Advice on a mother and her kittens that showed up in the backyard

robcmusic

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Hello!

This is my first post here!!. I'm so glad that I found this community and I hope I can be part of you.

This question has been probably asked several times, but I'm still kinda lost figuring out what should I do. I consider myself a Catlover but I have no experience in feral or stray cats, so I'm looking for some advice and/or direction from the experts here.

I'm currently in my home country Chile visiting my family,
About 3 weeks ago, a cat mother and 3 kittens started showing up in my parent's backyard. We've been feeding them and taking care of them the best we can, but the mother has been getting more and more defensive and she won't let anyone of us get close to her, or the kittens.
The mum cat looks to me that she's maybe 1 year old or a little younger. And the kittens looks about 3 months old. A few weeks ago they were still drinking milk from their mum.

I'm afraid of the mother getting pregnant again, so we made an appointment with the local vet to neuter her next week. The problem is that we are figuring out how to catch her and the kittens. I watched several youtube videos on how to get them in a cage. But my biggest fear is that the mother is already feral, and will turn her kittens to also be feral. And my family and I are willing to take them all if there was a way to turn them into house cats. Or else, sadly, they will all become street cats. There's also the problem that when the kittens start getting older, they will also probably start having babies unless we can catch them all and neuter them.

I would greatly appreciate any advice on how to correctly catch them all, especially the mother. And also advice on how to make them socialize with people and hopefully turn them into house cats. The mother might be a lost cause because she's older, but I have high hopes for the kittens!!.
I would really appreciate it if you know or can direct me to someone that has experience with these issues. I have some pictures and a short video that I can share as an example of what we are dealing with.

I'm a beginner in all this, so sorry if I'm not using the correct terms. I'd like to take this chance to also educate myself on all cat topics!

Thank you so much in advance! and I'm looking forward to your replies.
 

Furballsmom

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Hi! Welcome to the site!!
I'm a beginner in all this, so sorry if I'm not using the correct terms.
You're doing fantastically :heartshape:

There are members here with your exact situation and they've been able to not only catch all of the little family but were able to bring them inside. Hopefully they'll see your thread very soon.

You'll need super stinky food that will entice mom cat and kittens into a cage, and otherwise time and patience. If you can only catch mom first that's ok, but optionally, can you start getting them to feed inside an enclosed space like a car garage or shed? Another option might be a net for the kittens, but be sure and have thick gloves and other protective clothing on.

These two articles may have a little information for you

Trapping Feral Cats In Japan – TheCatSite Articles
Handling Feral Cats – TheCatSite Articles
When To Spay Or Neuter A Cat? – TheCatSite Articles

Regarding once you have them inside, again lots of patience is needed. Avoid direct eye contact as that can seem aggressive to a cat. Low volume classical harp music can be surprisingly effective in calming cats, and sitting on the floor with them, talking, reading out loud, working on your computer over time will show them that you are safe, not a predator and are actually a giver of good things :)
 
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robcmusic

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Hi! Welcome to the site!!

You're doing fantastically :heartshape:

There are members here with your exact situation and they've been able to not only catch all of the little family but were able to bring them inside. Hopefully they'll see your thread very soon.

You'll need super stinky food that will entice mom cat and kittens into a cage, and otherwise time and patience. If you can only catch mom first that's ok, but optionally, can you start getting them to feed inside an enclosed space like a car garage or shed? Another option might be a net for the kittens, but be sure and have thick gloves and other protective clothing on.

These two articles may have a little information for you

Trapping Feral Cats In Japan – TheCatSite Articles
Handling Feral Cats – TheCatSite Articles
When To Spay Or Neuter A Cat? – TheCatSite Articles

Regarding once you have them inside, again lots of patience is needed. Avoid direct eye contact as that can seem aggressive to a cat. Low volume classical harp music can be surprisingly effective in calming cats, and sitting on the floor with them, talking, reading out loud, working on your computer over time will show them that you are safe, not a predator and are actually a giver of good things :)
Thank you so much! those articles are really helpful :)
 

fionasmom

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Three months old is not out of the question to domesticate the kittens even if the mother remains a committed feral. The idea that cats older than 8 weeks cannot be made into pets is usually wrong. I currently have to calico girls, one is my avatar, who were adopted from a completely feral mother and father. Both were TNRed, wild crazy and now deceased because of a coyote. By the time I got to the girls who were TNRed as kittens but released due to circumstances at the time, they were approaching 2 years old. Both have turned into the most incredible lap cats. If you can take the kittens and work with them, especially in the house, you have a good chance of domesticating them. If you do get them, there are steps that you can follow once you have them that a lot of people here can help you with.

If the mom is a lost cause and cannot be tamed, congratulate yourself on getting her fixed and improving her life greatly in that way.
 

Jcatbird

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No cat of any age is a lost cause in my experience. Older ones can take more time but some will surprise you too. Having kittens gives you an advantage with taming the mom. As she sees you interact with the kittens she will understand that you are not a threat. I have taken in ferals of all ages and my eldest Tom was one I was unsure of as you are with the mom. He turned out to be the biggest lover of all. That is a very good mum! That’s a good sign! She has strong devotion to her babies. That can also work to help you socialize her.
First let’s address catching them. We can work on the socializing aspect after you get them.
If you have a safe cat trap you can use that but you need to get mum and babies. I always start by trying to feed in the trap or even in a cat carrier or cage for awhile first. Let Mum and babies trust that place for feeding so that all go inside to eat together. That way, when you need to get them, you get them all at once which makes life easier and safer for all. A trap that you can trigger might be easier too. Some can be shut by pulling a string to release the spring. I had one that had a door that I put a water bottle in and I tied a string to the water bottle. When all were inside, I snatched the water bottle out and the door fell shut. If I used a carrier I put it under a tarp and let the cats get used to me sitting outside of it at feeding. Finally, when they trusted that, I could reach over and shut the door quickly and fasten it. That made it so I got them all at once. Giving especially good food that takes time to eat and keeps them very deeply interested in it is a good thing to use on the days you want to trap. Here, I would use Gerber 2nd foods all meat baby food because it takes time to lick it up and they want every morsel. Anything that takes time to eat but is yummy to them will help. Right now don’t pursue mum but if you can, sit on the ground nearby while they eat. Or lay belly up nearby. Laying shows you are not pursuing or a threat. If mum is totally upset and will not even let you be near during feeding them you will not have long to change her opinion before the spay appointment. If that is the case you may just need to feed in the trap and let them learn to trust that for now.
When you trap them you can expect mu to be upset. Do not let that dissuade you from socializing her or babies! That will just be normal behavior for her. This all takes time and patience.
I would plan now to have a small room like a bathroom treasure for her and the babies to start the socializing. Take out any chemicals or anything that can hurt them. If a bathroom won’t be available, a small bedroom. Keep in mind that they will be scared at first and want to hide. Try to block off places where you cannot get to them if needed. Give them a large box or even a cage that is covered with a blanket to hide in. I used large dog crates or cages if my bathroom had other kitties in it. Below are some photos of ferals caught. None were young kittens and a couple were several years old but all are very sweet and loving as well as appreciative of being safe and loved. The rewards for rescuing kitties are huge. Any effort put forth is well worth it. Thank you for caring so much about these kitties. We welcome you here and will be around to help you through the process. The sooner you can trap them, spay and neuter ,the better. Thank you and welcome to the Catsite! :welcomesign::clap2::goldstar:

This old Tom was the most feral male but a gentle giant now.
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He loves cuddling with the other cats and humans.
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He is quite socialized now.
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This older female had kittens when I caught her. She was very protective and sounds a lot like the mum you have there. She learned trust from her kittens and will quickly come to me for affection.
BCD0CEB7-1BBA-487A-8B34-5C8A92466FEA.jpeg

Here she is with the older male.
9EF42CC4-03C4-46BF-A6AF-3655C0AD1398.jpeg

The cat on the right was caught long after I caught the male on the left but she is mum to him. When I caught her she had another litter but she socialized and remained bonded to the son after being reunited with him. Both are in my lap. The son was giving his mom affectionate licks. Don’t give up!
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Carolina SA

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We had a similar situation - the two kittens now live with me indoors, and their Mama lives next door with my parents as an outdoor cat. Though she is affectionate and much loved by us, she is not happy inside a house...that's fine. We had her sterilized when the kittens were not even 4 months old and the vet said she was already pregnant :(
There should be an animal shelter near you that you find on facebook probably a private home run animal shelter like those where I live, they will have suggestions for trapping. They may even have a trap you can borrow or be willing to help you.

Once you manage to trap them and get them sterilized they'll make wonderful pets with patience. Between my family and my parents next door we have 6 cats we trapped, sterilized and kept! The 2 kittens that the Mama cat had in our garage didn't need trapping they simply moved into my house ;)
 
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robcmusic

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Hello. thank you so much for all your feedback. All your cats are beautiful.

We've been taking care of the 4 cats during all this time. I'm attaching some pictures, they are beautiful.

Over the past few days, we've been keeping them in a small room, and feeding them. The 3 kids have been getting used to it and they have been playing and all. They still run and hide whenever they hear someone but I feel we are making some progress here.

But the mother has been a real problem. She's been looking depressed, not eating, making noises, and screaming in the middle of the night. I don't know if she's been in pain, she just feels too trapped or if she's in heat.
We had an appointment with the vet today. They were supposed to check her out and do the neuter surgery. We managed to trick her into getting in the cage again and took her to the vet appointment. But to my disappointment, they told us that they couldn't take her because she was too "wild" and that she needed to be more "domesticated". They didn't tell us anything about that on the phone despite telling them all the story.

So I'm now heartbroken that the vet wouldn't take her. The cat got extremely stressed because of all this. And she's not neutered or with any treatment against fleas or any parasites that she could have. And at this point getting another Vet appointment somewhere else won't be possible for the next few weeks or even months.

This is my family's house, and they are sick of all this. It's been super stressful for everyone trying to help all these cats. At least they are willing to take the 3 kids and try to domesticate them. But, as for the mother. They just want to free her in the backyard again and leave her to her own luck. She's suffering and we are all suffering because of this. It's not my house and I don't have much saying overall, but I'm inclined to do the same. The poor mother won't be neutered and will go away to have more kittens or probably go die somewhere if she's sick but at least she will be free.

I feel terrible about the mother. And I tried to contact several local places to get advice and I never got any response from anyone. I only got replies from some people outside the country like you guys. So I thank you all because of that.
Today after getting rejected at the vet, finally a local cat rescue foundation in this city replied to me. They told me I should have never tried to trap a feral cat without the special cage, and that a lot of the local vets don’t know the protocols to do TNR, and that I’m doing animal abuse. And that I also should have informed myself better before attempting to do anything. Well, that makes me feel even worse. Especially because since the beginning I’ve been sending messages and emails to every cat rescue people I could find in this city and never got a reply from anyone.

The only replies I ever got when asking for advice were from Kitten Rescue from LA, and you guys on this forum. So I appreciate you all a lot!.
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fionasmom

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Not exactly in agreement with what the rescue told you. Okay....if you had been able to use a trap most vets give a sedative shot by just tipping the trap over and making the cat fall against the side. Some vets will do the same with a carrier and I get the feeling that your vet just did not want to go that far. However, some vets will not do TNR or deal with ferals. You are absolutely not committing animal abuse.

In the world of rescue, it is unfortunately common never to receive help or to even receive a reply. A lot of rescues do their own rescuing and don't necessarily take outside animals although most people don't know that. I am on TCS as a long time ago they were the only ones who tried to give me advice on a problem. I often advise people to try Alley Cat Allies Feral Friends Network hoping they will get a response, but I certainly never did.

The kittens are adorable and from the pictures I do not see stress or fear. They are at least happy to get their meals and I bet they will come around as you describe.

There are true ferals for whom you can do very little aside from getting them fixed. In an ideal world we would all like to think that we will retrap them and take them in for shots and checkups, but often just getting them fixed is the end of it.

The TNR Project
Feral Cat Caretakers' Coalition – Caring For Those Who Care
Trap-Neuter-Return

Do you think that you can get the cat into a trap? This might be a huge part of the process because if she is trapped you might be able to find someone to fix her....talking to them first of course to make sure. There may be individual vets who might be willing to take her if she were trapped. I do think that this cat probably should be TNRed and have encountered a lot of mother cats like her.
 

Carolina SA

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I've lived in South America, SE Asia and Africa... not all vets are equal, sadly.
You have done the right thing and are still doing the right thing!

Keep trying via whatsapp and facebook groups to find a useful rescue care centre and vet. In Africa and in South America I have even had useful vets come to my home and sterilize kittens, cats and dogs (I've helped volunteer vets sterilize dogs in SE Asia on the street, it takes team work and determination not a fancy building). But I had to go through several non-useful vets which was traumatic sometimes and I felt very bad for the animals.

If you continue to have no luck getting in contact with a useful vet, then perhaps allow Mama cat to come and go as she pleases.

Can you partially open a window for the Mama cat to leave but also return to for her food? A window that the kittens cannot escape through?
If you can, then make sure that area is kept very quiet and human free so she is comfortable. Leave her food there to encourage her to return.
Always announce when food/people are coming with the "Hola Mama" sing-song voice. It is best if only the same person does this.

I know how stressful and disruptive the mewling-crying is, but it is short term. I suspect you can win mama cat over but don't give up just yet...cats will suddenly respond just when you're about to give up hope!
 

Carolina SA

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I forgot to mention, Mama cat isn't really feral - she brought her kittens to you!
Ask the vet if they refuse to treat abused animals who are naturally scared of strange people?
Then they cannot claim "feral" as an excuse to be lazy.
 
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