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Rehoming a feral colony (long)

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I have been caring for a community of four feral female cats for 10 years. They were trapped and spayed as young adults and are semi-feral. We can pat one, and three of the four will "talk" to us and interact in their own way. We have been trying to work with a cruel neighbor (who thinks a tablespoon of cat poop in her yard is a federal offense) for the last 3 years and she has finally demanded that the cats be removed. As an alternative to having her trap and euthanize them, I have found a wonderful pet-loving home and want some tips on rehoming this colony.(The cats are healthy and well-fed, BTW.)

We plan to use a humane trap and use a bathroom in our house with a kennel, food and litter pan as the holding area until all four are trapped. At that time, we'll transport to the new neighborhood where we will have built a covered enclosure where the cats will stay until we feel we can open the gate for them to explore. I've heard this should be around 4 weeks until we can trust they will come back "home" for food and water.

The "pen" structure will have a gate (for human access) and also a kitty door so that, for the long haul, the cats will always have shelter. Their kennel, blankets and food (and a litter pan) will be inside the shelter.

I will be setting up an account with our vet to take care of their future medical needs. (They are 10 years old.)

I'd like advise from the experts to see if we are approaching this correctly. Are we missing anything? Is 4 weeks long enough in their new environment before we allow them to explore?

Thanks for any and all advice. These wonderful cats, whose only crime was in being born because someone didn't care enough to spay and neuter their animals, will truly benefit from your experience and assistance!

post #2 of 10

I don't know how often they will be checked up on in the four week confinement, but confining these four cats, the enclosure needs to be strong. They will try to eat their way out if they are screened in, and will also chew the wire in their stress. To keep them calm, I would consider using Bachs Flower Remedy in their food, or you may have fights, for these creatures are used to the great outdoors and being able to get away. Hollow logs are perfect to help them escape from what they percieve to be danger, or some sort of cave-type enclosure for them. I assume you will have a roof on this to keep the heat off them?

If they become so stressed in captivity that they stop eating, try adding some organic catnip to their food to encourage them to eat. Instead of bowls of water, get a large sturdy glass container, fill it with pebbles that have been rinsed well, or aquarium rocks and then fill that with water so they have something they can identify with to drink out of.

The day you do let them out, leave bowls of tasty canned food in their shelter so they will be tempted to come back in and to stick around as well. These cats are so fortunate to have found someone such as yourself to take such care of them. Thank you for what you are going to do for the ones who are often forgotten or abused.
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the tips, Hissy.

The cats will be checked daily by their new "owner."

The enclosure will have block wall on one side, house siding on the other, and a sturdy roof. It will be about 4 ft. wide and 6 ft. tall. How long should it be for 4 cats?

We'll take care to make sure the front and back are not just a light screen. In fact, we're planning a nice wooden gate (which we realize will be damaged on the inside.)

The cats have been being fed from a regular bowl for the last 10 years, so I was planning to take their own dishes and usual food so as not to upset anything that's been working so far.

We'll have their kennel in the enclosure, but will look for other hidey options as well.

Is Bachs Flower Remedy available in a typical health food store? And how much would we add to approximately 2 cups of dry food on a daily basis?

Thanks SO much! Janet
post #4 of 10
The best place to get Bach's Flower Essences is here:


It is better in the water than on dry food, or good in canned food, or placed directly on the tongue. Usually 3 drops per cat turns the trick.

Hidey holes would be good, they may not be keen on going into their carriers, unless you take off the doors. If you can put a cat condo in the enclosure that would be good as well, for when cats need to feel secure they climb. Natural Tree has a selection of cat trees that are made from natural trees (how about that) Or, if you go on our sister site www.meowhoo.com and look under cat condos, you will find all sorts to choose from.

Using their dishes and litter pans is a good idea as it will help them to have familiar objects near them. This is going to be quite a transition for them (and for you) Sorry about your nasty neighbor- I have a few of those around me as well, but my 10 ferals stick fairly close to home.
post #5 of 10
I don't really have any advice.I just wanted to thank you for taking care of these babies.
Your neighbor sounds like a total *****,some people just don't think life is worth living unless they are b*tching about something.

Good luck.
post #6 of 10
We just made a natural wood cat tree out of a 2X2 foot 1 inch thick wood base (plywood), and a 4 foot tall, 4-5 inch in diameter tree branch that was felled in the last storm (left short stub branches on it). We used 4 bolts to bolt the branch to the base. They LOVE it. I see you're in Mesa and might not have a lot of tree branches to choose from, but perhaps you have a palo verde or mesquite tree that needs trimming?

Thanks for the thoughts Hissy! I may be rehoming some misplaced university ferals to my house in the next month or so and haven't done this before (they're home is being misplaced by a new building).
post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the tip about the flower essences. It looks like CatFaeries doesn't carry Bachs, but they have a flower essence that's suited for ferals. Is that the one you had in mind ... or is it the "calming" one?

I wish we could pat and anoint them each day, or put it directly on the tongue, but I know that won't work for us. Water will be shared, so dosing won't be too exact. The site mentions misting. Has anyone tried that?

We'll look into climbing and hiding options for their enclosure. The natural trees are beautiful, but at $500 to more than $3000 they are out of our price range. (We are trying to build the enclosure for as close to $200 as possible.)

It is really a shame to have to move them. They are always within a house or two of "home" and I know they rely on us and trust us to do the right thing. We have actually gone to into the neighbors yard and turned over about 1000 square feet of dirt (TWICE) and neutralized the soil with vinegar. I took a big bag to collect droppings and didn't come away with enough to cover the bottom of a baggie. This is just awful, but we're trying to stay focused on the cats and make the best transition possible. They are being placed in the yard of a very loving person ... we just want to minimize their stress and make sure they recognize their new home so we can continue their care.

post #8 of 10
I have no advice, but wanted to say how much I admire and appreciate what you are doing to save these cats. I know your heart must be breaking -- I don't know what I would do if I had to re-home my little feral colony of six cats. It makes getting out of bed worthwhile to have a frenzy of wild cats greet me each morning as I bring them their breakfast. To have to move them away would be so sad. My heart is with you.
post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thank you for your kind words. This does break my heart. The only thing keeping me going is in knowing that if I don't take action, my neighbor will likely trap the cats and take them to animal control, where they will surely be euthanized. I have to focus on their well-being ... and the fact that the person who is taking them will do a wonderful job. They couldn't be in better hands, and that gives me some peace. Thanks!
post #10 of 10
OMG!!!! You've already gotten the best advice there is - but how heartbreaking!!!! I really admire what you're doing and your attitude. It takes a lot of strength to do what needs to be done. Rescuing and working with ferals can be so rewarding - but it comes with so much heartbreak.

Please keep us posted!!!!!!!!
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