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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.
 

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Thank you for the great work you're doing for the cats! The way I look at it is, you can't save all of them...but the ones you do save, it really matters to them.

The best thing you can do for ferals is get them spayed/neutered and release them, if you are unable to tame them. It's unfortunate that they don't stay in the same area where they can be taken care of. I've lost quite a few ferals these past few months but it's inevitable. I don't know what happened to them. I just never saw them again. I wish they would have stayed because I would have continued to monitor their health and feed them forever. Every time I stop seeing a particular feral cat (which happens often), I feel sad, but I move on. I just focus on the remaining ones and other cats who need to be spayed/neutered. I stopped keeping track of which one showed up that day and which one didn't. There was a time I would worry constantly about each and every cat that didn't show up for dinner and I was driving myself insane. So I told myself that I would stop worrying about the cats that stopped showing up and just keep feeding the ones that did. I got them spayed/neutered and that's the best I could do, with the limited resources. Even if they are lost somewhere, at least they won't have more babies.

With a TNR colony, you will definitely lose a lot of cats. Personally, I lose 5 out of 10 ferals that I spay/neuter. Like I said, I don't know what happens to them. They probably get lost, get run over, or move to an area where I don't leave food. It sucks but that's just how it is. Definitely don't try to keep them confined unless you're trying to tame or socialize them.
 

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I recall Merry (she does feral TNR work in Arizona) commenting about the low success-rate of relocated feral cats. 5min or 50mi .... sometimes the cat simply has a strong desire to return to their 'familiar territory' and they set out looking for it, even though they don't know where it is any longer.
I appreciate the work you are doing and you are making a difference. You've done your best to show them you care and will provide for their needs. Once you release them you have no control over them and have to accept that whatever happens .... happens. They were offered an opportunity but you can't make them accept it.
 

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Thank you both for two great replies that I can certainly identify with.

I had an idea that my experience with only a 40-50 percent success rate wasn't unique, but couldn't back that up.

I do really love my gang of 6 and they love each other too. It was incredibly satisfying to bring them this far.
 
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