Helping Cats After the Storm

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, follow these tips to help ferals recover

October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy's fury threatened the lives of countless feral cats all along the East Coast. If your colony has been disrupted, here are some things you can do to help:

  • If cats are missing - be aware they may be close by, but too frightened to return to the colony. Coax them back by reestablishing a normal environment and feeding routine as soon as you can. 
  • If possible, the colony's regular caretaker should stop by twice a day to offer reassurance. Take a head count and keep calling for any missing cats. Most will come back within a week, but some stragglers may take a few weeks to return.
  • Look high! - cats may have climbed to escape flood waters.
  • Provide clean water!...any water that may be standing on site is likely to be contaminated with bacteria from sewage or other dangerous sources. Put out more water bowls than usual.
  • Be on the lookout for broken glass, nails or other sharp objects and remove them promptly. Broken lumber should also be removed as soon as possible; scratches from broken pieces of treated lumber will become infected very rapidly.
  • Any wet items should be removed and either discarded or cleaned and replaced. That includes bedding, straw, newspaper, cedar chips and other types of insulation. Wet materials offer no protection and will quickly harbor bacteria which could be hazardous for the cats.
  • Thoroughly bleach shelters, feeding stations and dishes if they were exposed to flood waters.
  • Now is the time for comfort food! - reassurance will help get cats back to normal so offer canned tuna or rotisserie chicken, something tempting to help them feel better, and to lure frightened cats back to their colonies. Add treats to daily meals for several days after all cats are back home.
  • Check the cats for any injuries. Contaminated flood waters can turn wounds septic so if injuries are seen, trap and seek veterinary care asap.
  • Stress may cause cats to break with upper respiratory infection. To ward off illness, add extra vitamin C to your cats' food. For easy ways to supplement their diet, read the article Vitamin C to the Rescue by feline nutrition expert Anitra Frazier. If you do see evidence of URI try to get antibiotics into their food before their conditions worsen. Remember, getting the colony's routine back to normal as soon as possible is the best way to combat stress.
  • If your colony is located in an area that is closed due to storm damage (like NYC parks), contact the Community Affairs Officer at your local police precinct, explain why you need access and ask what you need to do to gain permission. NYC certified caretakers, contact Neighborhood Cats ( if a letter is needed to verify your request.

Emergency recovery information provided courtesy of JoE. Needham, Friends of Felines in Castle Hayne, NC. JoE. is an expert in managing feral colonies in severe weather conditions.