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Old 07-23-2009, 01:54 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Feral Cat and missing kittens

Hello All,

We started feeding a feral cat in mid-June and a week later, she showed up in our back yard with her five kittens who looked like they were about 4 weeks old. A few days later, she brought two more smaller kittens that may not be hers. All seven kittens plus mom have been enjoying themselves now for a few weeks with morning and evening feedings, then they would sleep under our gazebo. We were prepared to TNR her this friday and then eventually TNR the kittens. Until last night.

We went out and didn't return until 10pm, missing thier evening feeding. All the cats, including the mom, were gone. The mom returned this morning but without the kittens. After she ate, she sat in the backyard callling for them. In the past, hearing their mom, they would come running. But they never showed up and still haven't. She left and came back in the afternoon, ate, then sat and cried out, but again, no sightings. She left again. It's been a day now.

Is this normal for feral cats to move the whole family if a regular meal is missed? Will they be back? We really would like to trap the mom before she gets pregnant again but the Humane Society will keep her for about a week and we are afraid she will not be able to locate her kittens when she gets back. It seems like she doesn't know where they are. I called the Humane Society and they did not have any pickups of strays in our area.

Shoud we TNR her or wait to see if the kittens show up or are they gone for good?

Rick
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Old 07-23-2009, 12:11 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Feral Cat and missing kittens

Rick, it is not uncommon for a cat, even a pet, to move her kittens. What is worrying is that they are not coming to her. They are old enough to want to explore now, and Mother cat is upset. I have watched mother cats call in vain when her kittens got out of the "nest," and bring them back one by one, only to have them leave again. I am hoping this is the case. Hunger is a great motivator. Strong smelling food should help to attract them. Although fish is not a good regular diet, it might bring them "home."

Mother cat could get pregnant now. In fact, although it's unusual, she could have got pregnant within days after she gave birth. That compounds the problem. I would give her another day to bring the kittens back, and hopefully, if you continue to provide food and comfort--a cozy place for them to sleep and feel safe..they will stay while mother gets spayed.

I wish you the very best. It is very kind of you to take care of this family. Please keep us updated. I'll be thinking of you and this little family.
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Old 07-23-2009, 12:24 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Feral Cat and missing kittens

How sad... ... I think, if it were me, I would wait at least a few days to be certain the kittens don't show up, and also watch her...if she begins to not call for them it shows that *she* is giving up and letting-them-go, then I would TNR her asap.

Here is my first TNR experience:
I began feeding Malibu's litter at about 4wks old, and in the course of the first week I eventually saw all four kittens. At about 6wks old, Mallie had *had it* with me paying so much attention to her nest and she moved them and I didn't see them for a month...until she brought them back one morning (!) to play in the flowers of my front porch. So, I began putting food out again and she showed up with the babies every morning. On the 4th morning, I put the food near the garage. On the 5th (a Saturday) I had the garage door lifted open about 6" and put the food in the middle of the floor. I watched for them to arrive, and they did. They didn't see the food in the usual place and when they finally noticed it was in the garage, all of them went in. I waited about a minute for them to all be concentrated on the food, and then I used my garage door clicker to close it the 6" and I caught them.

What I learned from this experience with feral cats and kittens is if I have a chance to catch kittens, I do it ASAP before I *lose* that opportunity. I hated the month Mallie had those kittens away and I didn't know if they'd lived or died. I eventually seperated the kittens from Mallie when socializing was going too slow in the garage. Kittens went to my bathroom and Mallie went to TNR and was returned. She did walk around and around our house calling for them for about a week and then she stopped. Mallie became my first Georgia feral that I tamed and she is now a very happy and confident housecat that sleeps with me every night. Her four kittens went through a local adoption center (PetsMart) to find good homes and I became a foster-person for that organization.

Best of luck with the kitties you've been feeding, that is wonderful they found someone to care for them. I am sorry to say, I don't think it sounds good that the Mamma is calling and none of the 7 kittens are appearing, but I will keep hoping.
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Old 07-23-2009, 02:05 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Good News! They are all back. Mama cat brought them in last night and all seven kittens were eating and playing in the yard this morning.

We are signing up as a feral colony caretaker. This allows us to particiapate in a free TNR program at the Hawaiian Humane Society. There is no charge, they ear notch and microchip each kitten, and then we release them. We will TNR mama cat tomorrow morning. They then allow us to bring in two kittens per week. We are also planning to catch the tom cat we think is responsible for the kittens. He has also been coming in for a daily meal for a couple of months.

Here are some questions:

We have to keep feeding the kitten in our yard until they weigh at least two pounds, which is soon. Then TNR. However, this makes them dependant on our yard as a place to find food as this process will take about two months to TNR all with the two cats per week restriction.

Once they are all TNR, should we start moving the feedings out to the area behind our fenceline, then continue farther out until they are being feed in the woods?

Finally, we are military and we will be leaving next summer. Will the feral cats be unable to fend for themselves after being dependant on us for food? Is there a point where we can wean them off us as a food source?

We don't know anyone who will continue this practice. We have lots of neighbrs and the cats may turn up in thier yards looking for food next year. This may not be a good thing.

Thanks for the help, this web site is a great resource.

Rick
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Old 07-23-2009, 02:16 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Feral Cat and missing kittens

It would be all right to move them to the back of the property, but not so far that you couldn't keep an eye on them...and begin socializing them.

It's always a concern when you have to move. Are you afraid that the neighbors won't feed them, or that they might hurt them? The kittens could be adopted. Have you looked into that? Mother cat is probably pretty savvy, and if she is spayed, she'll live a longer life.

Perhaps you could "get a feel" for the attitude of the people in the neighborhood, but Mother Cat will go wherever the food is. My sister hated cats (she said), but always fed the feral mother who had kittens in a sheltered area on the property. She was shocked to see the mother carry the kittens to the neighbor's porches, one by one. Impressive! They are such good mothers.
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Old 07-23-2009, 06:27 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I think it is wonderful that you've been able to get registered for a feral colony! That will help immensely in getting everyone there under control (spayed/neutered). Since you will be re-stationed at some point, after getting everyone TNR'd that you can, I think I would let the people who run the feral colony program know that you will be leaving the area. They may be able to recruit someone else to care for the colony (which, it would be perfectly fine to move the feeding-station further from your house/property) and I think they could give you the best information about how to get them non-dependent upon you for food.

I also, would like to see the kittens caught and socialized to be presentable as adoptable pets, but you can only do what you *can* do, and I understand if this is the best. IMO, anything positive is helping these cats...

I'm very happy they all showed up. My heart was low today when I thought about them.
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Old 07-23-2009, 10:37 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Hello again,

Thanks once again for the suggestions on the colony. As far as the kittens are concerned, they aren't very sociable and run when we get near them. We are unable to bring them to to the Humane Society for adoption because they do not accept feral kittens unless sociialized and we are unable to do that for them. I have read up on the socialization process for feral kittens and from what I understand it is a somewhat lengthy process and is best done indoors to spend time bonding with the kitten. We are renting our house and pets are not allowed in the home.

So the best we can do is to TNR the clan of eight and contiune caring for them during the year we have left. Here are more specific "what if" questions:

What if the colony is fed for a year and no one is able to continue the responsibility when we leave? Will the cats survive?

Since we know we are leaving next summer, should we start weaning them off right after TNR to see how they do?

Is it better to feed them for now and take the chance later that something will work out?
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Old 07-23-2009, 11:40 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Feral Cat and missing kittens

What if the colony is fed for a year and no one is able to continue the responsibility when we leave? Will the cats survive?
They might, but it will depend on the area and if there is small game for them to hunt/catch.

Since we know we are leaving next summer, should we start weaning them off right after TNR to see how they do?
I think I would feed them up as best you can, so they develop quickly and healthy with no deficiencies in their diet while they grow.

Is it better to feed them for now and take the chance later that something will work out?
For now, I would continue to feed and hope things work out.


If your colony reps cannot get someone in to care for them, I would start weaning them from your food source about 4-6mo before you plan to leave. Begin with gradually putting out less food (3/4 to 1/2 to 1/3 or so) at each feeding and then start reducing the number of feedings (2x daily, to 1x daily, to every-other-day, to every 2nd day and so on) to encourage them to seek other food sources.
Talk to the administrators of the Feral Colony program and see what they advise. I think they would be the best people to guide you through this.
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Old 07-27-2009, 02:29 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Heidi,

Thanks for the advice. So far, so good. We brought in the mama cat and one kittnen so far. As colony care providers, both were fixed by the Hawaiian Humane Society, ear notched, and microchipped for $5 per cat and both are doing fine. That's two down, six to go. The Society will only take two at a time and only on the 8-10 surgery days per month. So it will take a little time.

We plan to wean them off of us in the manner you described. One good bit of news, the day after her surgery, mama cat caught a bird in the back yard while inattentive kittens were playing. She dropped it next to them and walked away. The kittens batted it around a bit, then ate it down to the feathers. So maybe there's hope for them after all and they won't think life is all kibbles and bits.

Rick
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Old 07-27-2009, 12:46 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rtre1979
mama cat caught a bird in the back yard while inattentive kittens were playing. She dropped it next to them and walked away. The kittens batted it around a bit, then ate it down to the feathers.
Rick, that is FABULOUS! I think it is *very* promising that she is both hunting AND attempting to teach her litter how to hunt for themselves and recognize what prey animals are. I'm sorry for the birds/mice but it is a food-chain world we live in, and one they will have to adapt to if they wish to survive.

"I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself." D. H. Lawrence
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