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Stray Mom & 3 kittens under my deck!

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
Well it's been quite a summer for our family... this spring (April/May) a stray mom had 4 kittens under our deck... we started seeing the babies around mid May & at first I told my wife & son that we could not feed them as they would end up staying but as we saw them still hanging around & my wife did say that it would help keep the rodents away (we have or did have major mole problems as we live in the country) I broke down (weak i know!) & bought some dry & wet food... we put it down & waited to see how they would react & the rest is history (ie - I'm a sucker!)... the mom is quite friendly & will usually take a pet & scratch... the kittens are curious but still pretty wild but love to play... unfortunately, our little favorite fell in our pool & drowned a few weeks ago which was just devasting because she was so friendly and had the sweetest personality... anyway here's my thoughts/questions...

> We have decided to cage them & get them fixed & vacinated
> They will live in our insulated garage as they are already sleeping in there
most nights as my wife & son do not want them inside.
> Is it ok to keep the mom & the kittens all together? She smacks them when
they get to close to her now...
> There is also a male hanging around which looks like it could be her brother
who is very aloof although he will come up to eat at a distance. Should I
drive him off?
> I would like to install a kitty door to keep the garage warmer in the winter.
How do they learn to use it?

That's it for now & sorry so long... any ideas would be great as I have not had cats since I was a kid but I can't believe how much I am enjoying these guys & girls (2 boys, 2 girls) with their varied personalities...
post #2 of 10
Welcome to TCS.

I pulled the "why don't we feed her" on my hubby too 8 years later, we have seven feral rescues living indoors with us (and we live in an RV), we've rescued - I really don't know how many - trapped, had spayed or neutered and then released - over a hundred, easily (our first 1/2 year we did 20+ ), and we funded the start-up of a no-kill shelter. He converted quickly.

I am SO sorry to hear about the little friendly one.

But you were right. You either need to not feed them - or you need to have them sterilized.

OK - couple of quick questions.

Does the car go in the garage?
Any dangerous chemicals in the garage?

...I'm thinking you're asking about a cat door, because for now you leave a door - or the garage door - open - and you'd like to close all the doors but have the cats be able to come and go?

Answers to the things that didn't require more questions:

1) If you can, please trap the tom and have him neutered. He will then not be able to father any more unwanted kittens. He will also become MUCH less aggressive to other cats - saving all of them potential spread of disease or illness, and no one will get hurt from injuries.

I don't know where you are in Michigan - that will really depend on whether or not you can find low cost neuter services. You can google "XXXXX county low cost spay" and see what turns up. You can also check your zip code for low cost spay and neuter at (under vet & neuter button).

You can also search for "cat" in your zip code. All cats up for adoption have a rescue associated with them - all rescues have contact info somehwere. You can call or e-mail around and ask if they know where you can get low-cost spay/neuter services for ferals on your property.

We always paid full fare at the vet when we could afford it, because we know how difficult it is for the organizations to raise the money to subsidize. But that's us.

It is OK to keep the mom and kittens together. As they were born in April/May, they are now at the age where she's pushing them away because it's time for them to live on their own. She's taught them to hunt, to shut up, and to bury their business... and it's time for them to get their own territory.

Now - just like pet kitties, their own territory could simply be their own space in the garage.

They'll all share it much better if you can put some type of vertical space in there for them to use. Don't know how handy you are, but if we owned our own house, you can bet the kitties would be living up near the ceiling on stuff like this: How cool is that? You can just buy brackets & wood shelving!

But mom and kittens can - just like other cats - end up becoming friends. Or just be neutral towards each other. It's just her natural instincts right now to "reject" them so they go become independent. Kinda like changing the locks on your home if your kids haven't left by the time they're 30.

As to the cat door... we've never used one. But I assume if you install one, there is a way to leave the "door" part of it open. My guess is if you leave it open for a week or so and they get used to using it to come and go - once it's down, they'll figure it out.

But just remember - any other hungry animals can also get in and out that door. I don't know where you live, but we have hungry possums and coons. ....just something to consider.

And yes - cats are a trip, and you've found the right place to share, question, and admire their many and varied personalities! (Of course we also love pictures).

post #3 of 10
Oh - I not only pulled the "why don't we feed her," I did the "she'll be great to have around because of the mice" too! You had moles - there were a lot of mice. Actually, Booger did bring a present of a dead mouse - twice. So I was right.
post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 
Wow...thanks for the welcome & quick response!

We do have 2 cars in the garage but they are in pretty good condition & I am conscious of any leaks as I try to keep the floor in good condition & am aware of the dangers of anti-freeze from when our dog was alive... also the warm engine issue so we are getting in the habit of banging the hood before we drive off...

We live in SE MIchigan & I have found a center called adopt-a-pet of Fenton that has a TNR program that will spay/neuter for $35/ea which is doable...

Trapping the Tom makes sense but I may wait until spring to spread my costs out... I think he has lived around here for many years as I have seen a cat similar many times in the past... I thinks he's been "lovin her" because she has an on again off again scab between her front shoulder blades & she runs when he comes around...

We don't have too many coons or possums near the house but with the side door open as it is now they can get in anyway...

I'm not sure the shelve would be warm enuff in the dead of winter but I'm not really sure what to build for a house (ideas?)... they sleep in a cut-off box right now but the "boys" still sleep under the deck alot but the "girls" love the garage especially when it rains!

Another question... what would be the minimal vacinations I should do & can I administer any of them to reduce costs?

4 is probably two many but I can't bear to part with any of them right now as they are really giving us joy & in some odd way, for me at least, losing their little sister Mia makes me not want to seperate any of them... weird I know!

Thanks again for your help & you are a special person to do all you've done for the cats in your area... I commend you!

PS: good one on the locks thing... my son is 23 & still with us... I'll get the locks ready!
post #5 of 10
There are a lot of people on the boards here that have done a lot more than we have! I'm just ditching out on a bunch of work I should be doing today.

Yeah, the shelving idea was just more inside space for them - no biggy.

My only point about possums and coons is that they may be attracted by the food. They've naturally got lots of it right now. Just like in summer, birds don't really use the bird feeder if your area/property has a lot of natural food for them about, but they'll flock to it in Winter.

The're a lot of things you can consider doing for warmth. For the boys, if they insist on being outside, if you can bang together a couple of wood boxes - 2 ft x 2 ft x 2 ft is probably more than enough - cut smallish round holes on two sides (cats are more comfortable if there's more than one exit) and stuff it with straw. Straw is a great insulator, it doesn't attract bugs or mold like blankets or whatever do, and you can change it every couple of weeks. If they don't use it, they've got someplace warmer on their own.

But there are also electric - heated - beds for cats, some safe for outside use. Could put a couple of those inside the box (es) in the garage.

There's also something called a SnuggleSafe Heatpad. It's a microwaveable disc that stays warm for about 12 hours. Heat them up at night, tuck them into their beds/sleeping places...

You can also put straw boxes in the garage for the girls. You could also visit local restaurants to ask if they'll keep some of those large styrofoam shipping thingies for you. Some restaurants receive frozen items in pretty large styrofoam containers - obviously great insulators. Cut holes in two sides, stuff some straw in there... (we always do it on sides that are angled to each other. Don't know if it actually helps wind from blowing through there but... )

And yeah, waiting until Spring shouldn't be a problem for getting the tom neutered. Just do it as early as you can.

On the vaccinations... we just do rabies. There are a lot of different schools of thought on this. When we began trapping, we had a number of the cats tested to see if they were FeLV (Feline Leukemia) or FIV (Feline Immunovirus) positive... but none ever were, it hasn't been a problem in our area - and they're expensive tests, so we stopped testing. No point in getting a distemper shot unless you plan on getting them all back there within three weeks - it's one of those that needs a follow-up after three weeks.

If you can afford Revolution, I would consider picking that up at the vet for the cats. With that many it may be too much - depending upon where you are, it's $30 - $40 for one monthly dose. But it kills fleas, ticks, and all kinds of internal parasites, as well as guarding against heart worm. You squirt it on the skin on the back inbetween the shoulder blades in one dose every month. In Winter it's not so important, and if they're only eating food you provide at this point, you can probably accomplish the task of ridding them of internal parasites with just one dose. But that's something to think about. Just make sure you do NOT use flea collars. They're dangerous and have killed a number of cats in horrible deaths. If the same standards were used for people as for animals, they would have been banned long ago.

Good to know you're up on the potential dangers of the garage. My only other concern would be squishing a kitty, god forbid, but hopefully they're used to the cars....

And with cats, "too many" is something very individual. We have seven feral rescues living indoors-only in a space that is 38' x 8x with us. There are people living in apartments successfully with 12 cats. There are also people who have one cat, and that's their limit. The cats themselves and one's financial situation define how many is "too many." If you can feed them, care for them, and afford to get them to a vet in an emergency - then four's not too many.

We cared for a feral colony that at one point had a bout 20 cats. The only cat that ever caused a problem in the colony ended up inside with us. But there are people with colonies that have 6 or 7 cats, and there's a neutered male or spayed female that's the alpha and is just nasty and disruptive.

...So it depends entirely on the cats and one's own wishes and situation.
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thank you LDG!

That's some good info all around, I will check with the shelter too on the vaccinations...

I like the idea of the styrofoam crate as it has insulating capabilities... the heat disc's sound good too... is hay better then straw?

They head for the door when they hear a car & we are very alert to them being in there so I think it will work out...

I see your point on the coons & possums & food in winter but I'm not sure how to get around it barring locking them in there at night which I'm not sure the "boys" would accept... & when we go to work... which means most of the day... thoughts?

Don't know if I can afford the flea meds but I will definitely check it out...

I have another question (can you tell they are on my mind ALOT?!!!):

How would you handle the fixing... my thought was to take the girls 1st & then wait until they can be released (do they have to stay in the carrier & how long is this?) & then take the boys next... I am going to need a litter pan if they have to stay in the crate correct & how will they know how to use it?

Thanks again for your help you've been awesome!
post #7 of 10
No, straw is better. I went back and edited the post.

Yeah - the flea/tic/parasite meds (that won't kill your cats) are expensive. I don't know how it is where you are, but none of our feral rescues ever had fleas - but tics were a real problem. And that sucks, because tics carry diseases that cats can catch. But - you just do what you can. For the feral ferals that were being left in a colony, we never treated for fleas or tics or internal parasites. If they're healthy enough animals to survive for several or more years, while they may have some "bugs," they're mostly dealing with them well enough anyway (usually).

You're taking them to the clinic, correct - not a vet? Our vet lets us leave the girls overnight and pic them up the next day - and we just release them. They know they're feral and they use dissolving stitches.

The boys don't require any stitches - they just need to recover from the anesthesia. So they get dropped off in the morning and released in the afternoon.

But yeah - if it's the clinic, they most likely do not let you leave the cats there. So the girls should stay in a crate/trap/cage/whatever for 24 hours before being let out. Since you're doing this before it gets cold - maybe release them into the garage with all the doors closed and just leave the cars out for the night?????? Have food, water and a couple of litter boxes set up. They may not want to eat - and may not need to use the bathroom before you open the doors back up. But that way you've got your bases covered.

And yeah - I'd do them in shifts. But again - the boys probably just need to be contained for an afternoon. Ask at the clinic, and they'll let you know.
post #8 of 10
...thoughts on coons/possums... worry about it if it becomes a problem. Just wanted you to know you may have to be on the lookout for a coon in your garage.

We never fed the ferals inside anywhere. We used to let them free feed and left the food out all day... but we were just feeding the entire forest. We ended up putting food out only at dawn and only at dusk and leaving it out only for 1 hour. The cats adjusted to the schedule. We also constructed a slatted table with inset legs, and put the food up on that. The cats could easily jump up to eat, but it made access to coons and possums difficult. But with the limited hours, it basically stopped being an issue.
post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
Awesome... great info! I love the garage as the crate idea... I think they'd like that so much more... will try to get some photos up next week... my wife has one of Mia on her facebook but i can' bear to look at it yet... sappy I know... as you can probably tell I have a real weakness for animals especially ones that need help... just like everyone here... you'e made me feel way better about this whole situation so I owe ya one!
post #10 of 10
Nope, you don't owe us a thing! We're all here because we love the site, we love the people - and most of all, we love the cats. Just rescuing ANY of them is thanks enough!

And I can understand not being ready to see a pic of Mia. You know... there is a forum here for our kitties that have "crossed to the rainbow bridge" - if you think it'll make you feel better at any point.
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