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Exercise Caution When Dealing With Ferals

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
In the past I have tamed and kept feral cats, but last summer I learned a valuable lesson. While offering a piece of hotdog, (yes, I know what they're made of) to a very pretty black feral, she/he took a swipe at me cutting my finger badly and then charged at me. To say I was suprised and shaken would be an understatement.
A few days later we caught her/him in the havahart and believe it or not, the cat actually bolted at us while trapped! We took the cat to rescue where it was deemed dangerous and had to be euthanized.

we all need to keep in mind that some ferals are born wild and have not been vaccinated or socialized. Not every hungry cat will be grateful to the hand that feeds them.

bottom line, when offering hotdogs to beautiful ferals, watch out for claws!
post #2 of 29
The same thing happened to me last October, when a feral I had been socialising and which I could pet and even pick up carefully, suddenly attacked me following a fight with my cats. I ended up in hospital with 12 stitches in my head, and then 6 weeks of treatment for abscesses. And the poor cat was put down as the vet made a dangerous animal order on it, which they can do here, and there was nothing I could do to save him, though I tried.
post #3 of 29
I think that the poor kitty you say attacked you may have been ill with rabies or felt cornered. Ferals aren't known to attack people without cause. I'm sorry you were injured but please let us not scare others into not helping these poor creatures. I have a new feral cat in my home for the past month and a half. Her name is Pumpkin and she lives for the most part under my bed. She is coming along though, slowly but surely. Last night she actually played ball with me. Still under the bed but becoming a little more socialble every day.
post #4 of 29
Thanks for the warning- the feral's that I've trapped have been completely terrified- I'm sure they'd attack if they felt threatened. There is one cat I will never trust- its a tom-cat that is MEAN. I'm trying to catch him to be fixed.. He attacked my cat the other night. He is creepy- he trys to stare you down *shudders*
post #5 of 29
Thread Starter 
I did not say I was "attacked" and the "poor cat" that swiped me, cutting me badly, was not cornered. I don't know about ill. I did not drop the piece of hot dog fast enough.
My intention was not to scare anybody, but to warn that caution is needed when dealing with wild animals, which ferals are.
post #6 of 29
I hope you're ok. Sometimes if an animal has been outside a long time and is doing well on its own, it may be a good idea to leave well enough alone. You could always leave a bit of food when the cats are not in the area. They'll smell it and come when you're gone. If you do this long enough, one day they'll be there waiting in the distance for you to come with their food.
post #7 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunnyday View Post
I hope you're ok. Sometimes if an animal has been outside a long time and is doing well on its own, it may be a good idea to leave well enough alone. You could always leave a bit of food when the cats are not in the area. They'll smell it and come when you're gone. If you do this long enough, one day they'll be there waiting in the distance for you to come with their food.
I'm ok. my vet, who is also a family friend, told me to stop trying to mother everything. He also stressed to me the importance of knowing if it was a claw or teeth that broke my skin. Teeth would have meant rabies vaccinations...but I know it was a claw. The cat was swiping the piece of hotdog out of my fingers.

I've noticed the ferals only come out at night or at dusk. Where a regular stray that is scared will stay off at a distance but meow and cry, and they come out at day. Then once you pet and feed them, they're all over you.

Leaving food out at night is a no-no where I live. It draws coons that carry a lot of distemper here, and coyotes, which are bad news for everybody. Cats, chickens, cows, horses, dogs, everything.

anyway, now I trap the ferals when we get them, and I take them to rescue. they evaluate them, and decide their fate. I'm not a professional and that nasty cut sure humbled me. I know when I've been licked. (or in this case, sliced open)
post #8 of 29
Yep - soft and cute they may be - but some cats are wild - just like a wild tiger or lion.

Hope you are doing okay with your owwies.
post #9 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by blueheart View Post
but to warn that caution is needed when dealing with wild animals, which ferals are.
Yes. And cats are tremendous predators, and often also fighting "machines".

The wonder isnt not folks get hurt now and then, trying to be nice to them.
The big wonder to be grateful for is these are so relatively easy to get domesticed into loving furry friends and family members.

Even many of the born ferals.
post #10 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by blueheart View Post
He also stressed to me the importance of knowing if it was a claw or teeth that broke my skin. Teeth would have meant rabies vaccinations...but I know it was a claw.
Ok no rabies. Good. Rabies vaccin is quite troublesome.

But you should get a tetanus-shot! Unless you have already a fairly good tetanus-protection.

This is simple one shot in the upper arm.
post #11 of 29
Hi Stefan and All,

This highlights why TNR organizations are important: we TEACH you how to safely be able to help feral cats.

Quote:
Originally Posted by StefanZ View Post
Yes. And cats are tremendous predators, and often also fighting "machines".

The wonder isnt not folks get hurt now and then, trying to be nice to them.
The big wonder to be grateful for is these are so relatively easy to get domesticed into loving furry friends and family members.

Even many of the born ferals.
Yes, indeed, many cats that are born feral, can be domesticated and become very loving pets. Remember that the cat born outdoors as a feral, is genetically exactly the same as the cat born in someone's cattery or in a cozy box in someone's closet. The are all "Felis cattus" or the domestic cat.

Cats are predators, and they also have established themselves over CENTURIES in many places as a link in an ecosystem. Breeding cats are experts in defending their young and their own survival. No one should be surprised that a cat that's had to fend for itself to stay alive and well, should be treated with great respect.

A good TNR program will teach you how to use a safe box trap which allows you and the veterinary clinic to transport and treat the cat (i.e., sterilize and vaccinate) and return it safely, all without your hands having to contact the cat's mouth OR claws. A good TNR program will help track the individual cat through that process and back to its colony. And a good TNR program will ensure that you are feeding appropriately and safely -- not putting food where it will attract vermin, not wasting food, and not putting yourself into a dangerous situation for you and the cat.

Please, if you have TNR programs in your area, do your best to support them. It is very hard for TNR organizations today to survive, and if we go out of business, there will probably be MORE sadness, not to mention, MANY more cats whose status is unknown to any program!
post #12 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tricias_petz View Post
Thanks for the warning- the feral's that I've trapped have been completely terrified- I'm sure they'd attack if they felt threatened. There is one cat I will never trust- its a tom-cat that is MEAN. I'm trying to catch him to be fixed.. He attacked my cat the other night. He is creepy- he trys to stare you down *shudders*
Don't judge those mean old Tom's too harshly before they have been caught and neutered. Here's a link to my thread about Lippy, one of those tough guys.

It is slow going, but I see changes and a bit less wariness. My next steps will be to ease him into the house to become one of the family. Patience is practiced often when dealing with ferals.
post #13 of 29
I've found that it's best to treat all outside ferals as if they have every intention of biting you. This is to say, be wary and proceed with caution.

We have a feral Tom that patrols our property at night along with several other properties along his route. He has been around for at least 2 years shows up like clockwork around 7 pm, 2 to 3 nights a week and always acts very friendly and comes right up to us. He has bitten me once in the past, because I stopped petting him sooner than he wanted. He has bitten my wife twice without provocation because she would not pet him. He lunges and attacks when you turn to walk away.

I can't tell for sure, but he appears to be altered. I have thought about trapping him and turning him in to the shelter, but he's sure to be put down as an aggressive biting cat.

If he bites my wife again, I'm going to have to do something.
post #14 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by blueheart View Post
We took the cat to rescue where it was deemed dangerous and had to be euthanized.
Why don't they (or you) TNR it instead of killing it? I am not against euthanasia at all but a wild animal doesn't need to be euthanized when it can just be neutered and returned to its colony in the wild. When you take them out of the wild then it just leaves room for more to come in. Otherwise you can manage a colony of wold cats who are completely vaccinated and neutered and then you won't have to deal with more and more new ones coming in as often and no litters being born.

Quote:
Originally Posted by blueheart View Post
we all need to keep in mind that some ferals are born wild and have not been vaccinated or socialized. Not every hungry cat will be grateful to the hand that feeds them.
That is what a feral is, a wild animal.Born it or not, they are wild. Some can be tamed some just need to be left alone, or in the case of cats, neutered and then left alone
post #15 of 29
Jen, here many ferals are euthanized. There is no TNR program, although people have worked to set one up, I believe. The shelter in the summer months, & fall months sometimes too, has to euthanize ferals as we can't afford to TNR them all. However, we have two right now & one more coming in that are getting TNR....we just have to find a place to "R" them to as the location of their former colony is no longer safe. These three are so very lucky.
post #16 of 29
oh I see, thats too bad hopefully they can get one up and running soon! I know that is not an easy thing to do.
post #17 of 29
We have two truly feral cats that live in the woods next to my place of work that I just got done TNR-ing- what an experience! I had never gotten within 10 ft of these animals before trapping them. Once trapped and seeing them up close, it was very hard to wrap my head around the fact that these were wild animals. They were very cute with beautiful eyes and faces. I had to constantly remind myself of the real danger involved- to be on guard at all times. Of course, their occasional hiss and growl helped reinforce that. Everyone at work assumed that I handled them and petted them while they were in my possesion, while that certainly did not happen. It was lovely to see them up close, and to have a part in helping them. I am so lucky that I have a great TNR operation right in my backyard. I have to accept that leaving food and water and providing a shelter for them will be the extent of our 'relationship'.
post #18 of 29
Chinny,

You have a beautiful, respectful attitude, and you should be very proud of that. Probably the hardest thing about TNR advocacy is that it IS such a grey-area issue: the feral cats really are genetically identical to the house pets (with all their charms), yet in most cases the ferals are NOT getting cossetted like the lucky house pets. Even so, as you mention, lots of people who are perfectly intelligent, can make stupid assumptions about feral cats.

Sometimes people will tell me that "the cat hates me," or, "he's getting back at me" for something. Sometimes, people describe cats as being unreasonably mean, when they haven't stopped to think about the challenges those cats face in order to survive. It seems that a lot of us humans can only conceive of either the "pet" or the "wild animal," and not the "in-between" of the fairly-recently-domesticated feline, a creature that is adaptable enough to live a cherished life in a human home, OR to scratch out a living on its own. Or, even, to be a member of a managed TNR'd colony, where it may be kittenish one day, and wild and threatening another. It's always nice to find someone who can appreciate the different-ness of the feral cat, on its own terms!

Your post made my day!
post #19 of 29
Well I for one think this is a great thread. Yes they are small and they look just like housecats, but if they are feral they should be treated with caution.

I read in a dog forum (in the "other animals section") how one gal's younger brother managed to grab a feral cat and bring him inside only to have the cat claw the yipes out of her. Her arm got swollen and infected.

On the other hand I have a wonderful pet cat who I mistakenly trapped thinking he was my escaped semi-feral. Today you would never know he was feral.

So yes, they can be trapped, neutered and even tamed, but not all of them.
post #20 of 29
Why thank you Linda, your post made my day, too. Speaking of the danger of ferals, I have to bring up my conversation with my vet yesterday. My own two cats were in for their yearly physical and I mentioned my experience with the ferals. He was somewhat horrified and his concern was rabies. We have had rabid skunks, raccoons, and foxes in our area. He said he would not take the risk of working with these animals unless they were rabies vaccinated- he even said he would take great caution in dealing with their food dishes. He suggested that I do what I need to to keep the two ferals rabies vaccines up- any other opinions on this topic?
post #21 of 29
Most of my ferals were the very wild, rip your face off if given a chance, type of ferals. They were all around a year old give or take a few months or so when they were trapped. Are all of them friendly, cuddly, lap cats? Not even! But they can be touched by me at the time and place of their chooseing and wouldn't leave my house even when someone left the gate open. The oldest ones are now 11 years old and I love all of them very much, even the ones I can't cuddle. But if they had been trapped and taken to any shelter they would all have been killed as too wild and aggressive. As long as you can live with the knowledge that the feral may never be a cuddle cat and may not even let you pet it much, you can live peacefully and comfortably with a feral or ferals in the house. Some of my ferals will sit a foot from me and do the slow eye close with me but most of the time won't let me touch them. OK, I can live with that.
post #22 of 29
I hate to sound like I'm discrediting your attack but does anybody else think the mental sight of someone slowly leaning over to feed some wild cat a piece of hot dog hilarious?
post #23 of 29
No, not hilarious -- maybe a little naive, is all. Can't laugh at someone whose intentions are so good.

And I admire her for trying to caution others on the basis of her experience. I'm about to have to attempt my first feral capture -- with no trap -- and I appreciate her warning! YIKES! I'll take even more precautions than I had already planned...
post #24 of 29
All credit to you for trying to help the kitties

But lets not forget there is a very big difference between feral and stray
But that only becomes an 'issue' when 'people' that don't know what they are doing
try to do everything by themselves without doing any research.
That costs lives...

The first rule to remember is....assess ....assess....assess
post #25 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by msgoody2shoes View Post
I hate to sound like I'm discrediting your attack but does anybody else think the mental sight of someone slowly leaning over to feed some wild cat a piece of hot dog hilarious?
BTW Yeah I thought it sounded funny Hilarious infact.....
post #26 of 29
Thread Starter 
well, I never claimed to be a genius,
I had thought the cat could have been a stray. In our rural farming area, we are prime "dumping grounds" for unwanted animals.
Didn't really dawn on me that this one was feral til it hurt me.
Now I don't chance it at all.
I leave it to the professionals.
post #27 of 29
On one hand it initially seems odd that you could get close enough to a feral to try to feed it a piece of hot dog, but then again there is a feral who has come to my feeding station in the last three months who won't run away if I try to touch him at the food bowl. But he does give me a look that says, "Don't even TRY it!", and I haven't.

I've found the most dangerous time is when transferring a captured feral to either a cage or a carrier--the cat will escape given the smallest opportunity and will fight like the devil when you try to recapture it. The first few times this happened we had to catch them by hand wearing fireplace gauntlets. Not very fun or safe for anyone concerned!!

Since then I've invested in Kevlar-lined gauntlets, nets, and an isolator. I've also invested in dog crates and carriers with rotating side flaps. The isolator can be used to move the cat from the trap to the crate and to block it's escape while closing the door. Most ferals will back away until cornered, and the carrier inside the crate is a convenient hidey-hole. Once he's inside the side flap can be closed and the cat will be ready for transportation--just remove the carrier from the crate. Hard to feed them that way, but you really don't want them eating immediately before or after surgery anyway. The same arrangement makes releasing them relatively easy and safe.

IMO Tomahawk makes the best carriers for such a use....
post #28 of 29
Where I work we have a parking garage that is frequented by several cats. I have no idea if they are stray or feral. Last year, one had two kittens (we caught them at about 6 weeks) and one of our employees took them home. 3days later we trapped mom and she stayed in her cage in my office for a few hours. During that time I would reach in and pet her a little (hoping to make her feel comfortable)which she didn't mind. Of course now I realize that I shouldn't have been so trusting. She went to the home with her kittens and stayed there for about a week, but one day just took off when the door opened. Isn't that odd? The people left food out for her and a towel that had been in the kitten's bed hoping the scent of her babies would draw her back. She never came back.
Was I making a point here? Oh, yes that I was also foolish and pet this very sweet looking mama.
post #29 of 29
If there is a stray cat outside, regardless if you do not know the cat, always approach with caution. Never make direct eye contact. Food on the ground (use cookie trays) don't pet, don't interact unless you are going to trap neuter and work with the cat or release it. The biggest mistake I see people making (and they are all well-intentioned people) is they believe the cat is going to be grateful for the food and the "rescue." But cats are first and foremost predators. You are not a friend, you are a bigger predator. They have seen those who look like you- chase off their friends, shove them into traps, then the cats are carted off never to be seen again. They live in a completely different world than the one your domesticated cat enjoys. Many of these cats are not "feral" they are strays with strong feral tendencies (survival skills). The longer they find themselves out in the world, the stronger their tendencies are. They cannot ever be "tamed" not without a lot of extensive work. They can be socialized, but you need to work with them on their time schedule not yours. I get so many emails from people wanting to know how long before they can "pet" these cats, interact with them, have them on thier lap for a cuddle. It is all inducive to the cat's wishes. Many of the cats here that share our indoor life, will never be lap cats. Some that are lap cats leave deep scratch marks when they leap off our laps because something they hear startles them.

In my manuscript I am working on, I talk about this very subject. The book will hopefully give people such as yourself a guide as to how to work with these creatures REGARDLESS of their age or degree of feralness. I am always sad to hear that cats have been put down because they are "deemed dangerous." Usually, they are just special cases that have been subjected to torment and dangers we could never imagine, and all at the hands of humans. Is it any wonder, they can't instantly trust us?

Currently, I have five cats that were dumped on me about two weeks ago. Four tomcats, one female (pregnant of course). When I first approached them in the field, they were spitting hissing monsters. The boys are now neutered and I have been working with them. They are sociable now, I had to work quickly because they all needed to be fixed and most of my traps were on loan, so I had to put them in a carrier. One who was the worst tom and nailed me pretty good, now when I approach his enclosure. He is in a two-story walk in cage because he hates other cats. He rolls over and wants a tummy rub, headbumps me and loves on me. He loves dogs, and other people. But show him another cat, and he goes through the roof. I call him Wyatt after Wyatt Earp because he was as wild as the wild west when he arrived.

My point is a lot of these cats are simply misunderstood and some people don't understand their world or what they have to endure. You have to sort of consider them along the lines of a child brought up with anger and stress. It takes time to work that out, to show them that parts of the world are safe, and humans are good. Unfortunately, out there in the world, they are exposed to the darker side of humanity and become easy targets for true cat haters.
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