When and how to take in 2 stray kittens

telnaga

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About a week and a half ago we became aware of a mom cat and two kittens living under a broken down car nearby. I've been bringing them food and water and trying to socialize with them since then. But I'm having some trouble knowing where to go from here.

-all nearby shelters are full.
-the mom is feral. she's tolerated me, and will even let me stroke her while she's eating, but is very much not socialized and always defaults to fear and hostility.
-I live in a small apartment with no closed-off areas to keep pets contained. but I have gotten a mesh, enclosed pen to house them in temporarily (it's about 8 square feet. I've also put a little hideaway in it, along with litter, water, and toys)
-I have an adult cat who's very calm and conflict-avoidant, but who is FIV+. so I can't keep any of them in good conscience, but I'm willing to temporarily keep them contained or under watch while I find them homes
-the kittens are... maybe 6 weeks old? they're still nursing, but also are eating the food I bring (wet food, and dry kitten kibble)
-they're starting to get used to me. still skittish, but letting me hold and pet them if I'm careful and calm, and playing with toys I bring.
-I've borrowed a live trap from a nearby humane society.
-the surrounding area here is very inhospitable to strays. mostly busy roads and parking lots.

so... I need help deciding these things:
-when should I bring the kittens in?
-should I take the mom in to get spayed? I don't really like the idea of giving her a stressful invasive surgery, turning her back out to be stray while she recovers, and also stealing her kittens. so
-should... I get the mom spayed and take her in with the kittens while she recovers?

I'm leaning toward the last one but worrying about the space, about the stress, about timing and etc.
 
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Sarthur2

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Mom absolutely needs spaying so she does not continue to breed. Her ear can be clipped to show that she’s been spayed but lives outside.

However, I would take mom AND kittens in together so that mom can continue nursing for a couple more weeks, and definitely let her recover inside with her kittens.

Perhaps she will be calm enough after spaying and recovering to eventually be rehomed, perhaps even with one of her kittens. She only sounds semi-feral to me. Maybe even a stray who just needs to learn to trust.

Regardless, she needs spaying and ideally should stay with her kittens for about 4 more weeks if possible. It sounds like long term gains for short term stress.

Thank you for caring for them. I hope you can bring them in soon! Do keep us posted!

telnaga telnaga
 

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About a week and a half ago we became aware of a mom cat and two kittens living under a broken down car nearby. I've been bringing them food and water and trying to socialize with them since then. But I'm having some trouble knowing where to go from here.

-all nearby shelters are full.
-the mom is feral. she's tolerated me, and will even let me stroke her while she's eating, but is very much not socialized and always defaults to fear and hostility.
-I live in a small apartment with no closed-off areas to keep pets contained. but I have gotten a mesh, enclosed pen to house them in temporarily (it's about 8 square feet. I've also put a little hideaway in it, along with litter, water, and toys)
-I have an adult cat who's very calm and conflict-avoidant, but who is FIV+. so I can't keep any of them in good conscience, but I'm willing to temporarily keep them contained or under watch while I find them homes
-the kittens are... maybe 6 weeks old? they're still nursing, but also are eating the food I bring (wet food, and dry kitten kibble)
-they're starting to get used to me. still skittish, but letting me hold and pet them if I'm careful and calm, and playing with toys I bring.
-I've borrowed a live trap from a nearby humane society.
-the surrounding area here is very inhospitable to strays. mostly busy roads and parking lots.

so... I need help deciding these things:
-when should I bring the kittens in?
-should I take the mom in to get spayed? I don't really like the idea of giving her a stressful invasive surgery, turning her back out to be stray while she recovers, and also stealing her kittens. so
-should... I get the mom spayed and take her in with the kittens while she recovers?

I'm leaning toward the last one but worrying about the space, about the stress, about timing and etc.
Tx for helping this little family.

Yes, momma will need spaying, sooner or later. Best sooner. Cats arent protected by nursing unlike human women. So it may be wise to do it as soon you can arrange it, esp if you take them in.
Its a big surgery, but delivering etc has also risks... Also, succesfull semiferales has usually healing meat better than average. and the necessary convalescence typically shorter than with a family girl. Not because lotsa of fresh air is healthy, but simply because, these with weak immune system perish in a few weeks...

Re the kittens. If you find a way to take in both momma and kittens - its the optimal. And as this momma apparently does allows you play and handle the kittens, its good. Because with a shy and superprotective momma, its sometimes impossible, and they must perhaps be separated because of this.

(ie if you want to foster the kittens to be adoptable. If the idea is to release them all after TNR, they should of course remain as long as possible with momma, whom protects them and is learning them all the tricks and ropes of survival).

But if you would find, you can take in the kittens but you you cant take in momma, you can essentially take in them and foster now.
Because its easier to foster them and socialize into completely friendly, sociale cats before they are 8 weeks. After this, its more difficult.
So, this with childs of shy semiferales, is one of the few exceptions of the holy rule of "Minimum 8 weeks, but preferably 12."..
the other big exception is obviously emergencies and dire necessity, when we try to save what saved be can...

At 6 weeks they can eat on their won, so you wont need to handfeed them as much...
 
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telnaga

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The kittens were taken in by someone else, as I could tell with a carrier left there and the mom in distress. I left them notes and they responded, telling me they're a vet technician and are getting the kittens care & will take in the mom soon too. they also berated me for all the things I didn't do fast enough... said if I actually cared I'd have taken them to the vet weeks ago. I was doing my best with what I had...
 

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Oh my! I’m glad the kittens are safe, but where is the mom now?

I can imagine she is in great distress without her kittens. Poor thing.

Are you still feeding her? Can you go ahead and bring her into your home and leave a note? Perhaps they can be reunited.

You certainly have been very concerned and doing your part!

telnaga telnaga
 
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telnaga

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Oh my! I’m glad the kittens are safe, but where is the mom now?

I can imagine she is in great distress without her kittens. Poor thing.

Are you still feeding her? Can you go ahead and bring her into your home and leave a note? Perhaps they can be reunited.

You certainly have been very concerned and doing your part!

telnaga telnaga
so far, the mom has stayed in the same place. and she is very distressed. she keeps trying to find them. :( but the person who took the kittens mentioned they plan to bring her in to the vet also and reunite them soon. I'm still going to go out there twice a day to feed her, so I'll keep an eye on things and try to keep her company
 

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The kittens were taken in by someone else, as I could tell with a carrier left there and the mom in distress. I left them notes and they responded, telling me they're a vet technician and are getting the kittens care & will take in the mom soon too. they also berated me for all the things I didn't do fast enough... said if I actually cared I'd have taken them to the vet weeks ago. I was doing my best with what I had...
Don't let their words get to you. Some people think what they can do, everyone can do just as easily and get a bit high and mighty over it. You cared and you're doing your best and that is all that matters. They have no business berating you, imo. It's not like these were your cats that you abandoned =/ don't let them make you feel bad. You did good.
 

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I’m just concerned the mom may go into heat and disappear soon. I’m doubtful the person who took the kittens really plans to return for mom.

Please go ahead and get mom and bring her in if you can so you can get her spayed and safe. I would not wait on this person who could have left a trap for mom already if they truly cared. I’m just doubtful of the truth here and worried for mom. They were so rude to you - I think they just wanted the kittens. I would not wait.
 

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Agree, take her. Did they left their telefon number? Or possibility to contact them?
If so, take her in, and contact them.
If they honestly wanna help, you can cooperate from that point.

Otherwise, you just proceed with what you began.
 
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telnaga

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I’m just concerned the mom may go into heat and disappear soon. I’m doubtful the person who took the kittens really plans to return for mom.

Please go ahead and get mom and bring her in if you can so you can get her spayed and safe. I would not wait on this person who could have left a trap for mom already if they truly cared. I’m just doubtful of the truth here and worried for mom. They were so rude to you - I think they just wanted the kittens. I would not wait.
Agree, take her. Did they left their telefon number? Or possibility to contact them?
If so, take her in, and contact them.
If they honestly wanna help, you can cooperate from that point.

Otherwise, you just proceed with what you began.
they didn't leave any way to contact them, though I left my phone number. It's raining today and I didn't see the mom out, but I left her food and if it's gone by a bit later I'm going to set the live trap for her
 
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telnaga

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got the mom trapped and inside in the pen. she's real stressed out but I'm hoping if we leave her alone (and keep our other cat at a bit of a distance from the pen) she'll calm down. going to make a spay appointment tomorrow, hope I can get one for the next day or something
 

Sarthur2

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That’s awesome! I’m sure she is stressed - missing her babies, probably still full of milk, frightened and confused over what is happening. Poor thing. I feel sorry for her but she will be so much better off now with you.

Thank you so much for taking her in and setting up her spay soon. Please keep us posted. I’m really hoping that a home can be found for her.
 

StefanZ

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got the mom trapped and inside in the pen. she's real stressed out but I'm hoping if we leave her alone (and keep our other cat at a bit of a distance from the pen) she'll calm down. going to make a spay appointment tomorrow, hope I can get one for the next day or something
Lay a towel over the crate / pen, so its as a cozy tent. she can be there until you transport her to the vet. (you can perhaps even take everything with you? The pen and her?).

Talk friendly to her, make friendly noises... Sing if you are any good at it.
 
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telnaga

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alright it's been a couple days. she's very conflicted. haven't heard at all from the person who took the kittens, even though I left them my phone number twice for when they wanted to reconnect them with the mom... I'm real miffed about it and a little upset I didn't bring the kittens in early enough. the mom misses them a lot and I'm sure the kittens feel the same.

the mom's been showing a side of her that's a real sweetheart. I'm starting to think maybe she was a pet at some point, because as soon as we got her in and safe and calmed down she started leaning her whole body into your hands to be pet. she'll be like that often, fine with even relative strangers leaning into the pen and petting her, but about a third of the time something sets her off and she lashes out. she's done less damage over time, though. I think she gets overstimulated or... doesn't have her fight-or-flight sense caught up with her please-love-me sense.

literally every affordable spay/neuter option relatively nearby (within like 50 miles!!!) is fully booked indefinitely, minus one with extra complications and one with a waitlist that Might reach action "before the cold weather hits". we've signed up for that. it seems like we will be having this poor cat in a little pen for a while longer than I hoped.

I'm attaching a pic of the setup. she's using the litterbox dutifully, and seems to be eating enough. the blue blanket under the water smells like our other cat so she can get used to him. We're keeping him locked in our bedroom (with food, water, and a litterbox) for now because he's afraid enough of other cats to bring out hostility in the other party. I had a towel in here she laid on a lot and I gave it to him for the scent, too. I've been trying to feed them in the same room (with her still in the pen) but our cat Pretty Boy can't seem to relax and focus on his food when he knows she's around, even if I fully cover up the pen so they can't make eye contact. and if he gets out of our room, he makes a beeline to the pen to just Look at her, fur on end, and not do anything but it spooks her enough that she lunges and moves the whole pen.

she strongly resembles my cat that passed early this year, the one in my user icon, who was named Patch. so we're tentatively calling her Sashiko, after a method of embroidery for mending clothes (to mirror a "patch"). she's very pretty so she deserves a pretty name
 

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Sarthur2

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Her hormones are in high gear still. Is she filled with milk? It usually takes about ten days to dry up.

Be advised she may also go into heat again before getting spayed, that will be a rough week, but you will get through it.

Call regularly to ask about cancellations and/or your spot on the waiting list, and hang in there. You are doing the right thing with her! Getting mom fixed is equally as important as taking in the kittens. 👍
 

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How is Sashiko doing? I am very sorry that you (AND Sashiko AND her kittens) were treated in such a rude, vile manner by the other person. Vet tech or not, it seems that they go with the old-fashioned view of separating babies from feral moms as soon as possible. although at 6 weeks, the kittens are able to survive physically, they benefit from having a mom around.
 

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Sashiko is lovely. She looks pretty young. I hope everything works out for you and her.
 
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telnaga

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Hello yall. Sashi's been doing pretty well. I need to get on calling around checking for cancellations. She actually ended up figuring out she could claw her way out of her pen, and while I fixed it, she dislikes it enough (and now knows how to escape)(and also has behaved enough) that I found a different solution. We have two litterboxes, one in our bedroom and one in the living room which is essentially the rest of the apartment, so we've been keeping the cats contained in those two areas and swapping them out every day or so, so they each get some time to stretch their legs outside the bedroom.
Sashiko probably is pretty young, yeah. She's shown a lot of promise in her behavior, so she probably wasn't always a stray. I'm thinking she was probably a somewhat neglected outdoor cat who was abandoned when she got pregnant. She's very affectionate but also very, very prone to getting overstimulated and spooked, but she's improving in bits. Generally you have to just let her rub up against you on her own; if you contribute to the petting beyond just rubbing her head a bit, she might swat at you and run off, though she's been keeping her claws in a lot more (barely ever even breaks the skin). Has the potential to be a real sweetheart, I think?
Haven't heard at all from the person who took the kittens, though I left notes and my phone number multiple times, so they definitely just wanted the kittens and didn't care too much about her. I'm sure they're doing okay, but it's sad regardless, they definitely miss each other and could've benefited from being kept together. Thanks for all the kind words <3
 

Sarthur2

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Good to hear she is adjusting well, and I do hope you can get her spayed soon. It sounds like she’ll make a great indoor cat over time. So glad you saved her, especially under the sad circumstances.
 
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