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Discussion Starter #1
I thought I was the only one but I've now noticed a couple other members mentioning their colonies... I'd love to hear the histories of your colonies and how you started, etc. if you'd like to share!
 

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Can you have a colony of 1? I recently started feeding PuddyClone when the weather got cold. I put an old litter bucket (lid has an entry flap cut into it) with bedding in it for him to take shelter in too. Methos is still whacking at him when he gets up on the windowsill & they scream obsenities at each other thru the glass. I still can not get within 20 feet of him - my own fault for chasing him so hard when I thought he was PuddyWoW escaping from the house. If I could get my hands on him he would be into the TNR clinic sooo fast.
 

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Between raccoon attacks, random disappearances and sickness, my colony is now down to 2 cats as far as I know. Zazzle and Tangelo are regulars, as I see them nearly every day. A brown tabby I haven't seen since late Spring, Disco went missing in March, and I haven't seen Rune since January.
This is one reason Zinny is now an indoor pet...I got too attached, and when Disco quit coming around, I figured I would save who I could - and Zinny is the only one I can catch (she's still sort of feral, but snuggles when she's in the mood).
If I could bring Zazzle and Tangelo in, I would! But my dad doesn't want anymore "d*mn cats", and they won't come within reach anyway.

History of "North Hill Colony"
I started feeding them in February 2010. At first I just left food out, and didn't really do much more.
Then I figured I would try to trap them and get them fixed, so there wasn't MORE cats, as there was already a good 13 (that I had counted). Unfortunately, every time I trapped one, it ended up being wounded or sick... as there was no way I could treat them (most meds can't just be left in food, and I couldn't handle them to give it to them directly), I opted to have them euthanized. Vermillion was torn up by a raccoon, Cynthia had head trauma and could barely walk, Spotty had a huge infected neck wound (raccoon attack, probably), Scraggly had a horrible URI and mangled eye. I got Rune fixed and released, as well as Cynthia's kittens (actually, Disco was released with Zinny, but I got Zircon and Tourmaline tamed and adopted into homes!).
It seemed that every time I trapped, there was an injury or sickness...so I kept the younger/healthy ones, and let the few thrive, rather than them all struggling and competing to simply survive.
I haven't trapped Tangelo yet, but I guess it doesn't matter as all the females are gone or fixed. I will try again this next warm season to get him fixed, in case there's females I don't know about that are around (or get dropped off, as it's out in the country area)

Also, I named it "North Hill Colony", as I live in the foothills of the mountain, and am on a northern hill that looks down into the Salt Lake Valley... can see the lake, and Antelope Island. Plus, there's Hill Air Force Base just a mile away.
 

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It all started with three, just three, kittens, in May 2010. I felt sorry for the kittens and started feeding them. A year and a half later, I now feed around ten cats twice a day in front of the dumpster at the condo building where I live.
Selfishless, I didn't want to have to feed the kittens' kittens, so I started TNRing in November 2010; I have since then TNRd around 25 cats. I do not know what happened to the remaining 15 cats, but most of them I'd only seen a couple of times before TNRing. Interestingly, of the 25 cats I've TNRd, only around five are female.
I live in an area where there is a high rate of foreclosures and evictions; my colony is growing and is largely healthy because most of the cats have at one time been owned and fed regularly so their immune system is well developed.
Since January 2011 I retrapped five cats and moved them to my friend's house, where she kindly converted one of her spare rooms in her house into a cattery. We have re-socialized the cats; two have been placed into Forever Homes; two are ready for adoption; and one is a 'work in progress'.
At times it seems overwhelming, especially because the colony is always growing. But it is also rewarding when one of the feral cats now waits for me at the bottom of the steps and rolls over onto his side when he sees me.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I love the stories, thank you so much!!

I was indeed going to ask you guys if you had cats disappearing, because I wasn't ready for it and my heart breaks each time one of them disappears. I get attached to them all. Some I see now and then around other colonies / feeding stations, and others I never see again. Now I'm heartbroken because the cat I named Queen Mother, as she seemed like the colony queen, the one who's always there and watches that the prominent members eat before the newcomers, has disappeared. She was always, always there. She was a part of my life like my house cats (whom I adopted from the colony). She'd follow me around the neighborhood for hours, was always with me, always waiting for me, running to greet me, then one day last week she just disappeared...

I was offered this colony by the condo super when the woman who used to feed them (a famous local actress) died and I arrived to live in this building. I knew zero about cats, had never liked them. I decided to give it a try, just throw some food on the ground once. That was 1+ years ago, and since then they conquered my heart and I practically live for them. The two who seemed to have been born to live in a home I took home, 10 and 6 months ago. I get passers-by congratulating me often, and others spitting and threatening me often too. I sit with the strays for hours each evening, petting the ones who like petting, pampering each the way they will allow. On Fridays I bring them an all-you-can-eat raw or wet dinner.

Several of the cats only come occasionally, and sometimes don't even eat, which makes me think they don't hang in my colony because they prefer the junk food served by my neighbors (the feeders are about a block or two from each other, so the strays choose their menu, there's a competition, and the cheaper the food you feed, the more scent and flavor it has. I feed the highest quality for strays I can afford, and they probably don't like it much). On stormy nights (although the winters here are practically non-existent) I let some of the strays come take refuge inside the building for the night. When the neighbors try to kill me, I tell them that one of the neighbors left the entrance door open and so the strays must've come in when I wasn't there. The area is very highly crowded and there's no no-man's land, so it's impossible to set up even boxes as shelters for winter. I have a huge dog training cage (that Vivid Dawn here above recommended buying) so if a stray is sick, I will hospitalize them in that cage for as long as it takes for them to undergo treatment. My house cats will try to eat them up, but won't be able to reach them in the cage. The cage is so huge that it's more like a cat loft, living room and dining room and toilet downstairs, bedroom upstairs.

I don't treat the strays against fleas because I don't find any on them (the vet said it couldn't be, but later checked and saw it was true). It's also very expensive.

If I see a female cat that's not yet TNRed, I call the municipality and they come for free. But they're all neutered. The ones in the neighboring colonies too. We did TNR a few months ago, there were very few to neuter.

What do you feed? When? What about shelter?
 

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Mine are not strays - but a large group of barn cats. Most of them are the same cats that were there when our family's dairy farm quit four years ago, and a few are ones pulled out of the shelter before they were put down. There are 21 cats there that I take care of, between the ages of one and nine years old.

The ones that I have pulled from shelters:

-TyTy who was going to be put down because he is blind, he is an eight year old Siamese
-Mooshu who was going to be put down because he is blind in one eye, he is a one year old short haired black and white kitty
-Clover who was going to be put down because "no one wants a cat with three legs"
-Hortense and Wilda (fosters) who were both going to be put down due to diet related issues they have

Others: Nightmare, Buddy, Shadow, Missy, Blizzard, Storm, Mo, Black Cat (stray who just showed up, need to trap it and TNR), Amiga, Lynx, Chester, Haddie, Crystal, Jack, Jill

What do I feed?
All but Nightmare eat a prey model raw diet. Nightmare is fed grain free canned instead (he won't eat raw)

When do I feed?
Every night. I've tried feeding them twice a day, and they won't have it. Most of the cats are in the straw mow, and do not go down ever, so they don't hunt for their own food either.

Shelter
They have the barn :)
 

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Good for you for taking such good care of your ferals. You do a lot more for their emotional well being than I do.
There is only one cat that disappeared that was in the colony a long time--Greycoat. He brought to the colony a few cats, it was like, here is this cat, he's okay, so the rest of you, accept him (Buckley, for example). I miss him.
I'm the only one feeding the colony. A few people every once in a while will put food down by the dumpster. Sometimes what they put down boggles the mind (macaroni and cheese?! tuna fish casserole; mystery meat attached to a very large bone [deer?]) but it's the thought that counts. The newspaper woman stopped me two weeks ago, said, I've noticed you've been feeding the cats, that's such a good thing you do, would you like a donation? I was so surprised, I actually said YES.
It was because of complaints from other unit owners that I retrapped five cats and moved them into the cattery. And, at least five new cats took their place. The complaints always come third-hand; they complain to the President of the Condo Association, who then emails me. I think the other unit owners are glad I'm feeding the cats so they don't have to and don't feel guilty not feeding them.
The President has been fully supportive in my TNR efforts; I couldn't do it without his permission.
There are other stray cats about half a mile away, no organized colony. I believe a man is feeding a family of three cats (one of whom is sick). I wrote him a note saying I'd TNR the cats for free/low cost; he never replied.
Vets--I've been really lucky. No one has been sick enough for me to have to take them to a vet. "Quill" had a skin condition around her face in the summer but it has largely cleared up (allergies?) and showed no other signs of being ill. "Buckley's" scratch/bite mark healed on its own (yes, the same cat I later TNRd and moved to the cattery).
Vet care around here is very expensive: it's $60 just to walk in the door; $100 for a SNAP (FIV/FELK) test. And that's the price for vets who deal with feral cats. I volunteer for a cat rescue organization, so I get SNAP tests done there for $26. (The cats I moved into the cattery were tested first.)
Shelter: as for shelter, it gets cold here in Washington, DC. Last year I had access to a utility shed connected to a vacant condo unit. I put straw in large plastic tote boxes and put them in the vacant utility unit and the cats really liked it in there. Unfortunately, that unit has been sold. There are some sheds/detached garages on top of the hill and that is where I see the cats coming from in the early morning hours. There are also bushes that hug the building; during the hurricane, it stayed amazingly dry back there. My own furball, Ritz, and her litter mates survived the 20 inch snow storm in December 2009; stray/feral cats are survivors.
Food: with ten cats, cheap, unfortunately. Friskies (four cans around 5:30 a.m. and four cans around 6 p.m.) and dry food (about six+ cups a day). I feed Ritz raw food, and the feral/stray cats get any extra raw food, like bones+meat and skin. Skin contains a lot of fat--outdoor cats need all the calories they can eat, especially in cold weather. I may start occasionally feeding raw food that is on the clearance rack; it can't be any more expensive that Friskies (45 to 57 cents per can). It's hilarious (and sad) watching the cats dig into the raw food.
BTW: the US Tax Court recently ruled that if you are feeding feral cats on behalf of a charitabale organization, you can claim those expenses on your income tax form. Check with your accountant about this.
 

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Shelter: I have not built any shelters for the cats, mostly as I can't afford it and don't have the carpentry skills. But my neighbor has a few sheds with broken windows and gaps in the walls that the cats go into.

Food: Right now, my budget is REALLY tight! Car keeps breaking down, insurance isn't processing things and hospitals want their money NOW, etc.
I feed only dry food now, but hope to start giving canned treats once a day in a few months after work picks up.
The rescue group I work with supports TNR and so gives me 50 lbs of kibble every 2 months. I'm not completely sure what it is, as they just deliver it in a plastic bin, but somebody mentioned it was Sophistakitten...anyway, it's really cheap junk and is probably 75% corn! So to help make it a little healthier, I mix in the food I feed to my cats, which has NO corn (since it makes Paizly sick). I mix it in another bin, and do 1 scoop of my food and 2 scoops of the bad food, so it's all blended together.

I used to have the feeding station on the patio, since that was more convenient for me. But I had to move it because my dad didn't want "all those d*m cats comin' to the house!", and then I figured it was a bit far for them to tromp through snow when it gets too deep. So now it's at the edge of the yard, against the neighbor's shed (that they use for shelter). Yeah, I have to walk farther now, but I need my exercise!



The food storage container is on the left. The gray bowls are filled with water, to keep the ants out of the food.
 

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So my colony is still around. At least I know shiva, ziro(formerly zira, discovered little kitty balls), rose, and marcel are. Rose does not trust me since I grabbed marcel in an attempt to trap without a trap, lol. I have been feeding for a couple months along with adopting out kittens. My own tucker is from the colony. I will begin tnr as soon as apartment management backs off of their relocation attempt.
 

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my colony started in spring 2010 when pretty girl (my avatar) was seen somewhat often. once i started feeding her all of the "lurkers" started to become a bit more brave and let themselves be seen.

one year ago i had six adults and seven kittens but now only have four young adults. all seven kittens were caught and brought to the shelter for adoption, but sadly spazz, one of pretty girls babies had some severe genetic defects and did not make it past six months. one of the adults, malcolm, did not make it either as he had FIP. lastly, pretty girl. well, she is curled up asleep in my lap as i type this.

as far as shelter goes, last winter i made a bunch of the rubbermaid tub houses and erected a tent for a feeding station. this year i have four feral villas as well as three new and improved tub style houses. i am waiting to see if how many really take to the feral villa. i also built a couple of feeding stations out of 3/4" plywood.

for food my guys get natural balance dry and fancy feast for canned food. i feed them mostly canned but now that it is starting to drop below freezing i will give them whatever canned they can eat quickly, no more of them eating leftovers.

health-wise it is sort of a mix. this summer i started giving the three that aren't too leery monthly doses of revolution and a couple of times did a de-worming using panacur-c. other than that, all are very healthy, but i try to keep a close eye on mommie since she does have FIV.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Yes, I love this thread!
 

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In the late fall when all my projects are put on hold I throw together a winter shelter area in a corner of the garage. It's a mess, but the cats like it. Note the ramp that accesses the rafters above the ceiling. There's a small wall furnace that keeps the corner reasonably comfortable as well as a few low-watt heating pads.

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DSCF0007 by clylet, on Flickr[/IMG]
 

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wow lyle! i am impressed, and a little jealous as well. i wish i had some sort of an "interior" for my guys to go into, other than their feral villas or their tub style houses. but no such luck ....yet.



btw - your crew are all very beautiful. not as beautiful as my guys but beautiful nonetheless :razz:
 

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Don't get too jealous. It's a big garage that isn't used much in the winter. In addition, I'm partly annalretentive, retired with a lot of time on my hands and working on a guilt trip from having their mother killed. Oh, yeah and partly a social experiment. Behind my shoulder up near the ceiling is a camera for observing feral cat behavior. One cat "lives" in the rafters, another on the upper shelf, another in the straw bales and the fourth has staked out the old rocking chair in front of the furnace. None of them have much to do with me (or each other) except for a few golden moments just before they eat.
 

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well, it seems to me that your crew has the equivalent of the taj mahal for feral cats.

i like to spend time with my guys and now that it has gotten cold it is difficult to do that with out freezing. since i am hoping to socialize at least one more i figure it is time well spent.

i bet soon enough they will want to be near you as much as possible. for one of my crew it took over a year of feeding twice a day as well as hanging out with/near them until she would allow me anywhere near her. now, even after she has a full belly she likes to hang around me and if i don't see her all i have to do is call her name and she comes running.
 

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One of the cats is 2 1/5, the other 3 are 1 1/5. All from the same mother.
The posts on this site re: socialization and dominance in feral cat colonies interest me as it seems that it doesn't take much for a cat to be "pushed" out, so-to-speak. My wish is for a stable, well-cared for group. That they can leave of their own accord is just something to have to deal with with ferals.

They all, to one degree or another tolerate me, mostly as a food provider. They also seem to be slowly more comfortable in my presence, but extremely cautious. My wife claims that I don't have a friendly disposition cat-wise (something about bad vibes and profanity:?), a claim I don't dispute because she can touch/stroke all of them. That I built their living arrangements and such things does not seem to have impressed them as much as the sound of a can being opened :)
 

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with all you do for them i find it hard to believe that you are giving off bad vibes but perhaps in lieu of straight profanity try doing the "baby voice" while swearing :)

i am lucky that 2 of my guys have known me almost their entire lives. when they showed up they were only +/- 6 months old so they have been easier to establish a good deal of trust with. heck, one of them likes to crawl up onto my lap and curl up for a good nap!

you are doing a wonderful thing, keep up all of your great work. it is also nice to see that there are more guys doing this than just me.
 
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