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Spaying feral kittens

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Hello all...I thought about posting this question in general health, but since my questions are related specifically to the nature of semi-ferals, I thought I would post it here!

So, as I have mentioned in another thread on here, the first of our three semi-feral kittens is going in for her spay on Tuesday. I just wanted to seek out some advice, really as to how to handle all this! I know we aren't supposed to feed her after 8pm the night before the surgery. Our normal feeding schedule is a wet food dinner between 6 and 7 pm and then dry food always available for them to self-regulate. I guess I am just a bit worried about depriving the other two of their normal food/water. We have a very, very small cottage, so locking Conor (the one who is going to be fixed) in a separate room is not really an option, unfortunately.

We will be borrowing a large cat crate from some friends (these are really good sized - used to transport their cats from Canada to here in Ireland, so plenty of room!) for transportation and recuperation. What sort of things to do we need to watch out for? How long should we keep her in her crate while she recuperates? We will talk to our vet about all this too, but you guys have been so helpful I just thought I would get a head start on preparing myself for all this! Obviously, we are going to have to go through with it a few more times, so we will learn, but I kind of want to get it somewhat right the first time to limit the shock to poor little Conor!

Thanks a lot!
post #2 of 16
Awwwww....... I'm sure it'll go just fine, but I'm sending my vibes that everything will go smoothly.

I don't know your financial situation, but you might want to talk to the vet about pre-anesthetic testing. They do that here and I don't know what the charge is, but it's a little test to make sure the kitty is going to be OK with the anesthesia they give her.

Whenever one of our kitties needs surgery, all get deprived of the food. We do the same thing - free feed with a wet meal at dinner. We feed them their wet meal, and then when we're supposed to, we pick up all the food that's out. Our crew isn't too vocal, so we do get sleep that night, but they're all VERY relieved to see their food back out the next morning.

One of us takes the crate with kitty out to the car while the other one puts all the food bowls back down so they can eat while we're gone (we always go to the vet together).

After surgery, we've never confined the kitty that got spayed or neutered. They'll usually eat when they feel like it, though the effects of the anesthesia can make them not feel like eating for up to a day (depends on the cat). If your kitty is totally running around (doubt it!), then maybe confine to a room - but the most important thing is to prevent kitty from pulling at the stitches or obsessively licking the spay site - which they can still do when confined to a crate.

We just can't do the collar to the kitties (there's a hood thing that can go around their neck that prevents them from being able to lick anywhere on their bodies) - they SO freak out with it. One of us just follows the kitty around, and if we're confident she's not going to lick the site to death, we both go to sleep. We had one kitty that wouldn't leave it alone, so one of us slept half the night while the other watched her, and then we switched up.

But be prepared for your kitty to be groggy for a day or two, not necessarily hungry, though she may nibble. Don't be surprised if the first time she eats she gets sick. We never prevented our kitties from eating, and two of them ate as soon as they were home and they never got sick, but I'm sure that just like with people it can happen. But within a few days, she should be just fine.

But the main thing to watch is the spay site - make sure it's not weeping, make sure kitty's not licking it too much (she will lick it, and that's OK - just make sure she doesn't pull at the stitches or lick it so much it gets inflamed).

Just make sure that if you have any questions, you feel comfortable calling the vet.

post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
Laurie, as always, thanks for the great advice! I think we are going to do what you said - just take away all food for the night. Our cats are pretty quiet as well, so I don't think it will be too much of a problem. However, I warned the husband that we are going to have to make sure to clean the kitchen tonight to avoid foraging!

I am starting to get nervous for tomorrow, but I am confident it will all go well. All three kittens have been shook up today as we did a lot of cleaning yesterday (spring cleaning!), so their normal day was disturbed. I am hoping by tomorrow things will be back to normal and Conor will be cooperative.

My husband is going with me to the vet (luckily) but he has a work commitment when we are supposed to pick them up. Luckily, my cat loving friend has agreed to come along to retrieve our girl after it is all over.

I will let you all know how it goes. Fingers crossed for a cooperative kitten and a successful and safe op!
post #4 of 16
that all goes well! I hope you're sleeping peacefully as I type this, and that your little babies won't be too anxious when you wake up. I'm sure it'll go fine!

post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
Just a quickie before we head off to bed. The day has been stressful, yet not stressful at the same time because everything went really smoothly.

When I woke up, Conor was already in the carrier, so I just closed the cage. She wasn't happy to be in there after the door closed, but she was an absolute angel the entire trip there. No whining or anything. At the vet, we had to get her into their cage, and she was freaked out and ran around the room, but we caught her easily enough and put her in.

Then the worrying! My husband got a call saying that we could pick her up at 7, so my friend and I headed over. I spoke to the vet assistant, and she said the surgery went absolutely fine and gave me instructions. So, we got her home (in a very friendly taxi). She was still rather drugged up at that time - very little control over her movement - but the drugs have pretty much worn off now. She is very much seeking comfort - letting us stroke and pet her (which was only an occasional thing in the past). She is fast asleep right now, so hopefully recovery will be fine.

The only real 'problem' is the other cats - they have felt her absence quite a bit and they are very confused by her current state! The vet recommended keeping her in the cage, at least overnight, so we are doing that. We are going to try and keep the kittens separate for a bit as well- they can get quite boisterous with their play, and we don't want to risk any tearing of stitches!

Thanks for all the vibes! I am happy to say that so far things are going well! Off to bed - very tired now!
post #6 of 16
I'm so glad everything went well and she's recovering so well!

I hate to say it, but I did forget about that. Aftwards, ALL of our girls wanted extra snuggling and comfort, which was SO nice. SUCH an affirmation, isn't it?

But if it turns out Niamh is, in fact, a girl, sometimes it can go the other way - sometimes they REALLY want to be left alone. And that goes for ferals, for hand raised kitties, for kitties from a breeder - there's just no way to know which way it's gonna go.

Also, after a trip to the vet, especially if it involves surgery of some kind, it does affect the other kitties. Thankfully, it's been so long since we had to take anyone in for some type of surgery - and we've been through lots of it with a number of our cats - that I forgot about that too. When you do let Conor out of her crate, if you've got some vanilla in the house (the kind you bake with), put some on a paper towel, and dab all the kitties at the base of the tail, under the chin, on the back of the neck and behind the ears. It helps confuse the smells and helps them all smell the same. Our kitties were all very accepting of kitties that are ill or had surgery or are handicapped in some way - but many kitties are freaked out by the "new" smells, so the vanilla helps even it all out.

Also, I don't know to what extent you've started talking to your cats , but we always do. We never tell them they're going to the vet before they go, because at least one of them TOTALLY understands and is impossible to find the next day (we get the crate out two days before the trip, leave it out and ignore it) - but once in the crate, we explain why they're going, how good it is for them, and we just generally talk and be reassuring, explaining what's going to happen and why.

Then when we get home, we explain to all the other kitties what happened.

We prepare them for everything - our traveling, when we moved homes, when grandma is coming to stay with us for a while, when we're having company over, &etc. I really think it helps.

post #7 of 16
OH! One last thing. The cages our vet has are large enough to hold the crates we have. So we always put a kitty bed in the crate, and we ask the vet to take the whole package from us. They put "wee-wee" pads over the bed for recovery - but because we ask, the pre-op kitty gets to stay in the crate (with the door open in the cage) and our kitties get to recuperate in their own crates with their own smells around them.

post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
Also, I don't know to what extent you've started talking to your cats , but we always do. We never tell them they're going to the vet before they go, because at least one of them TOTALLY understands and is impossible to find the next day (we get the crate out two days before the trip, leave it out and ignore it) - but once in the crate, we explain why they're going, how good it is for them, and we just generally talk and be reassuring, explaining what's going to happen and why.
That is exactly what we do! It is a carry over from how my husband and I have both always dealt with our respective pets (my parents have a dog, and we are always talking to her, so it is really natural). We found out Conor was going into the surgery on Friday, and when we got home from a drink with friends, we explained everything to her. We have just been talking to her and telling her what was going to happen. We did the same with the other two kitties. And the vanilla tip is great - will have to try that! They are very confused by her right now as she really smells of anti-septic, so anything to help get them all back on track.

The husband and I have just been taking turns sitting with Conor and comforting her. She seems to be doing really well. I feel so bad for her, but as I explained, it really is for the best. She is such a sweet little thing.

Also, thanks for the vet tip. That sounds like it would be really good - Conor only really calmed down yesterday when we got home. She was very agitated when I picked her up, but the minute we put her down in 'her' bedroom - with all the smells of our house - she immediately calmed down. My friend pointed out it was because she was used to the smell.

Oh, and Niamh is almost definitely a boy! He (still trying to get used to calling 'her' a 'he') stuck his tail straight up in the air after dinner last night and I got a good look. One of the really interesting side effects of Conor being out of commission, however, is that Niamh has started to become more bold. Paddington was downstairs playing with me last night, and Niamh trucked on down and played with us. Normally, play with him only happens in the bedroom or on the stairs. Even my husband noticed how he wasn't as skittish as before. Hm. I wonder if this is just a natural thing - getting even more comfortable - or if not having the very dominant Conor around has brought it the past, Conor and Paddington have always been thick as thieves. Niamh gets along with Paddington (often they cuddle together) but Conor and Niamh are rarely seen together - they occasionally cuddle up together but they don't appear to have the same sort of bond as Conor and Paddington. I hope this is just because Niamh has always been a bit more skittish. Anyway, I will see how things go now that Conor is back.
post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 
Just another quick update. Conor seems to be doing well. She is still very tired, and doesn't really have an appetite, though she did have a bit of wet food earlier. She is still really keen on affection right now - we shall see if that lasts. After she had some food, I stroked her for quite a while, and then I gingerly picked her up (she was kind of hiding in a dusty space, and I didn't want her to get too much dust in her wound) and she settled in my lap for a bit of a nap. She decided to go back into the cage on her own, so I closed the door (as I was leaving, and I want to make sure that when we let her out fully for the first time, we are around to make sure her brothers don't bother her too much). We are going to let her out for good tonight - the vet recommended 24 hours of rest in the cage, so when the husband gets home I told him he could let her out and have some bonding time with her as well. He will give her some more food and water and he is hoping that he will have a chance to spend time with her and comfort her. He was out last night for a work thing and didn't get home until late, so his time with her was quite limited post-op.

She seems to know her own limitations, so I am not too worried about her hurting herself or pulling stitches. I had her in our bathroom for food this morning (Paddington was being particularly rowdy this morning, so I didn't want him to agitate her) and she was very careful with herself. Her wound looks fine - she hasn't been pulling at the stitches - though, I didn't keep waking up in the night to check on her (we had her in our room in the cage and the other kittens downstairs). Probably why I am so tired today!
post #10 of 16
I'm so glad she's being good about it. Our boy Tuxedo had to have a series of surgeries, so the specialist left in the IV drip thingy - but sent him home with us so he wouldn't stress out so much at the vet. We couldn't leave him alone for a minute. But the girls were all great about the spay.

And as to Niamh? Since Conor seems to be your alpha, I'm guessing that the reason Niamh was out more comfortable WAS because not having the "very dominant" Conor around brought it out.

Our kitty Spooky - well - you can tell from her name. She was 1/2 the size of her litter mates and scared of everything. Five years later she is still the subject of somewhat frequent attacks by our alpha and the #2. (Nothing too serious - just tail flashing and chasing her down). Once we knew she was comfortable with us, we gave her a lot of "alone" play time (in the bedroom with the door closed) so the other kitties wouldn't intrude. I think over time that helped build her confidence.

Hope Conor continues to be a good girl about those stitches!

post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
Niamh (or Steve as my husband has taken to calling him - he says it rhymes and there is a cricket player named Steve Harmison who is a bit shy, so the husband says it fits...) benefitted enormously from Conor's brief hiatus. He is bolder than he has ever been. Once he is a bit more comfortable, I will follow what you said, Laurie and play with him individually. He loves to play, but Paddington is a toy hog, so no matter how much I try to get him involved, Paddington always jumps in. Individual play might be just the thing....

And a Conor update. The husband fed her and comforted her a bit last night before we let her out with her brothers. We felt it was a good time - Paddington has been lost without Conor - mewing like crazy! We were a bit concerned that the others might be a bit rough with her, but I honestly believe that with us monitoring her and her knowing her own limitations, she should be fine. She seems much more her old self today - last night, the minute we let her out, she scampered to a hiding spot, but today she spent the entire day sleeping on the bed as normal. She is still a bit 'upset' in that she is more skittish than she was before, but we are just taking things slowly. I know she is probably a bit traumatized by what has gone on, so I want her to remember that this is a happy place. Her stitches are looking fine and the would seems very clean, so I am just going to keep monitoring her, and I am sure she will be fine and come around once again.

Now we just have the two boys to take care of. Our vet said that since we have done the little girl, we can wait a bit longer for the boys. He recommends when they are 8 months old, but obviously if they start spraying or being too aggressive before then, he said to just call and then bring them in. Phew. We are relieved, in the end, that our little Niamh (Steve!) is a boy. If she was a girl, we would have had to get her fixed before we went away next weekend, and the stress of it all so soon after Conor would have done me in! I think Paddington is eager to go - he has stopped sleeping on the bed and started sleeping in the cat crate!
post #12 of 16
I guess Paddington doesn't want to wait until he's 8 months!

I'm so glad Niamh (are we going to start calling him Steve?) came out of his shell. And I agree - Conor will come around quickly.

As to having the boys done - I wouldn't wait until they're 8 months. I really wouldn't want to run the chance that they even START spraying. That's really a nightmare you don't want.

Most vets do it at six months. Ours tells everyone to bring their cats in as soon as their first baby tooth falls out, as teething is (usually) a pre-cursor to coming into sexual maturity. (FYI the first baby tooth usually falls out around 4 or 5 months.)

Hope you have a great trip!

post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 
Phew - been a busy week (my brother's girlfriend went into labour shortly after we got Conor home...very exciting!)! But just wanted to update on Conor and other kittens.

Conor is doing very well - she is back to her normal self. Her stitches are looking good and she is just being Conor! A bit more affectionate, it has to be said. She likes her strokes during her dinner (though, they have to be done after the other kittens are done eating - Conor is my little vacuum, so she always sticks around longer - once the other kittens have gone off for a clean, then we get down to our cuddling). The husband was also really pleased as last night he had a good long stroking session with her right before we went to bed. We are keeping our eye on her, but she is a smart cat, so I am not to worried about her over-exerting herself. But still. She also has learned to re-trust the cage! I thought she would hate it forever, but she is starting to hang out in it again - all the kittens practically fight over who gets to sleep in it. Very sweet.

Niamh is now Steve. I call him Stevie (as I used to call him Niamhy). We were going to keep calling him Niamh, but my husband was really keen on naming him after this particular cricket player. Since it rhymes, it hasn't been too difficult to get used to. He is still making progress as well - not so timid. Still jumpy but totally happy to come downstairs for a play. Also, doesn't run away every time we enter a room.

We are leaving on Thursday, and when we get back, we are going to sort out getting the boys all fixed. My friend said we could borrow another one of her cages, so we will try and take them in at the same time. I just want to get it all taken care of! Thanks for all the advice, Laurie - it has been so helpful!
post #14 of 16
I think taking them in at the same time, if you can manage it, is a good idea.

I have a funny story about names. When Ming Loy first came home with us (because of another one of our kitties that was very ill, she had to stay at the hospital for a month after being rescued before we could bring her home) we kept her separated in her own room (we had five other cats). When she wanted to nap, she used to squish down and wriggle up under a chest we had in there - but for some reason, she'd go all the way to the end, near the door - but had to go the length of it to get out. So we'd open the door and say "Where's Ming Loy?" as our greeting. We'd hear the this "thump" as she banged her head on the bottom of the chest, and because she was handicapped it would take a her a little while to wriggle her way out - so we'd say a few more times, "Where's Ming Loy?"

Everything seemed fine with her and the other kitties, so when we were sure she wouldn't kill herself falling down the stairs (she could already scale a baby gate because she could climb, and we'd padded the entire house because she couldn't control her movement very well), we let her have access to the whole house.

Her first morning out (she was SO HAPPY! - she was rescued at like 2 weeks old, so socializing wasn't an issue), we would call her. "Ming Loy" - no response. "Ming Loy?" No response. OK - so the maxim "Dogs come when called, Cats take a message and get back to you" may be true - but if in the same room, the other kitties at least LOOK at us when we call their names. Gary and I were so puzzled. Then he figured it out. "Where's Ming Loy?" And she came RUNNING! For the first few weeks of her life at home, Ming Loy thought her name was "Where's Ming Loy?"

...but they adjust to new names pretty quickly. We have about a million nick-names for all of them, and they all seem to know who we're talking to.

post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 
Oh, Laurie! That is such a great story! That made me laugh out loud. You are right about them adjusting though - our kittens each have about a million nicknames, and they all seem to understand which is which.

It is a week post-spay now, and Conor is doing very well indeed. She is still a bit angry with us (understandable - my friend said their cat wouldn't interact with them for nearly two weeks after she was fixed!), but she is playing with her brothers and otherwise acting perfectly normal. Relief!

We are going to borrow another cat carrier when we get back from England so we can take both the boys in. It's a bit of a pain, because we have to walk to the vet (not too far away, however), but as long as it's not raining, it should be fine (worse comes to worst, we just take a taxi). I think it would be easier on us and them to just get them fixed together. The boys are starting to get so big! I brought out an interactive toy we hadn't used in a while last night - the one that causes Paddington to roll around in my legs - and my gosh. He is so much stronger and heavier than he used to be. Conor was always the biggest of the kittens, but Stevie and Paddington are definitely growing. That alone makes me feel so good - to see them developing into healthy young cats.

Stevie is really coming out of his shell. Paddington and him play constantly now that Conor is slightly less interested. He is down her as I type drinking water. He is starting to trust me more and more, but still not as much as the other cats, and is still a bit more hesitant of my husband.

We bought another domed litter tray since the last one was such a success. We have a very small cottage, and with the uncovered ones, the kittens were having a bit too much fun in their litter and were kicking it everywhere, meaning our house constantly had litter all over it (lots of vacuuming!). I bought one a few weeks ago and put it upstairs (the upstairs loo, as my husband says) and they love it. They have been preferring it over all the other uncovered ones. They often appear to go in together as well, which my husband likens to ladies going to the bathroom together.

We leave on Thursday evening for the weekend. I am a bit nervous about leaving the kittens alone, but my friend is a huge cat lover and I know she will take good care of them while we are gone. She is coming over Thursday morning so I can apprise her of their routine and everything. I am sure they will be fine and probably a bit relieved to have some alone time - hopefully they will miss us!
post #16 of 16
Our kitties haven't ever shared a litter box - but plenty of people have cats that do. But boy do I know what you mean about the litter. We were so relieved when they were all fine with covered boxes!

I'm sure everything will be fine while you're out of town. I have no idea how attached to you they are. Some kitties are mad about their people leaving. If ours were cared for at home instead of put into boarding, I'm sure they'd hardly notice we were gone.

If I don't "see" you again before you leave, have a great and safe trip!

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