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...time to release a feral...

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Hi...I've been posting for a while on an excellent Canadian pet BB on the subject of 'ferals', and have gotten some much-needed support and advice. However, this BB has no specific category for ferals et al.; when I found this BB and saw this category I thought I should give it a try.

To give a 'reader's digest' version of my feral experience to date: Other than feeding the odd apparently independant cat-passing-through (I live on a very small farm in the countryside), and absorbing one obvious 'dumpee' into our multi[indoor]cat household, my contact with ferals was pretty limited-until this past June.

At that time I became aware that a momcat and her three one mo. old-ish kittens were living in a deserted shed just off my property. The mother starting hanging around me from a safe distance while I did horse chores etc., so I starting leaving food/water out for her.

After a month or so, she moved the kittens to another deserted shed a little closer to my house/barn; the kittens starting showing up at the feeding station (under my horse trailer). I continued to feed the Feral Family over the summer, but began to be concerned about the upcoming Canadian winter-and the kittens reaching breeding age.

Although the kittens would only allow me to get so close while they ate, they played a lot around the horse trailer. As we began to get some cooler days in early Sept., I started to leave the food in our back porch with the outside door open-for about an hour at a time.

Much to my surprise, when I opened the kitchen door to the porch one morning and casually closed the outside door, one kitten was still at the far end of the porch; guess I caught him by surprise, literally! This kitten had been the boldest one, and after letting him 'hide' in the porch for a few hours, my husband and I were able to get him to go into a large dog crate. We did not attempt to touch him, but with patience, things went very calmly.

'Sparky' was in the cage for only 2 days; it was apparent that although previously unsocialized and untouched by humans, he was ready to get acquainted. We played things by ear...brought him to our bare guest room, and opened the crate; he 'gentled' amazingly , with a few manner reminders!

About a week after Sparky's transition indoors, I was totally shocked to find that I had trapped the 2 remaining kittens in the porch with the same method. This time I knew things would be more of a challenge, as the new duo were much shyer than Sparky. However, we got them into the cage fairly quietly; they both hid in a 'boxcave' most of the time for a week or so; we then opened the cage to give them the run of the porch.

We started using our side porch as our entrance/exit, so the kittens would be secure. The bolder kitten came up carefully to be petted in the second week, which was a real breakthrough; exactly a week later the very shy kitten suddenly approached me .

Things seemed to go 'suddenly' at that point, but I guess I'd spent a good 2-3 mos. feeding them outside, and chatting with them. The positive experience with the kittens motivated me to find a livetrap to borrow...another shock, as the first night we set it, we caught...Mr. Tom, whom I had only glimpsed in the later part of the summer, very briefly.

'Darrell the Feral' is a BIG, FIERCE guy, but a local vet clinic that is licensed to rehab wild animals had agreed to spay/neuter on short notice, so Darrell was caught one night/neutered (and vacc'd) the next a.m./released the day after that.

After a few days to catch our breath, the livetrap was set again, and we caught 'Meryl the Feral' that very night. Sooo, back to the clinic; Meryl was a bit pregnant as I'd feared, but they were able to spay her etc. That was just about a week ago, and due to Meryl's slightly complicated op, I'm just now planning her release (she's in the large cage in the back porch, where I've been trying to get a bit of weight on her).

The 'first' kitten, Sparky, has had his first shots and is now in the general household where he is adjusting great; his 2 sibs are in the spare room now and due for their first shots later today (they'll be in isolation another 2 week...I had to wait until they were a bit more trusting to even think about a trip to the vet).

Everything has gone just about as well as one could hope thus far , although I've had a few deep-breathing sessions with a paper bag!! Darrell is still coming around for food, Meryl will at least be litter-free, and we're keeping Sparky...while a great catperson relative is taking the other 2 kittens.

My main concern right now is Meryl-releasing her on a nice day, and HOPING that she stays safe for a long time!!?? I will continue to stock the feeding station etc. Meryl is not as CRAZYWILD as Darrell, but is very much feral i.e stays in her boxcave when I am in the porch to feed her/clean litter.

With a lot of time and patience, I think she might be socialized, but with all the animals we already have...it seems that she is accustomed to being 'very feral', and will welcome her freedom. I guess I'm just finding it a bit tough-having had her to the vet etc., and worrying about her future...

This whole experience is definitely making a S/N activist sort out of me; there are no real resources in the county we live in...so many homeless/feral cats. I'm determined to try to help initiate something specifically S/N oriented. I'm presently trying to gather info/resources on this issue, and would welcome any feedback on S/N type organizations, as well as any thoughts on 'the release of Meryl' .

Thanks to anyone for any input!!

post #2 of 4
Feralama, thank you for all you've done for these cats! This sounds so much like my first intro to ferals, lol!

Thankfully, there is a lot of info on ferals, caring for feral colonies, creating winter shelters, etc. out there. Several folks from the forums here and The Cat Site and I decided to pull together a lot of the info - not to repeat any of it, but to provide a kind of "clearing house" of links. The result is http://www.StrayPetAdvocacy.org. I think you'd be most interested in the "Non-Lethal Control" section.

There are many great websites out there, however, the two national organizations here in the U.S. - and both have resource libraries online - are http://www.alleycat.org (Alley Cat Allies) and http://www.bestfriends.org. The Best Friends' No More Homeless Pets campaign also has terrific resources on ferals and Trap-Neuter-Release programs.

As to Meryl, bless your heart for worrying about her. Because you'd been feeding her for so long before trapping her, and because she's been caged on your porch for a while after the spay, I'm pretty sure she'll stick around. Cats are very territorial, and she's established your place as her territory.

However, we did have one feral mom disappear on us after being spayed. If you want to be as sure as possible that she stays so she'll be safe and fed, you can follow the rule of thumb used when relocating ferals. Keep her in the cage for 2 -3 weeks, feeding her wet food in addition to the dry food I'm sure you have out for her to free feed on. Feed the wet food at the same time every evening (or whenever it works for your schedule). Then release her on a sunny day. Then put the same wet food out for her at the same time as you had been, and put it as close to where she was in the cage as possible (but in a place she'll feel safe eating it). Of course there are no guarantees, but this is as close as you can get.

You're doing a wonderful job! Of course - once you've hung out that "I care for ferals sign" (so to speak), they'll keep turning up. !!! The next thing, of course, is to work on developing a network so you'll be able to adopt out those kittens that inevitably turn up....

(((((((((((((((((hugs)))))))))))))))))) for all you're doing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 
Thanks very much, LDG/Laurie, for all the information and encouragement. I've read through a fair amount of 'feral info', and have started the process of making some contacts (re: trying to get S/N more accessible in my county, etc.).

Yesterday, I released/returned a very impatient WW-the-now-spayed etc.-feral. It was a nice day, and she promptly bounded off to one of her sheltersheds; she was back at the feeding station twice today, much to my relief. She gave me a bit of a dirty look as I passed by doing my horse chores, but she didn't let my presence interrupt her meals .

Thanks again for taking the time to reply; I really appreciate your help!
post #4 of 4
Oh I'm so glad your worries were for nothing (so to speak)!

And - thank you so much for fighting for ferals!

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