Taming a feral mama kitty and her sweet kitten

Cindy_123

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Hello! I recently found this forum and have spent hours reading the posts. I thought I’d share my story.

As of tomorrow, it will be two weeks that I was able to successfully trap Mama Kitty (aka Greta) and now-12-week old Wally. She is definitely feral rather than stray, and she had made a sometime-home out of my attic. I first noticed her on my roof in November. And I might catch a glimpse of her if I were lucky for the next couple of months. I set a warm insulated box home outside for her in the cold months, but it sat empty. I started feeding her regularly in January. She remained elusive but food was disappearing in the early evening hours (too late in the evening and the possums would finish things off).

Fast forward to the end of March/beginning of April and I spied her carrying a kitten from my roof over to the neighbor’s backyard shed. I counted 4 kittens. She brought them back to my house/roof/attic when they were about 4 weeks old and pretty soon they were climbing the holly bush or the crepe myrtle tree themselves to get on the roof (I tried not to spy on them or Mama would run off but it gave me a heart attack seeing those toddlers climbing like that). I thought I’d befriend her enough to bring them inside, wait until the kittens were hiding in a place that was accessible and then trap Mama, or wait until they were all coming to the feeding bowls and figure out a trapping plan.

I should mention, I live in the Dallas north suburbs. There are stories of bobcats and coyotes in the area but I thought (naively) that she was doing all the right things to keep the babies safe. I even called the local animal shelter and they weren’t any help.

Mama would keep moving the kittens in the dark of the night about every few days. Sometimes there looked like maybe two of them here and two of them elsewhere. When the kittens were about 6 weeks old, two of the kittens were on the roof/attic and Mama was elsewhere that day with the other two. I heard faint meowing and it continued for a couple of hours. Finally I figured out one of them had fallen into the wall from the attic – a small “triangle” of wall between hall closet and bedroom apparently had no ceiling. I cut a hole in the drywall and got out that baby and named him Wally. I thought I’d keep him but Mama figured out he was inside the house, and so I returned him to her the next morning. I was (reluctantly) going with the Alley Cat advice on keeping the babies with the mama until they were weaned and I was not fully aware of the predator situation. Well, a couple of weeks go by and I conclude that one of the two fuzzy shy kitties was really missing. Then, we have a horrible storm (75 mph winds and trees knocked down in the neighborhood) and she returns that night for food with 3 babies but then after that night I never see the 2nd fuzzy one. We are down to 2 kittens. I decide it’s the time to trap just so long as I have a good guess where the two kittens are. That very night, I’m outside. I spot Wally on the roof and figure Mama might be across the street with the other kitten. It is about 8 pm and it is dusk. Just then a very large bobcat rounds the corner and is looking in the neighbor’s bush. I run across the street, yelling with my arms flailing. Mama cat runs out the bush, bobcat lunging at her. Mama pulls an impressive tumble forward, pivots, and runs across the street to my roof. Bobcat stops short of following her because I’m running at it. He turns around, goes back to the bush, and kills the kitten hiding there and takes off with it. The bobcat was not afraid of me, even with me yelling at it. And it was huge! I kept a constant watch out the window and sure enough, the bobcat comes back at 10 pm and I chase it off but he only runs down the sidewalk about 4 houses. Mama and Wally take off sometime in the evening. I don’t see sign of either of them (and food bowls untouched) for 2 days and then Mama comes for food but without Wally. Then that night Wally shows up around midnight and I spend the evening trying unsuccessfully to trap him. He’s mostly on the roof crying loudly for his mama. He disappears and at 5 am I spot Mama. I go outside to give her a little bit of food as a teaser and I’m about to reset the trap (I had just carried it inside) when I spot a coyote running down my street, at 5 am, while Mama cat quickly runs up the nearest tree! I catch Mama in the trap at 5:30 am but now Wally the baby is at large. Finally I see him return that night at sunset (I had big crocodile tears of joy seeing him alive). And this time I am able to catch him in the trap, reunited with Mama by 9 pm that evening.

I have several cats in my home and I’m a single empty nester with a 3 bedroom house. I have already attained Cat Lady status. I had set up one of the bedrooms for Mama and any kittens. I had them at first in a cat cage but realized that wasn’t going to work so I gave them the bedroom in its entirety. Mama is under the bed by default, including any time I’m in the room. Wally warmed up to me after about 1-2 days of being shy (and probably recovering from the exhaustion and trauma). He has since been to get his shots and dewormer. I thought it would be a slow process to introduce him to the kitty family but he has about the easiest kitten personality I've encountered. He’s new best friends with my two youngest cats (two boys about a year old from the same litter) and he’s doing great.

Meanwhile, Mama/Greta is going to be a slow process but I’m determined to make it happen. I am 90% sure she’s pregnant, and I tried to trap her in the bedroom to take her to the Spay/Neuter Clinic but she’s way too smart to go back in the trap. I’ve decided that if there’s another litter of kittens, then yeah okay I guess that’s what we are doing. I bought two cheap nanny cams (on Amazon, only $22 each and so worth it) to keep an eye on her. She’s sleeping deeply during the day and looks much less anxious. I go in there and lie on the floor and talk to her a couple times each day, though not sure if she likes it or hates it.

This past Thursday morning I was feeling frustrated and defeated as I couldn’t get her in the trap and I had just 90 minutes before time was up to get her trapped and to the clinic in time. I looked out my front door window (it was 7 am), and just then a different bobcat walked slowly right in front of my doorway and maybe 4 feet away from me. It was the sign I needed that she’s my indoor cat and I’m not going to release her back out there no matter what. She’d be a bobcat or coyote snack within days I’m afraid.

So anyway, that’s where I am at. Wally the kitten is completely adjusted and Mama/Greta is taking her time. He was confused by the TV and has decided that chasing my feet under the blanket is loads of fun. Mama is peeing on doggie pee pads rather than using the litter box but at least she’s using pee pads. She’ll hiss at me if I come up on her when she’s sitting in the window sill. But her eyes are softening and I think deep down she understands that I saved her. I’ve let Wally pop in to say hi to Mama but she ignores him for the most part and he’ll just follow me out when I leave.

I called Animal Control the day after the bobcat-kitten snatch incident and they don't do anything about it. I saw just yesterday on Nextdoor that about 4 blocks away a lady stepped out into her fenced back yard with her 5 pound Chihuahua and a bobcat jumped the fence and snatched her little dog right in front of her. It is a real problem here. So, definitely Mama/Greta is an indoor kitty. I guess we may have kittens within a few weeks, and I will get her to the vet to be spayed once I can get her in a cat carrier, which might be a long while. My next task, I suppose, is getting her to use the litter box rather than the doggy pee pad. The bed is covered with an old comforter and topped with a shower curtain and she continues to find refuge under the bed.
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BellaBlue82

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Bless you for saving Greta and Wally!! What a heartbreaking but also joyful experience you went through with them. What a rough start, I can't even imagine watching a bobcat do that. 😭 I'm sure Mama will come around, probably a lot more once she has her next litter. She'll see then how nice it is to have a true home and her own human while nursing and loving her kittens. ❤
 

Crabbysquatch

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What a great story. Sad about the kittens :( but you did what you could. I have a few nanny cams myself but we mostly use them for the Guinea pigs because the range on them isn’t the greatest. I have half a dozen trail cams for hunting that I use to help spot kittens and feral cats. They can be used like nanny cams but also capture video you can watch later so you don’t have to be on constant “duty”. We have bobcats and coyotes here as well but the biggest danger is eagles and hawks. I’m glad you are able to take the time to help the feral mom cat. Most people only worry about the kittens because they are easy to tame. I’m in a very similar situation but I just can’t bring the mom cat inside. All I can do is try to befriend her in my barn.
 

xenonentity

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Fellow Dallas friend, hello! :hellocat:

I'm so sorry you had to witness such a traumatic thing with that little baby. It's absolutely MUCH safer to have them inside with you. I'm glad you were able to save Wally! He's absolutely adorable, what a sweetie.

I definitely fully understand why, as a cat lover, seeing something like that would be absolutely heartbreaking, and I don't want to minimize that. But I do have to point out that the bobcat was only doing what, well, any cat does. The feral domestic cats are the invaders into bobcat and coyote territory. They've been displaced into urban areas because almost none of their native habitat is left due to the amount of development in our area. Feral domestic cats are an invasive species that does magnitudes of damage to native animals, and while I love cats a lot and absolutely understand wanting them to be safe, especially such young kittens, I hate to see the bobcat here be played out as a villain here.

I also find it very difficult to believe the Nextdoor Chihuahua story. I can't say for sure it didn't happen, something like that isn't impossible, but a chihuahua is a pretty big prey item for a bobcat, and bobcats are generally fairly skittish around people. There are a lot of wildlife stories that get told on places like Facebook and Nextdoor that are simply not true. (I'm a Texas Master Naturalist and work with Texas Parks and Wildlife, and there are LOTS of stories about "mountain lions" running off with peoples' dogs or hawks and owls stealing their chihuahuas and flying off - something that's physically impossible for a bird of prey.)

Again, I mean no hostility at all your way, it's great that Wally and Greta have found a home and that you're willing to do what it takes to keep them inside and safe. Those storms that we had our what brought my own two little ex-feral kittens to me, in fact! Storm is named for them. They all deserve somewhere where they're safe from wildlife, and where our native birds, rodents, and reptiles are safe from them. I just am super passionate about my love for our native animals as well, and I think it can be easy even for animal lovers to fall into the idea of larger predators being our enemies, rather than victims of human expansion.

Best of luck with Wally, Greta, and the rest of your cats!
 
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Cindy_123

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I also find it very difficult to believe the Nextdoor Chihuahua story. I can't say for sure it didn't happen, something like that isn't impossible, but a chihuahua is a pretty big prey item for a bobcat, and bobcats are generally fairly skittish around people. There are a lot of wildlife stories that get told on places like Facebook and Nextdoor that are simply not true. (I'm a Texas Master Naturalist and work with Texas Parks and Wildlife, and there are LOTS of stories about "mountain lions" running off with peoples' dogs or hawks and owls stealing their chihuahuas and flying off - something that's physically impossible for a bird of prey.)
I am a fan of all Texas wildlife including bobcats, and I'm deeply saddened to see the recent development around me effectively eliminating their habitat. I have lived in the same home for 25 years now, and this is the first time I've seen a bobcat (let alone two) in my yard. But the bobcat that killed the kitten attempted to kill the adult mama cat who was maybe 8 pounds, and attacked her as I stood there, flapping my arms, yelling at it, and jumping up and down. And then two hours later he comes back, looking like he wanted to get on my roof in pursuit of the same adult cat. When I go outside to chase it off (this time armed with a broom) he runs down the sidewalk about 4 houses and stops there to wait and see if I was going to pursue him. He was not afraid of me. So, it's not a stretch to imagine that same bobcat carrying off a 5 pound dog. I stood outside for the next four evenings at dusk, armed again with my trusty broom, in hopes to deter Mr Bobcat from coming back to my yard for a snack.

I'm not sure if Youtube links work here, but after this incident I found a video of that very same bobcat taken at the park just a couple blocks away. He is big and not shy of humans. This one has less pronounced spots and with his size I think some reports are falsely calling him a mountain lion.

I don't think any community cats stand a chance of survival, though, in this neighborhood given the number of predators.
 

Mamanyt1953

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I am SO glad that you have Greta and Wally safe indoors. And regardless about how Greta feels right now about you lying on the floor in her room, keep it up. It makes you as nonthreatening as possible to her, and she'll eventually respond. It will, of course, be in her own time, but she will.
 
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Cindy_123

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Update: Wally just got his neuter surgery yesterday and he's adjusted completely to his new life. Mama (Greta) is definitely pregnant and she's got her very own bedroom and I've set up a couple of nest areas. She'd been hiding under the bed when I come in but yesterday I guess she decided I'm not going to murder her (or else her desire to escape now exceeds her fear of me). Anyway, starting this morning at 1 am she's been sitting by the door meowing loudly. I've sat on the other side and cracked the door and had conversations but she's more mad at me and really plotting her escape (I can see her brain working away). Also going in the room the last two times and she came out closer to me than she's ever been (maybe a foot or less) but hissing me at the same time. I show her my hand (fingers curled under) and lower than her eye level and she just glares at it with the message "don't get that thing any closer or I'm smacking it." So, progress I guess but we have so far to go! Also, I wonder if she's more urgent now to get out of that room because she senses birth is just around the corner? There were two tom cats outside around the beginning of May so if that's when she got pregnant, she might be 53-58 days now? I just cannot remember exactly when I saw those tom cats.
 

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Losing her fear of you is the very first step to deciding that you are actually an ok being...for a two-foot. It takes LOTS of time, but you have begun the journey!
 
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Cindy_123

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We have newborn kittens! Four that I count, and were born last night starting around 8 pm. I went in at 7 pm to feed her and she was extra hissy, insisting that I don't come in the room. And she's usually okay for me to come in with food. I've been watching from the nanny-cam (she seems to know it is watching her too) and I didn't see any signs of distress.
 

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BellaBlue82

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We have newborn kittens! Four that I count, and were born last night starting around 8 pm. I went in at 7 pm to feed her and she was extra hissy, insisting that I don't come in the room. And she's usually okay for me to come in with food. I've been watching from the nanny-cam (she seems to know it is watching her too) and I didn't see any signs of distress.
Aww, how beautiful!! I'm sure Mama was just being protective, I hope she continues to see how good she has it being with you. ❤😻
 
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Cindy_123

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Aww, how beautiful!! I'm sure Mama was just being protective, I hope she continues to see how good she has it being with you. ❤😻
I don't blame her one bit for chasing me out if she was in labor. I slid this morning's breakfast under the door but I worry about upsetting her when I need to go in to clean the litter box and change out the water bowl this afternoon.
 

BellaBlue82

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I don't blame her one bit for chasing me out if she was in labor. I slid this morning's breakfast under the door but I worry about upsetting her when I need to go in to clean the litter box and change out the water bowl this afternoon.
She might be calmer later today since she's through labor. Maybe go in with a few treats for her, then don't pay her any mind while you do what you need to do. Like here's a little reward for being the best mama ever, now don't pay attention to me while I clean your area. Lol
 
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Cindy_123

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Good idea, I'll give her a bit of rotisserie chicken, it is her favorite.
 

BellaBlue82

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Just checking in, how are Mama, babies, and Wally doing? I hope everything is going well!!
 
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Cindy_123

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Wally is living the good life and completely fitting in with the household. He's currently playing with a today (see picture). Mama and babies are doing well, I step inside enough to give mama her food and change out litter box and water. She hisses but it is a mild hiss every time. I have kept my distance from the kittens, I watch on the nanny-cam and so far it looks like she's giving them attention and love. The kittens are 5 days old as of today, and there are 5 of them.
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Kwik

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Love your photos- thanks for sharing and for sharing your story AND for bringing lovely Greta and Wally inside where they belong and deserve to be - in a forever loving home

You're girl Greta appears to be a semi feral imo and I think her transition will be pretty easy for you though it might take awhile being she has so much space in an entire room- this is also a little more challenging for litter training into a box

Get a very large and low box or use a flat tray to start with- ferals and semis do not like stepping into boxes and have no reason to

Take dirt from outside and put it on the tray ( be sure it's flat ,not wobbly and not metal) - buy some DrElsys touch of outdoors cat litter and ultra( litter attractant) be sure to keep the litter box,pan or tray away from corners -outdoors they must see 360 degrees around and be able to flee in any direction in case of predators so they'll NEVER do their business where they cannot easily escape

After Greta gets used to " where" to go you can start adding in DrElseys litter to the dirt,gradually increasing litter little by little and sprinkle Ultra litter attractant on top after each cleaning..... When your down to strictly DrElsys you can begin switching to cat litter of your choice in the same way and continue to use the Ultra until Greta is reliably litter trained.....

Eventually you can thdn move the litter box closer & closer to the wall or where you prefer it instead of middle of the room- * strongly suggest only inches at a time

There ya go- should be reliable between 30 to 60 days
 

Kwik

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Btw- the best way to get a " feral" to step into a litter pan or box is to put it in the path of an entrance or exit they take (eg" in front of the entrance of her nesting space)
 
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