(WBBM) – This holiday season is not just a difficult one for many Chicago-area residents. It can be even tougher on many pets, and animals that used to be pets, especially cats.

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The West Suburban Humane Society is suggesting several ways to help the cats that others have put out on the street in the bitter cold that’s just ahead.

The society, based in Downers Grove, has seen an increase in abandoned pets at local shelters, as well as an increase in former house cats released into the wild. Board member Cindy Johnson said one west suburban group has trapped, fixed and re-released 2,000 feral cats in the past three years.

She said that truly feral adult cats are wild, and will not generally approach people, preferring to remain in the shadows, although feral kittens can be easily domesticated. If there are feral cats in your area, Johnson said you can help them through the winter by putting out a bowl of dry cat food in the morning.

“We take the dry food in at night so that the raccoons and opossums and coyotes don’t get the dry food,” she said. “But we leave the dry food out during the day for the cats and they do come.”

Plug-in water bowls, available at local pet stores, can keep water warm outdoors during winter cold snaps. She said it is easy to create makeshift homes beneath porches or back-yard decks. There are even plug-in feral cat huts available on the Internet.

Johnson said she has one such hut that is currently home to a feral adult female and two kittens.

There is a distinct, ongoing advantage Johnson sees to having feral cats nearby. She said her neighborhood has had no rodent problem for years.

More information at www.wshs-dg.org/wshs

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