I am a card carrying sponsor of a Feral Cat Colony (really). I keep a Game Cam on my feeding station to know who is coming and if there are any new cats that need capture, spay, neuter, and release. I use a live trap and my organization does the vet work for $40. I have found that most cats are on a schedule --so if a new one shows up at 6 AM for a couple of days, I set my trap at 5:30 and (honestly) catch that cat within a day or two. Sometimes I recatch ones I’ve “treated” —I just say hi and release them.
Mine are true ferals —not a friendly one in the bunch (I have 11 regular visitors). They find their own lodging under the barn, or shed or in the windfalls around the property. Some seem to come from the neighbors’ duck barns (I see tracks in the snow).
As to feeding --remember raccoons and possums can’t jump. I took an old 50 gallon water tank (galvanized metal) that leaked, turned it upside down and set it on 4 cement blocks. It is about 3’ off the ground. On top, I put a covered litter box (empty) with a big dish of food. Cats jump up, eat, jump down. One or two naps in there. The cats (all spayed or neutered) seem to get along ok.
My feeding station is 95% successful --occasional a big raccoon will get up there --but not generally. I hesitate to make it higher because I am not sure how high some of my bigger cats can jump.
I was told that cats only eat in the day time, and if I take my food up, I will avoid raccoons. Not true for me. Most of my ferals feed at night. I can’t say I’ve seen an increase in raccoons --or possums. Box on water tank works for me.
Do suggest a game cam --fun to see who visited each night.