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Semi-feral: Bring Them Inside Or Not?

Discussion in 'Caring for Strays and Ferals' started by Avery, Aug 5, 2018.

  1. NY cat man

    NY cat man TCS Member Young Cat

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    Avery, I didn
     

  2. Avery

    Avery Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    Aug 5, 2018
    Hello everyone and thanks for your messages. I have decided I am definitely bringing these cats inside and I'm stepping up the timetable. I had originally thought that I would wait for colder weather so they might be more inclined to be happy inside, but yesterday Ruby didn't eat all day except for 5-6 treats (which I had to BEG her to eat) so I got scared she was sick. This morning, she ate and seems back to normal, but it made me realize there is no reason to put this off.

    Lucky (must have been a pet at one time), allows himself to be picked up, even held chest-high for just a second, so I think he will be pretty easy to get into a carrier. (Famous last words!?) Ruby will be the tough one and if she loses her appetite again, trapping/catching her with the lure of food won't work. Last night I couldn't sleep, thinking about throwing a towel/blanket/pillowcase over her and dumping her into a carrier set on end... AWFUL for her. Has anyone done this with any success? Unless she was really sick, I imagine she'd fight like crazy and slip away.

    If she keeps her appetite, then I plan to put treats into a carrier and eventually close the door... if she even goes inside! A friend suggested buying a very large cage (one that I can go into!) and feed her in there. Then have a mobile vet come to the house and go into that cage, sedating her if necessary. A little extreme? Or maybe I could more easily lure Ruby into a dog crate and then take the dog crate to the vets. A dog crate would be more "open" and might not spook her as much. OR if I could get a large catio built soon (I am meeting with some guys who might build one but probably not for a while) then I could get Ruby in there and put medicine (gabapentin) in her food to calm her down and then take her to the vet. Yeesh... none of these ideas seems ideal!

    Before I do anything, I feel I should talk to my vet about what SHE would recommend and find workable. I have an appointment for Palmer, inside cat, next week so I'll talk to the vet about all this. I can't wait to get this done and start the inside work of socializing!
     

  3. shadowsrescue

    shadowsrescue Advisor Staff Member Advisor

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    I have used the blanket trick, but did not put the carrier on end. I just covered them in a blanket and shoved into the carrier.

    When I brought my 3 inside, I used medium dog sized carriers. Here is what I used:
    For my smallest cat I used this one


    For the larger 2 I used this one
    IRIS Deluxe Pet Travel Carrier

    I did have 3 and I allowed them time inside my house ( with the door to the outside open) and inside the crates I put stinky tuna. I also put down a cozy blanket that was sprinkled with catnip.
    Here is a picture of when I was practicing with them
    upload_2018-8-9_11-0-28.png
     

  4. shadowsrescue

    shadowsrescue Advisor Staff Member Advisor

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    Apr 27, 2011
    Ohio
    I have used the blanket trick, but did not put the carrier on end. I just covered them in a blanket and shoved into the carrier.

    When I brought my 3 inside, I used medium dog sized carriers. Here is what I used:
    For my smallest cat I used this one


    For the larger 2 I used this one
    IRIS Deluxe Pet Travel Carrier

    I did have 3 and I allowed them time inside my house ( with the door to the outside open) and inside the crates I put stinky tuna. I also put down a cozy blanket that was sprinkled with catnip.
    Here is a picture of when I was practicing with them
    View attachment 246784
     

  5. shadowsrescue

    shadowsrescue Advisor Staff Member Advisor

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    Ohio
    I have no idea why the double posts. Sorry.
     

  6. Avery

    Avery Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    Shadowsrescue, thanks for the info. I like the looks of the IRIS carrier -- looks like a bigger size than the one I have at home. I'm going to measure. What do you think about an actual all-wire cage rather than a carrier? Heavier but more open, would have to fit in the car!

    I don't think Ruby would go in a trap again (and my three traps are loaned out now) so a carrier seems like a better option. I would hope my vet could work with that. Unfortunately, Ruby doesn't seem to care about catnip so I have to hope she retains her appetite so I don't have to grab her. But... any blanket tricks to pass on?! It probably happens so fast, but I imagine you sneak up and scoop them up somehow, with the carrier next to you.
     

  7. shadowsrescue

    shadowsrescue Advisor Staff Member Advisor

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    Apr 27, 2011
    Ohio
    My 3 would never have gone in a trap either. I had thought of using a small dog cage, but wondered how I would fit it into my car. The bigger carrier just seemed easier.

    If you decide to just scoop her up in a towel, I would get the carrier and make it part of the landscape. That's what I did with my 3. When I would bring them inside, I would have the carriers out with the food inside. If they chose to go inside, great, if not that was ok too. I just wanted them to be used to seeing them and knowing that inside was something yummy. I had a small couch pillow next to the carrier that I used to block the exit while securing the latch. I also practiced closing the carriers as each one was a bit different. You might try just getting a large carrier and placing it outside. You could start to feed her in it and see how that works out. Just be sure if you are feeding her in it, that she is ok with you sitting right there. When my 3 would go into the carrier for their snack, I was always close by and sometimes I would try to reach inside. Just to get them used to me working on the carriers with them inside or nearby.
     

  8. Avery

    Avery Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    Yep, I like all these ideas! I'm going to either use my current carrier (or get a bigger one asap) and put it outside. Ruby will let me sit within inches of her to give her treats, sometimes eating them out of my hand, and I can do this near the carrier, then put the treats into the carrier, etc., etc. Lucky is such a nosy guy, very food-oriented, it is sometimes hard to keep him away when I'm trying to feed Ruby! It might turn out that I have to catch him first, just to get some space for her! Anyway, I was able to move up my vet appointment to earlier next week so I will talk with the vet about all this.

    And, thanks to rubysmama's suggestion, last night I finally finished reading the ENTIRE story of "meet buggy." Very inspiring!
     
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  9. rubysmama

    rubysmama Forum Helper Staff Member Forum Helper

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    I can tell you're motivated now. Good luck, and keep us posted. I have no experience with ferals, but have read many of these threads, and will offer encouragement when I can.

    Glad you enjoyed the "meet buggy" story. Neat twists and turns wasn't there.
     

  10. Avery

    Avery Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    What is really motivating me is fear! Lucky disappeared for part of a day, Ruby's appetite is better but not great and she just looks a little "off" to me. So I just went out and bought a carrier the same size as the one shadowsrescue used (mine was too small) and I'm going to put it together and set it outside either today or tomorrow. I am meeting an old high school friend for dinner soon and she is bringing along a friend of hers who does cat fostering. I'm going to pick her brain about things, too!
     
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  11. shadowsrescue

    shadowsrescue Advisor Staff Member Advisor

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    Apr 27, 2011
    Ohio
    Be sure that you have a safe room ready for them. If this is going to be a spare room, be sure that either the bed is flat on the floor or picked up. As under the bed or other large furniture is the first place they will run to hide. I had to block under chairs and a love seat I was using. If not my 3 would have hidden forever!

    Think about litter boxes too. You will need at least 2 to start. I have always had great luck with Dr. Elsey's Litter Attract. I usually use it straight to start off and then gradually mix it with my regular litter. The 3 I brought inside did fantastic with it. There was not even one accident. Now my other 2, had an accident or two. I just sopped up the urine with a paper towel and buried it in their litter box. This did the trick.

    Also in the room you will use, if there are blinds or curtains be sure they are out of the way. You don't want them climbing either. Also watch for cords on blinds. I just kept my blinds all the way up and or down and then secured the cord at the top. Out of the 5 I have brought inside, 3 have thrown themselves against the window out of fear. It stopped quickly, but it did happen.

    I also had to use baby gates at the entrance to the room to be sure they didn't escape. Many times, they would be right at the door and it was hard for me to enter without one of them escaping.

    I know all about the fear and wanting to bring them inside to safety. Before I moved, there was a pack of coyotes that would frequent my yard at night. It scared me to death. I went to bed every night worrying and hoping all 3 would still be there in the morning. I never regret bringing these little ones inside.
     
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  12. rubysmama

    rubysmama Forum Helper Staff Member Forum Helper

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  13. Avery

    Avery Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    I'm half-way through reading "First time trying..." -- good info! It could be a while before I get these guys inside, but I am already envisioning how it will work! Maybe the power of positive thinking and planning ahead will expedite things! One good thing, Ruby is back to eating and acting like herself and they both are showing up for every meal. I'm embarrassed to say, they get three meals a day and now I'm giving them treats just before dark because that is when I can pet Ruby. Yesterday, she pushed against my hand with her head (with inside cats, we call it "bumpy head"!) and rubbed against me as she walked around me. Very nice!

    I have a small house but I can use the second bedroom as their safe room. I already use litter attract and even though it is pretty expensive, it has been worth it. There are two windows with wooden shutters on the bottom half of each, a tall cat tree at one window, a bookcase that is practically empty, and a desk -- I'll have to remove everything from the desk, maybe even take off the shelf that sits on top of the desk. There is also a TV on a stand. The stand is open and might be a good spot to put a bed or blanket, but I'll have to figure out how to unhook the TV and take it out or somehow put it in a big secure box! I do have a few questions:

    There is a wool braid area rug that covers most of the floor in this room. I don't care if it gets dirty, even peed on, but would the cats like it or not? I think someone mentioned removing a big rug and putting in smaller rag rugs. (Maybe it was shadowsrescue?) They would slide around, but maybe better? Or I could buy a medium-size cheap rug.

    There is a heavy wooden futon in this room. Rather than trying to move it out, I can try to block underneath -- what is good to use for blocking that will stay in place? Other than big cinder blocks, (and I'd need a ton) I can't think of anything! Also, should I leave the futon mattress? I have it covered in a waterproof mattress pad and it would be a nice sleeping spot, but I would hate for it to get ruined by claws.

    I have a few extra litter boxes, actually large, low Sterlite storage bins, but they might have the scent of previous cats. Better to buy new ones?

    The bedroom door pushes into the room so the baby gate must be on the outside/hallway side and you have to kind of move it or step over it? Is a baby gate high enough to block a jumping cat? I have seen some posts that show a DYI gate made of coated wire shelves, but I'm not too handy. Maybe there is a pretty tall baby gate?

    Sorry for the long message! I am also contacting a few companies to find out about building a catio! THAT is very exciting!!
     

  14. shadowsrescue

    shadowsrescue Advisor Staff Member Advisor

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    Apr 27, 2011
    Ohio
    For the rug, I found that when I did not have a rug, the litter was everywhere. It drove me nuts. Little pieces of litter balls everywhere. I just used old scatter rugs that I had so they could easily be thrown in the wash. My boys preferred having the rugs.

    To block underneath the futun, you can try old pillows, blankets, foam rollers, bricks, etc.. Just be sure the cats can't push them. I also used cushions from patio furniture. I had some foam rollers and put bricks behind them so they couldn't be pushed. Just keep the waterproof mattress pad there or cover it with old sheets/towels. I am sure they will love sitting on it. As for scratching it, be sure you have lots of scratchers. I was sure to have both vertical and horizontal scratchers. My boys loved them and used all of them.

    I would get new litter boxes. I too used the sterlite under the bed boxes. Yet I found that my 3 really dig deep and they got scratched to pieces very quickly. Also since they lived outside, they were used to having volcano like mounds! Inside, this meant the litter was thrown everywhere. I had to buy lots of litter mats. I used the plastic backing type as well as some micro fiber thick mats. They really helped to trap the litter.
    I could then every week, fold them up and take them outside to shake. I found having a good whisk broom/dust pan was a must. I stopped using the sterlite boxes and switched to the high sided kind. What a difference. I hardly ever get any litter out of the box any more! I got the jumbo.
    https://www.petco.com/shop/en/petco...litter-box-in-gray-24-l-x-18-w-x-10-h-2745524

    For baby gates, I used the extra tall walk through gates. I had these from when I brought my first feral inside 5 years ago. My boys never tried to jump them. It makes it so easy to get in and out. I then would use the wire gate or screen door to put in front of the gate for extra protection when I was ready to leave the door open. Here is the gate I used:


    For making the wire shelving gate, it's very very simple. If you go to Lowes or Home depot, they will cut it to the size you need. I took one 12' piece and had them cut it into 3, 4' pieces. Then just purchase zip ties for a few bucks and put them together. It folds up nicely and was plenty tall for my boys. Yet, you can also do it in 6' sections.

    Before I used the wire shelving barrier, I used a cheap wooden screen door from Lowes ($30) and secured it with tension rods. It was a pain in the butt to set up and take down. But it did work really well.
     

  15. Avery

    Avery Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    Shadowsrescue, thanks so much for the information and the links to the specific items you used. That gate, especially, looks perfect. I also like the ideas about the litter box and mats. And scatter rugs.

    I feel a bit like I'm putting the cart before the horse since I don't even know when I will get them inside (it better be before winter!) but it is exciting to be planning and envisioning the day and I DO want to be totally prepared! I really appreciate your help. After I talk to my vet on Tuesday (in 4 days), I will feel really ready to move ahead. If she isn't on board (and I think she will be) there is a "feral friendly" vet who actually makes house calls and I will contact them.
     

  16. shadowsrescue

    shadowsrescue Advisor Staff Member Advisor

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    Apr 27, 2011
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    It so helps being prepared. Yet there will be things that crop up along the way. I had the love seat I was using in their room ready to go. Yet there was a small chair that I just could not get blocked. Whatever I tried, they were able to push aside. The chair had to leave the room. Also be sure that you block behind large furniture. My 3 tried to get behind the love seat. I had to put old bed pillows between the wall and the top of the love seat. The room was not the prettiest!

    In my home now, I used a different love seat. I could not get it blocked from behind at all. So I had to pull it far away from the wall. They still hide back there, but I can get to them and even walk back there. It's now a compromise!

    I forgot to post a picture of my setup when I used the screen door. It was at my old house.
     

    Attached Files:


  17. Avery

    Avery Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    I like that screen set-up. Looks like it is being held by tension rods. I bought a carrier at Petco the same size as the IRIS one you used because I wanted it right away! Just put it together and realized it doesn't have a handle! (Wish I noticed a little earlier!) It is more of a kennel and it is really awkward to pick up. So back it goes and I think I'll look around a bit more but might just go ahead and order the IRIS one you used. I like the large square look and the long air holes. Yeesh.... good to figure this stuff out in advance!
     

  18. vyger

    vyger TCS Member Alpha Cat

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    I was thinking of adding my "2 cents" but was not sure how to word things. Because I live in a very rural, middle of nowhere place I tend to have a little different perspective than others. So, as to catching baby bunnies, thank them for doing that. Things like rabbits can explode in population and take over everything and can destroy gardens and such. What is worse though is they attract other predators like foxes, and many others, that will kill everything else besides rabbits. No rabbits around, no other predators around. I have a "new" neighbor 1 1/2 miles down the road that just moved into a house that was vacant for a little while. I stopped to talk to him about cutting up some trees that were storm damaged for firewood. Anyway he was trying to bring the vegetation back under control but was being overrun with mice. He mowed some thick brush and had a dozen mice scurrying for new cover. They are now invading their house. I on the other hand have no mice. In fact it's very rare that I see any and it's usually already been caught and being played with. So I have no mice, no rabbits, no tree squirrels, no ground squirrels, none of those problem animals. All compliments of my few outside cats. People don't realize how much good they do in terms of keeping things in balance. So there are benefits to cats being outside. Your cat not being hungry is likely due to it catching and eating things that you probably would not want around.

    In my experience, most of the bad things that happen to outside cats happens at night. I keep mine in at night as much as is possible. I call them in to come and eat and close them in my entryway. Sometimes they stay out all night, it depends on what they want, but they have other buildings that they can be in. In fact I have another place that is set up for food and water for them.

    I have attracted and tamed a number of ferals over the years. Having the others outside and getting fed along with them speeds the socializing process. I have a feral mom and 2 kittens hanging around now. She is staying in my entryway mostly, hiding under boxes and such. She has been watching me and is much less afraid than she used to be. In fact she already knows the "dinner time" call. I have seen her "hiding" just a foot away. It's pretty funny that she thinks if she can't see me I can't see her. So there is her nose sticking out and I blow across the food towards her and she is riveted. I have made eye contact with her now and we have even exchanged slow blinks. It's just a matter of time. But it would be much harder if the others were not around.

    So anyway, if it was me I would arrange for the cats to spend the night inside but let them back into their element in the day. They will be a lot happier and get all their wandering done in the day and then be happy to stay inside at night. And you won't have any mice.
     

  19. Avery

    Avery Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    Vyger, thanks for reading this thread and sharing your thoughts. It sounds like you are doing a great job with your cats! I totally get what you are saying and understand your perspective. Especially over the past few years, I have had many discussions with family and close friends about the inside cat-outside cat decision. My sister's neighbor moved away and abandoned his small outdoor cat. My sister took over the care and feeding, letting the cat remain outside, but when he showed up one day with a very serious, bloody injury, it changed things. He spent over a week at the vets, then she had to keep him inside for a few months to heal. After that, my sister could not bear to let him back out, both for his safety as well as her piece of mind. Let alone the chance of more vet bills! A friend from work is a bird watcher and has feeders and birdbaths all over her yard. She hates roaming cats and promises that if a cat even takes one step into her yard, she is going to take it to the SPCA, even if she knows the owner.

    That said, I truly get that cats might have fuller lives if they live outside, even part of the time. I just am not sure I am strong enough to be a feral cat mom forever! Honestly, after three years with Ruby and one year with Lucky, they are so dear to me that I react very emotionally when anything seems out of sorts. I feel that I am taking the cats' happiness into consideration when I hope to bring them inside, but I also consider what I can accept, what will be less stressful for me. Maybe not good, but that's the way it is!

    I live in a suburban neighborhood on a fairly busy street. Never had mouse problems (that I know of!) or an excess of squirrels, rabbits, etc. When my cat gets a bunny, it is delivered to me skinned or without a head or, worst of all, half dead, and I can only envision how it suffered and, if it isn't quite dead, I can't bring myself to finish the job and don't know what to do. I understand the balance of nature thing, I guess I just can't deal with it personally!

    Vyger, I really appreciated hearing from you because it gave me a chance to think more about these issues. It also made me realize what a great resource this website is and how it showcases the many good people who are doing their best to do right by cats!
     
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  20. NY cat man

    NY cat man TCS Member Young Cat

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    It is a good thing to consider all the aspects of cat ownership- of being responsible for their welfare and happiness- to a point. There is a term "Paralysis by analysis" where we tend to overthink things.
    Has our experience been one continual bed of roses? No it hasn't, especially when it cost us over $1500 to get Stretch's urinary problems fixed. Would we do it again? Absolutely- in a heartbeat, because we can give him- and the other four, a better life than they would ever have on the street, and you can't measure that in dollars and cents. I will grant you, it is not for everyone, and only you can make that decision- I just hope you make the right one, whichever way you decide. Good luck, and keep us posted.
     
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