Thursday, July 11, 2013

Feral Cats

I've really resisted getting involved with the feral cats in the neighborhood...  most of the time, they didn't bother coming to our house, and if one or two brave ones did, usually once they saw our dogs, they'd vanish and not come back.  I personally resisted it because...  well, it seemed like a recipe for heartbreak.  Maybe that's selfish of me, but I had already had my heart broken a few times just rescuing pet-ready animals.  I didn't want to tangle with something that was wild, just to watch it hit by a car, or poisoned by a cat-hating neighbor, etc.

But my hand was forced this past February.  I started to see a black cat going through all of the yards on our street, including mine.  He wouldn't let me approach him, but seemed desperate for something.  I put some food out for him, and it was just GONE in about 15 minutes.

I can't stand the idea of an animal being hungry, so before we knew it, I'd purchased an extra bag of food for "the outdoor cat."  But then it wasn't just a black cat.  Then it became a black cat AND a white cat.  And then an orange cat.  (Though my wager is, the orange cat is owned - but is just an opportunistic feeder.  He doesn't have the lean and hungry look that the black and white cats had.)

We talked about trapping them, and having them spayed or neutered.  A neighbor told me that they'd actually been pets at one time, but had been abandoned a couple of years ago.  For a year, a teenager up the street fed them, but she went to college this spring, which is why they were foraging through my yard in February, I guess.

But they only came occasionally, and I figured that someone else had taken responsibility for them.  So I abandoned my idea of trapping them.  And I haven't seen the black cat for a couple of months, which doesn't bode well for him.  I find myself hoping that he just comes up after dark to eat.

But there have been plenty of "white cat" sightings.  In fact, just last week, she came up into the yard right under my nose.  Why do I know that she is a "She" you might ask?  Yeah.  Damn.  I should have trapped her and had her spayed back in February.  She brought three 12ish week old kittens up my front walk and showed them where the ever-full bowl of food was.  They were skittish of me, but happy enough to take my food.

Well, we decided that since she clearly wasn't ALREADY spayed (I guess it would have been too much to ask to have the owner actually spay her before abandoning her?)  that she needed to be, and soon, else there would be even more kittens.  Then there would be 50 cats running around our street, and I'm pretty certain that the neighbors would start to object.  And if we were going to have HER spayed, then we might as well nab the kittens as well.

We bought a live trap, and Jeff baited it with sardines.  Twenty minutes later, we had the mama kitty in our bathroom.  She is totally unhappy looking in this picture.

We've since captured three of her kittens.

There's still at least one more white kitten that needs to be trapped.  I don't know for sure if there are any others.

And this is where I'm a bit at a loss about what to do.  We're going to pay to have them "fixed."  That much is a certainty.  I would LOVE to tame the kittens down to where they would make good pets and could be put up for adoption.  I don't know that it's going to happen that way, though.  They're VERY frightened of us, and absolutely wild to get out...

Update:  I stopped writing this because I got too busy well, with the actual physical caring for of the ferals.

Here's what has transpired:  we caught the final kitten.  Two pure white kittens, one gray fluffy, and one tabby that might be a torbie?  I'm not sure.  The orange in her fur, if it's there at all, is not very pronunced.

The shelter couldn't really help me with TNR until later in the month, which meant that I was a bit out of luck.  I was torn:  let them go again and try to trap them a second time?  Or keep them in a cage in my dinette?  Neither way sounded like a good option.

Before I did anything rash, I contacted a local group:  the Homeless Cat Management Team of Pittsburgh, and they worked some magic for me!  They got me into a clinic THAT Saturday to get everyone spayed and neutered and vaccinated,  which was fantastic!  As it turns out, only one of the kittens was male, the others female.  That's a whole lot of kittens that would have likely entered the world in the next year!

I still have them, but the kittens are actually going to a home this weekend!  A kind soul has agreed to step up and take them in and try to domesticate them.  I'm so very glad that this is a possibility.  We weren't able to do it:  absorbing four kittens into our household is just impossible at this time.  Four frightened, not-very-experienced kittens:  even more impossible.

Mama (who we have been calling "Snow") is most likely going to be a TNR.  She's been on her own for such a long time, that she just has zero trust in humans at all.  I haven't been able to convince her to soften her opinion of us in the two weeks I've had her.  BUT.  She'll be released where she has access to food, shelter, and she is freed from the breeding cycle.  So while I'd rather that she went into a home, I still feel pretty good that her life has been improved.

Everyone keep their fingers crossed that everything continues to work out so well.  I was very worried in the beginning, when I realized that SOMEONE had to be responsible for these babies, and that someone was us.  (I can't say ME, because Jeff has been part of this right alongside me.)


  1. Just dropping by to say "thanks" for helping these cats. I understand the hesitation and I know exactly how much work goes into this. Stepping up to the plate and actually doing something about a bad situation like they were in takes some guts. Just that one little family helped has stopped so many more unwanted cats to be born. You did a great thing. Deb

  2. I hope that it works out well for her! My sister has a feral kitten in her house right now that we snagged from my dad's farm. She also found a woman who wants the other four. We have no idea where the mother came from. She showed up in the barn, had the kittens and moved them under the porch. My sister started feeding them kitten food because the one she ended up taking was half the size of the others. I don't know if they'll be able to catch the mother or not, but I think the kittens will end up with a pretty good life.

  3. Sounds like you made a good choice in the end, good for the cats and good for you. TNR can be very stressful and it's way easier in community with experienced peoples. Thanks for caring enough to get the kitties fixed.

  4. So wonderful of you to take on the huge responsibility of helping these cats!!! I'm certain the kittens will be tamed in no time, our Kip was a completely feral cat when he was rescued with his brothers and he is one of the most gentle cats I have ever come across! Poor mama cat looks very scared in the pic, notice how she went for high ground in the bathroom; her wild instincts are strong. Even though you will probably have to release her, you have done her a great service by spaying her and getting her the proper vacs!!!! What good souls you and your husband are :-)

  5. THANK YOU for helping them....and for keeping on to find someone to help you. We are very glad someone stepped up to take the kittens - at 12 weeks it can be a tough thing and we hope and purr they learn to love people. Having an outdoor feral kitty can be tough, but we have our Allie. She has a safe place to sleep and we make sure she has food and water. Mom sees her pretty often but admits she worries when she goes a few days without seeing her. But we are glad she will be spayed and the cycle will stop for her. GREAT JOB!!!

  6. YOU ARE AWESOME! Thank you for caring enough to help this mama and her babies. You have irrevocably changed their lives for the better. :)

  7. How's the TNR work going? Still have a white feral cat loose in your bathroom? :)

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