why do ferals leave the colony?
Last March I decided to work with our local cat rescue orgainization, Animalkind of Hudson, NY and create a home for some of their altered ferals.
On the second story of my barn, I built a cage for them to live in while they became used to their new surroundings. It was large, 8x8x8, with a full door for me to enter, made of 2x6 boards and chicken wire. Precautions were taken to make sure it was 1. safe and 2. they couldn't find any means of escape.
It had a window, food, water, litter box, perches, toys, soft bedding and hiding places. Animalkind brought my first three ferals and they did well here. I spent time with them, talking to them, sitting in the cage and reading, and received a few very tentative signs of acceptance. Basically, they remained very wild.
After one month I let them out. My thinking was -they can't stay in forever; it's so nice out; they need to get on with their lives.
Only one young cat stayed. The other two were around for a week or two. I never saw them again.
By then it was really getting to be spring time. Upstairs in the barn was too warm now to keep cats confined there. So I build another similar cage downstairs, where it's cool. This one has all the amenities plus different levels where cats can jump up. I know ferals feel more secure up high.
In May I take in three more ferals. After a month of trying to establish a relationship every way I can think of, I let them go. Again, only one stays.
To date, I've taken in 12 feral cats. I have only 6 cats who I see every day in my barn.
How can I improve my success rate? Why do they leave, when they have everything they need right here?
The ferals that stayed are young and sweet-tempered; they don't fight anyone and get along so well. It's not likely the ferals, once out of the cages, would try to return to where they were. Many of them were from 50 miles away.
Is there something about some ferals that they cannot adjust to a new colony, but have to be out on their own?
Giving the cats their freedom, I now realize, means they are free to go.