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Advice on acquiring 2 feral cats

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone, there are two former farm/barn cats living outside my summer residence. I was feeding them from May-August in the hopes of taming them enough to be captured. One is quite tame and allows me to pick her up. The other is still pretty jumpy, but has on a few occasions allowed me to pet her while feeding. The two main issues/questions that I have are:

(1) My permanent residence is almost 10 hours away from where they are - could this long-distance transportation be too stressful for them??

(2) I live in an apartment at the moment. Realistically, would they be able to adjust? Particularly the jumpy one?

One idea I came up with for the long drive was to break it up by taking them to a vet somewhere in between and perhaps sedate them? I really know nothing at the moment, but I will contact the Humane Society before proceeding.

Thanks in advance.
post #2 of 24
Yes it can be done. I will PM someone that can give you some advice on doing it. I wanted to say what a nice thing you are doing giving these ferals a new home.
post #3 of 24
I'm so glad you found us. And thank you for wanting to rescue these kitties.

A 10 hour ride would be stressful, but possible. Rescue kitties get transported all over the place, often between states. There is a member - not active for a while - that is a long distance trucker. He would help provide transportation of rescue kitties all over the country. If I remember correctly, there was one specific story here where he picked up a kitty in LA and got her to OR. (I might have the initial state wrong, but you get the idea).

Outdoor cats can successfully become indoor-only kitties. It will take work on your part (if you consider playing with kitties work ), and it may take some ear plugs - but you may have those from the long car trip anyway, so no problem there.

My biggest question is - any idea how old the kitties are?

Even if they're partially tame, if they're older than three years old and have never lived inside before, I wouldn't recommend trying to bring them inside to an apartment and socialize them to be indoor-only pets. However, if they were indoor/outdoor kitties, it may still be possible.

If you have no idea how old they are, I think it's important to get them to a vet before you make any decisions. They really ought to be spayed/neutered no matter what happens (though recovery in your apartment would be best) - but they DEFINITELY need to be treated for fleas/ticks before you bring them inside - and they will need to be treated for internal parasites.

Got lots more suggestions for both transport and how to help socialize them to be pets and make them comfortable inside - but it really depends upon what you know about their history and how old they are.

Just FYI - most other places that provide info on feral cats say that ferals older than 10 - 12 weeks can't be socialized. Some say not older than 3 - 4 months. That's just nuts. So many people here have proven that with love and patience older ferals can successfully become truly wonderful pets - and you'll have a bond of trust and love with them like no other. That said - our most experienced rescue member says that three years is the cut-off - if they've been outside and never inside for that long, they won't make the transition.

Do you know how old they are? Or can you get them to a vet to find out? And even if you have to leave them at your summer residence, PLEASE, please, please get them sterilized so they can't make more homeless kitties.

post #4 of 24
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the valuable responses! Unfortunately I don't know how old they are. Gut feeling is that they're a couple years old max, but really I don't know. They have been living there since last fall. Here is the full story: in the summer I was conducting research at a national park in a really remote area. There was a research trailer set up just outside the park for us. The nearest ranch was a few kilometres away and the 2nd nearest probably a few dozen km. Nearest town of pop. 400 was a 45 min drive - so remote! From what I was told, the fairly tame cat, Pipit, belonged to the neighbouring farm and was left behind when the owners moved last fall. (The ranch has been unused since.) She then made her way over to the trailer, probably because there were people there coming in and out. (I believe she was occasionally fed by other researchers or ranchers even before I came along in May.) The other cat, Mankota, was then apparently brought over by another rancher, also in the fall, to be her companion. Both are females, so I'm not too worried about babies due to the remote location. Also, I found they tended to stick around the trailer. I'm assuming this is because it was safer since there are coyotes and other potential predators in the area. Regardless, I would definitely bring them in to see the vet, determine their age, have them spayed, etc.

So really these cats aren't typical ferals. Arguably, from their perspective, they have a good life except that they look cronically hungry, though they can definitely hunt. I've seen Pipit carrying a ground-squirrel in her mouth, and there are several bird skeletons under the patio (which is just a whole other issue with me and my initial motive for getting them out of there - sort of ironic to have cats killing our study subjectsthat we're trying to protect!). Maybe I'm wrong to take them? I fell in love with them over the four months and sometimes I think it's purely for selfish motives that I want to take them.
post #5 of 24
I dont think its selfish at all. You will increase their life span as well as their quality of life. Just like they will be predators to smaller animals they will also be prey for larger ones. You will change their life taking them with you, that is for sure, but certainly for the better.

Maybe as suggestion you could have them spayed the day of the trip and that way they would sleep almost the whole way of the trip and wake up in their new home?
post #6 of 24
Another suggestion is for you to use Feliway - ( or even Felifriend in the catching situations).
Both are getting them more comfortable and feeling safer.

Shouldnt be necessary, but is helpful. If you need something extra...
post #7 of 24
I think it is absolutely wonderful what you are doing. An outdoor life is not a good life for a cat. There are so many dangers.
I like the idea of having them spayed and then taking the trip.
post #8 of 24
Thread Starter 
Thanks again for the advice and support. I just heard from someone who's now at the trailer that Pipit is nowhere to be found and there is a kitten hanging around! Mankota is still there. This really complicates the matter. My guess is Pipit had kittens?? I obviously wouldn't want to take her (if she comes around) if there is a possibilty that there are more kittens somewhere. I'm shocked that this happened. I really didn't think they wandered enough for that. Assuming that it's hers of course.
post #9 of 24
Being in such a remote area, would it be possible to get a humane trap and get them all? You could contact local rescue group or as local as possible to help you with the kittens and placing them with a foster or a new home.
post #10 of 24
Well, I would have a agreed with Pami's advice to get them spayed along the way, and that would help the trip - but this does complicate things!

How much longer does your summer work last? If you keep putting food out for the cats, if Pipit is the mom, she will bring her kittens to the food if it is there regularly. She'll do this when they're around four/five weeks old, as she begins to wean them.

Unfortunately, there is no way to go find the nest. Especially in areas like that, they'll be well hidden, and the mom will go to lengths to not lead anyone there - and if anyone follows, and she feels they may be threatened, she'll just move them.

IF it would be possible to have someone keep putting food out to attract the mom and the kittens, and IF it would be possible, at that time to trap them, I would really recommend that.

If Pipit and Mankota are friendly to each other, then I think your taking them in is the right thing to do. They will be terrified, of course, at first. The way I usually explain it is think of yourself - well, in this case - being like 5 years old, and suddenly you get shipped to China. Everything looks different, smells different, sounds different - and you have no idea what the people you're living with, who you don't understand - want from you. It will take a while to build the trust that they love you and only want you to be happy.

I don't know where you live, but if you're able to transport all the cats, perhaps a shelter or cats' protection society, or something exists that would be willing to take the kittens for fostering and/or adoption?

If any of this is possible, sounds like you may be investing in some traps and cages or large carriers for transport.

post #11 of 24
Thread Starter 
Ah, well that's where it gets REALLY complicated. I finished work in mid-August, so it's been a month since I've had contact with the cats, and no one else to my knowledge has been feeding them. I originally had planned to spend a few days there, assuming that the 2 cats would need to readjust to my presence. But now, with Pipit missing and a's looking more and more like this isn't going to happen.
post #12 of 24
Is there any way that you can just go back and at least help them? Their life sill surely be doomed out there away from everyone all alone.
post #13 of 24
It's a long drive and a long shot. None of us will fault you for not going given the news. But I'm with Pami - given the remote location and the difficult Winter conditions there, I'm not sure they'd survive on their own. If you have the time to get up there and spend a few days - even a week - I'd try!

However, you WILL need a trap - even two. Is there a shelter or vet near you that rents them?

If you decide to go, we can help with suggestions on what to take and how to handle it while there.

Quick question - how close is the nearest vet?

post #14 of 24
I would try trapping.
I think you would feel better in the long run if you give it a try. Cats do remember us even though we sometimes think they don't.
post #15 of 24
Thread Starter 
Hi all, sorry for the long silence, I was on the road. I plan to go next week for a few days, then turns out I have to return for a week or so again, probably in October. I contacted the local shelter and they do have traps that can be rented out or such. I will try to get two. Hopefully the cats will come around. At the very least I could grab the kitten!

With regards to survival, they made it through the first winter, so who knows. I think other people were occasionally feeding them.

I think about them all the time - it's driving me mad!! I was at the pet store today looking at the cats, but none were as cute as Pipit!!

So what do you advise that I bring?

Thanks for all the feedback everyone
post #16 of 24
Thread Starter 
For fun, I've posted a picture of Pipit here:

Isn't she cute!!
post #17 of 24
She is SO cute!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How far is the closest vet? I would definitely call them to see about having her (or however many of them!) spayed on the way home. When they spay kitties, if they do it in the morning, some places let you pick them up in the afternoon - other places have them spend the night. In this case, if they can be groggy for the rest of the car ride home, that's probably a good idea.

That said - it's best not to spay a kitty until her kittens are weaned. If someone had seen a kitten, then they're probably already weaned, or old enough to be (they can be weaned at 3 - 4 weeks, though moms will let them nurse longer even though they can eat regular food).

What else to bring?

A thick garbage bag or light tarp to cover your seats where you will set the trap. They may be scared and eliminate anything in their systems.

A couple rolls of paper towels.

To help the trapping, pouring litter over the bottom of the trap or a bunch of loose soil so the traps lift up through them but the kitties don't have to feel wire on their feet will help.

If the traps can be washed (get the scent of fear off of them) before you put them out, that will help.

I'd purchase Feliway spray. It is a synthetic hormone that mimics the friendly markers in cats' cheeks. This may help calm them a little. You don't spray it on the cats - you spray a little on the wires at the edge of the traps - and before you transport, maybe on the back of the seats where the traps will be.

I'd be prepared at home to have them if you're able to trap them! Make sure your apartment is "cat proofed" - no way to get out, no openings in walls or ceilings they can hide in, etc.

It's best to release them into one room at first. Cats are territorial, so when changing their territory, it's easiest for them to transition with a smaller territory that they make their own before worrying about them having access to the whole apartment.

Under the bed works great as a "safe" space - but maybe put a couple of slightly larger than cat-sized boxes out on their sides for them to have "hidey" spaces.

I know it will be a major bummer if you're not able to trap them, but you really ought to have litter boxes and food/water &etc. ready for them. And you can use the Feliway spray you bring up with you in their room.

Food is a great motivator when socializing - might want to have some meat baby food handy (chicken, beef, or lamb is best - just plain meat, make sure it has no garlic or onion powder in it - we use Gerbers).

You may want to have leather gloves with a long sleeve on them just in case you have to grab kitties by hand. They can turn into little hellions when handling them (if you're trying to get them into a crate).

I don't know how much space you have in your car/truck - but if there's room for a couple of largish crates, you may want to bring those. If you're able to get them spayed on the way home, it will be much more comfortable for them to be in crates when the vets return them to you rather than putting them back in the traps.

I'll see if I think of anything else. I'm sure others will have suggestions.

I'm so excited you're going to try!

post #18 of 24
Oh DUH! - bring a really stinky food to entice them into the traps! Canned Tuna or Herring (no sauce) or canned Salmon. I'd also bring paper bowels to put the food in.
post #19 of 24
Thread Starter 
So....I bought a kitten :s Crazy I know! I went to the humane society the other day to get advice on the ferals and see if they have traps available (which they do) and decided to have a "look" at the kitties. 10 minutes later I'm signing adoption papers! She's a tortoiseshell. So incredibly affectionate. I'm in love!

With regards to Pipit and Manny, I'm postponing until mid-October because I have to go back for a week's work anyways, plus the latest news from the field is that Pipit is still missing, the kitten hasn't been seen since that one day, and there was another dead kitten found. This all leads me to believe even more that Pipit had kittens. I just hope she's still alive!!! Oh, I also figure by postponing there's a better chance that any kittens will be old enough to remove.

Will continue to update...thanks for the support!
post #20 of 24
Thread Starter 
I'm heading out on Tuesday. I was able to secure one trap from the local humane society (they rent them one at a time), so it looks like I'll have to either trap them seperately or lure Pipit strainght into a carrier since she's the tamer one, which I think is possible.

My main concern now is: how do I deal with litter during the long drive? I definitely don't want to let them out of their cages because they'll go beserk!! Should I let them just mess the cage or should I put some small container with soil in it in the cage?

post #21 of 24
Get yourself some puppy training pads and line their cages with them. If they do go in the cage, you can replace them on the way.

Bring a towel or blanket to cover the carriers while they are in the car. Keeping the carriers covered can often calm them down if they aren't seeing the the sites around them. And like LDG suggested, put plastic under the carriers in case they do make a big mess.

They won't want to eat or drink in the carriers, but bring a bottle of water and a small dish in case they appear to be thirsty.

Do NOT open the door to the car if the cage doors are open.

If you can find this: get a CD that has harp music. Don't ask me why, but harp music calms down cats, particularly feral cats. If you can't find harp specific music, get very calm classical music (one without horns), such as piano music.

Feliway spray in the carriers before hand.

Don't open a window while driving. It will scare the dickens out of them.

If you can get someone to drive with you, you can switch drivers along the way to avoid any long stops. Pack a lunch and snacks for yourself to stay alert.

I moved feral cats from Houston to Kansas City. It can be done without undue stress.
post #22 of 24
I totally agree with Amy's advice. LOTS of puppy wee wee pads. Just absolutely make sure no doors are open at any time you open a crate/cage door.

About the not opening the window - I don't know. We open one or two of the front windows a crack so there's fresh air moving around. One of our kitties vomits if there's not air moving around, so I'd just see how it goes. One thing is for sure - do not open a window large enough for a cat to get out just in case a crate door gets opened.

Good luck and keep us posted if you can!

Safe trip!

post #23 of 24
Thread Starter 
Alright, so I finally went through with the rescue operation! I arrived to find no adult cat, but two tabby kittens hidding under the trailer. I was feeding them for the five days I was there and trapped them the day before leaving. I was keeping them in the trap with a mini litter box (which they used!) and food/water in the closet in my room, but they got a bit loud scratching in the litter, so I moved them out to my car since I was sharing the room with someone else. This was 3:30 a.m. and as I was moving them, lo and behold Mankota showed up! It now looks like they are her kittens (there was also an orange one which was found dead and partly eaten, and presumably the black one that was seen once in September didn't make it either). Still no sign of Pipit. Anyways, it was 3:30 a.m. so I decided to hold off till morning to try to trap her. She wasn't there in the morning, like I feared might happen, but she finally showed up shortly before I was about to leave, possibly because I kept calling to her as I loaded up my car. I transferred the kittens into a carrier and got her in the trap and covered it. I drove out to the nearest Humane Society 4 hours away in the hopes of dropping them off there and saving them another 6 hours in the car (though they were so calm and quiet that at times I forgot they were there!), but the lady was honest and said there was a high probablility they would be euthanised - even the kittens! So I decided to take my chances at home because I recalled that some of the shelters here were no-kill, but now I find out they don't take strays! Which brings me to the current situation.

Right now they're all at the local Humane Society. They're going to see if the kittens are adoptable (based on temperament). If not, I might try to socialise them myself and then bring them to one of the shelters, pretending they're not strays, or at least they'll be adoptable then. Mankota is waiting to be spayed, which should be sometime this week. I was stressed about what I was going to do with her after, since she would be at best difficult to socialise, plus I now have two house kittens, and I'm living in a condo (concerns about noise complaints from neighbours). I was dreading the thought of bringing her back to the trailer since there's no one there to provide some supplemental food when there are few natural resources available over the cold winter! Nevermind the 20 hour drive and $200 gas...but I can't bring myself to let her be euthanised! Who am I to judge that her old life wasn't worth living?

BUT I have been fortunate! One of my co-workers is from a farm and his parents would be willing to take her as a farm cat. They feed their cats, so this is fantastic! The best possible solution. Hopefully she will have her surgery soon so that we can bring her out there this weekend. As for Pipit, all I can do is hope that she makes it through the winter and returns next spring since I'll be out there for a few weeks again.

So...anybody interested in some kittens

I want to thank everyone for your enormous support and fantastic advice!
post #24 of 24
I think you are absolutely wonderful!

This is really amazing news.

I'm so sorry about Pipit. Vibes that she makes it.

But this is great for Mankota!!! One piece of advice - have them keep her in the barn but in a large crate for two weeks. When she gets used to regular feeding, she will be less likely to run away out of fear - she'll know there's a regular source of food there for her.

As to the two kittens? If they're deemed not adoptable, I'd go with your plan. Foster them yourself, and then turn them in as homeless strays.

for being so wonderful!

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