When You Provide For Cats.....
There a number of good-hearted people that love to care for any and all living things. You may be someone we refer to as a colony guardian. A colony guardian is someone who cares for stray and feral cats by providing food and shelter. But to round out the picture, a colony guardian should also be concerned with getting all the members of that colony spayed or neutered and vaccinated. This eliminates unwanted litters of new kittens as well as reducing unwanted behavioral problems like spraying and fighting and maintaining the health of the colony.
Kamm's Cat Guardians can help in one of many ways... KCG hosts TNR workshops to teach you (and maybe your neighbors) on tried and true ways of trapping the cats, getting fixed and vaccinated and returning them to where they live.
(see section "When You Need To Trap Cats")
As a colony guardian, it is best to provide food on a regular feeding schedule (this will come in handy when planning your trapping.) The recommendation is that you only leave the food out for no more than an hour during feeding time. The preference for feeding is a dry food and a supply of clean water. Only feeding canned food is not always the healthiest thing to give to a cat. And because a lot a cats are really drawn to it, it's best to reserve canned food for days that you plan on trapping (more notes on that in "When You Need To Trap Cats") We have found a good and inexpensive dry food like Purina Cat Chow Complete has all of the nutritional support for cats, and it is good for kittens that have been weaned already. Plus if you don't overfeed, then your colony won't get to be overweight and be subject to the diseases associated with that. Feeding the appropriate amount for the number of cats you are tending to will also keep your grocery bill in check!
You will be amazed at how the cats are all able to recognize a schedule and soon you'll be getting dirty looks if you aren't on time! The reason for taking the food up is to prevent other wildlife from using the opportunity to show up where you are feeding the cats... not doubt you WILL have raccoons, opossums, and maybe even rats taking advantage of your generosity. You won't like it, the cats won't like having to share and it may even upset your neighbors. Cats are smart, they will show up when they learn the new schedule! Oh and one other thing about feeding, consider keeping the food in a covered area or make a feeding station to keep rain and snow out of the food bowls.
The other thing you should do as a colony guardian is provide shelter, especially in the winter. Cats do freeze to death when it gets too cold. There are shelters available online through places like Amazon and Groupon as well as through retailers locally and pet supply stores online. It doesn't take long to find something in your budget that the colony members will use and appreciate. BUT there are also lots of instructions online on how to build your own shelters using plastic storage bins and large styrofoam coolers. In the Fall, we host a shelter-building workshop where you can learn how to build one using a stryofoam cooler and you get to take it home. The cost to attend is one roll of Gorilla tape (Gorilla tape is water-proof whereas duct tape is not). Keep an eye out on our Events & Workshops menu tab, Facebook page or PetFinder page for the upcoming dates and information.
Your shelters can be simple or elaborate. It depends on your budget, how much room you have, and how much time you have!
But there are a huge number of ideas on Pinterest and even more resources online just by searching for "feral cat shelters".