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Some questions about ferals?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
As I posted on a different forum, I recently took in a kitten that I'm fairly certain was the offspring of the group of strays my neighbor feeds but are not fixed or vaccinated or anything. This kitten ended up having feline leukemia and had to be put down So now I'm concerned about this group of cats. I'm wanted to attempt to get as many of them spayed and vaccinated (just for feline leukemia) as possible, and then rerelease them. I do not intend to feed them or continue to care for them. If some became friendly I would probably start taking care of them (while leaving them outside) but I don't foresee that happening. I simply want to stop them from breeding and spreading feline leukemia. My neighbor has no interest in doing this himself, all he does is feed them.

Of course one thing I'm scared of is discovering that many more of them have feline leukemia, and having to put them down This would break my heart if I had to do it too often. But the vet said a kitten this young probably got it from her Mom, so it's very likely several other cats could be infected. I'm assuming the only responsible choice with a feral with feline leukemia is euthanasia? I don't know anyone who could take in a cat with that disease

Also any tips on catching a cat if I see one? I planned to leave my carrier outside, ready to go.
post #2 of 13
You may be better off purchasing or borrowing a humane trap. Although the virus won't last long, I don't think I'd use the carrier I use with my own cats. I keep my personal supplies separate from my rescue supplies.

Anyway, read this:

Someone will come along who knows about the illness and may be able to guide you better than I can. I do not know enough to make a suggestion as to treatment of cats you tra.

BUT I do know, if the neighbor's feeding them, they will continue to breed and that's not good. You might want to talk to your vet about the costs of testing and make a decision based on that and how many test positive. Read about the disease and make a plan for the colony. They need your help.

Not too many people are supportive of the vaccination see here:

In any case, God bless you and good luck!
post #3 of 13
Good on you for looking out for these kittis Do you know if there's any rescue groups or similar around that do TNR? Ask around and hopefully you'll find someone who can either lend you humane traps or do the TNR for you.

FeLV is mostly to be spread through fighting or mating, and if you get them all fixed, they're less likely to be doing either of those things. Some groups euthanise for FeLV, others release them again if they're healthy, and only PTS if they are also sick looking. It's up to you.

Good luck!
post #4 of 13
oh dear, that's just too bad about that kitten

I am a caregiver for feline leukemia kitties, they are all I have adopted for the last 9 years. While FeLV is spread thru mating and fighting, it is also spread thru grooming, sharing food and water bowls and litterboxes, it is very contagious. Some cats can fight it off, some can't and become persistently infected, but may still live for a few years. Adults are more likely to fight off an initial infection than a kitten.

While i whole-heartedly support the re-release of FIV positive cats, I am dead set against releasing FeLV positive ones. I would most definitely try to do as much as I could to get this feral colony under control by altering and testing them for FeLV and if positive, euthanizing them as unfortunate as that is There are simply not enough homes for these cats and shelters are usually not equipped to house them separately, and the shelters that do have the facilities usually have a wait list months long.

I would really really really love to see this disease irradicated and the sooner the better and if that means euthanizing positives when there are no other options, as is usually the case, than so be it. Dying from complications of FeLV is an agonizing ordeal for the cat, not something I want to see a cat go thru outside with no comfort

As for the vaccine, for feral/strays I do recommend it, it is believed to be only about 85% effective, but some protection is better than none, and living outside there is a high chance they may be exposed to it.

Also, keep in mind that FeLV is estimated to be present in the cat population at a level of only about 3%, so while there may be a couple more positives in this colony, them all being positive is very very unlikely.

Here are a couple more links:

just search for feline leukemia
post #5 of 13
Ok, ignore everything I said and listen to Katie - she's much more of an expert than I am!
post #6 of 13
What to do about FeLV positive kitties in feral colonies has been discussed here before, and the overwhelming number of us agree with Katie - it is a sad reality, but best for the population as a whole to euthanise the FeLV positive kitties, as heartbreaking as that is.

I'm so sorry about the kitty.

Catching feral cats (whether stray or not) is nearly impossible with a carrier. You really need a trap to tackle the job.

Do you need links to help you search for TNR groups? Would you like links on trapping and just working with feral colonies in general?

post #7 of 13
There are TNR groups that simply speuter and return the cats to their location without testing them. The theory is that if you speuter, the fights and mating stop, therefore the disease does not spread itself so quickly. But Katie is right - FeLV can be spread through grooming, but that's not casual contact, but long term exposure to a FeLV cat.

The question to euthanize was best summed for me up by the president of a local no-kill rescue group in my area. She was a huge supporter of feral cats and TNR. To paraphrase her words: "It's the choice between an individual cat versus the cat nation". In other words, you can save the life of a single FeLV positive cat, but you risk all cats around them.

But before you make a choice, you must understand what FeLV tests are out there and what they mean. The typical test that a vet will run is called an Elisa or stick test. This only tests for exposure to FeLV, not that they actually carry the virus. Based on how quickly that your kitten was diagnosed, that was the test they used on her. When a cat comes into contact with another FeLV+ cat, they are considered exposed to the disease and can test positive for it during this time. But roughly 2/3 to 3/4 of cats that are exposed can fight off the disease (the very young, very old and sick cats can't do this as well as a healthy adult cat). If they can't fight it off, it takes roughly 30-60 days for the virus to work into a cats system and morph into full blown FeLV. Only an IFA test will accurately diagnose FeLV. An IFA test is a full blood draw that has to be sent to a lab.

The protocal that many feral caregivers will use will be to isolate the FeLV carriers through an IFA test, and if any of their offspring test positive thru an Elisa test, then it is assumed that their offspring has it. Roughly 95% of kittens born to a FeLV+ mom will contract the disease.

I personally do not like to go blindly through a feral colony depending solely on the Elisa test. I always prove thru the IFA that FeLV is in the colony. The test costs more, and it will take you longer to prove that they have it, but it eases your mind that you haven't euthanized a cat that was unlucky enough to be simply exposed to the virus.
post #8 of 13
Amy, thank you for the detail. I wasn't aware of that (we've never had an FeLV issue of any kind in these parts). I've bookmarked this thread for future reference, that's really helpful!

post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Yes I would like any links you can give me! What is TNR? I feel very sad b/c I KNOW I saw the Mom (or Dad) of the kitten we had to put down. They had the exact same kind of coat which was distinct b/c it was grey with a hint of brown to it. Sadly..that cat looks sick SHe almost came to me. I've seen that cat before, so now that I realize it must be one of the parents, I'm going to double my efforts. If by some miracle she doesn't have feline leukemia, the poor thing needs vet treatment quick, b/c she looks rough.

I live in Easley, SC (near Greenville) if anyone knows of any groups in the area.

Now you say the ELISA only tests for exposure..does that mean it's possible the kitten did not actually HAVE the disease, had only been exposed?? That means it might not have been necessary to put her down! The vet told me the test was accurate, so I did not think about the need to have a confirmatory test. I feel really bad now!
post #10 of 13
Chances are, the kitten did have the disease - she was too sick. So please do not beat yourself up about that. As I said, she is at peace now.

TNR stands for Trap, Neuter and Return. Simply put, you trap the cats in the colony, spay or neuter them and return them after a short recuperation period.

You may also hear TNVR/M - Trap, Neuter, Vet (or vaccinate), Return and Manage. I prefer this - it includes the idea that the cats get their shots and any necessary medical attention and once returned, someone (you) will continue to feed the colony and provide them with shelter. The manage part is critial, IMHO, because any time you get a newcomer (and you will if you're feeding), you must also trap and take care of him/her. This helps stabilizes the colony and you have no surprises (kittens!)

I found this rescue in Easley on - there are others, too:
post #11 of 13
Originally Posted by BlessedVegan View Post
Now you say the ELISA only tests for exposure..does that mean it's possible the kitten did not actually HAVE the disease, had only been exposed?? That means it might not have been necessary to put her down! The vet told me the test was accurate, so I did not think about the need to have a confirmatory test. I feel really bad now!
Don't beat yourself up on this one. When I first found FeLV in the feral colony that lived by my house, my vet had the same approach as yours - test for Elisa and euthanize if positive, and particularly because that kitten was very ill. I had the first positive one euthanized, then read more about it and realized that I needed the IFA test to be conclusive. My vet had heard of the IFA test, but never actually ran one so had to look up how to do it! His brother tested positive thru IFA, so I knew that the odds were that the family had it. Most vets don't know to go beyond an Elisa test. You listened to your vet. I wish all vets had enough knowledge about the disease to explain things but they don't. And frankly, my vet told me I didn't need an IFA test but I demanded that he do it. And from that time on, he used to call me for advice on FeLV because I kept up on it when he didn't have the time to do so.

If you say that the mom looks ill, I would test her next. If she has it, then you will be 95% certain that she passed it onto her offspring.
post #12 of 13
This might be helpful for the trapping part.

This is, IMHO, an easy to use trap that I have had good luck using. We all have different favorites.

Many shelters will let you borrow a trap with a deposit.

Good luck to you. This is an awesome thing to do for the cats.
post #13 of 13
And in these parts, all the vets lend traps without a deposit. You just have to call around to find either a shelter or a vet from whom to rent or borrow a trap.

You can learn about TNR (TNVR/M) at

You can search for TNR groups (or individuals that may be able to help) here: scroll down the page - on the right you'll find an e-mail address where you can share your situation and ask for assistance.

You can also just conduct a google search for your county - "cat rescue" and see what turns up. Alternately, you can try searching "low cost neuter" - this may also result in organizations you can contact to see if they're familiar with anyone or any groups that can help with TNR and the testing.

You can also search through for your zip code and just "cat" entered as the search. It will pull up a many-page list of animals up for adoption. Each animal has an organization listed next to it. Each organization has some type of contact page or website link - you can conduct a telephone or e-mail campaign to seek assistance with the situation. Just bear in mind that most organizations are under-staffed and under-funded, so some (or many) may not reply. But do make it clear that these are stray and feral cats and not YOUR cats that need help.

Here's the Google Search I conducted for Easley, SC cat rescue:

You should look through them - you're more familiar with the area. But this looked interesting:

This is truly an awesome thing you want to do to help these cats! My DH and I got involved in cat rescue and TNR because we couldn't find anyone to help. It is the same for many people here. But I hope you'll find someone - or an organization - that will at least provide some support, if not education - or actual help!

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