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Understanding and Caring for Feral Cats


By Christine Michaels


Chances are that you will come across stray and feral cats in your lifetime. These outdoor animals are often misunderstood. Whether you spot them in your backyard, around your office park, or while traveling abroad, misconceptions still prevail worldwide about stray and feral cat. Learning the facts can help overturn the myths and stop the overpopulation and mistreatment of homeless cats.


What is a Feral Cat?


A feral cat is typically born in the wild or outdoors with little to no human interaction. If you attempt to get too close or try to pet them, feral cats view your hand as a claw that will harm them and will hiss and/or run away. Feral cats are born from other ferals or from stray cats. What is the difference between the two? Well, a stray cat was once a pet cat, until it was either lost or was abandoned by its owner. While they struggle to survive in their new outdoor environment, some strays become fearful of people, even adopting feral behaviors after a period of time, depending on their surroundings. However, most stray cats remember that humans feed them and try to stay near homes, carports, and other areas where people concentrate.


When a regular caretaker notices a stray cat that is friendly, it is recommended to take the cat to a veterinarian to scan for a possible microchip. In lucky instances, the stray cat and its owner are happily reunited.


Anyone Can Become a Caretaker for Stray Cats- How to Care For and Feed Feral and Stray Cats


Feral cats have a rough life and live, on average, two years on their own. With regular care, which includes reliable shelter and daily feedings similar to the care of barnyard cats, they can live as long as ten years. If you decide to become a caretaker, an important lesson is to never forcefully grab an outdoor cat or make a sudden movement towards it. These cats are fearful of people and tend to run away as strangers approach them. Let the feral or stray cat come closer to you on his/her terms.


Through daily feedings, in time they will let you know if it's acceptable to touch them. Another helpful hint: If you do decide to become a caretaker, squat or sit on the ground so you're at their level when you regularly feed them. This approach indicates to the feral or stray cat that you are not threatening.


How Wild is Wild?


In my work with feral cats, I learned that there are varying degrees of "wildness." Most of the feral cats will not allow me to touch them, but I can come within millimeters to dispense their food. One cat, Lion King, after three years of feeding him, gradually came closer to the feeding bowl; he now rubs against my legs. Recently, I was able to start petting him, but only when he's facing away from me. If Lion King turns to face me while I am stroking his gold fur, he hisses in displeasure. Pretty Boy and Tabitha allow me to pet them, but nervously jump out of my arms when I attempt to pick them up. The lesson learned: respect their limits.



Comments  26

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  • we have them here
    08/16/2012 06:33pm

    we get a quite a few of them here where I live in the country I leave food out for them and always fresh water... they will sneak to eat and gradually they will stay out in view to eat then they will come to the porch and lay and pretty soon the are rubbing theirselves on your legs and pretty soon they will allow you to touch them and then there are wild cats that will not stay long they will eat and go and not return.

  • 06/24/2016 03:22pm

    hi,i have a cat she is the best pet i ever had and if anything happened to her i cant deal with it.i feed cats in my mobile home park,one was here for 2 years and one day camr back and died in my driveway,i was devastated,i dont know know what happened but i know who left him outside cause he didnt get along with the other cats she had.she should be fined or something,i wanted to ask do you do that with your grandchildren too unbelievable huh.my cat is so beautiful and the thought of anything happening to her makes me cry,sorry.i feed otheres now and love it,cats are the best.

  • 09/21/2016 04:17am

    The very very BESTway to kill ANY FLEAS IN YOUR YARD
    is Diatomaceous Earth,the con density is like flour,a little goes a long way.The way I would do it is use a shifter and sprinkle your whole yard,that will kill ALL THE FLEAS!
    You can get it at any pet store,if no pet store is close,you can order it online. I hope that helps
    P.S. I hate to sound cruel...I have 3cats1sometime cat and a dog...but the way life goes only the strongest will survive and they will do so eating kittens,and maybe the weakest cats....I am awfully sorry for being so bold...just telling you this makes me sick to my stomach,literally!
    GOD BLESS YOU and your DOGS

  • 09/21/2016 04:20am

    I'm so sorry,I'm really new at this... This message is meant for Amanda,I do hope you get this Amanda because it can help!

  • Flea Roamers
    08/17/2012 03:33am

    The elderly lady next door, whose back yard is adjacent to my side yard separated only by a small alley, is grossly neglected,over run with long grass and foliage (including a thick group of large overlapping, crisscrossing trees with low lying branches, and a broken down, rotted out, termite infested, old barn. It houses, at any given time, approximately 100-130 "free roaming" cats and kittens. She puts pans of food out for them every evening; although she cannot, and makes no effort to touch or pet them. They are all very skinny, flea infested, many with most of their hair missing, sneezing and coughing, and most kittens stay with puss and gunk in their eyes. We live in a small town with no real animal control dept and absolutely no shelter/rescue/ rehab/adoption type of programs. The one part-time control officer will only come out if a person is in immediate danger. More than once, following a large rainfall, I have found drowned kittens in my drive way. These animals are suffering and have infested my yard with fleas to the point that we (humans) cannot be outside, except for a few minutes at a time... afternoon bar-b-ques are out of the question. I have two dogs who must be rushed out and back into the house for potty breaks and I have to treat them both twice a month with Advantage flea drops. I have a huge fenced in yard that we cannot use, less we be ravished by fleas. Our town will take no action in making this lady clean up her back lot and, as mentioned before, animal control will not set traps or even respond without immediate and eminent danger. Even if we trap the "free roamers" ourselves and bring them to the "pound," as it is still referred to, they will be put down the next time the exterminating vet comes to town, whether it be in an hour or 10 days. I cannot see any purpose for feeding and trying to establish any kind of relationship with these sickly animals. Nothing good can come of it. The old lady's habit of putting food out for them has only made things worse and actually preclude any resolve for this horrible situation. Feral cats are usually full of fleas and ticks and are often malnourished and sick. I find nothing conducive to the well-being of these animals by feeding and attempting to develop a level of trust or any sort of human/feral cat relationship. Perhaps in other cities/towns, such actions maybe beneficial, but that is not the case here.

    P.S. I have had cats as indoor pets in the past. My last cat, Jazz, was with us for 11yrs and I miss her terribly. I love cats and, although I currently have two dogs, I don't consider myself a dog or cat person... I am an animal lover; however, the situation we are living in is an equal atrocity to both people and cats.

  • 08/17/2012 07:02am

    What a sad situation for all involved.

    Have you tried beneficial nematodes in your yard? They eat fleas which are in immature growth phase, as I understand it. Maybe it would help in your yard.

    I have heard they do a pretty good job of controlling fleas in the yard.

  • 08/19/2012 03:45am

    Thanks for the suggestion... even more so, thanks for taking the time to care enough to offer a suggestion. I will look into it and ask my vet what he thinks; however my vet is living through this... so, any helpful suggestion (vet or no vet) I will explore.

    I appreciate your time, thank you so much.

  • 08/17/2012 03:30pm

    Amanda - try contacting the ASPCA or Alley cats (https://www.alleycat.org/) to see if there are rescue groups in nearby towns then contact those. They might be willing to take on this situation as a project. Feeding the ferals isn't the issue - not spaying/neutering them is. If a group can get out there and trap them all, they might be able to remove the kittens and less feral ones to get them adopted and spay/neuter the rest. Those that remain and are put back, should be fine once the numbers are under control since they won't be reproducing and they'll tend to keep out new cats since it's their territory. The rescue groups will usually vaccinate cats when they spay/neuter and treat them for fleas so the animals that go back will be healthy. If an eye is kept on the situation to make sure and new cats that do show up are promptly fixed, the cats will be able to live relatively good lives and they won't be negatively impacting the neighbors. They have a right to live those lives and shouldn't be killed just because they don't have homes or can't be pets. If your Jazz hadn't been as lucky as he was, he might have ended up in a situation like this one. Oh and there might be a little Jazz in that group that could add a bit of feline mischief into your household. Consider saving a life while you're seeking help for the rest. Good luck!

  • 08/19/2012 03:41am

    Thank you so much for the genuine concern and support you expressed. I will immediately use the links you listed. And, I have rescued some of the kittens (not nearly enough to be noticeable) and have found them good forever homes. But, if I am truly honest with myself, I do look for that special one that melts my heart and I hope you are correct with your insight that I may find another little Jazz in there someday!! But I will first have to find a successful solution to this overwhelming problem first!!

    Thanks friend.

  • 08/26/2012 09:59pm

    Hi Amanda,
    Perhaps those in your community who are genuinely concerned, could make it a community project to help clean up the old ladies yard. I'm sure there are some children in the community who could use some scout badges of community service work. this would help with the flea problem as well as helping an old lady who can no longer help herself.
    Next you could also help by cleaning up her barn and helping her care for the cats since you have no active ASPCA or animal control in your area.
    A couple of pet friendly flea bombs and some medication in their food would help all involved.
    As for the old lady neighbor of yours these animals are her life and without them she would probably have no sense of continuing on they as they have become her family.
    Most likely she has limited contact with family and these animals give her a sense of purpose as well as companionship.
    My advice is become a good neighbor become active in your community and all involved will benefit, your neighbor your community and the cats.

  • 09/06/2012 06:44pm

    Hi Amanda,

    It sounds like you have been through the ringer on this! It is good to hear that you are trying to do the right thing to ensure they are not euthanized. However, the rampant breeding and fleas are a great concern. I would have concerns about disease transmitted by fleas to humans (although rare) and the prolonged illness of your pets.

    Unfortunately, in most cases, it is the squeaky wheel that gets oiled. Your posting here was a great start. It sounds like you have already gone through all of the appropriate channels by contacting local authorities and trying to speak with your neighbor.

    I can think of a few options that you may not have tried yet. Along the lines of the squeaky wheel: Use CNN iReport to share your story. http://ireport.cnn.com/ I have used it for local news reporting, but the story you shared on here is compelling enough and controversial enough that people will likely latch onto it. Include a few images of the flea bites you have received, the medication you must give to your pets, and maybe a shot of your yard that you cannot use. I would be careful to not include pictures of your neighbor's private property. I am not sure of an legalities with that.

    Other venues are a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, to post a video on youtube, www.youtube.com and storyful, www.storyful.com with you discussing this or images as discussed above. The heart of this story sounds like it could be that public services have failed you and your neighbor. To ask for reasonable intervention and to receive none is not good. However, communities are limited in funds and the controversy comes in with the argument of services are available, but it requires killing the animals.

    Keep in mind that going public could result in undesirable results. To think of a few, all animals may be killed by the local shelter, your neighbor could make your life even more unbearable that you will need to move, etc. In the end it is your choice. I wish you the best as you work to resolve this very challenging situation.

  • 09/21/2016 04:23am

    Amanda,I sent my message to the wrong person,I'm still really new at this!Please take time to read the above message to help with the fleas and to give you another view of the cats..a bit too honest maybe but what I said is the truth!

  • Feral/Homeless cats
    08/17/2012 02:21pm

    Amanda, have you ever done anything to try to help the neighbor? You might try getting a group together to help clean up her property, apply pesticides to the yard, and do something to rescue the cats. If they're sick, and with that many in one place, chances are very high that they are sharing one or more of the many viruses that kill or diminish the health of cats that live in large groups, they need to be evaluated and treated. Contact the Parish (I'm guessing by your surname that you live somewhere in Louisiana) and explain the situation. If they take no action, find the nearest ASPCA or similar organization and see if you can get help. There's another route you could follow: call Social Services to check on the elderly human inhabitant. This is not a problem that can't be solved. It's a situation you should have addressed before it reached this level. You can help instead of complaining. You and your neighbor will be much happier and the humans, canines, and felines will all be healthier if you deal with something your neighbor apparently cannot.

  • 08/19/2012 03:33am

    I moved into this situation 3 yrs ago and it was even worse... so no I did not think of doing anything before it got this bad. The woman lives in a beautiful home and she and her Maltese live very comfortably; however, she is not willing to do anything about the situation. I have trapped kittens (16 to be exact), got them medical attention, kept them inside with us and socialized them and then found them all good homes. A few weeks ago I heard a few kittens crying and saw a dead cat on the road... from the sound of the kittens it was their mother, so I asked the lady if I could try to locate the kittens and take them in... she refused. In the middle of the night, as the kittens continued to cry, I tried to get into the rotten out barn, in the dark, to find the kittens and take them in. 3 were dead and the other two were lying on top of them... one of the two had its eyes open the other did not, so they were less than two weeks old. So that takes the total to 18 young kittens and 5 older ones who were fearful and wild, but finally came around, went to vet, moved in, tamed up then went to good homes. Fortunately, after my midnight rescue of the two newborns, a friend took them in. If I could save everyone of these cats/kittens, I would.

    I have contacted every agency I know and even went to city counsel to try and make this lady clean up this lot... even offered to get a committee together to do the work (although she has more money than the town of Mamou, population 3,000 with ONE stop light... that's the kind of southern Louisiana town I live in). She won and the counsel did nothing. Please believe me, I have done a great deal to help these animals, but I can't afford to keep doing this. I have been a single mom for 20 years, currently working on my Ph.D, while simultaneously preparing to take the LSAT. I also have two sons in college. My 20 year old son has been on meds for appx 3 months b/c he has had such an allergic reaction to ring worms. I have spent over $400.00 for his medical tx. Both my dogs have had to be treated for ring worms (and TWICE mo for fleas), plus tape worm and my vet says that the fungal and flea infestation is a direct result of these sick cats who defecate all over my yard and rub against every surface outside. I can even smell the spray (that male cats expel) when I walk out of the house, especially in the mornings. My 12 year old beagle will try to consume any cat feces, which is NEVER formed/solid/normal, that she can sneak without me noticing. We are getting physically ill because of this.

    At this exact place and time, I am hardly able to compose this post because I am crying so hard. I am exhausted, overwhelmed and physically sick with this situation. If I could afford too, I would trap, fix and release everyone of these animals, but I can't and I can't find a vet to give their services away and I don't blame them.

    I wouldn't even have to go onto her property to trap these cats b/c they are always on mine. If I could catch a few per week, the vet would help with lower costs and I could probably find people to help with spay/neuter expense. However, when I set traps, she called the police and told them I was baiting her cats so I could trap and kill them. They made me get rid of the traps. I would NEVER kill an animal. The reason I won't get our "pound" involved is because they kill asap. When the euthanasia guy comes around, all animals are put down RIGHT THEN, regardless of how long they have been there (an hour or week...they are put down) That is the way things work here.

    I am so sorry to have troubled you all with this. I should never have posted my original comment to this article. I know I am rambling on and I thank those of you who have offered advise and encouragement! I will act on all suggestions (unless I have already taken that path previously)... those of you who think I have done nothing, that I deliberately allowed the situation to become so bad and who think I am just complaining without taking action, please keep your opinion(s) to yourself because you have NO CLUE the lengths I have gone through, including financial debt I have incurred, in an effort to resolve this issue. Your negativity is not conducive to the well-being of these animals or my family. So if you have nothing supportive to offer or appx $17,000.00 to contribute to the successful resolution of this matter... than don't judge, please.

  • 09/26/2012 04:55pm

    Your comment was not helpful. In fact, it was mean. Would love to see you in the same situation. As a matter of fact, now that you know about it, why aren't YOU helping Amanda resolve the situation instead of critisizing. You could offer a donation for the vet bills and medical bills she has endured. THAT would be helpful.

  • 12/11/2012 10:44pm

    Unfortunately it is people like you that make others think twice about getting involved in situations like this. My heart goes out to Amanda and everyone involved in this awful situation. I'm not sure what your story is but you apparently have to much time on your hands!!!! It appears that your comment really affected Amanda negatively. It is disheartning that you actuallty judged someone on a comment they posted! Lets look at every situation you have ever been in and see if you are the saint you are trying to appear to be. Amanda keep your head up! This person's opinion is disgusting and not how I feel. I'm sure other's feel the same but would rather not get involved.

  • Feral/Homeless cats
    08/17/2012 02:42pm

    About three months ago, two little girls came to me and asked if I'd seen the kittens living in a sheltered part of the common area between townhouses in my complex. I watched and waited, and discovered that a young female had four little ones that were probably four weeks old. She had been abandoned by a family that had moved away. Her little kittens were already very distrustful of humans. Although I attempted then to take them in and socialize them, they quickly scrambled into a place where they were inaccessible. Their mom was a very good hider of kittens! Since that time, I have fed them religiously, working to gradually gain their trust. I contacted my vet (I have three very senior cats, ages 15 and 16), and she has agreed to help with the spay/neuter process as soon as I can get the five cats to her. They gradually became more and more frequent visitors in my courtyard, and now spend most of their time inside my privacy fence. I have made a dry shelter for them in my courtyard, and they come inside my house if I leave the door open when it's raining. I fear that the mom may have conceived another litter. If so, and if I can nab her, we will let her have this litter and keep them indoors so they trust people, and place them when they're old enough. The others might have to stay near me, and when I move next summer, go with me. Their future is uncertain until I'm able to complete the process of gaining their trust and getting them sterilized. Ideally, if they can be turned into good little pet cats, we will try to place them in good homes. If not, I will not abandon them and I will not take them to the pound.

  • 08/17/2012 03:19pm

    Try to trap them and bring them inside. That's how you're going to gain their trust. I have 8 cats that ALL started out as feral outside cats and are now very loving pet cats. Some are still scared of other humans if those come into the house but none are scared of me. You have to spend time with them in the same room where they're in. You can try sitting on the floor and playing with them - throwing strings and little balls their way. Most kittens will find this stuff irresistible and will eventually start playing. Also - it's important that they SEE you interacting with your senior cats - picking them up, petting them, etc. This way they'll learn that hey - you aren't so bad since you aren't eating those big cats ;-) Definitely get momma and spay her. If she's pregnant already, you can still spay her as long as the pregnancy isn't too far along. You are wonderful to care for these animals and be willing to help them. Your seniors should do fine with the new felines eventually - particularly since the new additions are kittens and a female adult. Contact local rescue groups if you need a trap. They can probably loan you one and give you tips on how to use one. Good luck!

  • 08/20/2012 08:10pm

    So, I am in Iowa but this story and your struggles made me want to do something. So, I researched a bit and came up with a cat rescue in Baton Rouge about an hour away. I gave them the link to this blog and asked them to contact you Amanda if they can provide you any help at all. It was worth a shot. Bless you for everything you are doing for these poor creatures.

  • 08/19/2012 03:54am

    I would take the same course of action. It is so obvious when you meet another person who selflessly gives to the little creatures who can't always do it on there own! Bringing the 1st litter with you, may not be an easy task, but you are willing to make that sacrifice for them... that's so touching.
    Best of Luck

  • Reply to Amanda
    08/20/2012 05:36am

    You certainly have done more than your share of trying to "fix" this out-of-control situation. God bless you for that. My fiance and I live in apartments where students dump their animals (all it takes is one male and one unfixed female) when they graduate. We have, too, been through the ups and downs of caring for all the strays, kittens, and tomcats who are attracted to the female's scents. We have been blessed with two extremely affectionate angels, who both passed away in an 8 month to 2 year timespan. Our hearts were blessed by the amazing love these two cats shared with us. We feel your pain. Thank you for posting your post. You MUST NOT feel badly or take what others say too personally. I pray that the good people out there have been of some help in your situation.

  • 09/16/2012 11:17pm

    Hi Amanda, I am in Canada and and really feel for you and this situation. I am lucky enough to live in an area where we have a no lil shelter who also is active with other humane societies across north America. They also take in animals from rescue organizations in California. Our city and surrounding area is very happy to fundraise too.
    This lady sounds like a hoarder, not a caregiver. Though she may feel that she is helping, by not letting you take in the kittens and instead letting them suffer and die. She would not even have known that you found the kittens, or that hey were there. She is truly a serious, classic animal hoarder. This is a mental health condition , but more so for your family it is a health issue. I have a few more suggestions:
    1) the ASPCA is great. They are a collective, but contact every And any ASPCA , rescue group,no kil shelter in your state and surrounding states repeatedly. Include pics of the living conditions and diseased dead animals.
    2) document and photograph every animal that you come across and make note day, time place and health condition of cat found. Keep files.
    3) frequently send COPIES of these photographs and documentation to ALL local authorities ( health department, social services, animal bylaw, city pound, humane agencies, ASPCA,local media, specific tv and newspaper personalities,every single person on city council, pet stores)
    4) sounds odd, but send a request to national tv personalities such as Ellen, Anderson Cooper, Ricki Lake,Oprah, Ect asking for help. Send a request every month till someone oi ks up your story.
    5) you really need to contact social services, she IS a hoarder. While her house may look nice animal hoarders don't always keep animals inside and don't hoard other things, though you don't go into her house, so you don't know. I can't see her caring for these animals and not having some living with her for comfort. We had a man who had 140 cats in house. The neighbors only knew there were a lot of cats by the smell of the house but though maybe a dozen. They were living in the walls!! Plus 30 dead carcasses found. Only about a dozen were healthy enough to survive.
    6) this is a community Heath problem. Just like a rodent infestation. Please contact and keep contacting the health department.
    Here are my EXTREME suggestions which I personally would not hesitate to do for both my family, myself, the animals and anyone who should live in the area or in your home after you.
    a) find out what local, county, state and federal laws she may be breaking not just related to animals, but property damage to a neighbour, disturbing the peace, building code violations, health code violations Ect and send a WRITTEN, formal complaint to the appropriate law enforcement agency. By law they have to investigate.
    B) shouldn't cost much. Sue her for property damage and anything else you can including clean up costs of your backyard. She cannot claim they are feral, because by you asking to care for those other kittens and her not allowing you to take and care for ANY of the cats she has claimed ownership of all the cats n her property. Use your phone and record an inperson request to take Somme cats? Or write a note asking and have her respond in writing to have evidence she has claimed ownership. Courts will have to investigate.
    C) hold her publicly accountable. Make a big huge sign and put on your front lawn- my neighbour at 123 address named mrs whoever is an animal hoarder who has 130 reproducing cats and kittens in her barn and property. They are living in inhumane conditions, living with painful diseases, injuries and kittens are starving to death because the mother has died after giving birth. Fleas and insect infestation are being dispersed throughout my home and property and into yours as well. I need help...they need help. Plaese contact me :...
    D) print that on flyers with a pic of the most sad kitten who has an eye wound and drop in mailboxes far and wide in your community and town. Post on poles and billboards. You cannot get in trouble because you are merely stating a fact. " you are Not trying to be mean, you just want some help for the animals and you I'll son." if anyone asks or media wants a statement.
    E)this one is extreme... Not in action but in commitment. Lure the animals to your yard.
    Build a structure even a plastic leanto or tent and start bringing food out twice a day at the same time. Ring a little bell the same one each time you are bringing out food. As they start coming to your yard start to humanely trap and bring to a vet or vets who you have set up that will help you with this. There are many that will. Some may be with rescue groups or towns outside of yours. Those who contacted you to help you may want to help fundraise in the community to help with feed, vet care Ect. They can also help by being foster homes for some of the cats as they recover and find forever homes. They may be able to volunteer with transportation to vets or rescue orgs who will take them in or help with trapping.
    If they are on your property even if they belong to someone you have the legal right to humanely trap them and bring them to a vet or animal shelter.
    Note: do not try to start trapping right away if you are feeding them they will not trust you . Do not place traps near their feed or shelter. They will not come. There are many great resources on how to humanely and safely trap a cat with a humane cat trap cage and where to put it Ect. ***be emotionally prepared: many animals you bring in will not be able to be saved. Due to disease, infection, injury they will have to be euthanized to prevent uneccisary pain and suffering.
    Know that by doing this most extreme of my suggestions you are really truly helping these animals and your son. The animals especially though. The coughing you are hearing in many cases is the animal slowly suffocating to death. Cancers such as leukemia, and FIV which is AIDS in cats are both transmitted like the common cold . If they have this affliction, liquid build up in their abdomen and chest and suffocates them. Also many will have heartworm which basically does the same. Some cannot hunt due to infections and injury to the eyes from fights over he food she brings out as she likely does not bring out enough. Some are starving as well as suffocating due to the fact they are too weak to get to the food, or if they can not strong enough to win the fight over the food. Any kittens born here will succumb to these same diseases and will likely die the same painful death within 1 year.
    Her privacy, respect for her property, respect for her wishes is irrelevant in this situation unfortunately.The compassion and care for these animals takes precedent. The needs of the many outweigh the want of the one. Her.

    Good luck with this, I would be happy to talk with you and be An outlet anytime. You are not alone. Reach out more loudly and continuously I your community. Who cares if someone thinks you may be annoying or a complainer. For everyone of those you will find 7 others who actually care and you would be surprised how many in your town are willing to help. They just need guidance from you as to how they can help you. And hopefully I have given you some guidance with that task . Do it for the cats, do it for the kittens, do it for your son, do it for yourself. The effort WILL be with it!

  • Suggestions for Feral Cat
    10/02/2013 11:10am

    We rescued a starving kitty from a feral cat mom who was not able to get to her kitty when some trees were cut. We had her for 8 months before she disappeared; we thought an owl had gotten her. It broke our hearts. Then, two years later, she found us. What a miracle! The problem is that she is more feral than stray now and will not let us get close to her. We feed and care for her with our hearts because we have always loved her deeply. She is one of those special ones. We have given her a lot of space and time. We think she is still hunting off and on, even though we are feeding her. She always seems to "come back" to our home, even when she is not hungry due to hunting--but she gets even more distant from any personal contact. We've tried catnip (which she doesn't seem to like that much) because she seems to want to be in control at all times. It took a long time for her just to relax enough where she would come into the open. She sleeps on our deck, but she is always on guard. We just want her back...to hold her and give her shelter before the winter sets in. We built her a little house to keep her warm, but she likes to sleep in our shed. She is very solitary. I've scoured all the suggestions on the Internet and have tried just about everything. We live in the mountains where there are lots of predators, which makes it even more amazing that she has survived. But, the odds are against her. Any suggestions? She is spayed and has had all shots.

  • 10/02/2013 01:59pm

    You need to trap her and bring her inside PERMANENTLY to try to socialize her. You're never going to socialize her if she's always outside. I assume she was trapped at some point since she's spayed and has her shots. By the way - if this happened more than a year ago, she needs those shots again. I would trap her, bring her inside and try keeping her inside a room where you will be able to spend time with her and get near her. A spare bedroom or even a bathroom would do (short term - you don't want the animal living in a bathroom). Once she's inside, spend time with her, get strings and other toys and see if she'll play. Grab a book or your favorite electronic device and just sit on the floor with her in that room and spend time reading or browsing the Net or whatever you like to do but do it WITH her so she get's used to your presence. Try to pet her, let her smell your fingers. If she falls asleep with you in there (and try to provide a nice comfy bed), it's a great sign because that means she feels safe. Once she seems ok in your presence, you can start letting her out of the room into other parts of the house but be VERY VERY careful that she doesn't get out because if she does all the hard work will evaporate in an instant. When you are bringing in groceries or doing something else that will involve coming in and out a lot, it's best to try to lock her up in a room.

    If you have other animals, it will probably be a challenge initially for everyone to get along but over time your resident pets may help with the situation. I have brought in ferals into my home who initially were quite wild and then they observed the behavior of my pets around me - they saw that my other pets were calm and playing and enjoying their food and their toys and soon enough they calmed down as well.

    If you can't invest this type of time/effort into your stray, just try to make her life outside the best it can be. Make sure to provide a good shelter for her in the Winter - maybe with a heating pad or good insulation. Make sure she always has fresh food and water and try to get her to a vet once in a while for a checkup. The best thing you did for her was to get her spayed.

    Good luck and thanks for caring and taking the time to help.


  • 10/05/2013 11:04pm

    Thank you for your reply, Mirabel. You offered some great suggestions, and we will follow up with those that we can do at this time and beyond. When we first lost our cat, we were grief-stricken. When she returned after two years, we felt honored by her presence...that she would remember us. Yet, we also see the conflicting turmoil she feels, as if she is caught between two worlds and doesn't know for sure where she should be. When we had her spayed with all shots (including a microchip), we didn't have her ear clipped because we thought the microchip would "save" her. We have an animal rescue group here, and we are quite certain they trapped her and have no idea what happened after that. When I complained to someone that her microchip should have been read for her safe return, I was told that several microchip readers do not read all microchips. The place where we got the microchip is in the national database, but our local rescue group did not read it. (Evidently...we're not really sure what happened). So, we are where we are. Thank you for your help...greatly appreciated!

  • my feral colony
    08/24/2016 01:54am

    I have had cats all my long life 82yrs both inside and outside. My feral colony had gotten away size wise and a group of gals came and we trapped 18 and did TNR..group is ASAP out of Marengo Il..it took 2 months to complete the trapping and now all is quiet. They have heated dog houses and complete enclosure from weather. I have found the best food beside dry is OATMEAL. They get pan everyday. I get cheap foul parts when on sale and cook in down and mix it in oatmeal. Also use large Frisbee for feeding dish. They are now a happy colony..I make earrings and donate them for their many fund raisers..the $$ all goes back into their feed and vet bills..and I love doing my part to help them as they saved my cats lives.

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