TNR, Semi Feral Mom and Kitten

klp023

TCS Member
Thread starter
Kitten
Joined
May 16, 2015
Messages
17
Reaction score
11
Hello,

I apologize in advance for the length.

My husband and I are having a few feral cat issues and we are hoping you can help. Any suggestions are helpful! We live in a subdivision and our neighbor feeds and provides a little bit of shelter for 7 feral cats. I started feeding a starving little thing that was shunned from the group (a male) and of course now I have all 7 of them. They bounce between neighbors but always end up here at night. I don't mind feeding them as we have a little extra money to do so. We have even temporarily made our 12x12 patio into a covered shelter with heated water bowls, heated houses, and heated beds. Some of the cats are more social than others. They don't really show aggressive behaviors and they are a pretty good little colony (all related). However, we've seen so many kittens/cats get lost, hurt, sick and not make it and we lost 2 adults last winter. This broke our hearts so at first, we just wanted to help the best we can and therefore provided them food. Since we lost the 2 last winter we decided to make our patio their temporary shelter for winter (but will be torn down in the summer) and we want to get them TNR'd. My husband and I enrolled in a TNR program, but we honestly have no idea what we're doing and the resources in our area are limited, we have to drive 1.5 hours one way just to get them fixed. We have the 2 live traps from the TNR place but we have a few questions:

We know how to trap them, but we're wondering afterwards, with it being winter (we live in Michigan), how long do we keep them? Our plan is to put our 4x4 kennel with lid in our heated garage with some plastic and old blankets lining the floor (since it's cold concrete) and put the live trap in that. The kennel door lines up with the outside garage door so when we release them they will go right out to the area they are used to. But, how long do we keep them in there? We just want to get them through the winter and get them spayed/neutered to reduce the population and give them a better chance.

Also, we don't plan to be in our current home forever, so we really want to get them through the winter and then slowly wean them from eating here. This makes me feel guilty because they now trust us and partially rely on us, but I had planned to be here forever when I took them on. My thinking is if they no longer reproduce because we TNR them, then there will be less competition for food and of course the neighbors will continue feeding them and provide the shelter she currently does. I just don't know who will take over our home and I don't want them being poisoned or hurt. Isn't it better to wean them in spring then for them to possibly learn the hard way?

My next issue is:

Of the 7, one is a mom, about a year old and had a litter in late August early September. Only 1 survived. She brought him to me. They have stayed in the patio on warm beds and I have been taking care of them. They are here all day and get special treatment lol. The little guy gets so cold at night and I bring him in while mom hunts. Well about 2 weeks ago they started crying at my doors, following me around my house jumping window to window. I couldn't watch another baby die and so they now live in my spare bedroom. My plan was to hopefully acclimate them and keep or find them a new home. However, my 2 indoor cats are really struggling and this breaks my heart. My indoor cats have not seen them, but they hear mom crying all night and can smell her. It is causing them to fight, which is something I've never experienced before. My girl wants to rip me apart every time I come out of that room. They seem to be OK with the kitten. Mom cat won't use a litter box and my house smells horrible! She is spraying up the walls and on the kennel. The kitten is doing wonderful socially, but mom is kind of hindering him at times. He was using the litter box, but now he only goes where she goes. I took him to the vet and have an appointment for mom tomorrow. I don't know how we are going to get her into a carrier. She is not going to do well in there if we can even get her in there. Will this break the trust I've worked so hard to gain? Since I was planning to keep them, I decided to go the vet route verse the TNR route and get them shots, tested, wormed, etc. BTW baby is FIV, Leukemia, and Heartworm free!! However, the vet trips are getting really pricey and I'm not sure if mom will acclimate or my indoors will acclimate with her. She is friendly but at times skittish and does well for the situation, but she is struggling to be inside at times, although she doesn't seem to want to be outside either. I have completely emptied my guest bedroom and laid down plastic to protect the carpet and then put puddle pads and blankets on top of that. There is also a 4x4 kennel with a lid and with an open door but she prefers to lay on top. During the day she sleeps comfortably in a comfy position, but at night she cries and paces. She's eating, drinking, playing, and everything else just fine as long as we're not in there. I even cracked the screen to let fresh air in while I was cleaning up poop and pee and she didn't seem interested in busting out. There are toys, beds, and litterboxes but she still cries a lot. Is it best for her if we TNR her and release her back with her colony or give her more time? Do I keep her until spring and then release her so she's not out in the winter? I'm scared she will hold back the kitten from acclimating. Should I separate them or will that make it worse? It seems the baby calms momma but momma stresses baby and teaches him feral habits. I don't know what to do, but she is unfortunately causing a lot of stress for my indoor cats and therefore me.

Any advice? Thank you!
 

fionasmom

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
2,712
Reaction score
4,190
Location
Los Angeles
For the first part, do you mean how long to keep them in the trap or confined after they are fixed? I keep males for at least 24 hours and females for about 2 days but the time frames can be shorter, especially with ferals who are not able to be housed anywhere or are too wild to confine for very long.

As for moving and relocating them to another property....you have some time to work on this, so don't wait until you are about to move. If you feel that you have a reliable feeder, slowly transition them to that property so that they associate it with food and possibly shelter?. There are a lot of ifs here though.....that person needs to know what is required and if they cannot maintain the cats then you might need to contact rescue groups or look for other options. As far as your home is concerned, it might depend on how stable and comfortable their lives are with the neighbor. A couple of years ago a feral litter was born under my neighbor's house. 3 females, mom, and dad, along with a cast of other feral characters who were in the area. All were TNRed but my neighbor wanted them out from under her house. She is a nice person and did not want to hurt them; I did not blame her for wanting them relocated. Over time I got them to come over to my property and of the remaining cats out there....some were adopted, some went missing probably to coyotes, but several are still around and no one seems to have any interest in my neighbor's property. If any of these cats are adoptable, it might be a good idea to see if homes can be found via a rescue or your own efforts.

I am not sure that I have a coherent answer for the last scenario as it has never happened to me exactly. Over time, all cats I brought into my house did adapt and did adapt to each other. This might be a long process with the mother, as others here can tell you also happened with their ferals, but she may adjust or at least calm down. She might not be a lap pet, but she might decide that being inside is okay.

How To Fix An Unsuccessful Cat Introduction – TheCatSite Articles
How To Successfully Introduce Cats: The Ultimate Guide – TheCatSite Articles
Stress in Cats – The Ultimate Guide – TheCatSite Articles

I don't know if anything here will help. You might be quite experienced already with cats for that matter.

As for the peeing, there can be physical causes which a vet could identify, she is not yet fixed which might have something to do with that despite that issue being found more frequently with intact males. Is she adverse to a litter box or to litter? I have one recent rescue who will not use actual litter but will use a box with a puppy pad in it.

You are really trying to help these cats. I am in a similar situation; whereas I don't plan to move in the near future, if I had to there are 5 cats outside who would need to have something provided for them or would need to come with me.
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #3

klp023

TCS Member
Thread starter
Kitten
Joined
May 16, 2015
Messages
17
Reaction score
11
Thank you for your suggestions.

Yes, I meant how long to keep them after they are fixed. I was concerned since it is winter time that the cold would be bad for them after, but I do provide all the heated houses and beds in an enclosed area with food and heated water bowls so hopefully that will help them if they decide to stick around after.

I don’t plan on moving them to another property necessarily, just transitioning them to spend more time at the ones they already bounce between and less time at mine. They already bounce between different houses that feed them in my subdivision and my direct neighbor provides them shelter. They usually are there during the day and here at night, but I have all the heated stuff which I plan to give her when we move.

Thank you for the links for introducing the new cats. It will be a toughy. I’m not super experienced with cats but I’ve had a few in my life. I’m hoping once momma cat is spayed she will not feel the need to spray, is that likely to help with females? She was not using the litter box until last night! Woo Hoo!! Now that she is using the litter box will the vertical spraying stop or is this something she is likely to continue because of being feral?

Again, thank you for all of your helpful suggestions. Fingers crossed all goes well!
 

fionasmom

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
2,712
Reaction score
4,190
Location
Los Angeles
I would try to move their heated bed and belongings before you move so that they do make the transition more smoothly. It sounds as if you have neighbors who are helpful, so they can possibly monitor activity in the house with the new owners.

The mother cat might just now be understanding that the litter is there for her use. As for spraying...females can and do spray and spaying her might help. If she is spraying vertically from the litter box there are high sided litter boxes, which are the only ones I use in my house. Some people have luck with litterboxes with hoods or create their own with very large storage containers. I have a friend who had a huge storage container with an entrance cut into it and the litter near the back, so the cats have to enter and use the rear of the box. She removes the lid to clean it easily. Some cats don't take to covered litter boxes though. I would give it a couple of days and see if the mom is going to use the box....if I am following your time frame, the mom went to the vet today to be fixed? If her spraying is not connected to litter box use, that is a different issue but take one thing at a time.

Most cats get over the "breaking of trust" if it even becomes a problem. The more important issue is that she needed to be fixed, so letting her trust you but continuing to have babies would not have been logical. Just give her space and time when she return. From your description of her, she is not entirely feral as she vacillates between being friendly or not and does not want to go outside so you might be looking at an adjustment issue that will pass with time. I know this is hard, but try to keep on top of the cleaning if you can so that she is discouraged from spraying. There are cat attract sprays and even litters which supposedly encourage cats to use the box....Dr. Elsey makes one of them. Frankly, I have not had a lot of luck with them, but others have.

Do you think that she could be in heat? Out here we see litters born as late as November because of the weather staying warmer. It does not sound to me as if she is, as she would definitely jump out the open window, so it is probably anxiety. Some people have luck with Feliway plug ins for that issue.
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #5

klp023

TCS Member
Thread starter
Kitten
Joined
May 16, 2015
Messages
17
Reaction score
11
Good news. Both cats are using the litter box and the spraying has seemed to stop for now. I hope it continues to stay that way! We did take her to the vet so she is pretty traumatized right now and won’t even look at me. She also came back negative on her tests and got her vaccinations, a wormer and more flea preventative. Next up is spaying, but we are aligning that with her next vaccinations so we can minimize the amount of trips and stress on her. The vet wanted to test her for everything first to make sure she didn’t have leukemia or FIV before spaying. We have to wait until the kitten is a little bigger to neuter him. Vet said 2 more weeks. I don’t think mom is in heat or the vet would have said something. She did well at her appointment, they didn’t even need to sedate her or give her anything to calm her and she got blood and shots. What a good girl!

I bought her a feliway diffuser and it should be here today. I hope that helps her to be calm. She trills all night long, but quietly. Why does she do this? I have read it is a positive noise, but she does it a lot. She doesn’t leave the window except to use the litterbox. Does she want out? I also got her a tall cat tree to put in front of the window, but I’m scared she will spray it.

As far as parasites, how long does it usually take before they are safe to be around my other cats. I do not plan to acclimate them anytime soon, but the kitten puts his paws under the door and one of my indoor cats plays with him under the door. I don’t want to discourage that as it is a good step in the right direction. But I don’t know if his little paws are contaminated from the litter box. I always wash my hands after every interaction in the room, but I also change my clothes when I leave their room just in case there are parasites on me. I’d like to leave my clothes on so my cats start getting their scent but I don’t want to expose them to any parasites. Plus the kitten seems ready to come out and explore so I would like to let him do that with my other 2 locked in the master. Any suggestions?

Thank you for all your help!
 

fionasmom

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
2,712
Reaction score
4,190
Location
Los Angeles
I don't think that the paw under the door is a huge risk but the vet should have given you a time frame for isolating the kitten due to the worms. I would call and ask them and let them know that you would like to let the kitten out. Since it sounds as if they two cats are settling in, it is not a bad idea as long as he is cleared for visiting.

Don't worry about the mother not looking at you. Just continue as you were and keep reminding yourself of all that you are doing to make sure that these two are healthy and happy. It may be that the litter box issue is over. The mom is less wary, has figured out what it is for and that it is much more convenient to use and that might be the end of it...hopefully. The fact that she did well with the vet is a very good sign that she is going to settle down.

I have had a few big time trillers and it was always a good sign or happiness or wanting attention. If it has a negative side, such a purring can mask pain, I have never seen it in my experience. Sitting at the window does not necessarily mean that she wants out. The two calicos that I brought in a few months ago sit in the window all the time and watch birds but I have never sensed that they want out...on the contrary I sense relaxation and peace from them. I am not clear on whether or not you have screened windows, although it does not make a lot of difference....a cat who wants out will howl, paw at the door or window, and slash screens if they can. I really think that these two are considering how much better life is now.
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #7

klp023

TCS Member
Thread starter
Kitten
Joined
May 16, 2015
Messages
17
Reaction score
11
Just wanted to give an update.

Both cats have been fixed and are up to date on their shots. They were cleared to be around my cats but unfortunately they had asymptomatic chlamydia and my resident cat ended up in the ER on Christmas with eyes swollen shut. All 4 cats are now on antibiotics for 4 weeks and have diarrhea. My cats are so scared and traumatized right now and I can't explain the guilt and heartbreak I have for them and all they are going through. I made a choice to try and help the 2 outdoor cats and it has come at the expense of my poor babies. At this point I am so stressed out and upset. I just want my cats healthy and back to normal.

Despite all of that the baby is acclimating well with my cats but my cats are not acclimating with the mom. I've tried every way to get them to acclimate with her but they aren't having it. We knew there would be a chance she would not acclimate to being indoors or they would not acclimate to her so we got her ear tipped. We thought worse case scenario we can release her back outside and allow her the best life by getting her healthy. For a week she was crying to go out and finally I opened the door and she darted out. She was gone about 4 hours, but stayed in the yard, (I could see her on my cameras). However, she did not want to stay out. She cried and cried and went to every window pawing and crying to come back in, but then once she's in she cries to go out. She seems to want to be an indoor/outdoor cat and that is just not an option for me.

I don't know what to do with the mom cat. She has to be locked up all the time or else my cats bully and attack her. She cries until her voice is gone and she has shredded my carpet. Her constant crying is stressing out the kitten and my cats making it harder to acclimate the 3. This has been the worst decision I could have made. I know for the outdoor kitties it was the right thing to do but for my cats and my family it has been so heartbreaking and stressful. I know finding her a home that is a better fit is what is best for everyone but I'm having a hard time doing that.

I'm so frustrated! Just wanted to update and vent. Thank you!
 

fionasmom

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
2,712
Reaction score
4,190
Location
Los Angeles
I am sorry that this happened to you. Years ago I had a huge URI outbreak after I brought in a kitten who had been isolated outside in a crate under veterinary care for two weeks. Vet cleared her and I had such a mess that they vet started to give me the meds for the asking...did not even ask who it was for or to see them.

Do you think that the mom wants back inside because of the cold and that when the weather warms up she might be content to stay outside? Would an outdoor shelter and heated bed keep her happy? How well can you handle the mom? Do you think that meds to calm her might help? Is she adoptable to a home without other cats? More feral or an unhappy ex feral who is having trouble adjusting?
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #9

klp023

TCS Member
Thread starter
Kitten
Joined
May 16, 2015
Messages
17
Reaction score
11
Thank you. Good news, we found momma a home. The family that took her love her and she is doing well. I know she wanted to be indoors but the stress of the others was making her anxious. She went to a no animal home and she is bonding well with the little boy.

My other 3 are doing ok acclimating but the health issues have everyone stressed so they’re all crabby with one another. As I said we had a dormant case of chlamydia. The kitten was the original one and passed it on to my boy. After a week of antibiotics everyone’s eyes looked good. The vet said to keep them on 4 weeks so I didn’t discontinue and they’ve been on antibiotics 2 weeks now. The antibiotics were giving them all diarrhea and so we added a probiotic and that helped a ton! I thought we were on our way to a happy recovery but now the kitten has the green goop in his eyes again and it’s even worse than the first time! I don’t understand why it is coming back.

It has been a rough weekend! On Friday my girl started vomiting (a lot) and the vet recommended stopping her antibiotics so I did along with her probiotic since both were new. She still had an appetite and tries to eat but kept puking. I was concerned she was getting dehydrated and she wouldn’t drink water so we gave her KMR and she’s been drinking it right up. Saturday and Sunday I gave her multiple small amounts of chicken breast and she ate it all and was able to keep it down. She also wasn’t pooping so we were concerned about an obstruction (she’s long haired). She finally pooped tonight but there wasn’t a huge furball or anything. Another weird thing, all weekend she kept itching and shaking her head. She started out pinning her ears down and itching her ears and neck (I thought mites or ear infection), but then she started itching her body, butt, back, and even in between her toes almost like it was systemic. She kept shaking her paws too (front and back). I’ve never seen her behave this way. I checked her for fleas and didn’t see them or any dirt but she is long haired and mostly black. We’re calling the vet in the morning to see what they suggest. I feel like I’m spinning my wheels.

I’m to the point that every sneeze has me terrified it’s something else. I’m so scared they aren’t going to get better and something bad is going to happen to them. I’ve never really had major health issues with my animals and now since I rescued the 2 outdoor ones it feels never ending.

Thank you for letting me vent and all of your support and kind words. These past 2 months have really been a struggle for me and my kitties!
 

fionasmom

TCS Member
Top Cat
Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
2,712
Reaction score
4,190
Location
Los Angeles
I wonder if this is some sort of an antibiotic reaction. But I am so glad that the mama cat has a home, such good news at least! The rest is a mess, I know, and it just keeps on going until it is finally wiped out.
 
Top