Do stray cats stand a chance at the shelter?

kittensJune 22, 2011

I have 2 stray cats in my neighborhood. One had been outside for probably 4 years now. She's somehow managing to keep warm and survive through our tough NY winters. She's not causing any problems. She doesn't come close to my house, spray or fight with my indoor/outdoor kitty. She was definitely someone's pet because she wasn't too skittish when she first started coming around.

Now we have a second cat that seems totally feral. He's causing problems. He's sprayed in my neighbors garage and hangs around close to our houses. I don't want him near my house because 2 of my cats hang out in their kennel most of the day/evening. He howls all the time so I assume from that he might not be fixed (can't get close enough to tell).

We happened to be going by the shelter today so I stopped in. I asked the lady what their policy was on the strays. She said they let them settle in for a few days and then evaluate them; it wasn't a sure death sentence. The shelter looks tended to. The cats have plastic guards in front of them so people can't pass germs from cat to cat. (You have to take it into a meeting room to pet it). It wasn't overly crowded. They just did a Pet Palooza and the news said they adopted out over 400 animals and over 100 pending adoptions :)

Over the winter we had a 3rd stray show up. I was able to catch it. Because it hadn't gone into a feral state I was able to get a rescue lady to foster it. I honestly don't think I can find a place other than the shelter for this new boy cat. Do you think he's going to stand a chance at the shelter? Doesn't it take quite a bit of time for them to come around?

And what about the female. Is she better off here outside? They did have a cat marked 'stray' at the shelter. It was very scared and surely would get passed over because of that. She hasn't left our area all this time so must have found a warm place to snuggle in. I don't know if the neighbors put food out for her but she definitely doesn't look hungry. I feel awful for her because she doesn't have a home but I don't know if she'd make it through the shelter screening. Thoughts?

On a completely different side note - boy did they have some big cats at the shelter! Cats on steroids!!! One of them was in a medium sized dog bed and was hanging out of the sides. I've never seen so many huge cats at once - all adorable! There was a mom and daughter picking out a kitten and another woman in the getting-to-know area with a pit/pit mix looking dog. Right in the middle of the week - that was nice to see.

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Please try to find a rescue. I do know there are rescues for ferals but they are far and few between I think. I also have heard of rescues that rehome ferals onto farms and places with barns. Thanks so much for your compassion and good luck!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 10:27AM
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I'm trying! I posted an ad on our busy craigslist message board for a plea for help. The only response I had was a woman saying that the shelter will send them into foster care. The shelter didn't mention that as an alternative. I only had one response over the winter for the 3rd cat and they lady would not take it if I wasn't able to pet him. The message board is overloaded with pets needing homes.

I'm trying to trap them this week while I'm on vacation so they don't sit in a cage for very long. I don't have any place for them temporarily nor do I want to uncage a feral. It's been raining so I haven't yet been able to keep the food bowl dry long enough to catch one.

What do you think about the female? Do you think I should leave her out there? She's not bothering anyone. It just seems like with a little work she'd be a delightful house pet. I hate to see her in the winter as much as I hate the thought of bringing her to the shelter (which is why she's been here so long).

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 11:22AM
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Are you sure the female is a stray? We have a couple of cats that come thru quite often, are skittish around us, and I'm surprised they survive the coyotes, but I know they're owned by another neighbor down the road. They live in her barn and also have a tree house to go to when they need to escape something.

For the male cat, I don't think he stands much of a chance at the shelter and the stress of being caged will be even worse on him. If you really want to help him, trap him and have him neutered and checked for disease.....then release him. Often, once caught and evaluated by the vet it's not uncommon to find out a feral is a sweet, affectionate cat. Just being outdoors can make a former pet appear to be wild and feral.
Neutering may not resolve all his unwanted behaviors but I think you'll see a huge improvement.

Personally, I would only trap the female to have the vet check if she's spayed. I think you'd be seeing more kittens/cats if she wasn't spayed, but first, try to confirm she's a stray vs a roaming pet.
I used to own a Siamese that would disappear for days. Then on Halloween distant neighbors stopping by with their kids would say, "oh, that's your cat! He stays with us often!" That was a few decades ago........before neutering/spaying was ever considered, especially in small towns. I don't think he would have strayed so far if I'd had him neutered.

Try covering your trap with cardboard and a small tarp or plastic garbage bag to keep the food bowl dry. Also, use only canned food or tuna to entice him into the cage.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 12:27PM
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Keep looking for a rescue group that deals with feral cats, ask your veterinarian ... or call other veterinarians.

I have a barn cat I got from a local feral cat rescue group, they tried to socialize her but were unable to, she's spayed and had her shots.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 12:38PM
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Your best bet for the male is to ask around at horse barns and message boards for horses. Lots of barn owners maintain barn cats. I'd make sure he was neutered before letting them have him because if you manage to trap him once, he might be smart enough to not get trapped again. Trap him, neuter him, and then release him at your chosen barn.

If you haven't seen the female prgnant or with kittens it's possible that she's actually owned and not stray. Take a pic of her and post it around the neighborhood to see if anyone owns her before trying to do anything with her.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 3:28PM
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I will double-check with my neighbors but I've never ever seen her at someone's house. She's a long-haired cat and is looking really, really ratty now. She was probably spayed before being abandoned. We've never ever seen kittens (maybe 'she's' really a 'he'). My family lives all down the woods line where she seems to live. So, if she isn't reproducing, do you think that it's any different than a trap/release program?

I called a 'rescue' lady today. She's full, has 38 cats and 2 dogs.... She suggested neutering the male and releasing him back in my yard. She even offered the $200 fee for that (nice) but 38 cats? I don't want him here, anyway.

I'll keep begging and see if I can come up with some kind of acceptable situation. It's tough around here, we are overpopulated with strays. Once I get the male trapped I might be able to get a better determination on how feral he is. I hate having to do people's dirty work.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 4:08PM
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Oh, and that's funny Annz about sharing your Siamese cat with the neighbors! You were probably worried about him when he was gone for a stretch and he was actually living a double-life!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 4:12PM
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Hey everybody - I'm getting some limited help from a reputable rescue. The group is offering to spay/neuter/shots and FIV/L both the cats. They do not have room for either of them. I'm back to the same situation because she's asking me to release them again here. She can provide me a feral house. I told her I'd definitely take the female back and asked her to please, please, please put her on a waiting list for foster/rehab. I'm not too sure about the feral house though because we have wildlife here. Thoughts on that?

I asked her about a barn for the boy. She said they are reserving barns for hoarding situations. Can you think of anywhere else I could try to place the boy?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 9:19AM
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The ASPCA is a no kill shelter

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 12:28PM
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murraysmom Zone 6 OH

Please leave the female alone if you haven't seen any sign of kittens. I have a strictly outdoor cat that I inherited - 3rd neighbor to take care of her. She stays around my house, but I have seen her out and about. I tried to bring her in and she would not have any of it. She has been an outside cat for at least 12 years. She has shelter, food and water and is very affectionate with me. I would hate to think that someone might try to trap her.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 7:20PM
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I have a progress update. I'm working on catching the male. He's being fed in the trap with the door not set to trigger so he gets used to going inside. He had 2 meals yesterday and I just put out his breakfast this morning. I hope he's the one eating it and not the neighbor's cat! He's got an appointment on Thursday for the works if I can get him contained Wednesday night.

I've gotten a response to an ad begging for a home for him. If the lady is all she says she is, he'll have a really nice home. She's open to keeping him in her shed as a mouser cat if he won't convert to a house kitty. She's got no other cats (4 dogs) so if he's positive for FL/V that won't jeopardize her animals. The rescue lady gave me a couple of numbers to call to make sure she isn't on a "do not adopt list". She lives a distance from me so I will be delivering him and see where he is going.

Once I get him taken care of I will walk the neighborhood to make sure no one owns the female. If not, I'm leaning toward having her vetted and putting her back in place. We had an incident over the fall with what I think was a rabied animal in the woods. I would like for her to get a rabies shot if nothing else.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 11:05AM
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Murraysmom, have you considered microchipping her? That way, if she does get trapped, at least there's a better shot of getting her back.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 2:52PM
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I would have concerns about the male going to a home where there are 4 dogs. If they're inside dogs, I don't see the cat adjusting easily to inside living. And if they're outside dogs he won't be hanging around a shed very long.

If this woman is your only interested person, I'd made a drive without the cat and check her out. If you were to arrive with the cat you may find she is the type to try to talk you into leaving the cat. If you're not happy with the setup, it'll be much easier to just get in your empty car and leave.

If the vet thinks he's truly a feral, then keep searching for local horse barns and post on the bulletin boards at feed stores.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 2:35AM
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My sister has had 2 cats for several years since trapping them as feral kittens. She saw them hanging around dumpsters near her WV mountain/weekend place. It was getting into October, snow not to far in the future, and she suspected their odds of survival were not that great. She caught 3 in have-a-heart traps. One was really sick and couldn't be saved. She got other 2 (females) checked out by vet... spayed, shots, etc. Also apparently got excellent advice on how to change them from feral to lap cats.

June, my first cat after years of big dogs, came from local animal shelter. She was labeled a "stray" and kinda adopted ME. I don't know how long shelter is able to keep cats... sad to think about.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 10:08AM
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Good news and bad news!

The bad news is there are a lot of nut-jobs out there in the animal world. I don't envy the rescue people having to place these animals. I was just about ready to throw in the towel and bring him to the shelter. (I realized I could not keep him in a box and watch him trying to fend the elements through our harsh winters).

The male cat (now named Gallagher! for his clinic papers) is not going with the woman with 4 dogs. No way. I have only one other interested party (the pet board has over 100 re-homing ads between just yesterday and today), it's next to impossible for a stray. The rescue lady found her family photo album on line and she looks like a wonderful person. She's checking with her husband and sounded willing to take him and work with him.

But, the best news is I have secured him with a friend who is a wonderful cat lover should this fall through. Thank goodness. He's a little resistant because his female is aggressive but he's willing to try it out. He loves the cat's name - I'm so glad I didn't name him Morris! So, either way he's going to be safe and loved.

Does anyone know if these discount clinics have a shot they would give Gallagher to reduce his spraying until those hormones subside?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 8:41PM
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I just wanted to update what happened to 'Gallagher' the male stray. He just got neutered today and tested negative for FEL/V. The vet estimated that he was about 5 years old! He looked much younger from a distance. (He's been making orange kittens for a very long time)! He was too feral to place in a home (without oodles and oodles of work). The rescue lady was able to find him a really nice barn to live in with 3 of her other cats going to the same location. There is a care-taker at the barn 6 days a week and she feeds both dry and wet food. He has a loft to sleep in if he wants to be alone. It's a working farm and they have a very good reputation. I think he'll be happy there; no more scrounging for meals and a warm place to sleep at night.

I also wanted to post a 5 minute video I watched last night from a cat rescue in California. This lady has assisted thousands of cats and has about 700 living on her property along with a few dogs and goats! It's a sight to see - I hope you enjoy!

Here is a link that might be useful: The Cat House on the Kings

    Bookmark   July 13, 2011 at 10:49PM
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So glad to hear the wonderful news! Boy was he lucky you found him. It is horrible out there for these guys. Thank you for saving him!
Any updates on the female stray? Will they take her in as well?

thanks again for having such a big heart!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2011 at 10:57AM
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No, I don't think they will take the stray female at this point. If they contact me to let me know they have a spot for her I will take it from there. We were really lucky for the barn for Gallagher. (Apparently they get filled up quickly when they rescue from hoarding situations). This woman had called for barn cats just at the right time. She was willing to take 4 so the rescue reserved a place for him.

I've been going round and round about what to do with her while just focusing on getting the boy trapped. Some are saying to get her and others are saying to leave her in place. After the vet's assessment about Gallagher's temperament, I doubt she would convert over to a house pet without major rehabilitation. I talked up Gallagher like you couldn't believe (he is adorable) and still couldn't get him placed. The female is pretty ratty looking because she's got long fur. I know I don't want to be the one take her to the shelter after seeing Gallagher's behavior in the cage. She wouldn't make it. It's heartbreaking knowing she's out there on those cold winter nights.

Does anyone do feral outside cats? If I put a house out in the woods for her, do you think she'd find it?

    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 12:48AM
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You said she only recently became "ratty" looking? Maybe she was recently dumped, and is freaked out with fear.

I have a friend who cares for a cat in a similar situation. Was surely someones pet at one time, but got dumped and became fearfuland skittish. Since she has been feeding and providing shelter for him, he has thrived.
Begin by feeding her in a safe place, and provide shelter from the weather near the food. There are many inexpensive ways to make shelters- tarps combined with styrofoam coolers connected together. Keeps warm in the winter and cool in the summer. There are also heat packs you can put in the microwave for a few seconds that will stay warm for 12-15 hours (sold on amazon). Once she gets used to human scent again, she will be much less fearful. It shouldnt take long to remember that people arent bad.

Thanks again for trying to help her. I am in the group of people who believe unless she is someones pet, she needs to be rescued/supported.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 8:59AM
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In your original post you said "She was definitely someone's pet because she wasn't too skittish when she first started coming around". Based on that statement I would think she'd make more of a pet than the male and should be easier to place.
But, if you think placing her is a long shot, I think you should still trap her and have her evaluated and checked by the vet, especially since she looks ratty. Besides being painful, matted fur can cause health problem so if you're going to keep her as a feral, make sure she's healthy to start with.

The rescue group I worked with used dog igloos for their feral cats, but I don't think they'll hold heat very well with your winters. The enclosures were filled with straw which holds body heat very well in the winter, and placed in areas the cats hung out. Check your CraigsList for dog houses and then insulate them with foam panels from a big box store. Reduce the size of the entrance and, if you have predators in the area, you may want to make a second opening in another part of the house so the cat can escape if an animal enters. Flaps can be added to the openings to keep out wind, rain, snow. If you live in an area that gets lots of snow, you'll also need to elevate the house and provide access.

Below are a couple links with info. Google 'feral cat shelters' for more...

This site has some pics of shelters, and links to other designs.

Here is a link that might be useful: shelter info

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 1:02PM
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We have been taking care of ferals for years, at least 10 years..Presently, we have a mother and her daughter, we did have the son, but like true ferals, if they get sick, they will go off to die..And about a month ago, a fully intact mail decided to live with us...He's very feral and is going to be a challenge to get neutered....With the other 2, we got help through Ally Cats and our local Humane society and were able to trap/spay/neuter and then release....It's a wonderful program with lots of good information....Our winters in SW. Pa., aren't severe, but it does get nasty and we do worry about them...We do have an igloo but they preferred the frame from an old TV console...My husband made sure it was insulated and then we use, what is called, a Snuggle Safe....Looks like a frisbee and you heat it in the Micro and put it under a blanket and it stays warm for up to 15 hours...Our ferals have become pretty tame, but not tame enough to bring inside...The mother is now 13 years old and it's taken years for me to be able to pick her up...Both of them loved to be petted and loved.....
AND, just today, a sweet little gray striped female wondered onto the patio and decided, this was her home..She very friendly, loves to sit on your lap and is litter trained..I've asked all the neighbors and we're now thinking she's been dumped...So, she's spending the night in my laundry room and tomorrow, I'll put a sign in the Post Office...Of course my 2 inside cats are not too happy and hubby keeps saying, we're not keeping her but.......
Good luck with your fur kids and bless you for having such a big heart.....

    Bookmark   July 17, 2011 at 9:42PM
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We have a feral colony. We're in Michigan, so we do get really cold winters. What the rescue I volunteer with mostly uses are styrofoam boxes hospitals use to ship medication in, because we have a reasonably steady supply. The styrofoam boxes that aquariums come in or a cooler will work as well, and then you line it with bubble wrapped mylar insulation taped in with aluminum tape (or just mylar- you do have to cover the foam or they'll scratch it). The aluminum HVAC tape will last forever and really bonds with anything.

Have you googled to see if there's a feral cat organization in your area that can guide you?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 12:25AM
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murraysmom Zone 6 OH

I set my outside girl up with a clean covered litter box lined with towels and a sheepskin type rug. I wrapped the whole thing with a mover's quilt and made a sort of igloo entrance. It sits on my front porch facing away from any wind, rain or snow.

Since she is on my porch, it is easy to feed her and give her fresh water a few times a day.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 7:31PM
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Thank you. I am going to have to read through all the information and call the rescue again that helped with the male cat. They said they would provide me with a house but they wanted me to feed her. I really don't want to do that because I have wildlife in the woods area and don't want to attract anything. By wildlife I mean something chased me from the woods a few months ago, probably something with rabies. So, no way am I going out there with food everyday. Even when I'm out there during the day now, I'm nervous any my next-door neighbor has small boys. I don't want to start feeding her by my house because that's just going to make issues with my cats that hang out in their pen.

I looked at a couple of sites and they are recommending to use a solar pool cover for warmth over the house. I'm in NY, cocontom so I get the cold winters, too. I don't know if she'll find/hang out in the house with no food, though.

I guess either way I'll have to trap her and get her vetted now that annz brought up that she might have hair matting. I really don't want to vet these strays. If she went in for a spay (which I really think she's fixed) through the rescue welfare program would they take the extra step to shave her matting if it's bad?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 10:31PM
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