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Old 01-21-2013, 11:03 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default from feral kittens to feral colony

I do maintenance work on rental houses and at one of these houses in North Minneapolis there was an abandoned house across the alley from this house I did landscape and exterior work on. I noticed a neighbor lady would stop her car and bring something (food/water) up to the back porch area of this house where there was an opening under it. I soon found out there were 4 or 5 kittens living there. I mentioned to her once that they should go to a shelter etc. but, she didn't want to do this.

I thought that the house would be sold, remodeled or torn down but that has not happened yet. It has been almost a year now and the few times I have been back there, I have seen several cats run from garbage bins and flee to this same porch opening. So, I guess most or all survived and still live there....now almost completely feral I guess.

I am not in a position to do anything other than call animal control which I am hesistant to do at this time. I have not seen the 'rescue lady' yet and may not as I seldom go to that house anymore....

If I walked my neighborhood about dark I would see lots of strays and cats let 'out' for the evening. I'm guessing the cats I posted about have had or are having babies so a colony is probably in the making. One day someone will 'round em' up and they will be taken to animal control and likely be euthanized.

My question and comment is......should they have been dealt with when they were kittens? I think that would have been better but since I don't live in the neighborhood, I didn't think it was my place to stop this lady. It is not unusual for me to run across abandoned cats living in old garages, sheds, etc. At my house, I keep some sheltered areas in my yard and put out food for strays I know are in my neighborhood. My avatar, Clyde, was one of these a few years ago.

What do you think?
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Old 01-22-2013, 01:28 AM   #2 (permalink)
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If I were you, I would have called animal control in the beginning. I have seen a lot of feral cats run around my grandma's house and we would always feed them and try to socialize them, but only being there a couple days a week, I didn't have much time with them and no one else would help out.

The neighborhood would leave food out, so it seemed the whole town would drop off unwanted cats. Me, being a softy, would try to socialize the worst ones, but I have scars to prove that it was going to take more work than I was willing to give as a middle schooler/high schooler.

The reasons why this is bad is:

A)None of these little guys are fixed (or at least most of them are not) so they are going to create more and more little guys. I have watched a lot of little feral kittens die because of worms or other sicknesses. (I was too young to really know what was to do and I didn't have the money to save them all.)

B) From what I've seen (not true in all cases, I guess) these little guys will mate with their brother and sister (inbreed) causing birth defects and other problems for the kittens. There were at least 3 inbred generations at my grandma's and the mortality rate was unbelievable. Poor little guys.

Now I know you did what the old lady wished, but really, something should have been done in the beginning. The cats would probably have homes and it is much easier to socialize a feral kitten, rather than a feral cat.

I would call animal control to see if they can get them. Since you are near a big city, I am sure they have a catch and release program where they spay/neuter the cats and give them shots then release them back into the "wild".
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Old 01-22-2013, 01:37 AM   #3 (permalink)
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What you're talking about (TNR, or trap, neuter, release) is NOT the same thing as the shelter, at least not where I live. I can call a rescue group here to help me TNR a feral cat colony, but if I called the shelter, they would trap and euthanize (if they did anything at all). If you decide to call the shelter, see if they TNR. If they don't, calling the shelter will only get the cats euthanized. Your best bet is to try to find a TNR rescue group willing to work with these cats and at least sterilize them if they can't be tamed.
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Old 01-22-2013, 03:40 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Venusworld21 View Post
What you're talking about (TNR, or trap, neuter, release) is NOT the same thing as the shelter, at least not where I live. I can call a rescue group here to help me TNR a feral cat colony, but if I called the shelter, they would trap and euthanize (if they did anything at all). If you decide to call the shelter, see if they TNR. If they don't, calling the shelter will only get the cats euthanized. Your best bet is to try to find a TNR rescue group willing to work with these cats and at least sterilize them if they can't be tamed.
I didn't think about that. I live in Los Angeles County where most shelters are no kill and they are trying to make the whole county no Kill (or at least the city of LA).

I guess it would depend on the size of the city if they have a TNR program. I don't know that we had that back in the small town I grew up in, but the bigger cities would have several people involved.
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Old 01-23-2013, 12:34 PM   #5 (permalink)
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You're correct in your thought that the cats should have been dealt with as kittens. Any responsible person who is caring for feral cats knows the importance of spaying and neutering kittens prior to them reaching sexual maturity. Which, is not to say that I haven't encountered people like the lady you mention--well intentioned, but very misguided. Some of them are simply ignorant and are doing the best that they can with limited knowledge, some can be talked around, others are simply too pigheaded and selfish--and occasionally mentally unbalanced (whoopsie, is my repressed aggression from previous dealings with type #3 bleeding through?) to listen to anything anyone else has to say on the subject, regardless of the logic of your argument.

Feral kittens also have far better odds of being rehabilitated and adopted than adult ferals do. As Venus already pointed out, many shelters will automatically euthanize any feral over the age of about 10 weeks, on the assumption that they're unadoptable--which is true if they're fully feral, and you have neither the time nor the resources to devote to a long, and sometimes unsucessful, socialization process. Contrary to some people's, and some animal wellness organizations', beliefs though, it is definitely possible to rehabilitate feral cats, even as adults.

In the case you describe, a TNR solution is probably best, as, unless you can find an individual who knows what is involved in feral rehabilitation and is willing to take on such a huge job for multiple cats, rehabilitation with the goal of getting the cats adopted into homes simply isn't feasible or realistic, even assuming that the cats could be rehabilitated.

The woman who is currently caring for the cats will likely be resistant to any solution that you propose, but I would certainly try to educate her about the benefits of TNR. Contact a rescue in your area that practices TNR and explain the situation (people who are actively involved in TNR programs are used to dealing with such individuals.) They may have suggestions on how to help sway the neighbour's opinion, and will likely be more than happy to provide you with pamphlets and information on TNR, which can be passed on to her. Afterall, you don't want to take "her" cats away from her, just get them fixed and vaccinated to prevent more kittens from being born on the streets, and to prevent the cats that are already there from the physical stresses of reproduction, fighting, community backlash due to nuisance behaviours, etc.

It's really important to always deal with someone like this lady, who has an emotional connection to the ferals they care for and feels proprietary about them, in a polite, respectful manner (or as polite and respectful a manner as you can manage--again speaking from experience.) Sometimes it's best to walk away and come back to the conversation at a later time if you start to get too angry. It's far easier to influence the opinion of someone who doesn't view you as an enemy, and, although the majority of these sorts of well intentioned individuals are relatively harmless (even the beligerent ones), some of them can, in fact, be dangerous, and there have been numerous cases of such people intentionally harming the animals they have previously cared for when they feel under threat.

Last edited by dt8thd; 01-23-2013 at 12:38 PM.
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