to catch a feral litter....

cheryl_pJune 21, 2011

Ok, voice of experience needed: I found out today there is a litter of kittens under my deck. I heard from a neighbor that there was 2 small kittens playing behind his shed and thought that I would look into it more... well, this morning a tuxedo cat was just sitting in the middle of the deck watching the "goings-on" of my household thru the sliding screen. I went around to the side door to get to the deck and gently get her to move (you'll hear why next) and low and behold she slips under the deck. Now I have a very sweet dog (ready? - rat terrier) that has been going outside over the deck into the fenced yard many times a day and sometimes stays out playing for an hour. How did this occupation of kittens occur? We were out of town for 4 days - did mom move them in at that time? The dog still went out but was very curious about the path the cat took under the deck. I took the dog in real soon without a big hubub. Half hour later I kneeled over edge of the deck and meowed. One little black kitten came right out and I expected to see the other reported black kitten but a white and grey paw jutted out then a perky little grey/wh head and chest. But then quick went back in. I spoke to the little black but did not touch him/her. It went back under. They have not come out again but I can call and one of the black ones again answered my mew and came to within view. I don't know cats very well (have 2 adult females) and so don't know ages. They walk fine but still have a buggeyed look. Someone (mom?) has eaten canned food each time I put a tablespoon or so out today. I will leave alot of dry out tonight. I have called a rescue and they will look for a foster if I can catch them. I should try to give them human contact more. How? Believe it or not, I have a couple people already thinking they might adopt one.

How has this unfolded for any of you? I welcome & will use all pointers and advice of course! Thanks.

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We have a feral cat Baby. Before we were able to get her spayed, we captured 3 litters of her kittens. We used a trap cage and canned mackerel. Boy it stinks to me but they love it.

The earlier you get the kittens the better they will be with people. You can buy a trap or hopefully the rescue group can lend you a trap for a few days. Are the kittens weaned or close to it? Thats when you want to get them. In the meantime try to have contact with them as much as you can.

After you get all the kittens, the most important thing is to capture the mother and have her spayed, or this will be a repeating event for you. I had an appointment for Baby after her 2nd litter but the vet said it looked like she had an upper resp. infection and wouldn't do it. It took 9 months and another litter of kittens until we could catch her again. (The kittens fell for the trap easily, momma knew after one time not to go in there.) If you can't afford to get her spayed ask if the rescue group can help you, or if you have a local Humane Society see if they have a TNR program. Otherwise the best thing is to have her put down. Ferals run rampant and can be a real problem in many communities. We were lucky to be able to capture and neuter the male (he died a few yrs ago) and female near our house, some kook on the next street was feeding a large colony, none were neutered. Please do not add to this problem by letting her continue to have litter after litter. Baby is now about 6 yrs old and may be the most spoiled feral cat ever. She is fed twice a day, has fresh water and a house with a heater in the winter months. We still can't touch or get closer than 3 feet to her.

Another tip is not to leave food out overnight, you can get other critters that may bother momma & kittens. Try putting food out for momma for an hour or so when your dog is inside. We started feeding at the same time every day & momma cat learned mealtimes quickly. If the momma cat is not feral but a stray, your work will be a lot easier, she may not be as scared to come to you.

Good luck, I'm sure others will have suggestions for you. Thank you for helping them.

Here is a link that might be useful: AlleyCatAllies

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 9:58AM
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Been there ... a cat showed up and was living in my barn, a couple of years ago. It wasn't feral, but skittish ... I assumed it was a pet someone dropped off in the country. I had enough housecats at the time, and this cat seemed happy in the barn ....

Until one day I saw her with her new kittens ... 4 little balls of long-haired beauty. I tried to befriend the kittens, Momma had taught them well though and there were so many places to hide in the hay section of the barn.

So I begged and borrowed 5 hava-heart traps. Found a place I could take them for a low-cost spay/neuter, and timed it so it would all work out good for me. Of course that was the night Momma had already taken them up the hill to the neighbors barn!

I realized the next morning that they were gone. So I removed the traps, knowing she usually came back in a day or 2 and I wanted her to stick around. The following night I heard some pretty loud/bad screeches/cries in my neighbors hay field and could only imagine that I had been too late and those gorgeous little kittens became someone's meal!

Was really happy to see the 4 fuzzballs and Momma back in the barn the following morning, so got the traps out and set again. Took a couple of days to catch all of them ... had one kitten that was very stubborn, but he eventually got really hungry so I was able to catch him.

I had a big dog crate all set up and waiting for them in an extra bedroom in the house, and finally had the whole family together. Got them all spayed/neutered, found homes for 3 of the kittens, kept one kitten since he fell in love with my 20 lb male cat, and put Momma back outside after she healed. She kept coming to the back door, so one day I opened the door and told her if she was coming in, she was staying in ... so that's why I now have 4 house cats!

It takes planning, but you can catch them. And agree with the comment above that the kittens need to be weaned.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 12:32PM
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Alley Cat Allies has a roughly day to day progression so you can approximately tell how old they are.

We have a colony we just TNR'd, but we did end up with one last litter. Once we knew the kittens were 4 weeks old, we just grabbed them (our ferals are not super-feral). I would strongly suggest wearing gloves. It was traumatic for everyone, blood was drawn, but they got over it. It took one cat about two hours to decide that being a lap cat was a good gig, but one took a week. All three of them are just the sweetest little guys now, six weeks later.

When I took the TNR class offered by the rescue, I was told that the momma cat will bring the kittens to the food- and she did.

Here is a link that might be useful: Age Progression at Alley Cat Allies

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 12:58PM
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I should also add that we have a big tom cat that immediately took over caring for the babies, including nursing, so we were less concerned about weaning. It's not ideal, but we wanted to make sure they would be tame.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 1:02PM
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Thanks for all the advise. Yes, I have already promised the rescue that I will pay spaying costs for Mom. She has been around for a long time and seemed so darned socialized that I assumed she was "someones". So I have asked around and she is a stray but maybe I can catch her easier because shes somewhat social. The rescue will loan me a trap. Today I was surprised to hear loud meowing/mewing. Looked out and saw Mom and the 3 babies which now that I've looked on the Alley Cat Allies site, may be 6-7 weeks old. I spoke through the window gently to Mom who stopped turned and listened to me. She then seemed to: return back in the direction of the deck thus leading the kittens back that way. Then I saw her take another route a little further from the window but again heading out of the yard. The kittens tried following her again but I lost sight of most of them. Then I heard an adult cat doing the low growl that my own cat does when she's warning someone to "LEAVE ME ALONE". Perhaps the kittens were not supposed to follow and Mom was making them stay back? Yikes, could she be pregnant again?! Or on her way......

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 4:13PM
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Get to the kittens as soon a s possible because with no human contact , after 7 weeks they are feral. I rescued my Henry and brother at 4 weeks..a little young but I had the opportunity then before mom moved them. He's five now, lovey and 21 pounds. My other rescue was not feral but a starving greasy horrible looking thing who was pregnant. I fed her and she went off to have three babies. I found them three weeks later, removed all of them to my bedroom and raised the babies. Two boy kittens were adopted to one family and I kept mom and daughter who are very sweet cats. But daughter is way more wary than her semi feral mom and she was raised in my house from three weeks old.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 4:28PM
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As long as they're under 4 months old, they're still able to be tamed. They won't be lap cats, and they'll probably only trust "their people" but they'll still be just fine as house pets. One of ours is like that (we have five permanent residents and the three foster kittens).

And yes, she's ready to get pregnant again. They're ready within a few weeks of giving birth.

You will need several more traps than cats- you DO NOT want them in the same trap. They panic, and it's really easy for kittens to get trampled. One of our ferals gave himself a bloody nose freaking out in the trap.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 7:06PM
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Agree with cocontom ... they certainly do freak out when trapped.

When I had Momma spayed, they told me she was already pregnant again, and it cost more to do the spay because of that. I wasn't sure if she really was, or it was just a scam to charge me more money.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 12:51PM
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The cat and kitten disappeared for 2 days and then returned for one night. I could see the kittens eating the food at twilight and then playing on my deck for an hour at midnight. I had not set up the trap due to the vet only doing rescue neutering/spaying 2 specific days of the week. Now that I am ready to set 2 traps, they have disappeared again with no signs of food being eaten or anything. Anyone know what might have occurred? I am still determined to help these cats if I can. I have informed nearby neighbors of what I am trying.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 8:01PM
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My female used to move her kittens to another barn for a couple of days ... and then come back for a couple of days ... they disappeared when i was ready to catch them too!

Hope they come back soon for you.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 12:49PM
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Update : After investigating all over the neighborhood, found the litter under another deck. Lady there had been feeding daily also. I set 2 live traps and caught Momma cat AND an opossum! Took momma in that morning for low cost spaying and shots. She frowned the whole time I had her convalesce in a large dog crate - I never saw a cat frown before, but I kid you not! A few times she would fling herself from one side to the other of crate. A little more than 24 hours later I released her. It was NOT sucessful using her as "bait" to catch her kittens and milk was EVERYWHERE so I really wanted her free. She took back up with her babies in a touching way as reported by the sponsoring, deck-owning lady. Three weeks later I was successful in catching the kittens. Two little blacks, female & male. Then 2 nights later during a drenching thunderstorm that delivered 3 inches water overnight, I was blessed with the last little guy, beautiful med. long haired light gray and white patches. All have been neutered and vetted. I was shocked that the vet said they were at least 12 weeks old (have canine teeth). So, I figured I had my work cut out trying to socialize three older feral kittens, but knew that I could TNR if I had to. At least they would not bring more babies into the world. Well, I have had them for a week and I did decide to release the one male. He was dominant AND black, since he showed no signs of softening up and in fact shoved the other two around, I made the oh-so-hard call of believing it would be hard to get him adopted and so released him near where I knew momma hangs out. My heart ached for the decision and still does but the very next morning the remaining two let me start piling the love on them!
I had been following the steps outlined for socialization of feral kittens by the Urban Cat League. Feeding only when I am there, closer and closer each day. Well, in 24 hours I could feed them from hand and pet them not just on neck, but nearly anywhere! They loved the petting so much they both drooled all over the place! They had jumped several days ahead of schedule. I must say though that I am spending a lot, a whole lot of time with them. I nap in the little room with them, read to them, and now play with them. Thankfully I am off work.
The last thing I am working on is picking them up. Neither one feels comfortable with it even though the one will crawl all over me when I am laying on the napping mat.
I cannot keep them because I have my cat limit but after only one week of their remarkable progress and seeing their relationship, I would love to place them in a home together. I hope that's not too unrealistic. They have different but loving and complimentary personalities. I see the black female has a couple spots of little bit of brownish- is that enough to be a tortie?
This has been an awesome experience even though hard on the nerves...I would love to hear any comments or suggestions? Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 11:19PM
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