborhood Cats

 
Here is a photo of a feeding station made with an artificial rock that is camouflaged and away from the public eye. 

feeding stations for outdoor cats
Ashot K via Flikr

You can find artificial rocks at Home Depot


Note: Lola The Rescued Cat is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.


Some Common Problems


Insects


Slugs
While researching information for this post, I learned that slugs will not cross over copper. (I never knew that!) Surrounding the feeding station with copper tape will help keep the slugs (and snails) out. 


Ants
Ants do not like water and can be prevented by creating a moat around the food dish, which can easily be done by placing the food bowl in a pan of water. There are many ant-proof bowls on the market, such as the GoGo Anti-Ant Bowl, With You Bowl, or the Yuwoda Ant Proof Bowl. The Antster is a platform that will keep ants away for a month at a time when the base is filled with water.



feeding stations for outdoor cats



Diatomaceous Earth is highly effective at keeping ants away from food. This is an all-natural powder made from the fossilized remains of tiny, hard-shelled algae called diatoms. It feels like talcum powder, but microscopically it is razor-sharp and ants (and other insects) won’t cross over it. Make sure to only use the food-grade variety.


feeding stations for outdoor cats




Wildlife

Since much of wildlife is nocturnal, one of the best ways to deter them is to feed during daylight hours and not leave food out overnight. Another idea is to make sure not to overfeed the cats. Excess food can attract rodents and other wildlife.

Cleanliness

Keeping your feeding area clean maintains good community relations. Do not dump large amounts of food on the ground or leave empty disposable plates, paper towels, and other garbage lying around. Neighbors will appreciate you keeping the area tidy. Remember, any anger or hostility about a mess will be directed at the cats, not the caretaker.

feeding stations for outdoor cats
It's better for the cats and the community to feed them in bowls. Photo by galvnews.com



These are just a few tips for maintaining a feeding station. Feeding outdoor cats is important for their health and well-being, but it’s just as important to make sure they are spayed and neutered. A small colony can triple or quadruple in size in a short period if the cats are not fixed.

Stay tuned for the next installment in this series on October 16, which is National Feral Cat Day. If you've missed any of our Community Cat Awareness posts, you can catch up on them here


Do you feed cats in your community? We would love to hear about it. 

feeding stations for outdoor cats
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Dawn


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Would you like to comment?

  1. Great reading. I miss our Florida home where we were able to have two feeding stations, one for the tamer cats, and the "families" on our front porch and a second one farther from the house in the backyard ... thankfully, many of the "wilder" critters (and yes, a gator or two sometimes!) visited, though as you mention, food was removed during the night hours ... I miss all the feral families now!

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  2. I wish this great information was available to everyone who is kind and maintains to tries to, feeding rations and who TNR as well. I used to be aware if some people who cared for deals on a work site. There were several who took shifts, turn about, feeding them and feeding an eye on them. There was even a set of news letter that some in the large workforce and a keeper of the cats, wrote, I got to read it occasionally. I enjoyed that and contributed to them and the buying of their foods. Don't know what happened to them.

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  3. Feeding stations, not the typo 'rations'. Sorry.

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  4. That was a bunch of good information! Speaking of feral management, any ideas how to keep them safe from predators? We just lost a few of our favorite ferals to coyotes.

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  5. Good info to share, thanks! Our feeding station is much less impressive, but it does do the job.

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  6. Great info on feeding community cats. Thanks

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  7. Excellent information about keeping community cats fed. How sad that there are those who don't want the poor kitties to be fed. I just can't fathom that.

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  8. Great tips for maintaining feeding stations ! Purrs

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  9. Great info. I live in hope of someone making use of our barn but I think Flynn made too good a job of seeing off "introoders". The word must have got around and lives on.

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  10. Excellent tips about feeding the ferals.

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  11. Excellent post. I admire ev eryone who helps ferals. XO

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  12. My human should ask our neighbor what her set up is for the kitties in our neighborhood that just got fixed!

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  13. That's great information! Our friends who manage colonies do a lot of these things. :)

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  14. As always, great information! Thanks for sharing it!

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  15. Very informative, well presented post, Lola. So many tips here to help novice and pro community cat carers alike.
    Purrs
    ERin

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