Missing Feral Cat -- How do I handle this?

carrigale

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I've been taking care of 8 ferals since last summer. Four are kittens who were born in my yard. For the most part, the kittens do not wander much further than the neighbor's yard and usually always come when I call. However, occasionally one will go missing for a few hours or so. Since last night, I haven't seen Tigger, my boy kitty. He wasn't there for breakfast which is very unusual. I even drove all the way home at lunch to look for him, but to no avail.

I know that this is bound to happen from time to time, but I could really use some ideas on how you cope with the fear and anxiety that comes up when your beloved cats disappear. Since these are my first ever outdoor pets, I could end up worrying myself to death for the next 15 years!

Thanks for any advice you can give.
Chris
 

katie=^..^=

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I've had two ferals or indoor-outdoor cats just disappear. It is difficult. I don't know how others handle it, but I've developed a resigned attitude, that you do what you can and that's all you can do. I know that's not much help. I'm going to subscribe to this thread and see if others can be more help.
 

cc12

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I am new to doing it but have adopted an attitude that I can feed, neuter and spay. Give them kindness and a little spot of love and that is all I can do. If they are friendly I can possibly have them taken to the nokill cat shelter. I can get the kittens before they become wild and then that is it.
I keep my cats indoors because life outside can be a tough way to survive. Some of these cats are never going to be able to be adopted so I give them a safety zone.
Sometimes people pick up a stray and try to keep it. He could be at a shelter or other things could have happened.
I am bracing myself for the sadness that will come one day. But if we focus on one cat at a time then we should remember we are really preventing several thousand homeless cats from coming into this world.
 
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carrigale

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Thank you so much for the advice. I had him neutered, so that cuts way down on his wandering potential -- thank goodness!

What you said really helps put things in perspective. I need to work on letting go of what could happen in the future with any of them and focus on that I love them and am giving them the best life I can. I won't always be able to prevent them from getting lost, sick, hurt, etc., but as outdoor cats they are as safe as they can be at my house. I would actually let them come indoors, but my partner is against it.

Last summer I went from 0 cats to 8 in a matter of days. I was much more detached in the beginning, but I love them all so much now. I still call them feral, but the kittens especially let me pick them up and pet them, etc. They all have such great personalities. It's too bad that the kittens were rejected from our SPCA adoption program -- with a little time and work, I'm sure they would have made a few families some wonderful pets. But, they're mine now and I am trying to keep them as healthy, safe and happy as possible. They have access to the extra room in our garage (now "the cat room" with all their beds, blankets, toys, etc.), dry food all day and a yummy wet food dinner. I brush them, play with them and keep tabs on them. They are cared for in the best way possible and I just need to accept that things will happen over the years and they would have been at a much higher risk if I didn't take them in, get them spayed/neutered, etc.

I'm sure I'll always worry, but I try will rememeber what you have all said. We have made a difference in their lives!

Thanks,
Chris
 

cc12

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You are welcome.
Why did they SPCA reject them? Was it because they were afraid of people?
You are a doing a wonderful thing. A nice warm garage is better than being exposed to the elements on a daily basis.
 
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carrigale

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Thanks so much.

I guess they were afraid of people. They went through a whole evaluation and they showed all the typical feral signs -- hissing, spitting, going to the back of the cage. None of the first 3 kittens were accepted. The good news is that 3 of 4 kittens of a later litter were accepted.

It all started when 3 adults cats began hanging out in my yard hunting my birds (I had tons of different wild bird feeders and bird baths, etc.) At first I thought someone new moved into the neighborhood and brought along their outdoor cats. Then one day I saw a tiny little orange face peering over the fence at me. I realized somebody had kittens and they probably didn't have a home. Long story short, my uncle works for Homeless Cat Network here in the Bay Area and he helped me with all the trapping, etc. He also told me I should start feeding them (I was really resistant at first because I didn't want to take on the responsibility, but I'm such an animal lover I caved in pretty quickly!) I thought I was done halfway through, but 4 new kittens appeared! We were able to get three of those four early enough and they made it into the adoption program. One, Mousie, was rejected. It is really too bad because she is such a phenominal cat. So playful, sweet, smart and funny. By the time we were finished, 5 adult cats and 7 kittens had been spayed and neutered. So now the 4 kittens and 4 adult cats live at my place. I really did go from 0 to 8 cats overnight! I need to get the trap ready again, too, because there are a few new drop-ins that don't seem to have clipped ears...
 

katie=^..^=

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Thank you so much both of you for your great attitudes. You have expressed so well what I was trying to say. We do what we can and then we have to accept that we cannot do more. Always what we do is so much better than not doing anything.

Has your boy made a reappearance yet? My neighbor, had several indoor-outdoor cats that he tamed from being feral kittens. One of them, my Blackie (my neighbor became ill and had to move in with relatives -- they left his cats behind), was missing once for 10 days. When he returned he had a big spot of ringworm but was very happy to be home. Of course you never know what their adventures are when they disappear like that.

I hope your boy comes back.
 
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carrigale

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Thanks so much, Katie.

HE DID COME HOME!!! He was back on Friday. He looked okay, but boy was he hungry! I'm so happy to have him back and so are his sisters. He is especially close to his sister Callie and she has been a happy girl over the last few days.

I can handle the four kittens pretty well. I have been thinking about trying to put collars w/ id tags on them. Do you (or does anyone who reads this) have collars on your cats? I know they make the kind that release easily if snagged so they are safe to use on outdoor cats. I'm sure they would be completely annoyed and try to get the thing off, but I would feel so much better knowing that if they were lost, injured or captured that people would know they have a home. I could also get the id tags that don't jingle to make sure they can still come and go quietly out in the big bad world when necessary.

Any thoughts?
 

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I was thinking of doing this too. Just in case but I am on the fence about it.

I am glad he is home!
 

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This is exactly what I needed to hear too. thank you all.

I have lost at least 2 to cars, several on the highway.
It breaks my heart. I also lost 2 feral/semi feral cats
that lived with me as indoor/outdoor. It broke my heart.

All I could do was pray, and how I did, that they
were okay. I will never forget them, and I will
know that I got them fixed, preventing untold
suffering. And that I loved and fed, and provided
shelter to them. And they had a wonderful life for
the time I was able to be with them.

It gets hard, but Katie is right, we focus on the
things we CAN do, and do it. I accept the pain
of loss, knowing that for many who do not
go missing, my caring and TNR efforts have
made their lives longer, better and steadier.

And prevented so much suffering. Right now, I'm
taming Hoffbrau, and getting more attached each
day, I sure hope to goodness I can get him to
the rescue soon. So I don't fall i nlove.

I am also wondering if it isn't time to let Frodo
begin to live indoor/outdoor. I fear he would
be driven off by Goose, or Frogie, or that he
would drive THEM off, which is why I have hesitated
over this.

I keep praying Frodo will come round. He's been extraordinary
gentle with HB the kitten, who knew?!
 

katie=^..^=

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I'm so glad that bad boy came home. I hope he doesn't scare us like that again.

Can you easily catch your kittens? I ask because I had a bad experience putting collars on three kittens in the garden. I trapped them and had them neutered/spayed and put collars on them. I thought they would be safer that way.

The only problem was that they kept growing and the collars got tight. Plus they all managed somehow to get the collars wrapped around their front legs. I managed to re-catch the two girls and get their collars off, but I couldn't catch the boy. Finally a neighbor caught the boy and cut off his collar, but not before he got an infection in the pit of his arm (leg?) It smelled very bad, so was probably infected, but he managed to get well without seeing a vet.

Because of that experience, unless you can catch your kittens easily, I don't recommend putting a collar on them.
 

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am so sorry for your missing cat. I'm going through the same thing and am devastated. they(the littles) were born in my garage. have been feeding them for  8 months and have frozen my hands from this horrible winter feeding them, made 7 shelters, and loved them from afar. they never did allow me to come close. I have watched other cats terrorize them and take their food and worried myself sick,  as they abandoned my garage for some reason-predator? now one is missing and has been for two days. I am heartsick. I have tried to trap them, to no avail. my advice to you is to pray and ask God to take over the situation. I'm not really a religious person. but am trying to lead a better life. bless the beasts and the children.
 

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so glad your cat came home. I didn't look at the date or scroll down to see other replies. take care and love to the cats.
 

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How long is the longest anyone has lost sight of their feral before they have come back? 

missing my baby girl and am heartbroken. Checking the back door 30 times a day, she's been missing for a week  :'( 
 

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I have 8 that I have TNR at an old barn. I have been feeding them every other day for the last two years. This is my observation: initially upon release half of them disappeared but I just kept putting food out and calling "cat kids" in a loud voice. Yes, the local farmers think I am cat crazy! By the second week all returned.

But up until 6 months ago the original daddy, mom, and one other male would disappear off and on. Sometimes for up to 3 weeks at a time!

Don't lose heart! It has taken almost two years for them to settle down. Now they sit on the hay and wait for the food wagon every other day. On the off days if I drive over nobody is out and about. They are around but just seem to know feed days.

Now 6 of the 8 can be touched and petted. Two cry if they are not picked up and held! The key is regular feeding on a cycle. Also calling them to come for food using the same name always.

I know what you are going through because every time one would disappear it broke my heart.

Those of you who take on these ferals not only do a great public service but provide much needed love even an old stray needs and deserves.

It's a heart thing...isn't it?
 

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Trudy1, thank you for your encouraging post. It helps a lot. I'm a little more hopeful after reading your note. 

My girl, a calico, found me two years ago sitting at my back porch, with a severely infected eye and nerve damage (uncontrollable shivering). She is a truly wild girl, and would not trust anyone's touch. It took me a whole week of feeding her warm chicken soup ( I made it for her specifically, as I'm vegetarian)  to help her get strong, and to gain her trust enough to let me warm compress and clean her infected eye. She took a month of this to finally heal. Then she disappeared! I went through heck looking for her, calling her for weeks till I finally gave up annoying the next door neighbors with my calls. 

three months ago, my two 18 year old indoor kitties passed on :'( And about a week later, my feral baby appeared at my door again! I don't  believe in coincidences, nothing like this anyway! 

She had a lot of nasty bleeding cuts around her tail, had been in some kind of fight with some critter. I waited it out to see if she heals, fed her, cared the best I could. Again, this is a wild kitty. she would let me pet her (no picking up! nope!). I waited for two weeks, no healing.  I talked to my local rescue and borrowed a trap. Long story short, got her to my vet for the works! They opened up the infected and swollen wounds, cleaned up,  tested (all negative! yay!) vaccinated her for everything, de-wormed, applied flea treatment, everything they possibly could. Brought her home and she owned our garage for 9 days. I kept her indoors to let her heal in peace and worry-free from outdoor hazards and germs. Had to give in to her meows after 9 days and let her go :'( She came back the next night and hung out with me for two hours! purring, eating, sitting with me, even walked up and down the garage and kind of revisited her temporary den, no stress at all. I was over the moon, thinking she is so close to move in and I could keep her safe indoors. 

Then she disappeared the next day. I'm heartbroken and worried sick. She was not upset about the whole trap and garage thing. She looked happy and content, and totally relaxed with me, she'd even let me apply ointment to her healing wounds. 

I cannot believe she can just disappear like this. I keep calling her at her regular mealtimes. checking the back door 30 times a day, seriously. No sign of my girl :'( 

So, yes, I was hoping for someone to tell me they have seen feral babies disappear like this and come back. 

She came  back after two years, I pray it;s not going to take that long again (or another injury!)  :( 

Thx again Trudy1, 
 

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Thank you for writing here. Of my three feral TNR cats, only Webster 3 is still here. It's been over a month since I've seen her sister Spooky, and it was awful hearing Webster 2 was seen by a neighbor in the road, injured...now there's a new momma cat Paiwacquet, her two eating on their own kittens, and Webster 5. What a brutal world out has been for these precious souls. I'm still hoping Spooky has just been holing up somewhere secure and safe...Another opportunity to practice gently "letting go"...warmed my heart reading all 18 messages about wandering ferals and all the love and care and compassion you've all given your feral cats. Gave me hope. Thank you.
 

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For about 8 months I have been feeding a slender Prussian blue timid cat- it has only been in the last few weeks that she has even allowed me to stroke her although she has gladly eaten at my house for all these months :-)
She is now sleek and sexy. She had a litter the first time i saw her months ago, and she had another one about a month ago. I didn't know where they were but sometime about a week ago she moved them under my shed. And they have now emerged! I have managed to hold each of them at least 2-3 times and am trying to socialize them. Of course they are all adorable, one black, one grey like mom, and 4 tiger stripes, all blue eyed at this stage! it appears the advised age for finding them home is now 10 weeks so it will be a while yet before they are available.
But wait this is not the end of the story! read on!
ABout the time she had them, I was at Dunnellon library, and while there has always been a few cats there needing feeding, suddenly the number increased.( I subsequently discovered the reason was that a mom and her daughter had lost their home and had brought cats to library and set them out with food, and come back regularly to feed them until they can find a new home?) There was one little scrawny thing, who looked little more than a kitten herself. I was trying to feed her, when she hopped into my car. Well, what could I do, I bought her home and tried to make friends. This was one SKINNY little morsel. Can you believe it- 3 weeks ago, I was sitting on the floor watching TV, and stroking her, and happened to look down, without any fuss whatsoever she had had a kitten! and was cleaning it and afterbirth up! I ran around like a loon , and found a drawer and towels and set her and kitten up in bathroom closet. I thought that's she was not going to make it ,as mom wanted to stay with me, and eventually after a couple of hours I left them to it and went to bed. By morning she had had another one and was nursing them both! The first orange stripes the 2nd grey stripes. Last week it looked like the orange one had literally lost an eye, barely at the stage of opening them, one glued shut. I took it to the vet and e advised she had lost an eye(pus emerged!) and advised it had a 50/50 chance. To be honest it seemed the wisest thing to do was say goodbye. But as I looked down at the poor little thing struggling to survive, I knew that it deserved a chance. We were prescribed some anti biotics and I was (strangely) advised not to bathe the eye. To be honest this made no sense to me, and I Googled and found that I was ok to bathe an injured eye. So I disregarded the Vet's instructions and gave it the anti biotics and bathed the eyes....AND Good news she still had the eye! ( although if left sealed shut I doubt if she would!) . SO her and her sibling will also need homes in about 7 weeks!

As should be obvious I am an animal lover, and 2 seconds after encountering any creature I tend to bond and feel responsible for it! I would (finances willing) happily keep them all, but just can't do it!  

The above was written on 11 May, unfortunately the little orange kitten suddenly sickened and died overnight about 3 weeks ago, and one of the 6 outdoors kittens, apparently got hit by a car, I found it's poor little battered body in my garage, so I suppose it got hit and managed to drag itself to a safe place, for some reason, I thought initially that it was not one of the kittens, as it appeared larger than them, but as the day passed I realized that only 5 had shown up to eat.  The little indoors one, is now a feisty little thing but has only just managed to hit 1 lb in weight and I doubt if it will ever get average size. ( It also is very resistant to using the litter box!)

The mother had moved the 6 from under my shed to my front yard and it's big trees, and I had left the Garage door ajar so that they had access for shelter (from torrential rain in Florida!)  and predators.  I had struggled to socialize them all, but one was particularly accessible like the mother but longer fur, and very endearing, I had decided to keep that one,  the others I kept telling myself I had to find homes for, but as says passed I found it more and more difficult to contemplate parting with any of them.  A few days ago they were not there in the morning, she had moved them to my next door neighbors back yard, but I found them, and they continued to hang out -most of the time- in the front of the house, playing and generally being adorable.  They were there yesterday morning, but then since then I have not seen them at all.   Although the mother shows up to be fed.  I have woodland at the back of my house, and a farmers  dilapidated unused buildings about 100 yards away.    I think she has moved them there. It's hard not to worry, and I know that there is little I can do.  Obviously they would be safe and secure living in domestic surroundings, but like "Elsa" they were born free, and part of me thinks that they have a right to live and hunt and breed, although we don't like to think of feral cats.  I put it bluntly to my Vet when discussing it and he used that phrase it "it's best to neuter them, they're happier", I replied that yes, I imagine both he and I might be better with out testicles(not the word I used :-) , and did he want to volunteer, to part with his.   I miss the little kittens,  I worry about them.
 
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