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Feral? .... or Stray? ..... need advice re: trapping

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Need some advice from you experienced trappers.

As you know, we've been rescuing and reuniting pets who are still on the streets after the Joplin, MO tornado.

Here's the problem. Winter is coming, and many of those pets may not survive the midwest winter. We are going to start trapping a few each week to take to the humane society where we will work on getting their adoptions sponsored. After 5 months on the streets with little or no human contact these former loving pets have lost their trust in humans and their former "friendly" behavior. Some of them still want to come close, meowing but keeping their distance, etc. but others run as soon as they see you.

What we need to determine, is how to tell the difference when the cat is trapped. Some of them howl and cry in the traps, some just sit quietly but "freak out" if someone touches the cage, trying to escape. Some watch your every move but hiss if you get close. Any previously trapped cat was released if they weren't on our "missing" list because we have no fosters for them. That is no longer an option. They need off the streets now, before it gets too cold and too late to help them.

We don't want to take any obvious ferals to the shelter because we all know what happens to ferals in the system frown.gif

ANY advice welcome.
post #2 of 13
A huge thank you for what you and your group are doing for these poor lost cats. Bless you heart heart-on.gif.

Most feral cats will hiss/spit/charge fiercely in the trap if a human approaches. Aggressively so much as to possibly cause harm to themselves trying to escape. You will know the difference. Try to keep the traps covered with a large towel. After covering the trap and the cat has calmed a bit and you approach a second time, lifting the towel slightly to look upon the cat and it charges/lashes out aggressively, that is a feral cat. It is possible for an abandoned pet to resort to their wild roots being on their own for many months. But usually, once trapped, they will become more fearful, shy and introverted in the trap and even possibly hiss but will not lash out, thrash about, and charge at a person from inside the trap.

Abandoned or lost cats left to fend on their own for this many months will also show a fear of a human and run/hide when approached outside. In fact, I know if a couple of my cat's got loose outside, they would appear feral and are not. Once trapped and placed in a crate/cage they would just be really frightened, but not aggresive about being touched. Another way to tell the difference. And if a feral cat allows you to touch them and are just too afraid to react, then that feral cat has a good chance at being socialized, IMO. Much luck to you and all of these cats you are going to trap. This is an incredible act of animal kindness. Thanks for you hard work in Joplin hugs.gifhugs.gifhugs.gifhugs.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gif
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thank you for the advice! We are going to try trapping Wednesday I believe, so keep your paws crossed!
post #4 of 13
Wow, I'm so glad Lauren had an answer, because I didn't.

vibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gif !!!!!!

And of course I echo Lauren's sentiment: thank ALL of you for all your hard work! heartpump.gifheartpump.gifheartpump.gifhugs.gifhugs.gifhugs.gif
post #5 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlleyGirl View Post

Thank you for the advice! We are going to try trapping Wednesday I believe, so keep your paws crossed!

PAWS, CLAWS, FINGERS AND TOES are all crossed bluelaugh.gifcross.gif GOOD LUCK!!! heart.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gif
post #6 of 13

First off, Paula, many thanks to you and the others for all you're doing. 

 

I wish I had a definitive answer for you. Lauren's comments are right on and have certainly been my experience in distinguishing between stray/feral. That said, I remember a certain long-haired gray male cat I trapped more than 3 years ago who went completely nuts in the trap and was so aggressive the spay/neuter clinic deemed him feral on his paperwork. As we both know, there was nothing feral about that big, sweet, goofy fellow. Same thing with a couple of other cats I've trapped. 

 

One thing I've observed is that most cats I've trapped who are truly feral, while they may initially lash out in the trap, calm down significantly when the trap is covered and don't usually make a sound. The tame trays I've trapped, while scared, have tended to be much more vocal. 

 

Hope that helps at least at little. Good luck with your efforts! 

post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
That is definitely true Eileen! Xander is about as far from feral as a cat can get!

1. So if you uncover the trap and kitty is howling up a storm and saying "let me out!!!!" then you would guess stray and not feral?

2. What if kitty doesn't make a peep and just watches you? There was one who even let us feel its paws through the wire (wouldn't release a declawed kitty) and doesn't attack?

3. Or... one who is quiet and watches and when the trap is handled, kitty goes a bit nuts, but trying to find a way out, not in an attack towards us?

These are the three main scenarios we will run into so if you can all give your best guess on these three, that would be great.

Thanks!
post #8 of 13
We have so few strays, I really have no experience. But Eileen's comments about the being vocal ring true for me. Baloo - who we now know was a stray - howled all the way to the vet.

If they were born feral, their moms taught them not to talk, and it's a defense mechanism. I think talking of any kind would indicate a once-socialized kitty. agree.gif

With the handling... we haven't brought in a single cat in a trap that could be handled, and that included Baloo. So I'm thinking that if they let you touch and don't hiss, swat, bite, etc ., that kitty was also once-socialized. I'm not sure the opposite means they weren't - but I'm pretty sure that if they can be handled, the've been handled. agree.gif

#3 is going to be a tough call. agree.gif

Of course, if they're males and neutered, and not ear-tipped, they were most likely pets. Don't know if they can take the time to shave the female's bellies, but if there's a spay scar...

What about a "deal" with the humane society? If a cat is determined to be stray, not feral, but after three days hasn't shown any signs of being any more ... "adoptable" ... than when first released, instead of killing the kitties, they're sterilized and returned to where they were trapped? dontknow.gif Don't know if something like can be arranged, but thought I'd put it out there.

hugs.gifhugs.gifhugs.gif
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Unfortunately, TNR is against Joplin city ordinances. As is feeding strays or ferals.

We personally can ignore these rules, but the Humane Society can't frown.gif

They are working hard to try to get a foster system set in place. It just seems that around here, all the rescues and fosters are interested in is dogs, not cats frown.gif
post #10 of 13
Aw, I'm sorry. frown.gif
post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlleyGirl View Post

That is definitely true Eileen! Xander is about as far from feral as a cat can get!
1. So if you uncover the trap and kitty is howling up a storm and saying "let me out!!!!" then you would guess stray and not feral?
2. What if kitty doesn't make a peep and just watches you? There was one who even let us feel its paws through the wire (wouldn't release a declawed kitty) and doesn't attack?
3. Or... one who is quiet and watches and when the trap is handled, kitty goes a bit nuts, but trying to find a way out, not in an attack towards us?
These are the three main scenarios we will run into so if you can all give your best guess on these three, that would be great.
Thanks!

HI! Eileen is right on about feral's and being vocal. Every feral I have ever trapped and kept in my garage the night before TNR. Does NOT make a sound. Usually after they calm down, and you peek at them by lifting the corner of the towel they will growl very low and slow, frozen in fear. If you persist and get any closer, they will lash out with full claws and then retreat back to the furthest corner and growl. If a cat let's you get close and feel it's paws, that is not a feral cat. At some point in that cat's life they had human contact.

For #3 - If the kitty is quiet and watches you when the trap is handled, maybe thrash's a bit more like trying to find a way out instead of being fiercely, aggressively freaking out, then I think that cat is a lost pet. Some lost pet's can go nut's in a trap. I can tell you 100%, my Perkins would go crazy in a trap and howl and carry on, vocally, crying out that gutteral moan of fear. A feral will NOT make that kind of noise, at least in my experience with them. Their first instinct is self-preservation and to attack you if you get too close, you are the enemy and human's are very dangerous to them. A stray will not act that way and will after some time of calming down in the trap, start to offer you eye contact and give you a look like "Are you going to help me here? I need help?" A feral will give you that wild-eyed stare of fear and hatred that I will attack you if you get to close.

vibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gif
post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by LDG View Post

Aw, I'm sorry. frown.gif

frown.gif, me too....... That is a shame shame.gif about the Joplin area and TNR.....
post #13 of 13

First, thank you SO much for your efforts.  I wish Joplin supported TNR.

Most of the 20 cats I've trapped this year were abandoned by (in)humane  owners.  I live in an area where there is a high rate of evictions and foreclosures.  The three original members of the colony were born to a feral/stray mother; all have a different amount of comfort with me after 18 months of feeding them. 

Almost all the cats I trapped became mute when I put a towel over them.  The ones that really bashed around, were the most feral ones.  And I found a positve correlation between ferality and difficulty in trapping.  These cats are going from free open space to a very confined space so are not happy.

A way you could gauge pre-trapping is to feed them.  Do they flee when they see you coming with food?  How do they act/react when you place the food close to them?  How quickly do they come back to eat the food?  The cats who are use to people feeding them come close and roll on their backs, swarm and the like.  Are there regular caregivers who feed these cats?

Stray cats who reverted back to a degree of feralness can be re-socialized.  I'm helping (a little) a friend of mine socialize some cats.  One got adopted into a forever home last week; she was around seven or eight months old when we trapped her in January 2011.  Buckley was ready to be adopted into a forever home but totally freaked out when we tried putting him into a cat carrier.  (He is still missing; we assume he escaped from the house).  Two other cats are "works in progress"; both were under a year old when trapped, one was pregnant, both more feral than stray.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes.

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