I received a plea for information from a good person who was trying to take care of a sick kitten. I sent a reply, but it came back to me. Apparently the return address was not valid. So... Savannah's Mom, if you are out there, here is your message and reply.
Original Message: Hi I'm a 24 year old single mom . who has manged to feed 16 feral cats. Ive called the local animal places seeing if someone can give me a hand getting them fixed. the best they can do is 50 per cat....
I was outside yesterday when i stumbled and found this kitten who is maybe 12 weeks . very shy loves to hiss etc but also very sick. has drippy eyes and a cough sounds like a cold. shes not eating at all . i caught her picked her up and put her in a pet carrier . ... i get up every four hours and give her water via a syringe. and take the warm was rag getting the eye junk and crust from her nose. i don't have the funds to take her to the vet anything else u can suggest to help me save her?
My Answer: It's a difficult situation. Going to a vet is best, but I understand that whole thing about being broke!
You probably have multiple conditions at once - this happens with ferals. One of those conditions, runny eyes etc, is probably feline herpes (NOT contagious to humans) - the cough is something else, either viral or bacterial. Hard to say. The rest of the droopiness can be something more mundane but still dangerous; fleas and roundworms are most likely.
Fleas are probably visible. In kittens and sick cats, they can cause anemia so bad that it kills the animals. Check the gums and tongue. If they are kind of bleached looking instead of dark pink, the cat is severely anemic and could die without treatment.
Worms: You can just assume any feral has worms. They aren't fatal for a healthy cat but if an animal is already sick then worms are a bigger problem. A simple test is to stroke the belly area, if you feel the intestines - if they feel like little ropes, then the animal is infested with worms.
You can get a flea comb and worm medicine pretty cheap at a Walmart or some other store that carries pet supplies. You can comb-out fleas and treat for worms. I don't recommend the other flea treatments found at most department stores. Advantage for cats under 9lbs can be purchased at feed stores and such, but it is expensive. The worm medicine from departments stores is kind of iffy, but once again the alternatives are expensive. Other than that, you're doing what you can.
Sometimes a vet will give you a deal on a visit if you tell them you have a rescued sick feral. You can call around and ask. Veterinary antibiotics and worm medicine are actually pretty cheap; it's the office visit that is costly.
As for the rest: Maybe you can organize a neighborhood meeting and get everyone to chip in a few bucks for live-trapping and spay-neuter/release. If the ferals bother them, then maybe they'd be willing to do something positive.
You might run an ad in a local paper or craigslist to find someone who already owns some live traps to help. Maybe another volunteer could take several cats to a shelter in another town for cheaper spaying. I'd also check freecycle.org to see if there is a group covering your area. If so you can say that you need traps or someone with traps to help.
Hope this helps a little! And thank you for trying so hard.
Chriss Haight Pagani
Perhaps this information will help someone else out there who finds themselves in a similar situation. Others with suggestions/ideas may wish to post as well.