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Feral and domestic cats together - need advise

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hello all. What a wonderful forum you have here.
I am new here. My name is Malena and I live in Belgium. I will tell you my cat story as short as I can since I need advice in how to go from here.
In May my husband and I, our two cats and our chickens moved to a new house. The same day we heard beeping in the garden and figured out that we had fairly newborn kittens and a wild mamma living right outside the door. Three weeks later another wild mama had another set of kittens on the same place. I feed the mothers of course but one they we discovered that one of the youngest kittens where out of reach for the mama and probably have been so for a couple of days. We put him with the others and she fed him but the day after she moved the kittens and left this one behind. We took him to the vet since he was severely dehydrated and we fed him with bottle for five days. Unfortunately he didn't make it since he also had a serious chlamydeous infection in eyes and lungs. Antibiotics didn't help and we had to end his life.
In the meanwhile the cat mama had separated the two kittens and when the weather got bad she didn’t manage to care for both of them. I found one of tem freezing, dirty and full of snail eggs so I took him in, cleaned and fed him and put him under the chickens heating lamp to get up his body temperature. He was also ill in his lungs. Now we realized that all kittens probably was infected so we called a cat organization to ask what to do.
We had wonderful help from them. During the following three days we captured all kittens and the mamas with the kittens bate.
We put them all in a big room on the upper floor and now the hard work started. Antibiotics, eye solution, nose drips and bottle-feeding - to support the mothers who was not in that good shape either.
Now, five weeks later, they are okay. The smallest ones are really tame and see us as s extra parents. The older ones are afraid after all treatment but they are coming around. The oldest mother who was sterilized two three weeks ago (she lost her milk from the stress of being captured) almost eat from my hand and play with her kittens even when I am in the room. The younger mama stopped feeding her kittens four days ago because of the terrible heat in Europe right now. Her kittens are 7 weeks now so we drove her to the wet for sterilization and she came back yesterday evening. She also had an antibiotic shot and her eyes cleaned up and she is already talking and watching over her babies again and in a lot better shape.
Now to my dilemma.
I can’t keep the door to their room closed anymore because of the heat. I need to get them down the bottom floor, which is always cool. Here our two domestic cats lives and I cannot close any part of the bottom floor. We live in a house to renovate and there are no doors and parts of the inner walls are missing. On top of this we are leaving for Denmark on Friday to celebrate my mothers sixtieth birthday. We will be gone for five days. Our domestic cats have already more or less moved outside because of the other cats in the house. They just come in to eat. I am afraid that they will wander off while we are gone if I let them be outside. They are very tied to us but they are new in this area. Our old one has been visiting the other cats a couple of times and she find them really scary. She hisses to the small ones but she doesn't do anything. Our young one is too afraid to follow me upstairs. The mothers just keep a distance to our cat and don’t react even when she hisses to their babies but I don't trust that to be the case if I'm not there. Our domestic cats came to us from a cat-home when they where five and seven month so they are used to living together with a lot of other cats. We have had them for a year and half now.
They will be looked after by the woman who helped us catch them, while we are gone but she can only come once a day.
Any suggestions?
My wish is to find nice homes for the kittens and that the mamas stay with us. If they choose to be wild cats they will always have food, water and a little house of their own in our garden. What would be nicer though is that the choose to stay as “tame†cats in our household. There is also a risk that we won’t find homes for all kittens and then the cat-part of our family gets a little bit too big.
I am grateful for all advises – not only about the acute situation. It is the first time in our life we do anything like this.

To see the cats:
A week ago: http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/paulva.../ph//my_photos
Three weeks ago: http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/paulva.../ph//my_photos
post #2 of 17
Originally Posted by Malena
Our domestic cats have already more or less moved outside because of the other cats in the house. They just come in to eat. I am afraid that they will wander off while we are gone if I let them be outside. They are very tied to us but they are new in this area. Our old one has been visiting the other cats a couple of times and she find them really scary. She hisses to the small ones but she doesn't do anything. Our young one is too afraid to follow me upstairs. The mothers just keep a distance to our cat and don’t react even when she hisses to their babies but I don't trust that to be the case if I'm not there. Our domestic cats came to us from a cat-home when they where five and seven month so they are used to living together with a lot of other cats. We have had them for a year and half now.
I look at this. My reaction is none of them is actually hostile.
Many cats are deeply unsure, yes afraid and scary - against small kittens.
I suspect much this is simply the case here!

If the situation were a little different - they would probably be good friends by now, as your homecats are social, and shy semiferals usually do accept supremacy of the homecats in these situations.

Can you keep them at home, with some form of net in between - perhaps not to isolate dem from each other, but to mark a minirevire....

And of course some places to retreat to. On a shelter. Down under a bed.
A couple of cardboard boxes (kartong-lådor) turned aside.
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your reply Stefan,
No I don't think there is hostility between them and they have met in the garden before we captured the wild cats. Our cats where not hostile to any cats who came in to our garden and they let the mothers and their babies alone - even the food I put out. They draw the line at the house though. A couple of cats has tried to enter the cat door but then our oldest -Zasha - threw them out.
I am home on vacation now and I keep the door on the upper floor open but the kittens only dare to go to the stairs -which is a lot cooler already - and our cats doesn't come in. I was thinking of locking the cat door tonight for going out so that they might come with us up and say hello.
The only place I can put a net is in the door on the upper floor and then it is still too hot there. I am placing wet towels with ice blocks inside over their favorite places and I have tried to cover the windows with newspapers but they rip them down of course.
It feels like a little too much of a dare to lock the cat door for our cats, let the door to the wild ones open and then leave home for few days.
I think it would be easier if the mamas moved out again but I can't really wish for that since the best for them is to stay until they are fully socialized.
I think I am most afraid of a conflict between the grownups.
The best would of course be to not go to Denmark but my mother will never speak to us again if we don't show up on her sixtieth birthday.
post #4 of 17
How about getting a few fans? Would that cool it down any? It would probably be best to keep them seperated while you are away since you will not be there to supervize. If the lady coming to care for them is comfortable letting the adults interact then maybe that is ok, as long as she knows how to do it. Just open the door between them and let them find each other, don't bring them together. Checking in on them once a day should be fine.
post #5 of 17
No I don't think there is hostility between them and they have met in the garden before we captured the wild cats. Our cats where not hostile to any cats who came in to our garden and they let the mothers and their babies alone - even the food I put out. They draw the line at the house though. A couple of cats has tried to enter the cat door but then our oldest -Zasha - threw them out.
I think I am most afraid of a conflict between the grownups.

Yes, that is my point. Zasha threw out earlier intruders in the house; but she dont tryies threw out these, nor is hostile in any way. So in some way she /they is apparently accepting them also inside. But scared by the smalls.

I understand you are unsure and afraid. I too would worry. We dont have here any ironclad safety.
But I want to believe, and would bet to a bookmaker the chances are excellent nothing serious will happen, as none of them is hostile as we said, and they all grown ups tolerate each other.

A meeting shouldnt be dangerous as long as nobody is forced, ie there are plenty of possiblilities to go aside - gå undan - take shelter if necessary.

Therefore it should be OK to lock them inside, as long as...
I do hope, and so help us God.
post #6 of 17
Since you are not leaving until Friday, here's what you can do to "minimize" problems while you are gone.

1) Cats are territorial, and that's the problem with ANY cat introductions. Older cats are often more accepting of kittens, but the adults will have to work out hierarchy and territory.

2) Let's see... it'll be Wednesday there almost or already. Kind of late, but can't hurt to try. Rub the momma cats (especially cheeks and near rear end) with hand towels. Put it under the food bowels of the house cats. Take another hand towel, rub the momma cats with it, and place treats on it for the house cats. Do this "treat" trick as many times as you can throughout the day Wednesday. This is something you could have been doing all along, because the longer you do it the better it works. The point is to get the house cats associating the new cats with good things.

3) I do think locking the cat door is a good idea - I do think you run the risk of "losing" new kitties.

4) If you can open the door from upstairs and not have all the cats downstairs - let them choose if it's too hot or not - maybe that will help minimize any potential territory conflicts?

I really like Jen's idea about fans. It really is best to keep them separated. Our cats cat take an awful lot of heat - lying in the front windshield of a recreational vehicle in the sun when it's 30 degrees+ (centigrade) outside. The thing is, when they're in that much heat, they need A LOT of water. That would be the most important thing.

BUT, if you're very worried about the heat and can't get fans or something (leaving windows open such a small amount that not even the teeniest kitty could squeeze through), allowing them to still have access to upstairs with the above recommendations is probably the best alternative.

If they absolutely must all be downstairs - I do expect there would be some hissing, and maybe a little fight or two - but they probably will be OK.

This is a different situation, but might be reassuring. My hubby and I didn't know the first thing about cats, never having had one (either of us). We rescued one kitten, and he'd been living with us in a TEENY space for a week. We then rescued another kitten, the same age (about 10 weeks). We just brought him and set him down. The first one FREAKED and took off after the newbie (Original cat was Lazlo, the newbie was Sheldon). They became one ball of hissing - it was like a cartoon, with paws and fur flying. Of course we immediately broke it up - but we only had ONE room! The bathroom was much to small to confine a 10 week old kitten.

We didn't have to leave on vacation - but we did have to leave the house to pick up my mother-in-law from the airport - a drive that would leave us out of the house for about five hours.

What should we do? They seemed like they were trying to kill each other! For various reasons, I had to go with hubby, and one of us could not stay behind. We decided just to go. We doubted they were actually going to kill each other, and we just hoped that no one would need stitches or something by the time we got home.

We got back - and couldn't find them anywhere. We searched all the spaces we knew where Lazlo used to hide. The last place we looked - the crate we brought Shelly home in - there they were. Asleep all curled up together.

Now - we figure maybe they were in there fighting and just got so exhausted they fell asleep. But no one was hurt, and there were no fights after that.

Not the best way to do it, we now know. But they work it out, and they don't like getting hurt. Fighting over territory is more about working out who's who on the totem pole, and it doesn't (usually) lead to anything like males that are not neutered fighting over a female in heat.

Just leaving them to work it out isn't ideal - but what is? You've done a wonderful thing rescuing these animals, and no matter what happens, they're better off than they were.

PLEASE let us know what happens - and have a safe and wonderful trip!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hello all and thanks for the advises.
I have decided to split the bottom floor in two with chicken net and keep the door on the upper floor open. It has been open now for three days when I am home and the wild ones really enjoy laying in the cold stairs but still having access to their safe places.
We have been talking about a fan but it has to be the kind in the roof so they can't hurt them selves and they cost a lot. We have already spent hundreds on euros on the cats and our recourses are limited. We have already taken out a big window in their room and replaced it with the kind of net that gives shade and secured it with chicken net. The upper floor is going to be tarred down and replaced with new walls and roof so it doesn’t really matter if it rains in a bit thru the window for the moment.
I have locked the cat door for going out but keep it open for coming in. This way we force our cats to stay in a while every time they come in to eat and then we bribe them with candy and spend some time to just be with them. When we leave I going to keep them in. To switch beddings between the cats is a good idea and I will try it but I can't really touch the mothers yet.
Even if the text gets a little bit to long I just have to tell you:
Yesterday Zasha was with us upstairs again and one of the youngest kittens, Wesley, walked straight up to her. She hissed but he didn't care. When he got to close she hit him with her paw but gently and with no claws. He backed of but stayed watching her until she turned around. She refused to look at him again but waited for us to follow her downstairs. Our little Izzy is too afraid to come with us upstairs. I can see that she wants to be inside more with us but she get really anxious when she hears the cats playing upstairs. That room used to be her place. I will force them to be in with us tonight in hope that they will give in to their old habit to sleep with us in bed. They are more cuddly than normal and when they are out they lay in front of the door waiting for us to join them. The peak of their day is when we have dinner outside with them.
The reason I am so worried for our cats is that they don't have a nice background. Izzy is born wild and have spent four month in a shelter before she came to us - still very scared of people. Now she is the cuddliest cat in the world but still afraid of other people. With severe stress she has even had epileptic attacks. Zasha came from another family to the same shelter. She has been terribly mistreated by people and can still panic if she is not prepared to be touched. She is a very special cat. We did not chose her - she picked us. With all the courage she had she walked up to me after watching me an hour with the other cats in the cat home. She told me that she had picked us and since then she is guarding us. She is very jealous on everything that can take us away from her and she is even trying to stop us from leaving the house or drive off with the car when we are not home enough. When my husband started working again after being home for four month, after a back operation she punished him by not "talking" with him for two month. I can understand her worries now so I guess we just have to show her a little extra love for a while.
The wild ones are doing well though. The mamas is now playing and eating when we are still in the room. The smallest kittens meet me in the stairs and crawl up in my knee as soon as I sit down. The other ones are playing with us and even if they keep a distance when they are on the floor I can pet them when they are laying in their safe places. One of them loves it and the other two begin to relax enough to fall sleep while I'm petting them if I am just persistent enough.
I will definitely keep you updated. Both before our trip to Denmark and after.
Thank you so much for the support.
post #8 of 17
Sounds like things are going to be just fine. I'm sorry little Izzy is feeling displaced. We had that problem with Spooky losing "her" room to a new kitty pre-integration. With extra love and attention before you go and after you get back, I'm sure she'll come around. Poor little rescues - they're all so special in their needs.

Have a very wonderful and safe trip! Enjoy your mum's 60th Birthday - I think it's great you're visiting. It's a wonderful time to celebrate life and when it's a parent, it's a very special time to let them know how much you appreciate all they've done.

Let us know how things are when you get back! (And we'd love to hear about the trip!)

Safe travels!

post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
We are home. And all cats are ok. The wild ones are keeping a little more distance than before but it is also because I had to start giving one of them nose drips and another one eye solution since the infection seem to have restarted while we are gone. It took a while to find them and I realize we are lucky to still have them since they found a hole I've missed and actually could have walked out thru the cat door any time.
We didn't have the hart to lock our domestic cats up and this morning I regretted it. We arrived at three o'clock in pouring rain, and no cats. They always come when we call them but not this time. We looked till half past four and then the neighbours woke up from our calling. They had seen the cat’s everyday in the garden though. We decided to sleep until it was light but just half an hour later I woke up from the cat door. Zasha was home. She spent the morning drying up in our bed holding my husbands leg as if she never would let him leave again. Half past six I went up and Zasha showed me were Izzy was. Our little Izzy just came flying into my arms when she heard me and now we have two very happy cats sleeping outside the back door and checking that we are still here every hour.
Tomorrow we will move the kitten’s house to the living room so they have to spend time with us.
post #10 of 17
Malena, I'm so glad things went well for the ferals.

And I'm sooooo glad Izzy and Zasha came home!

I hope you had a great time visiting your mum!

post #11 of 17
The kitties are adorable. I'm glad you are home, and Izzy and Zasha came home to you.

If the wild Momma's don't tame fully, it is perfectly fine for them to chose to be garden cats rather than house cats. So long as they are spayed, which you said they are, and you give them food, that can be a good life for a kitty.

I hope you find homes for the babies! Keep posting about how they are doing!
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
They have now moved downstairs with us. I have placed their "safe house" in our living room and they have a closet to hide in. Our cats are still hissing at them but leave them alone. The youngest kittens have inspected the entire floor and spend quite a lot of time with us. The older kittens prefer to be in the room where we are not but they are also taking longer and longer tours from the closet. I had to give Silas nose drips again when we came home and take care of Gypsy’s eye that was completely glued together and that didn't make me popular but Silas will except being in my lap and relax after a while even if he doesn't come willingly and Tosca still excepts being touched but not lifted up. I had to do that when I moved her and I still have a few holes in my hands after her teeth. Funny that she still lets me touch her after that. The mamas has been hiding since they moved down but they still blink at me when I enter the closet and they come out to eat and use the litter if we just keep a little distance. Gypsy is our problem child. She is geting more and more wild again and is very tied to the mamas. I doubt that I can get her tame enough for adoption so the emergency solution would be to spay her earlier than planed and let her stay here.
post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hello all of you.

Now I need some feedback (advise or support) again concerning or “wild†cat family.
Since we are back from our short vacation all cats has moved down with us on the bottom floor. They have their safe place in an old wardrobe stuffed with things we don’t use. I don’t keep them separated from our cats any more and it goes fairly well. Our cat’s hisses at them but there are no fights. The youngest kittens can get a slap in the face now and then but that is because they have no respect what so ever for the signals our cats gives when they get to close.
Our cats still spend a lot of time inside and sleep in our bed every night.
The problem is that soon the big renovation of the house begins. We going to have contractors here putting up cement columns on the bottom floor and the upper floor is going away and a new one is going to be built.
I have put out an advertisement to place the kittens but of course only had answers for the young tame ones. They are just recovering from the sneezing disease and will need antibiotics for eight more days to kill a beginning chlamydeous infection. It was expected that they would have it since all the older kittens has had it and they where to young to vaccinate.
The mothers are getting more and more relaxed and they are beginning to show interest for the cat door. There is a little house standing ready for them in the garden but I would so much like to keep them until they are tame – which might take another half a year. They are de-wormed, de-flead, spayed and healthy and the older kittens would probably get faster socialized if the mothers weren’t around. They are 13 weeks now.
My dilemma is actually that I don’t want to give them away. I love them and I will have a hard time finding anyone else “good enough†for them. They need so much time, love and care. On the other hand – What can I offer when our home turns in to chaos? If we postpone the renovation we loose thousands of euros due to time limits on bank credit and building permission. And we would probably freeze all winter without proper roof or central heating.
How do you people do it when you socialize feral kittens and adopt them away?
I will miss them for the rest of my life.
Little Ice who spins as soon as I look at him and spends all his time testing the borders with our domestic cats. To days ago he scared the life out of a five times bigger stray cat who walked in thru the cat door.
Wesley who we almost lost two days ago due to a reaction on the antibiotic shot he had. He was so scared when strange things began to happen in his little body and for the three hours the attack lasted he wouldn’t let me leave him for a second. I spent the night on the kitchen floor with him.
Our shy little Silas who was so ill when we found him. After all treatments he had he is finally coming closer to us by free will.
Tosca who cant stop her self from spinning if I get the chance to touch her but would try to hurt me bad if I lift her up.
Little Gypsy who hates us after all treatment she had. If we play she forgets that we are dangerous though. She almost lost her eye because of Chlamydeous but we managed to save it.
For the older kittens it would be such a trauma to change environment before they trust people, and for my little babies (I bottle-feed them) – well I am their safe place. When they get scared they hide in my lap. It will break my heart not being able to be there for them.
post #14 of 17
Sorry I wasn't here to give you any advice but my only suggestion would've been to use chicken wire to close off the door. Of course then you need to be able to get in and out.

They sell a plastic chicken wire here at a store called Lowes Home Center and I use that to put up at the bottom of the doorway to the kittens' room. I can step right over it to get in and out but it keeps the kittens from running out every time I open the door.

You are lovely to have taken on the responsibility for these little lives, having them spayed and all this while going on vacation. I am so glad it worked out for you.

This forum was here for me when I suddenly decided to start fostering kittens (mostly running an adoption center out of my home for newly spayed/neutered babies) and I am grateful it was. The people here have the experience and good heart to give us advice.

If you ever find you need an ear, PM me anytime. I can at least listen.

post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thank you Victoria,

I am thinking of building a temporary cat garden outdoors so that they can stay in the bathroom and outside during the renovation. In the evenings they will have access to all the house again. I just have to figure out how to make it possible for both the ferals and our domestic cats to use the the same cat door and the same piece of the garden. They are still hissing at the small ones and Zasha has slapt them a couple of times but that is because they are wery provociing and not a bit scared of her.

Am I right when I think it would be bad for the socialization of the shy kittens to change environment?

Would it be better for them to move to somebody else now than when they are a few months older and more secure with humans?

Is it a problem that the mothers are still with their kittens?

One mother is doing great progress and comes closer and closer but the young mother is still keeping a long distance to us.
I promised my husband that we wouldn't keep any of them but I think he is slowly accepting that we might have nine cats.
We had an answer on our ad yesterday for one of the small tame ones and my husbands response was - no, we will not give just one. He is not moving alone.
post #16 of 17
Your cats are going on very well. It is pity the homecats dont became pals with the ex semiferals. But it is apparent they do accept them, they are not friendly but do accept their living there and do accept a neutral coexistence.

Zasha slapping the misbehaving kittens is in fact a very positive sign. This IS a common way to foster between cats living together. If Zasha saw this kitten as an intruding stranger she would scratch him up, not only lapped and learned to behave.

Your plan with temporarey cat-garden is surely workable, better then to have them only in the house. Do have shelter-in places there; they will everyone surely be unsure, stressed and a little afraid when the workmen makes their building-noises. It is necessary they will have somewhere to try to hide a little.
A lot of feliway should also help some.

How are they reacting to strong noises and visitors as now? Are they taking it easy or are they noticeably stressed??

As for letting them be somewhere else.
Do you have reliable persons where they could be?

If yes, - perhaps it is the best solution after all, especially if they are stressed by strong noises and strange people. The smells will also be different (or? your house is already a building-place, I presume with smells of wet cement, smells of cement-dust and so on?).

It is not optimal to let semiferals on fostering change milieu and people - you are right - but sometimes you dont have any choice and they must change fosterhome /jourhem. The swedish shelter-organization KKS has often this probleme. Usually it works out OK. Sometimes it is even better in the new place. For example THEIR homecats are perhaps friendlier and get pals with the ex-semiferals.

One possibility is you let only the mostly easy-stressed cats move to those reliable friends.

Hope you has some use of my thoughts.

Good luck!
post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks Stefan,

No, I don't have any reliable friends who doesn't already have a lot of cats. The cats are quite used to noise since we are already began to take the upper floor away and they ignore it more and more. They still hide from strangers but so does our domestic cats.
The cat garden would be built at the place they wore born and there is already standing a rabbithouse we prepared for the mothers in case they would move out. I have the posibility to close of the kitchen and the bathroom where the cat door is, from the rest of the house and with the cat garden, the place would be big enough.
I don't think the perfect family will stand on my doorstep and offer a place for them so we are more and more accepting that we will have a big catfamily. Then I want them to get tame enough to go with us if we ever move. They will all be vaccinated, spayed and nutered and marked with a chip in case we move to Sweden one day.
I am trying to find someone who can sell us the net and wood for the catgarden, as buildingmaterial for the house so it can be included in the renovation cost.
The last two days the kittens has started to watch TV with us in the evening and the two youngest has moved up in our bed during night. The mothers are playing more with the kittens and doesn't hide when we enter the room.
I guess we just have to accept that our family is gonna be bigger than planned.
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