Adopting feral cats for mouse control, help

CatsRit

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A few years ago I lost my most favorite cat, West, that was the best cat living in the woods, was indoor and out door cat and nothing never happened to him here as he died from old age at 20, he did hang out with our dogs. At the time we had a female lynx that had a den on our property for at least eight years. She eventually was poached. Well after we lost our most beloved cat and lots of construction going on around our property is infested with mice. My chicken coop and around our house all my perennial beds. They are everywhere. We chose to adopt a few feral cats to get rid of the mice. The state I live the feral cats are caught fixed and release in same area they are caught which could be not be the best environment. There are local people who try to catch feral or work with the agency to actually re-home these feral cats to better environments. I received two cats. Well one of them wasn't feral at all, but loved being here. My dog had seen him and he just hunkered down instead of running. Well that concerned me, not with my dog but from the other wild animals. My property of 14 acres has 6 acres of 10 foot fences plus another foot of barb wire, and cemented base. Lots of trees and shrubs, the person who brought me the cats thought it was a great place for them. The friendly cat did have a bad tumor removed from his head which did effect his eyes. I could tell something was strange with his eyes so I made an appointment with a vet to have him checked over. He disappeared only after three weeks, two days prior to his appointment. I was so sad as I do feel he should have been re-homed into an indoor environment as there was nothing feral about him but I am guessing due to medical problems wasn't a fit for this. I guess better than putting him down getting a second chance in the feral cat category. The female cat was diffidently feral. We have an enclosure area that has all our utilities for the well, etc. we put a cat door in and is heated and a very large area. We kept them locked up for two weeks, prior to letting them to roam our property. Well she was so feral it took me at least ten minutes to find her in there each day. I was able to feed her by spoon with wet cat food but that was about it. Mean while I received another feral cat that is currently in that room in a very large metal dog cage. I put toys etc in there and visit him all the time, but appears to be a kitten to me. I was told he is five months but is very feral. I have kept him in there going on three weeks now. He does let me feed can food by a spoon, but only lasts a few seconds, then he starts to hiss. My problem is the other cat I received, which is a female hasn't returned to the room for three days. Now I am freaking out that my property is to hazards for ferals. We do have lots of owls around, as have seen one hanging out on our property the last few days, I guessing a great horned owl. The female usually comes in everynight to eat, as I give her canned food as well. She has missed a night before but her not coming in for three nights in a row concerns me, it has been raining the last few days. She obviously has been hanging with my chickens as the mice are all gone. Now I have to consider if I should release the other cat that appears to be young. I have mixed feeling as I brought the cats in to due a job of killing mice and not a house cat. I am struggling what to do now. I feel it is mean to keep the young cat locked up but I don't want to keep feeding what ever is getting my cats.Just let him go and hope he can survive in this environment.
 

amethyst

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I have heard that great horned owls will eat cats if they catch them. Unfortunately the mice are probably what has attracted the owl to the property so not letting the cat out to prevent feeding it in hopes it will go away wont help. Since your old cat was indoor/outdoor did it come inside at night? That is what I did when I allowed my cats outside to roam, I would make sure they were all back inside come night time. If you can tame this kitten enough so it will come back inside at night, keep it inside during the night and just let it out to hunt during the day that might help it survive.
 
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CatsRit

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I have heard that great horned owls will eat cats if they catch them. Unfortunately the mice are probably what has attracted the owl to the property so not letting the cat out to prevent feeding it in hopes it will go away wont help. Since your old cat was indoor/outdoor did it come inside at night? That is what I did when I allowed my cats outside to roam, I would make sure they were all back inside come night time. If you can tame this kitten enough so it will come back inside at night, keep it inside during the night and just let it out to hunt during the day that might help it survive.
This is what really concerns me especially so young. The cat had gone thru a rehabor and was returned as not trainable. I can now clean the cage with out the cat going crazy and the cat will eat soft food from a spoon for a few seconds then backs away. The problem with feral cats they are 100% night active, which if release, will only feed in the room during the night and be gone all day, now way locking up at night. My other cat that did fine, was more active during the day outside and most times did come in at night. But on occasion in summer he did stay out all night if weather is great. I was told to release the cat after three weeks, but as I realize the other feral hasn't showed up during the night concerns me something might have happened to it. But again the rain might have her bunkered down somewhere on my property. I have a game cam set up so I know when she comes in and what time. Any suggestions on trying to train this little fellow?
 

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If it took you 10 minutes to find her in an enclosed area, it makes sense that you would never see her when she's loose. And if there are lots of mice, she might not need the food right now.

Great horned owls can theoretically kill larger cats, but they can't fly away with an adult cat and they usually strike in an open area, so you'd probably find the body. They don't usually go for large prey unless there's no small prey left though. They prefer mice and small birds. Same with eagles. And foxes usually aren't a threat either. Coyotes are the biggest threat to cats. Do you hear coyotes close by?
 

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I do have outdoor ferals but in a very different situation than you do. Coyotes are a clear and present danger here and I have found ferals killed by coyotes....or their remains. I have worked with dog and cat rescues and you are describing a very common occurrence and the thing that led me to leave a dog rescue group. It is the "something is better than nothing/go ahead and take a chance/maybe it will work out/at least we tried/you can't save them all" mentality. It sounds as if you were lead to believe that you would be receiving true ferals who would absolutely never become socialized (and I do have three of those here with me), but you actually received cats who might have a chance at being socialized.

This is really up to you and your circumstance. I certainly can't step in and tell you how bad I think your mouse population is or how dangerous the owls are. I sense that you feel bad about these cats who might have had a chance, especially the current one who is young and supposedly failed rehab. Personally, I would see what evolves with him. You can get a lot of help here with socializing a former feral.

The closest I can relate to your situation is that my last house was in the foothills in what is euphemistically called the "urban wildlife interface" which means that you might have coyotes and mountain lions in your back yard. My neighbor did try to bring cats in from a source he had to make them outdoor mousers and tbh a few of them did not survive the first night.
 
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CatsRit

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If it took you 10 minutes to find her in an enclosed area, it makes sense that you would never see her when she's loose. And if there are lots of mice, she might not need the food right now.

Great horned owls can theoretically kill larger cats, but they can't fly away with an adult cat and they usually strike in an open area, so you'd probably find the body. They don't usually go for large prey unless there's no small prey left though. They prefer mice and small birds. Same with eagles. And foxes usually aren't a threat either. Coyotes are the biggest threat to cats. Do you hear coyotes close by?
There are coyotes but they would have a hard time entering our property thru the fencing. I have been here sixteen years and they have never accessed my property. Have had lynx and a black bear will hybernate in dens on my lower property. The cat seemed to hang out at my chicken coop area which has lots of open out door storage next to it with high covered shelvings we store wood and pipes, etc. Usually coyotes do a loud celebration when they make a kill and haven't heard anything for a while. I seem to have a lot of owls lately tho. I just heard a grey owl at the same time the barred owl tonight. I heard the grey owl very close almost a screaming hoots sound but couldn't see it, very close by. The barred owl was doing the normal hooting as well. The cat that is missing didn't comeback last night as well, such a bummer. I would think my dogs would find the body if on my property. I will walk the property tomorrow with my dogs to see if they find anything. My german shephard is really good at smelling things.
 

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This is what really concerns me especially so young. The cat had gone thru a rehabor and was returned as not trainable. I can now clean the cage with out the cat going crazy and the cat will eat soft food from a spoon for a few seconds then backs away. The problem with feral cats they are 100% night active, which if release, will only feed in the room during the night and be gone all day, now way locking up at night. My other cat that did fine, was more active during the day outside and most times did come in at night. But on occasion in summer he did stay out all night if weather is great. I was told to release the cat after three weeks, but as I realize the other feral hasn't showed up during the night concerns me something might have happened to it. But again the rain might have her bunkered down somewhere on my property. I have a game cam set up so I know when she comes in and what time. Any suggestions on trying to train this little fellow?
I don't have much experience, but if the cat is a more tamed to the point of semi-feral it wont be hiding all day like a normal feral would. They hunt pretty much 100% at night because they are trying to avoid people, if you get him to know you he shouldn't feel the need to hide, unless you live in a busy neighborhood. I would keep the young cat inside longer then just 3 weeks, and try spending time with him to get him more use to you. Also try to just feed him at around the same time if you can so he learns a specific time is when food is put out. Similar idea to how people caring for feral colonies will often find the feral cats waiting when they arrive with food for them. I would also introduce him to your dogs, I have a former feral cat that loves my collie (I say he is really my collies cat because he is the only one who that cat shows any love for). If he really takes to one of the dogs that might also help encourage him to want to come in at night if the dogs come inside.

On another note, I did lose a cat to most likely a coyote a couple years ago, and it happened during the day without me or my dogs even noticing. I suspect a coyote since there was one hanging out near my house for a while after, likely looking for seconds. :( There was no noise I just found blood stains on the driveway. They seem to only howl and celebrate when it's a larger kill, like a deer, something they want to call the others to that they can't carry away to share. I've seen them hunting mice and birds on my property and they are silent about it.
 
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CatsRit

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Thank you for responding. I was thinking the same thing introducing my dogs to the cat. As our indoor cat is friends with my dogs. The indoor cat is to skits' to even thinking letting out. The young kitty I am working with is getting use to me but a long way of touching yet. I am currently planning on putting my game cam out by the chicken coop up high in the open storage area with can food. Just to make sure if she is gone or not. She could of gotten freaked out by my house and that maybe is why she is not coming back into the utility room at night. I guess I am being hopeful.
 
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CatsRit

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I do have outdoor ferals but in a very different situation than you do. Coyotes are a clear and present danger here and I have found ferals killed by coyotes....or their remains. I have worked with dog and cat rescues and you are describing a very common occurrence and the thing that led me to leave a dog rescue group. It is the "something is better than nothing/go ahead and take a chance/maybe it will work out/at least we tried/you can't save them all" mentality. It sounds as if you were lead to believe that you would be receiving true ferals who would absolutely never become socialized (and I do have three of those here with me), but you actually received cats who might have a chance at being socialized.

This is really up to you and your circumstance. I certainly can't step in and tell you how bad I think your mouse population is or how dangerous the owls are. I sense that you feel bad about these cats who might have had a chance, especially the current one who is young and supposedly failed rehab. Personally, I would see what evolves with him. You can get a lot of help here with socializing a former feral.

The closest I can relate to your situation is that my last house was in the foothills in what is euphemistically called the "urban wildlife interface" which means that you might have coyotes and mountain lions in your back yard. My neighbor did try to bring cats in from a source he had to make them outdoor mousers and tbh a few of them did not survive the first night.
Thankyou for responding. You pretty much summed it up. The first two cats, one was not feral but appeared to have issues from the tumor removed from his head, not sure why they selected him for me, lasted about three weeks, then gone. The second cat a female that is currently been missing was very feral, which I was hopping had the skills in the country. Our landscape is full of shrubs everywhere as well as trees. This cat could of came from the city, I do not know her background, but was told a year old. They brought me another cat when I told them the nice kitty is missing. They actually wanted to give me two more, as they prefer to do in pairs. I was reluctant since I lost the other one so quickly. Scares me now knowing my second cat has been missing the last few days. That is why I reached out as I didn't realize when adopting feral cats would start turning out like this. Never crossed my mind this could happen. I guess since I previously had an outdoor cat that did just fine before. So now I have this current kitten that is feral but fear for his safety on my property. I really don't want to make an indoor cat as currently I have two other males living in the house, one 16 years old Himalayan/Persian and the other a rescue, but tame. Third male cat will not work. Saw a pygmy owl hunting my garden area where the mice were everywhere, which seems to have helped alot getting rid of them. I notice the cats did help get rid of the mice at my chicken coop, which I was so excited about and then this happening with the cats going missing. Breaks my heart for thinking I was giving them a safe place and turns out not so safe. Training the wild little fellow seems will take time. This is all new to me working with a feral. I do feel bad keeping him confined, seem cruel as well.
 

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I live in a very urban setting, so as I said I cannot comment exactly on your type of property. However, I do think that you are dealing with a questionable rescue; probably not bad people who want to see cats be killed, but definitely with the "give it a try" mentality. In some cases, with rescues and shelters, they try to have a high "placement" rate. It happens here in LA county as well. Dog and cats are "placed" but sometimes in very questionable placements where harm come to them. But they brag about the fact that they "find homes" for them.

Do you think you can work with this cat and eventually find him a home? Or do you know people personally who might be able to help?

My old neighbor in the foothills brought cats from his sister's ranch in Texas, assuming wrongly that they "knew" how to be safe with wildlife around them.
 
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CatsRit

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Gosh I am truly struggling what to do. I just checked the game cam and there is a very fat cat on the photo not the cat I was hopping to see. That is all grey. This didn't help me at all what to do.
 

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CatsRit

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I moved my game cam into my husbands man cave large garage, with cat food just incase she is hiding there. Wish me luck finding her.
 

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:crossfingers: These situations are always difficult and unclear. I do with you the best and nothing you have done has caused it.
 
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CatsRit

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Every morning I clean out the cage, litter, food bowl and water dish. He just watches me and seemed okay with me reaching into his environment.After I put everything back, I was excited to see he felt comfortable to come out and eat his canned cat food and dry food in front of me as I always hang out and talk to him. I know this is little but to me a big step. I was happy to see how big he really is as most time he hides in his covered bed. Not sure where I am going with this process, but maybe can train to come in at night. My son suggested I let him out of the cage and let him roam the room. I just worry he will then hide every time I come in the room.
 

fionasmom

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You are right that this is really big, even if it seems small. He is starting to trust you, definitely. There is nothing wrong in theory with letting him out in a closed room. However, he will more than likely go under something and sit for a while. How big of an issue this might be is hard to judge. He may be happy to come out and see you the next time you bring food. If there are any very difficult to get into places in the room (for you if he were to hide there) you might block those off first.
 
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CatsRit

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You are right that this is really big, even if it seems small. He is starting to trust you, definitely. There is nothing wrong in theory with letting him out in a closed room. However, he will more than likely go under something and sit for a while. How big of an issue this might be is hard to judge. He may be happy to come out and see you the next time you bring food. If there are any very difficult to get into places in the room (for you if he were to hide there) you might block those off first.
The room has storage shelves all the way to the ceiling as well as cubards that have an opening in the back. Also pipes etc in other areas. This closing off is not feasible. We store all sorts of stuff out there for our house. Nothing dangerous. The last feral knocked things down but did hide extremely well. I am thinking this open area roam might hurt with getting to know him. I could be wrong tho. I also want to mention he is starting to do a very quite meow now which is new as well, as he was hissing before.
 

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You are the best judge of this. Once in a while there is a "cat in the ceiling or pipes" situation and it is not pleasant.
 
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CatsRit

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You are the best judge of this. Once in a while there is a "cat in the ceiling or pipes" situation and it is not pleasant.
The pipes go into the wall, servicing our well and pool. nothing that is dangerous, garden tools, canning stuff, etc.. There is an open hole on the floor for backflow water, so I guess a cat could fall in but would be able to get out. The ceiling is sealed no openings. Just alot of stuff in the shelves. Anyway thanks for helping. Like I stated before I am not sure where I am going with this kitty, as I am guessing now 6 months old. My son seems to think I can train to go out and come back at night. I am new to this and working with this last cat that now I have and I just don't feel comfortable letting out under the situation of the early cats disappearing on me.
 

fionasmom

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I agree with you being uncomfortable with letting him out. Please let us know how this plays out and what develops.
 
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