Feral Mom moving her kittens/BAD Timing

Kristin_Happy Texan

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What do you do when a feral cat has moved her kittens elsewhere? I was so close to capturing all 5 kittens, and then the Mom to be spayed. (We personally visited the shelter after discovering she had kittens that were already pretty old. I think they nurse just a little bit, but they are eating kibble and drinking water).

I FINALLY came up with a great plan of capturing them, and just like that.... they've disappeared. At first I thought it was because the Mama Cat knew something was up, but now I think it's because of the traffic. (We live in the country, but the big rigs have been using the road in front of our house like crazy lately. It's constant. It never stops and it is very loud and annoying).

I know the Mama cat HAS to be spayed, as do the kittens when they're of age. But... what do I do now? I would think the Mama Cat is bringing the kittens food, but if she's gone - while being spayed - HOW will the kittens be fed in the meantime? If they were still with us, we would feed them in their Mom's absence, but we can't do that because we have no idea where they are now.

Of course, our plan was to take all 5 kittens and the Mama Cat to the shelter. (Mom to be spayed and returned to us, and the kittens eventually spayed and adopted out either as house cats or barn cats. The shelter will only take the Mama Cat in on a Tuesday or Wednesday, so - due to the timing - capturing the kittens had to be the priority).

My window for capturing the kittens has been extremely narrow. (Due to the heat of the day. The heat index has been around 106 degrees, so naturally the cats just hang out beneath the storage building all day. I can't flush them out from the building itself, and even if I could I wouldn't dare take the chance because of the big rigs just yards away from where they're living. I don't want to frighten them to the point where they dart out on to the road). Also, the kittens are terrified of humans. There's no way to sneak up on them, and I can't use a live trap for 5 kittens. (It would maim the kitten(s) following behind the first kitten that actually set off the trap). I FINALLY set a 'trap' for them by creating an alley of sorts between the storage building and the barn, but right at Crunch Time everything's changed. The kittens are gone, and the Mama Cat just strolls on our property like the cat that just ate the canary. She's not telling us anything. :/

Anyway... I guess my question is what do I do concerning the Mama Cat? Do I still take her in to be spayed this week, or will that harm the kittens? I know the Mama Cat MUST be spayed. I get that. I do not want more kittens around here, especially considering the fact that she's not the only feral cat around here. I just don't know what to do. I feel like any decision I make will cause harm. Either the kittens won't survive without their Mom around for a little while longer, or that 'little while longer' is just enough time for the Mama Cat to become pregnant yet AGAIN!

I'm sure I'll call the shelter on Tuesday to ask their advice, but in the meantime I would like to hear YOUR advice. Thanks in advance. I really do appreciate it.

Kristin

UPDATE: So it's only about an hour later and on the baby cam I had set outside I finally saw Mama Cat and 2 or 3 of her 5 babies. Two babies were playing in the 'trapping area' I created. (Mama Cat was there for a short while). However, on the ONLY side of the building I can approach them the 3rd kitten was eating all alone.

Also, the 18-wheelers were busy as always and I didn't dare spook the kitten because of that.

I then saw the Mama Cat prowl across the yard towards our side garden/driveway at the opposite end of the house. (Where there are no windows). I waited a few minutes to see if she was keeping the cats in the garden bed. She never returned, so I went to the 'trapping area' to see if any of the kittens were still there. (The 3rd kitten that was eating was no longer there). Once I got back there, it was completely empty.

I searched the perimeter of the house and found no kittens or Mama Cat.

This is nuts. I'm exhausted. I have been killing myself since last week, trying to capture these cats. I have to do it by myself, too.
 

fionasmom

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Welcome to The Cat Site! Please don't blame yourself for these complications. You have a plan, have been proactive, but are dealing with true ferals who are not going to be easy to catch. I completely understand that you need to get all the cats, if for no other reason than the remaining untrapped kittens or mom will continue to breed.

Feral cats move kittens all the time. The moms always have a game plan and know where the kittens are, as you have noted. I was told by one of my vets that usually there is a 100 foot radius, more or less, which allows the mom to keep track of the kittens, get food, and lead them to food. If the mom is around, the kittens are not that far away.

Do you think that the area where you found the kittens is the new eating area or that you could establish it as such? How old are the kittens? Sometimes moving food systematically will encourage the mom and litter to move with it. If you are sure that the kittens are eating on their own, they will be okay if she is trapped. She is leading the kittens to food, more than likely, as opposed to bringing it to them. You might try a wet kitten food that would attract them, or something with an appealing scent if you are only putting out dry kibble right now.

If the mom were to become pregnant again, or you even suspected it, you could still have her spayed. Given that you are actively involved in this situation, she would probably not be very pregnant by the time that you trapped her. That would buy you a little time if you are worried about her being separated from the kittens.

I think that I would see if I could establish the kitten trapping area as a feeding area, first step. As for using a trap, which I assume means a live animal trap like a Havahart, it is possible to rig it with a stick or soft drink bottle on a string so that you pull that away once you see the kittens have gone to the back of the trap. That way no one is in danger of being crushed in the door. There are a lot of other trapping ideas, although I don't know if these work with the lay out of your property.

TNR Scenarios: Hard to Trap Cats

Please keep us posted.
 
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Kristin_Happy Texan

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I've been giving them wet food and kibble, but the food situation - and the temperatures - have been a HUGE issue. Pretty much the second I put out any food at all, there's a hill of ants in the food. I've even used smaller bowls inside a larger one to try to deter the ants, but they are absolutely everywhere here. Sometimes I will have a little more luck with food on the porch, but even that isn't guaranteed and most of the time they don't even come on to the porch. (They did for a few nights, but the shelters were going to be closed for the next few days. Because of that, we built a fenced-in area with a cover that we could keep outside until the shelter opened again. I wasn't too happy about even that though, considering they would be trapped for days, and very likely wouldn't all be captured at the same time. I was also worried about the heat, and their mental status for that many days, not to mention the trouble I would have in feeding/watering them AND dealing with the ants AND preventing them from escaping. Of course... by that time, the Mama cat and her kittens temporarily disappeared anyway).

Tomorrow the shelter is finally open again, and only tomorrow and Wednesday can they take the Mama cat. (They can take the kittens on any day they're open). My mother wants to catch the Mama cat tonight. (I don't, because I know I cannot get her into the larger outdoor enclosure (that we made) for the night, and then transport her into the larger crate for transport to the shelter. My mother would rather just leave her in the trap, but I do NOT. That would be inhumane for that many hours. She would be terrified to the point of having a heart attack, and she would soil herself and the cage.

My mother is dealing with a lot of health issues right now. She's in a wheelchair now, she is never feeling well, and she is always talking about how she's always under extreme anxiety. Everything stresses her out, and the situation with the ferals - and my failure at trapping them so far - isn't helping her. I feel awful about that, because I do understand, but when I even make a suggestion she mentions how stressed it makes her feel. All I can say is I'm doing my best, and I am killing myself in the process. The heat/humidity outside has been brutal, and the cats hide from these hot temperatures all day. When they - very briefly - come out after sunset, it's very dark out here. We don't have big streetlights or anything like that.

It's been such a pain, and I was feeling pretty positive about it in the beginning... but then the shelter was closed for several days. I just pray that this week won't be like that. (We started trying to trap the Mom and kittens last Tuesday or Wednesday, and then just the babies on Thursday through Saturday. The shelter is only open Tuesday through Saturday, and the latest we can leave the house to go to the shelter on those days is by 3:15 pm).

Today I moved the large crate and carrier, tying a super long string to the doors to shut from a distance. I had the crates in two different locations, too. They aren't biting. (The only things biting are the ants getting inside the crates. I do NOT want ants in the crates, because they will get on the cats. We've already dealt with ants killing baby rabbits before out here. I know how deadly the ants can be to the critters).

My plan is to continue trying to trap the babies, somehow, at any time. I would like to catch the Mom either very late tonight or very early in the morning since the shelter opens at 9 am. (Mom wants her trapped tonight, no matter what).

I'm sorry. I'm really just rambling now. I'm exhausted. I haven't slept in two days.
 

Avery

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I have trapped a few cats in the evening and they had to remain in the traps overnight for a morning vet appointment. I covered the traps immediately and all the cats calmed right down and actually remained quiet all night. Of course, they might pee or poop and it could get messy! Just be sure the trap is in a safe place and the temperature is not too hot or too cold. Because the mama cat will be spayed the next day, it also is fine that she doesn't eat anything. I understand you'd much prefer to trap her in the morning, but if you do decide to trap her tonight, she should be just fine.

Good luck! Those ants sound horrible, but you are doing a great job in a tough situation!
 
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Kristin_Happy Texan

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Thank You.

Shade has been yet another problem. I battle it practically every hour. I was just plugging the baby cam back in and zip tying the umbrella to one of the cages again, went inside to get some ham for them, and the ONE TIME I forgot to look out the window first before going back out.... I saw some of her kittens, and her just staring at me from around the corner.

They all ran back underneath the building.

I put the ham outside and waited in my hiding spot behind a little tree we have at the side of the house where I can pull on the strings I attached to the crates.

They're still hiding, and I know from experience that the ants are all inside those crates now. Sigh....

Help me Gertrude, Patron Saint of Cats. You're my only hope. :/
 

fionasmom

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I have as well. It is always advised not to leave in traps overnight but some of that advice is for those who might just leave a trap unattended in a vacant lot overnight. The night I trapped my Chelsea who was about 5 months at the time I had no choice but to leave her in a safe area in my back porch area covered with a cloth.
Water in the larger dish is not deterring the ants at all ?
This is a stressful situation. Try for what or who you can get using your best judgment.
 

TJandthecat

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Sorry, this is hard to do on my tablet

Anyway, this is how I used to do it when I had to trap...shallow metal bowl with the food, put in a smaller plastic container with water...I'm in socal and we have bad ant problems too.

After a while they may form a bridge, but it can buy you some time.

Second, are you with/in touch with any tnr groups? Maybe they can help you so you don't have to do it alone. My best friend used to run one in Bastrop.

Best of luck
 

TJandthecat

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I forgot the important part, petroleum jelly on the outside of bowl or water container. I put a thick layer in a circle around the pole that holds the hummingbird feeder, and the ants won't cross it
 
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Kristin_Happy Texan

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Thank you! I'll try that right now.

I just had a meltdown by the way. A NEW cat showed up. I trapped it, but no one came to help me by shutting the door to the cage. It was thrashing about forever, but finally got out.

I bet that display taught the Mama Cat not to go inside the cage. I'm so upset right now.
 

fionasmom

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If you are using a crate that has to be snapped shut, it can be tricky. You have to almost instantly shut it or have someone standing by in the bushes. It is easier to hand release the door on a trap once you see the cat inside, as it is fail safe.

This is likely not to be perfect. Don't tell yourself it has to be and do what you can. No one can help from the shelter or elsewhere?
You might try completing this form and asking for help or on the ground advice. Make it clear that you do not want the cats to be adopted or otherwise taken off your hands.

Feral Friends Network® Connect
 

catsknowme

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Any updates? Sometimes the temptation of the food will override the fear of the trap. I often get "frequent flyers" who quickly figure out the best treats are worth the price of getting trapped & subsequently swiftly released (after the initial spay/neuter)
 

iPappy

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Please don't give up. I know how discouraging this is (I've got feral cat/kitten stories of my own) but it can be done and it sounds like you're absolutely dedicated and willing to do what it takes. You're a kitty hero! :redheartpump:
 

Alldara

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You can also try food grade diatomaceous earth around the food. Wear a mask to put it down, but it is fed to livestock including barn cats to get rid of worms (not as effective as actual medication). So if the cats get in it and lick a bit off, it's okay but it will kill insects.

If you search for TNRs in the area, someone might be able to help you. You can also check Facebook to see if there's a "Lost and Found" pets group in the area. I find many people on our local lost and found sites are super helpful with trapping.
 
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Kristin_Happy Texan

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I am officially THE WORST Feral Cat Catcher in the known Universe. (And this is with no sleep for 3 days, and camping outside day and night. And when I say night, I mean until after sunrise. While outside, I'm hearing coyotes in the distance. This morning I had to scare off an armadillo. Lol!)

Cat # 1: A random, stray feral. It was thrashing around in the crate like it was a member of Motley Crew, and I was having to walk a great distance while holding tight to the nylon string so that someone else could come outside and latch the crate door for me. I shouted for help once it was trapped, but no help came.... and it got away.

Cat # 2: One of the gray kittens. This time help came, but.... it got away. (The little towel that was inside the pet carrier bunched up on the threshold to the cage door).

Cat # 3: Another kitten. We all placed it in the outdoor cage that we built. It freaked for a while, but then it just meowed off and on until 5 am in the morning when... the kitten escaped. (I was extremely upset. Livid even. However, when I saw that little black kitten with the white feet, carefully making its escape in the yard... running, then pausing to look around, and then running again to safety... it made me think of "Figaro" in Disney's Pinocchio cartoon. It was like watching an animation come to life. It was actually very surreal seeing that little cat so carefully moving through the shadows. I mean, it really and truly looked like Figaro).

Cat # 4: Mama Cat. It's 11 am, and it's so sunny outside that I can't make out the screen to the baby cam I've been using. I could faintly see that the Mama Cat was in the smaller pet crate, but I couldn't tell whether she was all the way in or not. After waiting a bit, I knew I had to take a chance. I just had to.

So what happened? Her tail was still out, and yep... she escaped. Ran for the hills. I would have caught her if not for the dang baby cam viewer looking like an old negative slide. (All I could see were washed out greys and white. Even placing it in the shade or viewing it with sunglasses didn't help).

Cat # 4 AGAIN: I thought I was so clever here. (Desperate is more like it, since the only days the shelter told us we can bring her in to be spayed is on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Today is Wednesday). The little setup I had going on for my 'watching area' was closer to the storage building than usual. After I accidentally ran into the Mama Cat, I went back to said 'station.' I didn't want her to be suspicious from me being so much closer to her than normal, so I crouched on the ground, behind the chair I was sitting in. (As I said... desperate. I hope our neighbors didn't see me, and I'm not talking about all the cows or donkeys). The Mama Cat - (aka "Verbena" now. I used to call her "Nimue") - got halfway inside the crate. I knew she wasn't fully in and was testing the waters. I waited, and for her second bite of food she walked completely inside the crate. I tugged on the nylon string and..... crate AND cat flipped backwards!

She ran for the hills again.

Okay, so that's a lot of short-lived victories ending in fails. But, just like a broken clock being correct two times a day, I was actually successful one time. (I guess that makes the broken clock more valuable?) My one success was on the same day Mama Kitty took her tumble. The kitty walked into the trap we had set up on the porch for its mother. I don't know when it captured it, but I first noticed it when I got up at 3:30 am. (Last night was the first night I actually slept in my bed at all. I was so physically and mentally exhausted. I was really angry with myself about that).

So here we have one poor little feral kitten in a TNR trap. I checked the shelter page on Facebook just to make sure I remembered their opening hours correctly. While doing that, I noticed a message they posted on FB that I missed. (Because I'd been too busy failing at capturing all these ferals to check the shelter/adoption posts; the only reason I even signed up on FB. We're looking for a dog to adopt). Their message was posted 2 days ago, stating they weren't accepting cats until further notice because out of the blue the two cat units that they have are all showing signs of an illness. They don't have an isolation area, so until this illness gets resolved, there will be no more cat intakes.

And so, this time I had to release the ONLY cat I actually successfully captured. Its spaying will have to happen another day. (Would you know that the moment I opened the door to pick up the trap, I saw a little GRASS SNAKE EXITING THE CAGE?! I wondered why the cat was being so quiet all of a sudden. I hope it wasn't scared even more from that unwanted visitor in an area that it can't even escape! Even thinking about it now, I feel AWFUL about that. Just awful. Then add to that the fact that when I tried releasing the kitten from the trap, the door just would not open. That poor cat was freaking out the entire time. I FINALLY got it right, and that poor kitten ran away, back to it's 'home' so fast. I really can't believe I had trouble opening that door. I've done it a dozen times. I felt like such a dunderhead and a terrible person).

To be honest, I was very upset with myself this morning over failing at capturing its Mom. I wanted that poor, scared kitten to have its Mom with it at the shelter, even if for just a little while. I literally cried a little over that. Was it from compassion? A little leftover sleep deprivation? Just like asking how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop, I may never know.

So what do I have to show for my dedication and perseverance? Looming heat stroke... sore back and thighs from an uncomfortable chair... agitation.... no sleep for over 48 hours... and let's not forget the most important thing: NO CATS!

The highlight of my strung-out days were random parts of the evening when I could hear the coyotes, frogs and crickets, while seeing a beautiful moon. (It was red in the beginning of that first night, although it arrived really late).

So I guess it's back to the drawing board for us and the ferals. I really have not enjoyed this at all, but it HAS to be done. You cannot imagine the setbacks. Even yesterday, when I was at my peak exhaustion level... (I hated everybody)... I pushed myself to try adding more screen to the outdoor pen that we made for the kittens as we catch them. (Ha! ME catching ferals. That's funny). As I was doing that, I wouldn't even let that great big spider stuck on to the wall right next to my hand deter me from my task. I soldiered on, but I guess Mother Nature had other plans because, despite the skies being sunny and no rain being in the forecast as usual, it started raining. I initially ignored it, but then the rain turned into an instant Gullywasher and I gave up. (Looking back, it was a bittersweet moment. Deep down, I was happy for an excuse not to continue my suffering in trying to fix that makeshift pen in the heat/humidity. Out of all of this, the heat has been the most insufferable. It's been absolutely horrific and unbearable. Even the cats hate it. That's why it's so hard capturing them at all. It's so hot for them they don't even come out during the day to eat or drink water, which I always leave out for them right outside their little shelter. I put ice in their water all day long, and at night move the food/water a little distance away; to keep the other critters like the raccoons away from them AND their food. The raccoons looove eating dog food, etc).

I'll stop rambling now. I just had to do it. If you managed to read this far, I hope you have aspirin.

And a little FYI: I am just now seeing your posts. I am thoroughly taking in all your suggestions, and Boy Howdy do I appreciate them! It's funny seeing the suggestion of diatomaceous earth. (My mother was talking about DE just today, when discussing fleas/ticks on ferals). We are very familiar with DE, as we NEED it here on our property because of all the grasshoppers that eat like pigs.

I also tried the Vaseline already. I didn't have a metal bowl on hand, so I just smeared some of the Vaseline on all the bowls. So far I think it's worked pretty well. (The only place I saw the ants today was around the trap, which I am always keeping an eye out for anyway. I am always having to sweep the ants from underneath that thing, even when there's no food or water inside).

Thanks again for your suggestions. Maybe one day I'll actually match the numerical success of a broken clock. Two out of 6 would be nice, but I'm still aiming for the lottery number; 6 Ferals spayed/neutered. I'm aiming high!
 

Alldara

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Whew! You've been busy and must be exhausted.

Is there another rescue in the nearby area you can reach out to? You're working so hard and I would hate to see all this be for nothing for you. (If you PM me I can help look, you're already doing a ton of work).

Do you know approximately how old the kittens are now?

If you can borrow a big dog crate (that they cant escape) you could perhaps use one being trapped to entice the others closer.

Kitten Lady on YouTube has some trapping videos re: this. I don't know if those will help in any way.
 

fionasmom

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How to Socialize Feral Kittens<br/> — Kitten Lady

The site itself is very informative. It is very hard to slam that door to a crate at the exact right time. It works best with a feral who has been trained to eat in the crate and is "sure" enough of what is going on that someone can stand nearby and then just manually snap the crate shut.

Can the crate be placed near something that might allow you to secure the cord to be secured to it while you run over the latch the crate? A tree, fence post, etc?
 
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Kristin_Happy Texan

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How to Socialize Feral Kittens<br/> — Kitten Lady

The site itself is very informative. It is very hard to slam that door to a crate at the exact right time. It works best with a feral who has been trained to eat in the crate and is "sure" enough of what is going on that someone can stand nearby and then just manually snap the crate shut.

Can the crate be placed near something that might allow you to secure the cord to be secured to it while you run over the latch the crate? A tree, fence post, etc?
That is a very good idea about securing the cord. I'll have to put another thinking cap on. It would be so much easier if I had something to hide behind as they take the bait. That way I can be closer to the cage. I was thinking about unpacking a tent that we got a few months ago and never used, but I think the cats would become curious about it and find me there waiting.

For now I'm still trying to get them used to eating inside the dog crate. What I really desire is for at least the majority of the kittens to eat inside there at the same time. I want then used to it before I trap them.

We got a metal bowl today, and more wet kitten food and kitten kibble. They're eating like crazy now, but only in the morning and at sunset. Since it's too hot for them to eat during the day, we're going to put them on a feeding schedule. With the shelter closing its door to any cats in the meantime, at least that buys me some time to make it easier on myself to trap them.

I talk to them, and the Mom, every single time I'm out there. When I got back from the stores today I worked again on getting some permanent shade out there for the cage and their food and water. I think that sometime this week we're going to buy one of those big shading tents to place back there. We just have to find a way to secure it really well because the wind out here can be crazy at times.

By the way, I love the laser pointer idea. That might work on the kittens.

I fastened a little cat toy on the fence for them, with a log underneath it for them to stand on as they swat at it. (It's one of those feather toys on a stick). So far, just as I thought, only the raccoons seem interested in it. Lol! On our game camera I saw it looking at it for a while. It might have played with it, but our game cameras aren't that great. I also think that if it did play with it, it would be broken already. They topple over the bird bath and get the birds seed tray stuck between the barbed wire fence almost every night. They're like rowdy teenagers.

I'm going to check out that site and YouTube channel now. Thank you!!!
 
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