Took in a feral mom and her babies (around 10 weeks old), but mom is over them

NellCatLady

TCS Member
Thread starter
Kitten
Joined
Jul 26, 2021
Messages
5
Purraise
6
Hi,
I recently took in a mom who has been living in my apartment complex for several years and having litters, along with her 2 babies. I am really in need of support from experts and found this website through stray pet advocacy's website about socializing a feral. I have fostered in the past but it was younger kittens who had already spent a little time in cages/around humans. These kittens and their mom have never been indoors and are terrified! I put them in the basement, which is where I fostered my last litter, and I knew they would hide but I'm worried I'll never be able to get close to them. Based on what I've read, a smaller room would be much better but this is all I have available at the moment. I observed the mom and her cats for several days before taking them in - at first, the mom would let her babies eat first and take whatever was left, but seemingly overnight she started hissing, growling and batting at them and wanting the food for herself. My neighbor has been caring for her for years and stated when she is done with her babies she's done. The mom is very sweet and isn't fully feral thanks to my neighbor - she would let me pet her outside and come running for food. She even let me put frontline on her a few days before I took her in. Now, though, she is just peeing on the couch and hiding. She's been here about 48 hours for reference. I'm not sure if she can safely stay around her babies and would love advice - I'm working with a trap neuter release program and we are thinking she will go back to outside living after her spay, but I feel like she might be a great cat if she just doesn't have to be around her babies.

As for the babies, based on what I watched on The Kitten Lady youtube page I'm worried I'm doing things all wrong! I'm not entirely sure of their ages and am worried they're near that 12 week mark (I would guess they're about 10 weeks but I'm really not sure). Obviously they need to see a vet but I'm not sure how to even capture them to do that. One has been here 48 hours like mom and the other has been here a little less than 24. The Kitten Lady suggested using a playpen to know where the kittens are at first and ensure you can get close to them for feedings, but I'm not sure that's such a good option for older kittens. They definitely spent time playing last night while I was away. After being down a few hours last night, the one who has been here longer did come out to eat and use the litterbox, and spent time playing with a ball while half hiding under the couch. The other kitten also came out to explore the corner of the room with her. I take these as good signs but I'm not sure how to do the aspect of socializing where I get them to eat in front of me - right now I'm nervous to not have food available at all times since mom seems to think she has to compete with them for food. Anyhow, advice on the kittens and mom is very much needed - do I separate them and try to rehabilitate mom, keep them together and see if she gets used to them, or release her back to her neighborhood? Do I move the babies to a tiny room (it would be difficult but possible once they're medically cleared) or use a playpen? How do I socialize them with food if they won't come out to eat while I'm present?

Thank you!
 

terricacatwood

TCS Member
Kitten
Joined
Jul 15, 2021
Messages
10
Purraise
17
Hello. Thank you for taking in these cats. I’m not an expert, but I’ve seen people attempting to socialize feral kittens by putting them in a very large kennel (big enough for them to play, eat and use a litter box). I have a friend doing this right now with kittens from a large feral colony and it definitely makes it easier to get closer to them, prevent them from hiding where you can’t reach them, and work on gradually handling them. Maybe the TNR program you’re working with can refer you to someone who can lend you one? If you got one you could start feeding them in it and then close the door on them. Or if they run out too quickly for you to close the door you could try rigging up a string to the door to pull it closed from a distance. If that didn’t work you could utilize a drop trap to trap them and transfer them into the kennel or enclosed playpen (you may have to also utilize a live trap for the transfer depending on how the entrance to the drop trap is situated). Best of luck to you!
 

fionasmom

TCS Member
Staff Member
Forum Helper
Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
4,997
Purraise
7,314
Location
Los Angeles
Thank you for helping this family. In the case of ferals just brought inside, 48 hours is no time at all for an adjustment to take place, so don't despair yet or give up. How small is the room that you would put the kittens into? I kept 3 kittens in a large bathroom for 5 months sixteen years ago due to the situation in which we found ourselves and no one suffered for it. All three became socialized, and one is still living in the house as a pet. Her brother, who turned into a lap cat, passed away 3 years ago and the other brother had a congenital issue which affected his lifespan, but my point is that they were fine. At the age of your kittens, they are eating and don't need to nurse; it is not unheard of for mother animals to get to a point where they begin to see their offspring as other animals in the vicinity and not necessarily as "children." Temporarily, I would let the mom have as much food as she wants which may stop the hissing at the kittens. Is that her only point of aggression with them?

In my case, which does not necessarily mean it is the only way, I have separated feral mothers from their kittens when the kittens were old enough. However, she is a "friendlier" feral, so that might make a difference. The feral mom's I dealt with here completely wild.

Some of this is your decision...definitely TNR the mom. If you think that she is pet material, maybe you can find a home for her or continue to work with her in your house. If she needs to be released, at least she will be fixed and it sounds as if you do have people, including yourself, who have looked out for her. She is refusing to use a litter box, but the kittens are?

The fact that these kittens come out to explore is a very good sign. Try sitting in the basement but do not interact with them. Avoid eye contact; let them get used to your presence. If you cannot touch them, try a wand type toy or a stick with a soft washcloth on the end to begin to move in their direction. See if they will approach the general area you are in for treats. This might be a lengthy process, but then again they may surprise you over the next week or so.

10 Must-know Tips For Happy Living With A Shy Cat – TheCatSite Articles
How To Get A Cat To Come Out Of Hiding? – TheCatSite Articles
 

kittychick

TCS Member
Staff Member
Forum Helper
Joined
Jul 2, 2013
Messages
1,499
Purraise
1,661
Location
Ohio
I wanted to pop in briefly (I’ve got the flu or something similar so that’s about all I can manage at this moment — who gets the flu in July?!?! ) —- but wanted to let you know you’re doing alot right —- CARING being the biggest “plus” to start with! fionasmom fionasmom is already giving you great pointers — and promise I’ll jump back in soon as I can (fever writing is never good! :nervous:). Hopefully later today (fingers crossed). This is a great group - lots of us have been right where you are. So I’m sure even before I come back in, you’ll have lots of great input! Please hang in there!:cheerleader:
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #5

NellCatLady

TCS Member
Thread starter
Kitten
Joined
Jul 26, 2021
Messages
5
Purraise
6
Hi everyone, thank you so much for the comments and support!

terricacatwood terricacatwood , I don't have access to any big kennels or drop traps - the trap I currently have is a small one I trapped one of the kittens with but I have to give it back when mom does TNR today. I'm also not sure he would ever go inside again - do kittens typically remember and avoid traps after a traumatic experience?

fionasmom fionasmom I would love nothing more than to keep the mom around and socialize her, but I just don't have the space and the 2 trappers I'm speaking to are recommending she just be released. SPCA is overwhelmed and can't help. I only have one room upstairs and can't keep them together so I don't feel like I have many options - she's figured out how to climb into the ceiling and is there right now. Thank you for the article! I'm spending at least 3 hours a night with them every night. They spend most of that time hiding. They have a vet appointment tomorrow and I have no earthly idea how I will get them out of that basement, I'm extremely anxious about it. Also very worried the whole experience will traumatize them and ruin what little progress we've made! At that time (if it's physically possible) they will be transferred to a bathroom and hopefully moved in the bedroom in a few days. It's a medium size room and I'm working on moving out all the stuff they can hide behind now.

kittychick kittychick Thank you and hope you feel better soon!

If anyone has ideas for getting the kittens into a crate and out of the basement please, please let me know!!
 

fionasmom

TCS Member
Staff Member
Forum Helper
Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
4,997
Purraise
7,314
Location
Los Angeles
Don't worry too much about returning the trap. The kittens will remember its recent use and probably avoid it. Releasing the mom is all you can do and getting her fixed is a huge favor to her and yourself, so don't sweat that.

Probably too late for advice about getting the kittens.....were you able to? Could you grab them if you put in a thick jacket and heavy industrial type gloves?
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #7

NellCatLady

TCS Member
Thread starter
Kitten
Joined
Jul 26, 2021
Messages
5
Purraise
6
Don't worry too much about returning the trap. The kittens will remember its recent use and probably avoid it. Releasing the mom is all you can do and getting her fixed is a huge favor to her and yourself, so don't sweat that.

Probably too late for advice about getting the kittens.....were you able to? Could you grab them if you put in a thick jacket and heavy industrial type gloves?
Thank you for the response, and you're actually just in time for advice as their vet appointment is this afternoon! I'm feeling very anxious about it - I'm wondering if I should wait on the vet until maybe Monday so I can establish some trust with them. Their mom will be taken for her spay in a few hours and they actually did much better tonight with her in a trap in the other room. The TNR person who is taking their mom is offering me 2 more traps if I need - I'm just worried the experience will completely traumatize them and push back the progress we've made. I could try the gloves method but it would be very difficult since the basement is just full of junk for them to hide under. I tried reaching towards them last night when I thought I had them cornered and they just darted away. I am also concerned about their first association with my hands being so negative.

Is it vital to get them to the vet now since they're nearing 12 months and need vaccines, or could I hold off a few days? I thought about maybe just bringing in poop samples to have them tested for parasites and getting flea treatment and dewormer from a vet until next week.
 

fionasmom

TCS Member
Staff Member
Forum Helper
Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
4,997
Purraise
7,314
Location
Los Angeles
Since the kittens are in a secure place and safe, I don't see what a few days difference makes to the vet visit. You are right about trying to grab them...it can be negative connections to hands and if they have hidey holes it won't work anyway. If you saw some friendlier behavior with the mom not present, that is a good sign. If your vet will accept the samples and dispense meds based on that, it is a good idea. You may or may not be able to apply whatever you get immediately, but at least you will have it for when they are ready.

Given my work with ferals, any medical treatments, worming, flea protection etc has always been on an as possible basis. You may find that in one week these kittens are much more interested in getting to know you and may be more independent without the mom.
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #9

NellCatLady

TCS Member
Thread starter
Kitten
Joined
Jul 26, 2021
Messages
5
Purraise
6
Since the kittens are in a secure place and safe, I don't see what a few days difference makes to the vet visit. You are right about trying to grab them...it can be negative connections to hands and if they have hidey holes it won't work anyway. If you saw some friendlier behavior with the mom not present, that is a good sign. If your vet will accept the samples and dispense meds based on that, it is a good idea. You may or may not be able to apply whatever you get immediately, but at least you will have it for when they are ready.

Given my work with ferals, any medical treatments, worming, flea protection etc has always been on an as possible basis. You may find that in one week these kittens are much more interested in getting to know you and may be more independent without the mom.
Thank you so much for this advice! We had some big breakthroughs yesterday - I ended up getting 2 traps on loan when I took mom to the local TNR group for her spay, so I used them to get the kittens from the basement. One was caught in time for their scheduled vet appointment so I took her and was excited to hear she's free of fleas and infection! I also found out they are about 9 weeks old and very malnourished. The other kitten took his time getting in the trap - he figured out how to go in just enough to eat the trail of food I placed to entice him but not deep enough to set it off. So smart for a 9 week old! I ended up giving him a taste of the food on a spoon to entice him and placing the blanket his sister had been wrapped in around the cage since I knew he missed her, and it worked! They are together in a bathroom and have already started purring and allowing pets and holds. The mom was taken in by my neighbor upstairs - I think it's a great arrangement because if it doesn't work out she can be released right back to the area she was found very easily, but they said she's already doing great!
 

fionasmom

TCS Member
Staff Member
Forum Helper
Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
4,997
Purraise
7,314
Location
Los Angeles
I am so happy to hear how all of this is working out. It is really ideal as the kittens went to the vet, have a medical status, and can get to know you as their friend which, at their ages, they are very possibly going to do. The mom has a very good chance either way....she will get a home or be released where she is and be cared for. It is always funny how one wily little kitten figures out that there is a bad vibe to a trap. You are doing an absolutely spectacular job with this family and now you can rely on all your fostering experience to continue to socialize them. If you get a chance, we love pics!
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #11

NellCatLady

TCS Member
Thread starter
Kitten
Joined
Jul 26, 2021
Messages
5
Purraise
6
I am so happy to hear how all of this is working out. It is really ideal as the kittens went to the vet, have a medical status, and can get to know you as their friend which, at their ages, they are very possibly going to do. The mom has a very good chance either way....she will get a home or be released where she is and be cared for. It is always funny how one wily little kitten figures out that there is a bad vibe to a trap. You are doing an absolutely spectacular job with this family and now you can rely on all your fostering experience to continue to socialize them. If you get a chance, we love pics!
Thank you so much for your help! Here are some adorable pictures - the first is right after miss/mr hard to catch saw their sister in my lap and decided to climb my leg, sit next to her on my lap and purr! The other 2 are their first time in a cat bed. When they were in the basement I had cat beds out for them but they were so scared they just hid in a small space and slept there. As soon as I put the tortie in the bed she started purring and trying to nurse it! She does stare out the window and cry, I think because she misses her mom.

Both are in great health aside from worms! If you take care of multiple animals, what steps do you take to prevent infection in yourself and other pets? The vet provided a topical dewormer but said they need to retest in 2 weeks. Do I suit up every time I see them (I used to do this with ringworm fosters) or is that excessive? Of course I will continue handwashing and frequent litterbox cleanings.
 

Attachments

fionasmom

TCS Member
Staff Member
Forum Helper
Joined
Jun 21, 2014
Messages
4,997
Purraise
7,314
Location
Los Angeles
Those are adorable pictures! So touching how they figured out what a nice bed is...I have had that happen as well and it often is the turning point in socialization. What worms did they have? TBH, I have never taken person precautions from the standard ones, with the exception of good hygiene and hand washing, keep your shoes on, etc. If it is ringworm, I would take some extra precautions. I have never contracted anything from a cat, including ferals over whom I had no control. If you have children and other pets, I would keep them away until you get the all clear.

The tortie probably misses her mom but she will get over that pretty quickly once she realizes how nice her new life is.
 

terricacatwood

TCS Member
Kitten
Joined
Jul 15, 2021
Messages
10
Purraise
17
They’re so cute! Congrats on getting them - I know how stressful it is trying to catch unsocialized cats. It will be so much easier to work with them in the bathroom.
 
Top