Seeking help weighing decision to bring feral cat(s) inside

fionasmom

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First of all, you have done a remarkable job. This is some kind of a record that you have trapped the entire tree pile group. When working with ferals, you almost always have to resign yourself to the fact that someone will never be trapped. Years ago I hired a professional live animal trapper (humane, they were going to hand the cat over to me) to get a female who had repeated litters...just in case they could think of anything that I did not. Never got her and she died having the last litter, along with the kittens. But you have done it and I hope that you have taken some time to congratulate yourself and realize what an accomplishment this is.

IMO, yes, Stormy's presence could aggravate Milly. It is not on you though as Milly is a very intense cat and you have to proceed with the project that you started whether or not Milly is okay. The fact that there was some calming down previously is a good sign.

Lippy will stay at the rescue for 2 days if I am understanding you? Give it a chance that when Lippy returns that Milly will relax.
 
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ChirpySquirrel

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Yes, I believe I will pick up Lippy on Thursday night or maybe Friday. I will be have to go pick Stormy up within a couple of hours. I guess I don't feel a lot like congratulating myself even though it is amazing to have actually trapped them all. It was a total of 4 in the tree pile (that I know about anyway) so from a numbers perspective, I know many have been up against much larger colonies.

Those of you who have taken feral kitties into your home, could you PLEASE describe your accommodations and set up for them when you first bring them in? I'm really starting to panic now that it's really hitting me that I'll need to make room for all 4 in the one bedroom by Thursday. Just trying to maneuver around in the room with one crate and one cattery in there is already a challenge. I currently have one additional crate that I can use and one cattery that is not yet assembled. If I knew either Lippy or Stormy would behave, I could put one in the cattery. I'll have to assembly the cattery in the room because it will not fit through the door once assembled. That means I have to be in the room agitating Milly for probably a couple of hours to get that thing assembled. But I am not sure I can trust the cattery to hold a kitty that is as intent on escaping as Milly has been. So I could order another crate but it won't get here until Friday at the earliest. The crates are not that roomy and once you get a litter box in there and a little kitty cave, the food/water dishes end up being too close to the litter box. Milly has thrashed around so much there was no chance of keeping litter a safe distance away anyway, but even a well behaved kitty would end up getting litter in the food and water with the proximity issue. How are you all dealing with these problems? Are you using a different kind of litter? I have looked at the pine stuff but I just have no experience with it and I'm not sure I should switch to something different now.
 

fionasmom

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I have only ever had to put very small kittens into a large dog crate. The crate was GSD sized and the kittens were only weeks old. Yes, it was still messy if they kicked litter or tripped in the food dish or stepped in the water. I do understand that you are up against a different situation. Otherwise, with any other feral or undetermined cat, I have used a bathroom. If the cats got along, for example had been friends on the street or were from the same litter, I did put more than one in the bathroom. I don't know if you could do that on a temporary basis or not.

If there is a chance that Stormy or Lippy will behave, you would catch a break there. Some of this is still unknown, so you have to plan for a worst case scenario. Maybe Milly will calm down when his friend gets there.

Do you think that any of them can be released into the bedroom at large eventually? This may be a matter of seeing what happens whey they are all together and modifying from there. I would definitely try a diffuser in this case.

I only use Dr Elsey's litter, so no experience with the alternates. The closest I have gotten, more than once, is a cat who won't use litter as they never used dirt outside. Some cats around here live on concrete their entire outdoor life. In those cases, I use an empty litter box or cardboard box with a dog pee pad in it. No litter, and you can always see what is going on with poop and pee. You might give that a try with the least expensive pads you can find.
 

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I have much less experience with ferals, but with lots of help from others on this site, several years ago I brought into my home a semi-feral cat and her buddy, who we thought was feral but turned out to be a scared one-eyed stray cat. I had been feeding and sheltering them outside for a few years and since they knew each other and usually got along, I just put them both in a spare bedroom, litter boxes at one end and food/water bowls at the other.

I removed all pictures and mirrors from the walls, took out the furniture they could hide under, put the futon mattress on the floor with a waterproof cover and blankets, and just left a big cardboard box with several peek holes and a couple of cat trees. I removed the lower shutters at the window just to avoid anyone trying to climb up them, but amazingly neither cat tried to escape. I use Cat Attract litter for all my cats and also used it for the new cats in their "safe room." At one point, I added some potting soil on top, but it turned out to be just messy and not necessary -- only one litter box accident. I had a camera in the room to monitor things. I mentioned in a previous posting how I set up a baby gate at the door and put an easy-to-make wire shelving barrier around that for extra security.

As fionasmom mentioned, I also was thinking your cats might be familiar enough with each other from the tree pile to just live together in the room rather than in separate crates and catteries. Or maybe some of them can be free to roam the room and eventually the others can join them. In my case, after several months in the safe room, introductions to the other cats, and a few supervised "outings" into the rest of the house, these two cats joined the family and now have the run of the house!
 
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ChirpySquirrel

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Thank you for helping me fionasmom fionasmom and Avery Avery as I'm getting more and more worried about Milly's health. He's in and out of the litter box and often lays down in there on top of the litter like it's his bed. It doesn't really seem like he understands what it's there for. Then again, he's used to laying on the dirt and on tree branches, brush, weeds, etc. The thing is, I have not detected any urine. Yesterday, I finally decided I had to get the litter box out and examine it for any waste. After an intense growling, hissing, spitting, and aggressive swatting session, I managed to get the litter box out. There were a few small pieces of poo in there but no pee. I don't know where he might be eliminating but I haven't noticed a strong urine odor as of yet. How long can a cat go without peeing? I've been trying to add a little water to his wet food but I don't know if that's sufficient over the several days he's been here now and I'm very concerned he will get dangerously dehydrated. One note- not sure what it might mean overall but outside I rarely ever saw Milly drink from the water dish I kept out there with fresh water and in a heater bowl so it didn't freeze.

I've slipped a dish of water in a couple of times but in short order he just ends up dumping it and dousing himself in the process...then with his wet fur he gets in the litter box and makes sure the litter and dust gets good and caked on. He's a mess but I can't figure out how to help him. I'm supposed to be able to go pick up some gabapentin today but I'm still waiting for a reply from the vet. No telling if this will provide any relief but I guess I need to try it.

I brought Stormy home from the vet last night. They said to go ahead and leave her in the carrier with a little food and water, which I did overnight. I transferred her to the other dog crate early this morning. So far, other than some hissing when I put her food and water in the crate, she has been pretty calm. I hope that's a trend and not just due to the effects of the anesthesia. If she stays relatively calm, I think I'll try to transfer her to the other cattery and then I can put Lippy in the crate when I bring him home presumably tomorrow. I'm trying to figure out what would be best but as of now, I can only think to just put Lippy's crate near to Milly's crate to allow them visibility to each other in hopes that they will recognize each other and it will help them in some way.

I feel like Tiny Tuck could do fairly well if released into the larger room. I would almost prefer moving him to a different room altogether because he's just so mellow and has been super good about everything and I think he'd be a lot easier to work with in a separate room. I just don't have a particularly feasible place to do that. I like the idea of the wire shelving as a gate/second barrier as well but that will take time to figure out and I'm going to just need to get things more stabilized before I can plan for that situation.
 
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ChirpySquirrel

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It seems like there's not much interest or advice for me here (I understand everyone is busy and has their own situations and priorities to deal with) and unfortunately I don't have much support elsewhere either so I'm just going to add my thoughts as of now. Mainly, I don't know what I'm doing and I feel like I'm failing miserably.

I brought Lippy home on Friday after her surgery so now I have all 4 kitties in the "kitty bedroom". Two (the siblings, Lippy and Milly) are in semi-large dog crates. Two (Tuck and Stormy) each have their own "cattery"- they have a little vertical space with 3 levels of fairly narrow shelves but are not roomy. I feel like having them in such small confined spaces is super hard for all of them. At the same time, I am not sure what other arrangement I should be trying to make or would even be possible. I feel very overwhelmed with the idea of trying to work with all 4 cats, each of which are seemingly at different levels. It has been all I can do to just try to keep up with their food/water and clean their litter boxes most days. Even if I knew where to start, it seems like each one is going to require a different approach. For example, for one or two of them, it may be good if I started spending more time in the kitty room with them. But for the others, it may be too soon and I wonder if that could be detrimental. I honestly have no idea. All the "guides" and info I've found on taming ferals deals only with one cat at a time. And those people obviously have a lot of experience (and perhaps time) whereas I have none. Whatever the approach, it's pretty clear that the demands on my time are probably going to be too much to make meaningful progress. I'm basically on my own here. I have a full time job. I have other responsibilities. I still have one cat in my garage that I can't decide what to do with and don't know what would be best.

I do feel like it has been positive for Lippy and Milly to be able to see each other. I've observed them sitting and looking at each other fairly often from their respective crates which I have placed within a couple of feet. To my mind, they appear happy to see each other after many days apart. I wonder if it would be good for them to actually be together in the same space but I don't know how to make that happen right now. The crates aren't really designed in a way that allow me to combine them without somehow removing the doors (which aren't really removable) and maybe wiring the crates together or something like that. And even if I could, I honestly can't say if that would be the best decision for them since they each seem to be handling the confinement so much differently.

I feel the worst for Milly. I don't know what to do. He has completely destroyed everything in his crate and has spilled/dumped literally half his litter box onto the crate floor. At this point, it has to be very unsanitary in there and he has nowhere clean or comfortable to rest. I can't get in there to clean the mess because he is still behaving very aggressively and defensively whenever I get anywhere near his crate. He is covered in caked on litter and his fur is filthy from all the litter dust. I essentially just have to fold up his wet food on a paper plate and shove it through the crate bars and then just get back quickly. I have been adding gabapentin to his food twice a day now for a couple of days. It may be helping some but no profound affect that I can tell. At least it seems like his long periods of restlessness and aggressive escape attempts have become less frequent. Fortunately Lippy has been mostly calm and not aggressive. He even meowed at me once which I found very strange...no idea what that means. It's strange how different she has been than Milly. Still hoping her presence will translate to a calming influence on Milly.

As for the other two, Tuck has been super good. No real issues to speak of. She isn't comfortable with me coming up close or anything like that but is not overly fearful, aggressive, etc. and for the most part is behaving really well. If it was just him alone, I'd probably release him out of the cattery and into the room (set up for him as a "safe room" as Avery mentioned above). But with everything else in there and the other kitty's crates and cattery, etc., that's not feasible. Stormy (Milly and Lippy's mom) has been restless at night and keeps climbing up the wire cattery walls and jumping down and then trying again which makes a huge racket and makes the others nervous. Between her and Milly making so much noise, it's hard for me to sleep since my room is next to the kitty room. She is not tolerating my presence very well when I have to clean the litter box or put food in. Like Milly, she keeps dumping her food and water and also won't stay out of the litter box when she's climbing up and down and jumping around restlessly. So litter ends up everywhere, food ends up in the litter box and all over the floor, etc. I've had her in there less time than I've had Milly, but similar feelings of despair are starting to build. Sadly, I have to consider the possibility that keeping and trying to tame them all is not tenable or realistic for me.
 

fionasmom

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I am sorry that you have had a downturn after all the good results and hard work that you did. I think that you said that you could not move Tuck out of the room, but if there is any way to get her out of the equation and to be able to work with her separately, that would be a little help. This is very hard on you, understandably, with the noise, lack of sleep, and working all day. One possibility is to just maintain things as they are, if you can, and see what plays out. For cats like this, it can be a very long road to calming down once they are inside. The fact that Lippy has become calm and even meowed may be more significant than you think. Spending time in the room might be a good thing. It will help the two that might be workable and might let Milly start to understand that at least there is no danger. Staying away from them is not necessary in the long run. You aren't trying to pick them up and hold them, just be present. Lippy and Milly are not any worse now that they are together and possibly over a little more time you can put them together. I wonder if the combination of the gabapentin and Lippy would start to make Milly relax.

Is the garage useable for another cat or cats in order to free up space in the bedroom? Is Milly peeing that you know of? Or maybe assume that he has to be by now? The social bridge cat theory may work with these two, even though neither is exactly tame. When you feel that it might be feasible, I would try to put them together. While you would have chaos if the cats were not in their various crates, I wonder if that is making things worse. Is there any way to make larger enclosures in the room? Is there anyone who can come and give you a visual idea of what could be done?

Do you feel that you can maintain what is going on now for a longer period of time to see if there is any change?

Jcatbird Jcatbird tarasgirl06 tarasgirl06 Avery Avery
 

Avery

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I hear your frustration, but you really have done a great job helping these cats whose home in the tree pile will be destroyed.

Just a few quick thoughts. Your first posting mentions that you have four bedrooms. Could you move two of the cats to another bedroom, maybe Milly and Lippy together. Or you had mentioned possibly moving Tuck to his own room. If you have a fairly large bathroom, that might work for him. You could then try letting them out into the room rather than in crates/catteries. Of course, you would then have TWO cat rooms, but perhaps it would be easier to monitor, the food/litter situation would improve, and you could more easily work with the cats one-on-one. Have you tried any of the Feliway calming products? Would your vet or any of the rescue folks have any ideas that would make this easier for everyone?

As you realize, it can take many months for formerly feral cats to become comfortable indoors, but If you reach the point where you don't think some will acclimate, could you arrange some kind of large outdoor catio that connects to a garage or shed? Or are you considering letting them all out, but continuing to feed them and provide shelter in some way? As you may have noticed in other threads, there is a lot of trial and error involved! You just do the best you can.

Oh, just saw fionasmom had responded! She always has wonderful ideas! I'm going to read her posting!
 

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It seems like there's not much interest or advice for me here (I understand everyone is busy and has their own situations and priorities to deal with) and unfortunately I don't have much support elsewhere either so I'm just going to add my thoughts as of now. Mainly, I don't know what I'm doing and I feel like I'm failing miserably.

I brought Lippy home on Friday after her surgery so now I have all 4 kitties in the "kitty bedroom". Two (the siblings, Lippy and Milly) are in semi-large dog crates. Two (Tuck and Stormy) each have their own "cattery"- they have a little vertical space with 3 levels of fairly narrow shelves but are not roomy. I feel like having them in such small confined spaces is super hard for all of them. At the same time, I am not sure what other arrangement I should be trying to make or would even be possible. I feel very overwhelmed with the idea of trying to work with all 4 cats, each of which are seemingly at different levels. It has been all I can do to just try to keep up with their food/water and clean their litter boxes most days. Even if I knew where to start, it seems like each one is going to require a different approach. For example, for one or two of them, it may be good if I started spending more time in the kitty room with them. But for the others, it may be too soon and I wonder if that could be detrimental. I honestly have no idea. All the "guides" and info I've found on taming ferals deals only with one cat at a time. And those people obviously have a lot of experience (and perhaps time) whereas I have none. Whatever the approach, it's pretty clear that the demands on my time are probably going to be too much to make meaningful progress. I'm basically on my own here. I have a full time job. I have other responsibilities. I still have one cat in my garage that I can't decide what to do with and don't know what would be best.

I do feel like it has been positive for Lippy and Milly to be able to see each other. I've observed them sitting and looking at each other fairly often from their respective crates which I have placed within a couple of feet. To my mind, they appear happy to see each other after many days apart. I wonder if it would be good for them to actually be together in the same space but I don't know how to make that happen right now. The crates aren't really designed in a way that allow me to combine them without somehow removing the doors (which aren't really removable) and maybe wiring the crates together or something like that. And even if I could, I honestly can't say if that would be the best decision for them since they each seem to be handling the confinement so much differently.

I feel the worst for Milly. I don't know what to do. He has completely destroyed everything in his crate and has spilled/dumped literally half his litter box onto the crate floor. At this point, it has to be very unsanitary in there and he has nowhere clean or comfortable to rest. I can't get in there to clean the mess because he is still behaving very aggressively and defensively whenever I get anywhere near his crate. He is covered in caked on litter and his fur is filthy from all the litter dust. I essentially just have to fold up his wet food on a paper plate and shove it through the crate bars and then just get back quickly. I have been adding gabapentin to his food twice a day now for a couple of days. It may be helping some but no profound affect that I can tell. At least it seems like his long periods of restlessness and aggressive escape attempts have become less frequent. Fortunately Lippy has been mostly calm and not aggressive. He even meowed at me once which I found very strange...no idea what that means. It's strange how different she has been than Milly. Still hoping her presence will translate to a calming influence on Milly.

As for the other two, Tuck has been super good. No real issues to speak of. She isn't comfortable with me coming up close or anything like that but is not overly fearful, aggressive, etc. and for the most part is behaving really well. If it was just him alone, I'd probably release him out of the cattery and into the room (set up for him as a "safe room" as Avery mentioned above). But with everything else in there and the other kitty's crates and cattery, etc., that's not feasible. Stormy (Milly and Lippy's mom) has been restless at night and keeps climbing up the wire cattery walls and jumping down and then trying again which makes a huge racket and makes the others nervous. Between her and Milly making so much noise, it's hard for me to sleep since my room is next to the kitty room. She is not tolerating my presence very well when I have to clean the litter box or put food in. Like Milly, she keeps dumping her food and water and also won't stay out of the litter box when she's climbing up and down and jumping around restlessly. So litter ends up everywhere, food ends up in the litter box and all over the floor, etc. I've had her in there less time than I've had Milly, but similar feelings of despair are starting to build. Sadly, I have to consider the possibility that keeping and trying to tame them all is not tenable or realistic for me.
You have done an amazing labor of love for these cats! I hope you can bear that in mind through all of the transition period. Yes, hormones will take awhile to go away/lessen/calm down and during this time, the male cats especially will be restless in confinement. But you have ensured that one family of little ones will not be born into this very harsh world, and you have made sure that these cats, at least, will not add to the overpopulation crisis. The fact that you have been able to get them all trapped and fixed is phenomenal! As has been noted, most who work with ferals do not get every one of their "targets," as was the case for me two locations ago. One little juvenile slipped the trap and disappeared; we moved right after that, so I can only pray he was all right with at least two feeders in the neighborhood and no remaining females that I know of.
If there's any way you can get the litterbox next to an access door, that would enable you to clean it and replenish the litter. Our modular "waystation" had access doors with hooks affixed and eyes to close them, for food and water, and for the litterbox, so it was very easy to do everything necessary without risking the cats escaping. The enclosure was built vertically with a bed cubicle and a resting/relaxing place above it. Our access was via a screen door that locked. These features would be really important if and when you are looking for additional space for them.
You're doing an amazing job so far. Yes, there are problems, but they should not be insurmountable. Keep doing what you are doing and you might consider sleeping in another of your bedrooms if that would be quieter, for the time that you have cats recuperating/adjusting in one room.
And one more note: Not all cats drink much water but as long as they are all eating wet food, they are getting moisture. If you can offer them tuna juice or maybe put squeeze-up treats, which have a lot of moisture and are very popular with cats, on saucers or in dishes, they will get more from those.
 

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Oh my! I am so sorry I have missed so much! Awesome job!!!! :yess::clap2::heartshape:
I do know the feeling of being new to feral rescues AND having a lot of cats in a small space. Oh my goodness. I remember too well trying to keep up, juggling spay/neuters, food, water, cleaning, hissing and cats that just had not had time to fully adjust. It does take time. Some nights I just walked outside and looked up while taking deep breaths. I had no idea if I would get through it but some days were much harder than others. A few cats were more frantic than others but.... the main two that I was unsure of ended up being two of the most tame! Go figure. The night BJ came in I wrote on the feral and rescue thread that I hoped he would not eat me. He started out being aggressive and then he got neutered. For awhile he seemed kind of depressed but I put him in a dog crate ( much like you describe, he made a mess) and then another cat from his colony started rubbing against his cage. She was not totally tame but settled enough that I had let her loose in the room. The two recognized each other and he perked up. I was using a stiff piece of cardboard to hold him back so I could reach in to change water and dip his litter. He would swat it. Lol Then one day I accidentally touched his chin. He did not eat me. Over time I allowed him to peek around the cardboard and that progressed slowly into more touching. I often sat beside the cage (BTW there were other cages and cats in the same room. All at different levels of socializing. I had cats in the bathroom, bedrooms and every room as well as the ones where this cat was staying so chaos is a good word;) Overwhelmed is not strong enough! Lol) Laying on my back and just being still with the cats helped them to observe me as non threatening. Sitting next to them too. With the ones that did not seem as aggressive, hand fed treats helped a lot! Open palm with treat in the flat of my hand so no fingers got nipped. Anyway, I began to allow him to set one foot out at first, then to climb vet me and finally he gave me a head rub! Shock! He very suddenly decided that if his friend could be trusting and out in the room, he would try it too. He claimed my heart and the hearts of so many others. He was extra smart and that may have been part of his aggression. Once he learned that he could own me and the house, he was fine.
For extra space in dog crates I put small carriers inside. The cats loved getting inside them and on top of them and it kept them a small distance from food, water and litter. lol f you have a closer in that room, you might be able to use that as an extra space. I finally got the idea (I , also started the wire shelving thing but like this better) of using lattice made of vinyl for a door that I installed without needing to do much more. Lightweight and easier for me personally. Honestly, I learned and altered as I went along. We all do.
For insulating noise in a crate, if it has a plastic hard liner in the bottom, I stuffed puppy pads between the liner and the wire under the liner. It helped muffle when cats jumped down. Puppy pads can be found at Dollar general fairly inexpensively and in bulk at Sam’s Clubs if you have one there. I feel like I am not answering all your questions and I really want to help. I am going to try and send you a private message just so you can find me if I am not getting to all my alerts. That way you can send me a message any time. I try to at least get to those if I cannot be on site as much. Trust me that you are not alone and we are trying to follow. Everyone here is so grateful to you for what you are doing and we never want you to feel we don’t care. We really care a lot! We have been where you are and may still be! Don’t give up. You are one of those people who can do this. These cats know it too!:grouphug2: Hugs sent!
 

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Agreed with all! Ferals just take time and patience. I’ve been catching up on your posts & you are doing incredible work! It may seem like some of them are going nuts and will never calm down, but imagine your whole world being turned upside down. Play the long game, keep talking to them in soothing tones, hang out with them if you can and just “be.” Consistency is huge. Am also noting that YOU might need some TLC. Don't forget to feed yourself well, soak your feet in a nice soapy pot of hot water after you get home, even if it’s just 15 minutes & breathe! In your earlier posts you mentioned getting help from some animal rescue people…are you still in touch w them? Maybe they can continue to help you in some small way. Each cat’s personality will be different, but eventually the sound of your voice will become familiar, and its association with food & comfort. You are doing awesome work and nobody starts out knowing how to do this—- you just do your best each day. Trust yourself! You have good instincts and a good heart.
 
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ChirpySquirrel

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Thank you so much for all your thoughts, comments, support and suggestions. It means a lot that you would take the time to help think through the details of my situation and offer advice and knowledge. Your problem-solving skills and experience are super valuable to me, especially as I feel so lost and ill-equipped to handle all this. My anxiety gets the better of me some days and that probably tends to come through in some of my posts.

Right now I think my biggest immediate goals are going to be to try to improve the quality/roominess of their accommodations and also make things easier for me to clean litter boxes (and their crates/catteries) and change out their food/water. I've certainly noted your suggestions. I don't know if there are any easy/obvious solutions but I'm trying to just take things little by little. I do plan on stopping by the rescue tomorrow with the hopes that I can talk with some of the volunteers and maybe do a little brainstorming with them. Supposedly one of the guys who helped build all their catteries and enclosures should be there. I also heard there's a lady who's apparently worked a lot with ferals so I'm hoping I can get in touch with her. I'm not sure how it will go but I really hope I can get someone to take an active interest in helping me.

Meanwhile not much has changed other than a couple of minor updates. I feel like we're sort of settling in to where the kitties are mostly sleeping/resting during the day. They tend to get active at night. Pretty sure that's how things were for them outside as well. Right now, whether good or bad, I've been leaving them alone all day and trying to make as little noise as possible. To me, at least the peace and quiet, especially relative to all the construction noise out at their tree pile all day, has to be a good thing for their stress levels despite now being confined. Outside, they would almost always come for food after dark. So, I've been sticking to that pattern and going in as it starts getting towards dusk to give them a meal and clean their litter boxes. It's already a long process so I don't stay once I'm done. Then I will go in again before bed and add another plate of wet food for each of them. So far, that's about the extent of my interactions with them.

I certainly have a lot of concerns about long term stuff and the taming process- how to begin, steps to follow, etc. but probably the immediate issues to get your thoughts/suggestions on as of right now:
--I could put Tuck in another room which would free up some space and maybe allow for some better accommodations in the kitty room. One question is would she be better off alone or in the same room as her old pals? Until he seemed to get evicted from the tree pile after which I'd mostly see her alone, she used to seem to really want to hang out with Milly and Lippy. The other problem is that my indoor cat Coco Puff (Puffy) has been really used to having access to my office and visits me at various times during the day. I'm not willing to shut him out. The other room is the most likely option, but that's where he likes napping on the futon in the morning sunlight. Puffy is older (going on 14) and has shown a number of signs of stress with this situation as it is. His appetite has not been good lately. He's very vocal and seeks me out acting a bit frantic/stressed at times. He tried to barge in the kitty room the other day when I opened the door but of course I don't want him in there at all. He doesn't like closed doors and not having access. I don't want to upset him even more. At the same time, I have debated the idea of bringing the kitty in my garage inside and setting him up in that room. I would love to keep him but I've got too much going on already. At the very least it seems I will have to foster him for a while until a home can be found. The garage is just not great and I really can't spend a lot of time out there. Basically I go out twice a day to feed him and keep him company for a few minutes. The poor little guy is super good and really is a special kitty...he deserves a warmer more comfy place and a lot more love.
--Milly is compulsively digging in his litter box and bailing most of his litter out onto the crate floor. Plus he is constantly in and out of the litter box all the time and basically just smashes the clumps into tiny pieces. I probably need a high sided or hooded litter box but I feel like I need to be able to provide more space for him to move around and also still allow him visibility to Lippy's crate which would then be severely limited especially with a hooded one. I certainly also worry he will not like an enclosed litter box at all. The other thing is that when he does go pee, he insists on digging to the bottom of the litter box and peeing in the hole he just dug, so the litter gets really caked to the bottom and makes cleaning the box really difficult. Stormy has a lot of these same litter box issues.
--Milly growls almost constantly whenever I'm in the room and strikes/punches things to scare me off when I'm close to his crate. The fierce little growl is almost cute but the violent strikes are pretty frightening and at the same time discouraging that he hasn't gotten any more comfortable with my presence. Fortunately he's been more relaxed when I'm not in the room. In case I haven't mentioned it before, I have been using a Feliway diffuser for a couple of weeks.

Wow it's hard to believe I trapped and brought Milly in on March 1st. I've had Tuck since Feb. 27th. Ugh, it's been that long and I really haven't even started working with him despite how good he's been. :frown:
 

tarasgirl06

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Thank you so much for all your thoughts, comments, support and suggestions. It means a lot that you would take the time to help think through the details of my situation and offer advice and knowledge. Your problem-solving skills and experience are super valuable to me, especially as I feel so lost and ill-equipped to handle all this. My anxiety gets the better of me some days and that probably tends to come through in some of my posts.

Right now I think my biggest immediate goals are going to be to try to improve the quality/roominess of their accommodations and also make things easier for me to clean litter boxes (and their crates/catteries) and change out their food/water. I've certainly noted your suggestions. I don't know if there are any easy/obvious solutions but I'm trying to just take things little by little. I do plan on stopping by the rescue tomorrow with the hopes that I can talk with some of the volunteers and maybe do a little brainstorming with them. Supposedly one of the guys who helped build all their catteries and enclosures should be there. I also heard there's a lady who's apparently worked a lot with ferals so I'm hoping I can get in touch with her. I'm not sure how it will go but I really hope I can get someone to take an active interest in helping me.

Meanwhile not much has changed other than a couple of minor updates. I feel like we're sort of settling in to where the kitties are mostly sleeping/resting during the day. They tend to get active at night. Pretty sure that's how things were for them outside as well. Right now, whether good or bad, I've been leaving them alone all day and trying to make as little noise as possible. To me, at least the peace and quiet, especially relative to all the construction noise out at their tree pile all day, has to be a good thing for their stress levels despite now being confined. Outside, they would almost always come for food after dark. So, I've been sticking to that pattern and going in as it starts getting towards dusk to give them a meal and clean their litter boxes. It's already a long process so I don't stay once I'm done. Then I will go in again before bed and add another plate of wet food for each of them. So far, that's about the extent of my interactions with them.

I certainly have a lot of concerns about long term stuff and the taming process- how to begin, steps to follow, etc. but probably the immediate issues to get your thoughts/suggestions on as of right now:
--I could put Tuck in another room which would free up some space and maybe allow for some better accommodations in the kitty room. One question is would she be better off alone or in the same room as her old pals? Until he seemed to get evicted from the tree pile after which I'd mostly see her alone, she used to seem to really want to hang out with Milly and Lippy. The other problem is that my indoor cat Coco Puff (Puffy) has been really used to having access to my office and visits me at various times during the day. I'm not willing to shut him out. The other room is the most likely option, but that's where he likes napping on the futon in the morning sunlight. Puffy is older (going on 14) and has shown a number of signs of stress with this situation as it is. His appetite has not been good lately. He's very vocal and seeks me out acting a bit frantic/stressed at times. He tried to barge in the kitty room the other day when I opened the door but of course I don't want him in there at all. He doesn't like closed doors and not having access. I don't want to upset him even more. At the same time, I have debated the idea of bringing the kitty in my garage inside and setting him up in that room. I would love to keep him but I've got too much going on already. At the very least it seems I will have to foster him for a while until a home can be found. The garage is just not great and I really can't spend a lot of time out there. Basically I go out twice a day to feed him and keep him company for a few minutes. The poor little guy is super good and really is a special kitty...he deserves a warmer more comfy place and a lot more love.
--Milly is compulsively digging in his litter box and bailing most of his litter out onto the crate floor. Plus he is constantly in and out of the litter box all the time and basically just smashes the clumps into tiny pieces. I probably need a high sided or hooded litter box but I feel like I need to be able to provide more space for him to move around and also still allow him visibility to Lippy's crate which would then be severely limited especially with a hooded one. I certainly also worry he will not like an enclosed litter box at all. The other thing is that when he does go pee, he insists on digging to the bottom of the litter box and peeing in the hole he just dug, so the litter gets really caked to the bottom and makes cleaning the box really difficult. Stormy has a lot of these same litter box issues.
--Milly growls almost constantly whenever I'm in the room and strikes/punches things to scare me off when I'm close to his crate. The fierce little growl is almost cute but the violent strikes are pretty frightening and at the same time discouraging that he hasn't gotten any more comfortable with my presence. Fortunately he's been more relaxed when I'm not in the room. In case I haven't mentioned it before, I have been using a Feliway diffuser for a couple of weeks.

Wow it's hard to believe I trapped and brought Milly in on March 1st. I've had Tuck since Feb. 27th. Ugh, it's been that long and I really haven't even started working with him despite how good he's been. :frown:
Still, you're doing a wonderful labor of love!
With Milly, it's hormones, and it hasn't been that long. Patience.
A good quality metal scoop (the kind that resemble a kitchen spatula is good) is very helpful for that kind of situation with the litter.
Most cats don't like hooded/covered boxes. A nice large tall-sided one is good, but in a confined space it might not be best. We have the PetMate boxes that do come with detachable hoods. These boxes are good sized and they like and use them. I have a couple of other brands/sizes, one of which is very large and tall-sided but no longer available. The other one is a large sized box that is not tall-sided. That one is in our master bedroom under a little table. That is the most popular one. Baby Su is 17 and she needs one in there, as that is her safe territory and where she spends most of her time.
Keep using the Feliway. You might not think it's doing anything, but in my experience it has been VERY helpful in stressful situations.
 

Margot Lane

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I’m so glad you’re reaching out to others nearby! Hopefully someone can help you, even if for a little bit. Don’t know if you are able to play “Music for Cats” for them by Teie of an evening, but it soothes a cat no end. Despite everything it sounds as if you have enough compassion and determination to see this through to a positive outcome, and are taking it step by step. I believe cats like conversation, even feral ones, if you have any pep or tIme after or before work, even if only for a few minutes. Even if it seems like they aren’t listening, they are, and they’ll learn to associate your kind words with food, care and comfort. Please keep us posted, and don’t worry about the lengthy reports. I think actually this could be a book, something like: “The Cat Tree Pile— tales of Survival!”
 

tarasgirl06

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I’m so glad you’re reaching out to others nearby! Hopefully someone can help you, even if for a little bit. Don’t know if you are able to play “Music for Cats” for them by Teie of an evening, but it soothes a cat no end. Despite everything it sounds as if you have enough compassion and determination to see this through to a positive outcome, and are taking it step by step. I believe cats like conversation, even feral ones, if you have any pep or tIme after or before work, even if only for a few minutes. Even if it seems like they aren’t listening, they are, and they’ll learn to associate your kind words with food, care and comfort. Please keep us posted, and don’t worry about the lengthy reports. I think actually this could be a book, something like: “The Cat Tree Pile— tales of Survival!”
Excellent idea, Margot Lane Margot Lane -- educational, interesting, and perhaps helpful financially, as well!
 

fionasmom

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You are making great progress just given the fact that it is now quiet in the room for most of the day. Milly may not want to be with you, but he is calmer now since he is starting to figure out the parameters of his new life.

Is the cat in the garage adoptable at this point? If not, it sounds as if he might be close. If you could rehome one, or if the rescue would help, that would iighten the burden a little bit. As for the rescue, you have taken these cats into your home to try to work with them. Most people would not have done that so readily, so don't shy away from asking the rescue for advice. You have not asked them to take the cats, so they should be happy to help you in other ways. If the man who makes the catteries can come to your house and give some advice, or the other member of the rescue, let them do that.

Coco Puff should not have her life too rearranged by all this if you can help it. You could move Tuck into another room though and see how it goes. She can always go back if it does not work out. If you move her though, she will need some interaction during the day so it will mean that you will have to visit and spend a little time with her.

I agree completely that a hood on a litter box will not help. High sided will, but even Jackson Galaxy regularly tells people to remove the hood from their litter boxes. Keep using the diffuser. I think that I mentioned that I saw a big difference with Feliway Optimum over their other products.

All of these cats have figured out that they are safer, and fed, despite the behavior of Milly. It seems that where you are now is in trying to figure out how to give everyone a little more space and while you wait for them to continue to calm down that is probably the next thing to try to resolve. This is where the rescue could really do you a favor if they would pay a visit as they could walk your property and make suggestions.
 
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ChirpySquirrel

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Indeed, I have the makings of a novel here...lol

I am feeling quite discouraged after my visit to the rescue today. I talked to the volunteers there again along with the gentleman who I had been told was super handy and could maybe help. He was nice but not willing to help in my situation. His best suggestion was to find a barn program. He was nice enough but did not seem very fond of ferals and kept mentioning how expensive and time consuming it was for him to build an enclosure for the feral colony they have at the rescue. So I'm really feeling I'm back on my own as far as trying to come up with solutions to the immediate space and accommodations issues. The one lady had reached out to a contact she had who has done a lot of work with ferals but it turns out all her time is currently consumed with grandma duties and she wasn't willing or able to take an interest in my situation. I only came away with a couple of other names of people who "might" be able to offer some words of advice but I'm feeling less than hopeful that anyone will actually come out and assess things and take the time to become involved the way I really need. The rescue itself is not able to take up my cause and just seem to have more than they can handle always going on. The owners are so maxed out and rarely sleep as it is...I really don't know how they keep going.

I will try playing the "Music for Cats" track but fortunately I haven't observed any of them going too bananas for a while other than some restless activity much of which involves getting in and out of the litter box repeatedly and digging, pawing, and generally flinging litter everywhere. I'm seeing less frantic escape attempts but certainly there are times when they will test the crates and catteries. I am using the Feliway Optimum. Perhaps it is helping. I'll continue using it and already have a refill.

I'm searching for good high sided litter boxes. I may try the stainless steel or coated ones that seem like they would be easier to clean even though they are pretty expensive. I'm open to whatever it takes to keep more litter in the litter box and less out on the crate and bedroom floor as well as make clean up easier.

I'm really just questioning what I can do or what my long term plan could even be. Without really being able to talk in detail about each cat and what approach will be best and work with someone directly who can be involved and coach me regularly, I'm just worried this is not going to be a good situation for them or me. I really appreciate your efforts to keep posting your suggestions and thoughts. It's really all I have right now.
If I move Tuck to the other room, what kind of interaction should I start with? She is a very playful and energetic kitty. She probably has the best accommodations out the 4 because I actually had time to fit a cat tree and extra shelf in her cattery before I got her in there. She has a couple of poofy balls hanging on strings that she swats around and plays with quite a bit. It makes me smile when I hear the jingling of the bell that's inside one of them. Outside, she would always want to run around and play with the two siblings but even when she was by herself she would scamper around, play with rocks and whatever she could find (including mice all the time) and keep herself entertained. It's sad she can't run around the way she likes to but she's making the best of it.
 

Margot Lane

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I’m gonna let the others chime in here mostly as they are multiple feral cat owners, except to say if you feel a bond with one of the cats, and the health of all of them seems OK why not start with that one? Talking to it is huge: if it’s playful any moving toy you can think will be appreciated. I am not sure how ferals react to Yow! Catnip, but I can’t see how it would hurt, and they make banana shaped “kickers,” too. Have you tried using “Nextdoor,” to see if you can find some helpful cat neighbors that way, or perhaps FB? (I don’t FB so perhaps somome here can guide you about that). You might read TCS’s Big Badbass, I think he’s called -just do a search- and there is a lovely report of how he tamed a very feral kitty, which will inspire you. There have GOT to be other helpful cat people near you: they are everywhere.
 

tarasgirl06

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Indeed, I have the makings of a novel here...lol

I am feeling quite discouraged after my visit to the rescue today. I talked to the volunteers there again along with the gentleman who I had been told was super handy and could maybe help. He was nice but not willing to help in my situation. His best suggestion was to find a barn program. He was nice enough but did not seem very fond of ferals and kept mentioning how expensive and time consuming it was for him to build an enclosure for the feral colony they have at the rescue. So I'm really feeling I'm back on my own as far as trying to come up with solutions to the immediate space and accommodations issues. The one lady had reached out to a contact she had who has done a lot of work with ferals but it turns out all her time is currently consumed with grandma duties and she wasn't willing or able to take an interest in my situation. I only came away with a couple of other names of people who "might" be able to offer some words of advice but I'm feeling less than hopeful that anyone will actually come out and assess things and take the time to become involved the way I really need. The rescue itself is not able to take up my cause and just seem to have more than they can handle always going on. The owners are so maxed out and rarely sleep as it is...I really don't know how they keep going.

I will try playing the "Music for Cats" track but fortunately I haven't observed any of them going too bananas for a while other than some restless activity much of which involves getting in and out of the litter box repeatedly and digging, pawing, and generally flinging litter everywhere. I'm seeing less frantic escape attempts but certainly there are times when they will test the crates and catteries. I am using the Feliway Optimum. Perhaps it is helping. I'll continue using it and already have a refill.

I'm searching for good high sided litter boxes. I may try the stainless steel or coated ones that seem like they would be easier to clean even though they are pretty expensive. I'm open to whatever it takes to keep more litter in the litter box and less out on the crate and bedroom floor as well as make clean up easier.

I'm really just questioning what I can do or what my long term plan could even be. Without really being able to talk in detail about each cat and what approach will be best and work with someone directly who can be involved and coach me regularly, I'm just worried this is not going to be a good situation for them or me. I really appreciate your efforts to keep posting your suggestions and thoughts. It's really all I have right now.
If I move Tuck to the other room, what kind of interaction should I start with? She is a very playful and energetic kitty. She probably has the best accommodations out the 4 because I actually had time to fit a cat tree and extra shelf in her cattery before I got her in there. She has a couple of poofy balls hanging on strings that she swats around and plays with quite a bit. It makes me smile when I hear the jingling of the bell that's inside one of them. Outside, she would always want to run around and play with the two siblings but even when she was by herself she would scamper around, play with rocks and whatever she could find (including mice all the time) and keep herself entertained. It's sad she can't run around the way she likes to but she's making the best of it.
Though I can't really help on the big picture, I can on the high-sided litterbox. "Big Box" stores like Walmart, and undoubtedly amazon and eBay, have large plastic lidded boxes that are commonly used for storing clothes etc. They are generally very affordable. Get one, cut a door in it, sand down the edges to make sure they aren't sharp, and you have a very large, very high-sided litterbox. There are smaller, lower under-bed storage boxes, too, if you prefer those. You can use the large ones with or without the lids. We did this in the Mojave in our barn compound. They worked very well and cost much less than actual litter boxes.
IMG_0225.JPG

Here's our sweet angel Katie on one.
 
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