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Newbie cat - STRANGE situation (need help, please!)

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
We live in a farmhouse out in the country, and have acquired a small colony of outdoor cats (7). Most have been spayed/neutered, but no shots. I'm kicking myself now for not doing feline leuk on them, but it was a small fortune to get them fixed. Two actually do have the shots. They hang out in the fields and around the house -some are tame, some are not.

We have a newbie, Shelby, who is 6-8 mons. She's been hanging out under our pine trees for a few days. She seems quite healthy except she doesn't go far (of course she may prowl at night, IDK). At first, our two (un-neutered) tomcats were hovering though she shows no signs of going into heat. Her head is cocked to the side a lot of the time, but we figure it's mites. She scratches often (won't let me near her). She also has a silent meow - opens her mouth when she's happy (loves to eat), but no sound comes out. The very strange thing is - all of our cats have abandoned the pine tree area, including "Gray Mom," the head honcho who always hangs around there. Even the males are distancing themselves though I saw one of them under the deck watching, close by. I figure this is b/c Shelby's too young to mate, but then why are all the cats keeping away? I'd figure our females would run her off for sure. Perhaps the males are wanting to isolate her, though like I said, they're now showing less interest. I'm worried that she could be ill, but she shows no signs of feline leuk. I'm also worried for the other cats as they're likely already exposed. Can cats tell when another is ill? Of course it's so hot outside, the cats are seeking shelter, but this is their territory. They're rarely even around in the evening anymore. Wouldn't they run a sick cat off, or attack it like the "big cats" do (not that I want that to happen)? None appear ill, they just act like something's up. My dad (who knows cats better than I do having grown up on a farm) feels that she's been dumped and is disoriented, which puts the other cats off.

We've trapped our wild strays in the past in order to take them to the vet (we've got an animal trap). So I can get Shelby to the vet. I plan on calling the vet tomorrow, but I'd like to have a better idea of what I'm dealing with first. Has anyone ever experienced this? Shelby is definitely going to go wild when trapped and I want to give her a little more time since she's obviously scared already. Is there a way for them to sedate her so she can get some kind of exam? Usually with the ferals, we go straight to the spay process since they're typically scared to death. I'd like to get the feline leuk. test out of the way, then if that goes fine, a spay. I want to get specific with them b/c I know from past experience, the vet bill stacks quickly if you're not. My dad has cancer so we're dealing with that now - I know it's selfish, but this is a really difficult time to have a new, possibly ill cat on my hands! My dad and I usually work as a team, but I must do this one alone. I guess I'm just asking for any advice you have. Thanks!
post #2 of 7
I'm so sorry, I can't help with the specifics of illness - thankfully, none of our ferals have had problems, and FeLV hasn't been a problem around here.

Our vet will definitely sedate a feral cat in a trap if necessary, but he's used to working with them, and so often they're so terrified they don't cause a problem and (usually) don't require sedation for an exam.

But yes, cats can tell when another cat is ill. Being aggressive to the sick cat happens - but avoiding the sick cat also happens. Of course, your dad could be right, and maybe it's just that she's new and your crew isn't territorially crazy.

I would get her to the vet, but other than an exam, the regular blood panel and perhaps the Feline Leukemia test, a treatment with Revolution (takes care of internal and external parasites) and a spay, I don't think there's much else to do. If FeLV is negative, either the vet will notice something during the exam, or the blood panel will turn up something, if there's something unusual to find.

I don't know where you live or what types of resources are around there, but if you want to search for low-cost spay/neuter services, I'm happy to provide links so you can see if there's a place that makes it affordable to continue getting them all spayed/neutered.

post #3 of 7
The vet could possibly anesthetize her as though they're going to do the spay, then if the FeLV test comes out positive (you're planning to euth if positive?) they can just end it there. You might have to pay more for the sedation, though.

You can buy cat vaccines online or at farm stores for a very good price. I would suggest doing that; you don't want to leave them entirely unprotected after putting the spay/neuter money into them. Rabies, at least, to protect your family.

I also agree with having the vet apply Revolution. I've done that with all my ferals, just in case they had ear mites.
post #4 of 7
I think more often than not, a feral colony will run off a newcomer, particularly if they are ill. You might just have a very mellow bunch of cats though, and if that's the case, then all bets are off.

A head tilt to the side can be neurologic in nature - some type of brain damage either genetic or from trauma (hit by a car?). If she were sick enough to start tilting her head from FeLV, she's very close to dieing. Even if she is FeLV positive, that virus is fragile (dies quickly outside the host) and is not casually spread. She would have to be fighting or mating with your cats to expose them. And it doesn't sound like either is going on.

Your plan to get her to a vet is the best. Have you tried to get close to her? Do you know if she is feral or just a scared stray?
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
I've heard cats can get Feline Leuk from drinking out of the same water bowl. Not sure if that's true - I hope not, as in that case, the cats would all be exposed (we have two large water bowls they all use).

Shelby has been out and about last evening and this morning. She was in the side yard with KB (a tomcat) last night. She didn't show signs of being in heat, but later on she did fluff up her tail in front of KB. That's a good sign she's healthy enough to mate I guess, but a bad sign in that we don't want a pregnant cat! This morning she seemed really perky hanging out on the deck and letting me sit at the picnic table with her. Her appetite is good and her head tilt isn't as bad so I'm hopeful she just has bad mites (one of our other cats had them and had the head tilt). I put the trap near the pine trees so she could get comfortable with seeing it (haven't set it yet). Hopefully I can trap her tomorrow.

Laurie, our vet is pretty reasonable for spay cost so I'm just going to buckle down and pay it. I did apply with the local Humane Society for low cost spay, but we don't qualify. IDK how much the leuk test is (I think it's around $40) - I'm not sure I'm going to do it since I don't think she's ill. I'm still debating.

Momofmany, she's pretty skinny, but I think she could've been owned and dumped. She's not as timid as some of our ferals. She's just now letting me within a few feet of her, but I don't think she'd let me touch her.
post #6 of 7
Originally Posted by maiseycat View Post
I put the trap near the pine trees so she could get comfortable with seeing it (haven't set it yet). Hopefully I can trap her tomorrow.
One thing that I've done that really helps is to open the door to the trap and put a strap tie on it to keep it open, then feed inside the trap for a couple of days before actually setting the door to trip. And if you ever have difficulty, try Kentucky Fried Chicken as bait. Original recipe, remove the skin and bones. For some reason cats go wild over it.
post #7 of 7
I hope that this went well. I would never euthanize a cat for Felv. I have a cat, Chryseis who is Felv and FIV positive. None of my other 9 cats have caught the diseases in the 4 years she has been with us. Also some of the cats I feed are feral and she "hangs" with them outside. I have them tested every three years when I catch them for their rabies shots and none of them have caught anything from her, either.

Also, Chryseis has a head tilt. She had an extreme case of mites, they damaged her inner ear and she has to tilt her head to be "level" and not dizzy. This doesn't affect her at all. She acts like a totally normal cat.

I also give her interferon, immunoregulin shots 4 times a year, and Transfer Factor. None of those are really expensive---but the combination has given her a normal life with few infections. She originally, at 4 months old was given about a year to live--but she is going into her 5th year!

Let us know how things went with that sweet new girl!
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