The colony at Cat Haven Ranch stays safe and free roaming because we give them the ability to dictate, when, where, and how often they eat. Food is one of the biggest drivers for cats, that and a nice warm place to curl up for a nap (sometimes all day). Our dedicated feeding stations are spread across the many acres of land, allowing the herd to eat at their favorite hang outs, like the Meow Motel, or a nice open veranda, like the Kitten Cabin. Buying 2-3 bags of hard food averages between $15-20 per day.
The feeders we use are a mixture of self loading, trough style, and regular ground areas. The self loading feeders, like the image to the right, are all elevated. This gives our colony members the chance to eat by themselves. Our wild herd mates will only eat with these feeders, because they don't like other cats or people to be around them while they are focused on eating. The feeders will take 8-10 pounds of food each, and we have 4 of them spread around the ranch.
We try and limit the amount of fod that the "other wildlife" - coons, possums, the stray skunk - can access. Our feeders are elevated at least 4 feet off the ground. We also ensure that our cats have some method of getting up to the feeders, like a shelf, an outdoor house, etc...
We still do feed the great outdoors somewhat, but it's through the more traditional means of the trough or 'food on the ground' type feeding. Apportioning our food correctly to accomodate this ensures that we keep our hard earned food for our colony. If we could get 100 food sponsors, at, say, $15 per month, then we would be set for our food needs for now.
On any given day, we will dole out approximately 25-40 pounds of food, depending on the appetite of the colony - or in some cases the amount of wildlife. We have a dry storage area (an enclosed 50x50 shop on a concrete pad) that we would REALLY LOVE to fill with cat food. We have tried unsuccessfully to get corporate sponsors to donate pallets of food. We are working on grants with larger pet food makers, such as Purina and Science Diet, but so far, none have been accepted. This leaves us relying on donations, at some months, the paychecks of our volunteers.