Please help with my worrying!!

catt11January 12, 2014

Someone dumped a young 6 month old female kitten (too common where we live) who showed up starved. We already have an 18 year old house cat, 3 barn cats and two dogs, but it broke our hearts to not feed her so we did. We managed to trap her (I do not believe she had been feral because even though very shy and timid, she does not act like a feral) and took her 2 days ago to be spayed, vaccinated, and dewormed. Right now, because of her surgery we have her in the house, in a small laundry room. She's into a large crate at night because the dogs also sleep there at night. Maybe not ideal, but the best we can do under the circumstances with a very small house.

Here is my problem. Can NOT find a good home for her (more cats available than homes in our area) and can't keep her in the house, so my only choice is to put her in the barn with the other cats. Our 3 barn cats are all rescues in the past: 2 neutered males 6 years old and one spayed female 4 years old. We feed them well every day and they are very well cared for. I open the barn door for them in the AM, they pretty much hang around the barn not going very far, and then I make sure they are closed in the barn at night after their evening meal so no predators can get them. I am so worried about introducing this little 5 lb. 6 month old female and worried those bigger three will gang up and give her a hard time. The barn/workshop is not that big nor have separate rooms---just a downstairs and upstairs hay loft where their food, litter box, toys and beds are. I hate to just put her in there, close the door and just hope they eventually accept her without hurting her. I also don't know if I should put her in the hay loft in the large crate so they can "get used to her" without being able to "get" to her? I will have to decide what to do in a few days. Please don't suggest she live in the house----it is impossible as the 18 year old house cat has had major "psychological" problems in the past when I attempted to introduce a new cat to the household (he literally pulled all his fur out resulting in a trip to the vet and medication. He is already getting a little upset and she is closed in the small laundry room away from him). I hate to just let this little cat back out to fend for herself, but I just don't know if this will work? Any suggestions?

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I do not know if it will work either. There is a cat forum I read sometimes with people who know a lot more about cats than I do. I think you have to register to post.

And I also found a list of nokill shelters in the states in the link below.

I so hope you find a home for her, thank you so much for doing what you have done, if you lived near me, I would foster her and try to help you out there. You might want to contact local vets/churches etc and ask them to put up a notice about her availability, maybe they know cat lovers who would foster too. Since she is young and spayed etc, her chances at adoption would be pretty good I think. I hope.

Here is a link that might be useful: No Kill Shelters

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 9:04PM
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As long as there's a possibility that this kitten can become a part of the 'cat family', I would never ever take her to a shelter.

A shelter is not a home, & even if you find her a spot at a legitimate 'no-kill' shelter, a longterm stay in a cage isn't good.

Shelters have absolutely no control over what happens after the animal leaves their property, & so often their investigation is token at best:
fill out the form correctly & hand over the money & you've got yourself a kitten.

& 'no-kill' is an optimistic description:
read the full details, & you'll be sobered & maybe shocked.
There are all kinds of exceptions to that 'no-kill' policy.

Also, no-kill shelters by their very definition get filled up.

When this kitten gets a berth, some other cat...does not.

so the no-kill shelter gets to be no-kill because some other shelter has to take in the ones the no-kill can't.

Sorry, got off on my soapbox there.

Can you put some feliway out there as well as put her into a big carrier or kennel?

The barn cats I've encountered seem to be pretty laid-back about new members to their colonies.

Bless you for taking her in.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 12:54PM
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I agree with sylvia that you should try acclimating her to the barn, but do it slowly and allow her time to gain some weight and recover from the surgery. Try to use a crate large enough for her to move around in plus hold her litter box and food.
Below are several sites re: introducing a cat to the barn.

Here is a link that might be useful: barn introduction

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 2:22PM
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Thanks to the three of you who responded with suggestions and comments. And yes, sylviatexas, I will do anything I can possibly do for this little cat before I would bring her to a shelter. I just can't see myself doing that at all.

And thanks, Annz, for the link to the "barn introduction". It gave me some ideas. The problem with our barn is that it is a only about 30X40. On half the main level is stalls the other half is a workshop and entire upstairs a hayloft. No individual rooms.

What I am going to try is this: I will put her into a carrier and (as recommended) cover with sheet and just set it in the barn for a short while so they all can smell each other without seeing each other. Will do it until they don't react, then each day after that the same thing but in a large crate for about an hour, so they can see each other. Again, depending on how they react, I will either just let her out in the barn and keep the door closed from any of them going out during the day for at least 3 or 4 weeks, or depending on how things look, I will borrow a HUGE large dog crate to leave her in in the barn for a few days until they all seem used to one another, and then let her out. She is so timid that I am afraid she will run and hide behind hay bales for who knows how long. Right now, when I let the dogs out of the laundry room in the AM and let her out of her crate, she spends the day behind the dryer! She has started coming to me but only after lots of encouragement and loves to be rubbed, but she is certainly very timid and shy. I hope if I take things slow, it will turn out ok and she will be another happy, spoiled barn cat like the other three. If there are any other suggestions, please feel free to give me your comments.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 3:25PM
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We went through this very same thing a few years ago. "Spooky" our little black stray was very shy but for some reason, the dogs took to him immediately. I think that helped with the cats accepting him. Still, we kept him indoors unless we could supervise him outside. It didn't take long at all for one of the females to take to him and allow him to sleep right along side of her.

Just keep an eye on the little one until she is part of the barn cat family. It will happen ---- the other cats will know she is a baby.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 4:25PM
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When she's kept in the laundry room with the dogs, do you have her crate elevated or sitting on the washer/dryer? Keeping her above the dogs, vs on the same level with them, will definitely help with her stress levels.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 4:41PM
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Annz, I don't have her crate elevated because it is actually a large dog crate and I am afraid it is even too big to safely be up on the washer or dryer. It is on the floor, but I have it covered with a sheet. During the day, when the dogs are usually outside I let her out of the crate and she lays behind the dryer, but yesterday I had to keep the dogs in because of poor weather in the afternoon. At one point I walked into the laundry room and found her out from behind the dryer and laying calmly in front of and not far from the dogs! They are both very sweet Labs who are used to and really like the barn cats and I know respect cats. At night I do close her in the crate with food and water and her litter box and I keep the sheet down to completely cover the crate and give her privacy and less stress, just in case.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 1:15PM
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Labs are just plain special dogs, aren't they? Our two labs accept new cats long before the cats who live here do. I am convinced that the dogs help with the acclimation more than we can.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 3:00PM
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Just had a thought.........if the dogs interact with the outside cats, maybe they'll transfer the new cat's scent to the barn (and vise versa) .......which may help with the introduction. : )
You're doing a great job..........keep us posted.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 3:00PM
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Annz, that reminds me of a tip I learned a long time ago. Take a cloth or even your hand and rub around the mouth/face areas of the kitty's face and then pet the other cats. It will spread the scent around.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 3:04PM
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Thanks to you all for the help. It has been working out better than I thought with her in the laundry room, so I decided with the cold temps outside, scheduled to drop further this weekend, I won't rush to get her into the barn. She is spending less time behind the dryer, but is still very skittish and shy, and spends more and more time laying in front of her crate which is right in front of our two Labs on their beds, only about 3 feet away. So I have been leaving her crate door open all the time rather than closing her in it at night as I had been doing. I notice sometimes she still prefers laying in her crate on her bed and at other times she seems to prefer laying in front of it. Our 18 year old cat in the house is aware, I am certain, that there is "another cat" in the laundry room, but we keep the door always closed and I guess since she is not in the rest of "his" house, he seems to be doing ok other than now and then staring at the laundry room door! Therefore, as I have said, as long as things seem to be working this well with her in the laundry room, I will wait until she and I have a stronger relationship and the weather is not so cold before I gradually introduce her to the barn and the barn cats. I will keep my fingers crossed and also keep you all posted.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 9:50PM
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It might be easier than you think. The easiest ones I've integrated were when they were young. The older ones seem to know it's just a baby.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 12:38AM
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Thank you for giving this little sweetie a home!! It sounds like you have a great understanding of how the concept of slow introductions works. If there's friction maybe you could have some of your introductory sessions when everyone is being fed (with new cat still in crate)- that might help them become pals quicker if they have positive associations.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 11:42AM
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catt11, I understand your not wanting to upset your elderly male cat, esp. given his background. You didn't mention the age or gender of the other feline you tried to bring into your household with him, but if it was an adult and/or aggressive cat and/or another male, his behavior was understandable. You may find, however, that he will be a lot more accepting of an immature, female kitten. Kittens do not pose the territorial threat that an adult cat does, and females do not threaten the innate "breeding rights" that even a neutered male may retain.

In any event, it might be worth putting her in her crate and leaving the laundry room door open during the day, just to see how your old guy reacts. He might avoid the laundry room altogether, or he may go in there to check her out. If he gets too stressed out, you can always shut the laundry room door again. He might surprise you, though. Even if he gets hissy initially, he might just decide he likes the idea of having a little girlfriend.

Like you said, he already knows she's in there, and he's not all stressed out about it so far.


    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 12:05PM
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Laurie, to answer your question; the other cat I had tried to introduce (and actually did bring into our home) was in fact another male and was the same age as our (now) elderly male, "Bear". This all had happened many years ago. After having had Bear (a rescue) from the time he was 5 weeks old, when he was 2 years old the second rescue, "Tuffy", also about 2 years old came into our lives. Tuffy was in dire need of a home and I fell in love with him because he was the sweetest, most loving, and most personable cat I have ever known. But as stated in my original post, Bear had major problems accepting him. I tried to find a new, good home for Tuffy, but was unable to and in the interim, Bear and Tuffy sort of reached an agreement of not liking one another but staying out of each other's way. ( And most important, Bear was over "pulling his fur out" thank heavens.) And that is the way it went for the next 12 years, more or less "peace" but keeping out of each other's way until Tuffy died of lymphoma over 3 years ago. I always felt guilty in many ways wondering if I had been fair to Bear because now that Bear is the only cat in the house again, he has become more affectionate and loving and just seems happier. (Before with the two of them, if Bear came over to me and Tuffy was around, he would do what I would call "the glare" at poor Bear and Bear would take off, angry.) But at the time, I just could not turn Tuffy out. I guess after all that, I just did not want to hurt my poor Bear in his old age, but perhaps I will try what you have suggested and see what happens. At any rate, I will do right by this little cat and have decided she will stay in the house until the weather gets warmer come Spring. It is just too cold out there for me to introduce her into the barn when she has been in the house over a week now.

Thanks again everyone, for all the suggestions and comments. I do appreciate it.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 11:11PM
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I completely understand how you feel, as I have had similar dynamics in my own household with felines in the past (and I've felt the same guilt about it). Your first loyalty is to Bear, as it should be. He deserves peace and happiness in his final years.

That said, he may have a completely different reaction to the female kitten once he gets to know her, not only because she is female and a kitten, but also because he is an old man. Very elderly cats sometimes develop attachments (or at least calm tolerances) that they never would have developed when they were younger. I've seen it happen in two of my extremely old and extremely nasty females over the years. They reach a point where, although they'd NEVER admit it, they seem to find some quiet comfort in the company of other cats.

I hope that turns out to be the case with Bear. If the kitten can manage to worm her way into his heart, she might just provide an additional source of companionship and happiness for him. If not, at least you've got a backup plan for her when the weather warms.

Please keep us updated on your 4-legged family. I'm looking forward to reading how this all works out.


    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 11:48PM
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Bless you catt11

    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 12:21AM
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I adopted 2 feral barn cats from a rescue organization that would trap feral cats in their feral cat colony, spay them, give them shots and then try to socialize them. The cats they couldn't socialize, they adopt out to people with barns.

So I had 2 of their barn cats come to my barn. They brought them and set up 2 very large dog crates in my barn and told me I had to keep the cats in those cages for a minimum of a month, preferably 5 weeks.

They said the cats needed to become familiar with me, my dogs, my donkeys and our activities. Though I hated doing it, I did what they said and kept them in the cages for a little over a month. (It was early Spring, so plenty warm). That was over 5 years ago ... and one of them is till living in my barn. The other was here for about a year and then was gone. Hopefully to one of the other barns in the neighborhood!

So the idea of putting the kitten in the cage in the barn, when it gets warmer, is a good idea.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 7:11PM
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I am the original poster, and although I mentioned I would update the progress from last year, I never did, so I will now--------!

I followed all the advice given here and elsewhere on how to integrate my new cat with the three older barn cats and at first thought it was all on track. But even after two weeks, two of the three barn cats was still chasing the new cat. The barn is not very big and the area they spend most of their time in, the upstairs hay loft, just did not give her many places away from two cats (and sometimes the 3rd) to hide. After two weeks it seemed worse than it had been initially so I finally couldn't take it any more and moved her back down to the house. I just was afraid that even with extra food set out in different areas as well as litter boxes, I worried she would not get a chance to eat, drink or use the box when she had three cats chasing her when they felt like it.

This was back in Oct. The elderly house cat I mentioned was not happy at all, but he seems to have settled down and though never will be "friends" with her, has finally seemed to just tolerate her. The one thing is, she tries to stay out of his way and does not challenge him so that I think makes me feel better since he is now 19 years old and seems like a little old man! She seems pretty happy in the house, and when the weather was nice I let her go out into the garden, so that all has been working out quite well.

Thank you again for all the help given to me last year. I must admit, a year ago I did not think things would have turned out as they did. I really thought the barn cats would have been more accepting and the elderly house cat less but it was just the opposite.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2015 at 9:43PM
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' I really thought the barn cats would have been more accepting and the elderly house cat less but it was just the opposite.'

They knew that's what you thought.

That's why they did the opposite.

They're cats.

glad you chimed in with the update, & bless you for taking care of this little one!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2015 at 10:34PM
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What a sweet story with a happy ending!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2015 at 10:46PM
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Thank you for updating!

And thank you for taking into consideration the needs of all your kitties.

And what sylviatexas said.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2015 at 11:07PM
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Sylvia, funny and true!

Catt, I really enjoyed your update. Glad it worked out.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2015 at 9:39AM
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Sylvia, funny and true!

Catt, I really enjoyed your update. Glad it worked out.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2015 at 9:41AM
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spedigrees z4VT

I'm so glad to hear that this story had a surprise ending, and a happy one! Cats' behavior is difficult to predict! Bless you for taking in this starved little critter, catt1 1!

    Bookmark   January 4, 2015 at 5:34PM
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