how old are they? and are they totally feral?
Hello all. First post. I have two older-gentlemen cats who have both lived overseas with me. I'm kind of a nomad at the moment; this (school) year I've had a temporary teaching job 5 hours away from my husband and family. I rented an apartment for the year, and since school let out 6 weeks ago, I have spent most of my time 5 hours away from it with my husband/family. I have returned twice to my work-place apartment. The last time, I noticed some kittens living wild under the building, which I have felt obliged to trap and try to help this time. I hope no one minds if I tell you all about what happened and ask for advice and some help answering some questions about them.
6 weeks ago, when school was still in session, there were no visible kittens seeming to ask for handouts near the hole that leads to the basement in my apartment building. Two or three weeks ago, when I came back to my work-place apartment, there they were. Two of them. I suspected I knew who the mother cat was, but I never actually saw her with the kittens. I guess the fact that the kittens were out and about means that they were 4-5 weeks or older at that time. The kittens gave the impression of wanting and expecting handouts. They would come out of the window/hole in the basement to watch you walk by, staying close enough that they could run back inside if you came too close. I got the impression that they were expecting and living off of handouts. I put some food out for them. I tried to coax them to me, but there was no chance. I had to go back home to my husband. I left them, and I suppose I hoped for the best.
My husband returned to my work-place apartment with me this week. I didn't see the kittens for the first two days. Then, one night, as we got in the car, there they were. The weather has been absolutely brutal (above 100 degrees), and I suspect they may have been keeping to their basement-like abode during the daylight hours. I began to really worry about where they could possibly be getting water from. I made some calls and drove to a shop where I could purchase an appropriate trap. I put the kittens in a spare bathroom in my apartment. Luckily, I have an apartment with two bathrooms. I know it is not ideal, but I don't feel like I had much choice but to try to trap the kittens and to try to sort this out.
I have never trapped a feral animal before. I did help out with some at least semi-feral cats at an animal refuge where I used to volunteer for a few years (this was when I was studying overseas, so I don't have the contacts to ask for advice anymore). But just about all of the kittens we got in there were tame-born.
So I am really hoping that these kittens are not older than 12 weeks, since from what I have read, it is difficult to socialize the kittens beyond that age. My first question for the forum is: does anyone have any tips on how to tell how old these kittens are? I suspect that they were not in the habit of travelling any distance from their original "nest," and I am sure that they were not up and about 6 weeks ago. They are probably under-nourished, and I worry that this may cause them to look younger than they are.
My second question concerns a curious lack of spitting and hissing in capture. When the trap closed, the kittens certainly panicked, but at no point, even when we sat in the bathroom with them, did they ever hiss or spit. Is this a good sign? As I mentioned, I believe they have been living off of handouts. Online, I have seen cats that live around restaurants, etc. referred to as "semi-feral." I wonder if this might make it easier to socialize them? Of course, we have not attempted to handle them. And I should mention that they are indeed terrified. Though they have taken food off of me several times in the past, they have not eaten the food we have put out for them in the bathroom--they are huddled together behind the toilet. They have been in there for several hours, and we have visited them twice to check to see if they have eaten.
I will probably call some no-kill shelters on Monday, to see if any can help. Various circumstances would make it difficult to try to socialize them myself, but I have had situations before (i.e. a heavily pregnant cat showing up on my doorstep at about this same time of year) where I was not able to find a no-kill shelter that was able to help. I suppose this means I may be forced to try to socialize/rehome them on my own. I feel like this just landed in my lap, and hope no one thinks me irresponsible for going ahead with trapping the kittens when it will not be easy to follow through on my own.
OK, so I did give more details than I promised. But I thought that some of the things I have mentioned might help to shed some light on the likelihood of socializing these kittens. Any advice would be much appreciated!
Also, my husband is trying to convince me that the kittens need a flea bath. I just don't think this is a good idea, as they are already so frightened. Any advice?
Oh, and one more thing--I will have to return home in a couple of days. As I've mentioned, it is a 5-hour drive. I'm sure that I will not have had much luck with the kittens by then, if I have not found a no-kill shelter to help out. I'm a bit nervous about the drive. I have one of my own cats with me at the moment. Advice on this?
Thanks ever so much for reading, and thanks in advance for any words of wisdom.