FERAL CATS

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THOUGHTS OF A FERAL

Dedicated to all the kind and caring people who give the lonely ferals a little care, a little love, and a little hope.

I sit beneath the bushes as she fills my dish each day,
I only venture out to eat when she has gone away,
I know it will upset her when I turn away and hide,
As every day she tries her best to get me by her side.
I wish I could let her know that I don’t want to run,
And hope that she will understand it is nothing she’s done.
I’d like to have her stroke me and pat my weary head,
But fear will overcome and I’ll run and hide instead.
For all the kindly people who feed the strays each day,
I pray the Lord will care for them as they have cared for me today.
~Annette Eason

FERAL CATS

Feral cat colony:

Definition; a feral cat colony is a local population of feral cats living in a specific location and using a common food source such as food scavenged from dumpsters or supplementary feeding by humans. Feral cat populations and colonies are located worldwide, including parts of the world where the domestic house cat is an introduced species, such as the Americas and Australia.

Those familiar with feral cats disagree on how many cats must be present for the population to considered a “colony,” with some who consider even a single feral cat that is regularly present at a site to be a colony, while others would require multiple cats to be present in a location at a higher density than the baseline population in surrounding areas.

Feral cat colonies form when irresponsible humans intentionally abandon their unsterilized pets or allow them to wander off, or if the pet escapes before planned sterilization. Colonies can also arise when changes in human activity create an opportunity for existing baseline feral cat populations to form a locally concentrated group. For example, the opening of a new restaurant and resulting presence of edible garbage can attract cats from the local population and allow them to breed and survive in larger numbers.

Colonies often considered a nuisance when a feral cat colony grows to a large size, those living or working nearby might consider the presence of a locally concentrated cat population to be a nuisance. Specific concerns often include:

Urine spraying to mark territory
Digging in gardens and feces left by cats
Predation upon wildlife
Diseases transmissible to humans (zoonoses)
Diseases transmissible to pets
The poor state of health of the cats in the colony
The likelihood of population growth

Those who consider feral colonies to be a nuisance traditionally have attempted to eliminate the colony, by requesting that municipal or private pest control services trap the cats and remove them (typically to be euthanized). However, if the factors that allowed the colony to develop in the first place (e.g. food sources) are not addressed as well, a new colony can form in the same location when cats that escaped trapping and cats from the surrounding area move in and breed.

“Managed” colonies:
More recently, a number of animal welfare organizations have begun to employ the “Trap-Neuter-Return” (TNR) method to deal with the issue of feral cat colonies, sometimes with the support of local municipalities. This approach includes sterilization of the cats to prevent breeding, removal (and euthanasia of sick or injured cats), vaccination, marking, and return of healthy cats to the site, and rescue of kittens and other tame cats to adoptive homes. Groups promoting this approach believe that it addresses many of the concerns of those who might otherwise consider the colony a nuisance, and provides a palatable alternative for cat lovers who might otherwise take no action to prevent the population from growing.

A colony in which the TNR method is being used to sterilize the cats and that is under the regular care and observation of a caretaker is known as a managed colony.
Another issue:

What is FIV and how is it transmitted?

FIV (Feline immunodeficiency Virus) is a retrovirus in the same family as the human AIDS virus, with a few significant differences. It is estimated that in the United States, 2% of cats are infected with the FIV virus. Saliva to blood (biting) is generally accepted as the primary source of spreading the virus, and is unlikely (but not impossible) that cats will spread FIV by drinking or eating out of the same food dish, or by mutual grooming. It is not surprising that outdoor cats are particularly susceptible to the virus, and the best way to prevent infection with FIV virus is to ensure that your cat stays indoors only, which eliminates the possibility of contact with FIV cats. Another, less common means of transmission is from the mother cat (Queen) to her kittens during gestation, during birth, or by nursing. There is comfort in the fact that not all FIV Queens pass the virus on to their kittens. This phenomenon is not fully understood, but all kittens from FIV mothers should be tested for the FIV antibodies after six months.

Taming Feral Kittens

Feral cats are homeless cats, many of whom were born in the wild; others who are pets who were abandoned or have become lost. They are for all intents and purposes wild animals. Those adult stray cats which were once owned, or feral cats of quite temperament, may sometimes be tamed with patience. However, the feral kitten is often easily tamed if it is captured young enough. Considering the short miserable lives that feral cats suffer, those kittens which can be tamed and adopted by humans are indeed lucky.

Feral moms usually give birth in quiet spots where kittens will not be visible for several
Weeks. With no human contact they will be totally wild. When kittens begin to romp and play, they are first noticed by humans but are not easily captured. They may be captured in humane traps (available from the Feral Cat Coalition) and should be taken from the mother at 4 to 6 weeks of age. Older kittens can also be captured and tamed but the process gets slower and less successful the longer the kittens stay in the wild. They should not be taken from their mother before they are old enough to be weaned at about 4 weeks. Kittens taken too young are vulnerable to disease and may not survive. The mother cat should also be captured and spayed to prevent future litters.

The process of taming kittens can take from 2 to 6 weeks (longer for some exceptionally skittish kittens) depending on their age and state of wildness. Individuals can differ greatly in temperament even within the same litter. Some may tame up immediately and some may take quite a long time. Any person attempting to tame kittens should be totally committed and patient. The taming process is certainly worthwhile. You are saving lives and producing affectionate and loving companions.

The steps involved in the taming process are:
1. Containment (I) in a cage or large pet carrier
2. Periodic and brief handling with a protective towel
3. Containment (II) in a small room
4. Exposure to other humans
5. Placement in suitable adoptive homes

CONTAINMENT I

A feral kitten may hiss and “spit” at humans. They are usually terrified of humans. The kitten which acts the most ferocious is just the most scared, but it is capable of giving you a nasty scratch or bite and will probably try to escape if given the chance. Remember that to the kitten you may be a predator; the kitten may think it is fighting for its life.

ALL BITES ARE SERIOUS. IF BITTEN SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION AND QUARANTINE THE KITTEN.

Feral kittens should be checked out by a veterinarian and tested for diseases contagious to other cats before you bring them home. Keep them isolated from your pet cats, wash your hands, and wear a smock (or change clothes between handling visits) to protect against the spread of disease from the kittens to pets or from pets to kitten.
If a trap was used to capture the kitten, transfer the kitten to a cage or a pet carrier large enough for a small litter box and bedding. Place it in a small room away from family pets and children. Be careful not to allow the kitten to escape during the transfer process.

For the first two days, do not attempt handling. The kittens must learn to feel safe. Visit them frequently and talk to them quietly, but resist touching. Always move slowly.
Food and water and bedding should be placed in the cage or carrier. Many cages and carriers have food and water bowls attached to the doors so that you can feed and water the kittens without having to place your hand inside. If you do not have a cage, or your carrier is too small for a litter pan, place the kittens in a small room, like a bathroom, in the carrier. Place the litter box in the room and leave the carrier door open so that the kittens have access to the box.
Some people use worn clothing as the kittens’ bedding to get them used to the smell of humans.

HANDLING

After 2 days, select the least aggressive kitten, place a towel over it, and pick it up in the towel. If the kitten stays calm, pet it gently on the head from behind. Never approach from the front. A hand coming at the kittens frightens them, which may cause them to hiss or bite.

If the kitten remains calm, grip it securely by the nape of the neck, put the towel on your lap and set it on the towel. Stroke the kitten’s body while speaking in soft, reassuring tones, then release. Make this first physical contact brief. Go through this process with each kitten. After all have been handled, give them a special treat. Baby food or Hills “a/d” brand canned food off a spoon is always a great ice-breaker. Repeat this process as frequently as possible.

Brushing with a soft pet brush imitates the action of the mother grooming the kittens and will help the kitten start to transfer its need for parental love to you. It is also extremely important for the health of the kittens to remove fleas as soon as possible. Kittens become anemic from flea infestation and can easily fall prey to illnesses in this condition. Combing with a flea comb also helps the bonding process.

Never stare at the kittens for prolonged periods. This is aggressive body language to cats. Avert your eyes frequently and lower your head often to display submissive behavior. This will be less threatening to the kittens.

Play with the kittens using “kitty tease” toys (tiny piece of cloth tied to a string which is tied to a small stick) or lightweight cat toys. Don’t leave the “kitty tease” alone with the kittens as kittens will often swallow string. This can be fatal.

CONTAINMENT II

Within a week the kittens should have made considerable progress. Each kitten will develop at a different rate. They should have access to the room and can be placed in t he cage only if necessary.

If there is one that is not becoming tame, place it in a separate cage in another room, away from the others. This will allow you to work with the baby more frequently and will it’s dependence on a human. It will also prevent perpetuation of wildness in the littermates. All members of some litters must be isolated as not to reinforce wildness in the group.

A large room may overwhelm a timid kitten and cause increased fear. Bedrooms can be a problem. If kittens become frightened and go under the bed it can be difficult to get them to come out and stressful for them if you force them out.

Also try to kitten-proof the room as much as possible before letting the kittens out into the room. Seal up any nooks and crannies where frightened kittens may enter and become trapped or inaccessible to you. Bathroom sinks often have spaces between the kickboard and the cabinet just large enough for the kitten. Block access to area behind bookcases and heavy furniture behind which the kitten can become wedged. Be careful of open toilets and anything which could be climbed and pulled down on top of the kitten causing possible injury. Protect vulnerable knick knacks, clothes, and plants (some poisonous) from curious kittens.

EXPOSURE

When the kittens no longer respond by biting and scratching, encourage friends to handle them as often as possible. It is very important that they socialize with other humans. Feral cats tend to bond with one human so they best adjust to a new home if they are socialized with other humans before being adopted out.

PLACEMENT

Kittens can be adopted out at 8 weeks or so if tamed and socialized to humans. When screening prospective “parents” remember that the kitten will do best if there are no small children in the home. All the work you have done can be easily shattered by normal kid activity and noise. This is vital to remember when placing the kittens for adoption. The most suitable home is a calm environment so the kittens will feel secure. The ideal home is one which will keep their pet indoors and will take 2 kittens together (actually easier to care for and more fun to watch) or that will have an adult home during the day.

Be sure that you inform the adoptive family that the kitten must be neutered. This can be done as early as 8 weeks of age. You may want to ask for a refundable deposit from the adoptive family to encourage them to neuter. Or you want to neuter it yourself and ask the new owner to reimburse you.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO MAKE SURE THIS CAT DOES NOT HAVE BABIES, OR YOU MAY FIND YOURSELF TRYING TO FIND A FAMILY FOR ITS KITTENS.

(Source of this information is believed to be Alley Cat Allies, www.alleycat.org)

What to do if you find orphaned kittens

Q. I just found a newborn kitten and the kitten’s mother is nowhere to be seen. What should I do?
A. It’s always best for kittens to stay with their mom to nurse whenever possible.

Do they need to be bottle-fed?
First determine the age of the kitten to see if he or she needs to be bottle-fed or can start immediately on soft food:
• Eyes closed, ears folded over: kitten is 1-14 days old.
• Eyes are open, kitten moves around but is wobbly: 2-3 weeks old.
• Eyes are open, ears up, can walk around: 3-4 weeks old.
• Running around and is difficult or impossible to catch: 4-8 weeks old or older.
If the kittens are under 4 weeks of age they will need to be bottle-fed. 4 weeks and older – can be offered soft food, but may need to be bottle-fed.
Share some warmth

If the kitten is cold, warm her slowly by holding her against your bare skin, which will allow her to absorb your body heat (if you are outside, your armpit makes a great incubator). Cold is the greatest danger to kittens. DO NOT submerge the kitten in water or use any method that will warm her temperature too quickly.
Because she is not able to generate her own heat, wrapping the kitten in a blanket or towel is not sufficient. The kitten must get her heat from you. DO NOT feed a cold kitten. Wait until her body temperature is approximately 90+ degrees Fahrenheit.

Make a kitten box

Put a heating pad in a large cardboard box. It must be large enough to accommodate the heating pad and an area that is not covered by the heating pad. Kittens will crawl toward the heat when they are cold and away from heat if they get too warm. If they do not have an area where they can get away from the heat, they can become dehydrated and die. Turn the heating pad on LOW and cover it with a towel. Never let the kitten lie directly on the pad. Place the box in a warm and draft-free area.
Do not bathe the kitten unless absolutely necessary. If the kitten appears to need a bath, her body temperature must be normal, 90+ degrees Fahrenheit. Flea combing is best if the kitten has fleas. (If the kitten must be bathed, use small amount of Lemon Joy. The citrus kills fleas and is safe for kittens. Flea shampoos are too harsh for kittens.) After towel drying the kitten as much as possible return the kitten to the heating pad. NEVER use a hair dryer.

Feeding the kittens

You can purchase milk for kittens from pet supply stores and from some vet clinics. KMR (Kitten Milk Replacement) or Just Born are the best formulas to feed a neo-natal kitten. Do not give a kitten cow’s milk, except in an emergency. If you cannot obtain KMR immediately, use the following emergency recipe for up to 24 hours only.
Warm the formula in a nursing bottle or medicine dropper by placing the bottle or dropper into a cup or bowl of hot water. Test the formula on the underside of your wrist to check the temperature. If it feels too warm or too cold on your wrist, it will feel the same for the kitten. If the formula is too hot, wait until the formula cools down. If the formula is too cold, continue soaking the bottle or dropper in hot water. Always be sure to test the formula again before giving it to the kitten.
Place the kitten on her stomach at a 45-degree angle (just as a kitten would nurse from the mother) and let her nurse until she turns her head. Do not hold the kitten’s head back, and do not hold her on her back as you would a human baby, because the kitten could aspirate the formula into her lungs. Avoid getting air into the kitten’s tummy by holding the bottle at an angle to keep liquid toward the nipple. Pulling back slightly on the bottle will help trigger the kitten’s sucking reflex. Never squeeze the bottle to force milk to come out.

Do not panic if the kitten does not eat the first day. She may be more accustomed to her mother’s milk, which is quite rich, and can sustain her for a longer time than replacement formulas. (If she is still not eating after 24 hours, seek veterinary assistance immediately. She may need to be force fed through a tube. Never attempt tube feeding yourself if you are unfamiliar with this procedure.)
Emergency Kitten Milk Replacer Recipe (side bar)

• 2/3 cup homogenized whole milk
• 3 raw egg yolks
• 1 tablespoon corn oil
• 1dropper pediatric liquid vitamins

The critical follow up to feeding

After the kitten’s stomach is full, it is necessary to stimulate her to help her eliminate. A kitten does not have the ability to do this themselves until they are three weeks old. The mother cat would usually wash the kitten with her tongue to simulate elimination. Take a wet lukewarm, but not hot, washcloth or paper towel and gently massaging the anal region in a small circular or back-and-forth motion. You may want to hold kitten over a towel or sink while stimulating her.
Feeding: How much and how often?

This is a general guideline, individual kittens may eat more or less often.
• 1 and 2 week old kittens = 6 feedings per day
• 3 weeks = 4 feedings
• 4 weeks = 3 feedings
The label on the container of kitten formula you purchased should indicate the recommended amount to feed a kitten according to body weight.
If a kitten cries, she is either cold or hungry. A contented kitten sleeps quietly.

Learning to eat on their own

When the kitten is five weeks old, you can begin weaning the kitten with baby food or canned kitten food mixed with KMR.
Be sure to read the label on the baby food to select a brand that does not have any onion in it, as it is known to cause anemia in kittens.
For more information on caring for neo-natal kittens you may want to purchase The Guide to Handraising Kittens by Susan Easterly, T.F.H. Publications, Inc. It can be purchased from Alley Cat Allies for $8.00.

Source of article came from Alley Cat Allies. www.alleycat.org. Telephone 240-482-1980, 7920 Norfolk Ave., Suite 600, Bethesda, Md. 20814-2525
Source: http://www.worddig.com/ definition/Feral cat colony

More on Feral Cats from ASPCA (aspca.org)

Here’s a link to a pet safety guide, given to us from FAWG, which includes chapters on common household hazards for pets, food safety for pets, pet-proofing, and natural disaster preparation for pet owners.

Tips for Trapping Feral Cats

Preparation for Trapping
• Feed the cats every day, if possible at the same time. Never feed tuna fish or similar special treats, as this will be used later for bait in the trapping process.
Items needed for trapping
• Platform operated humane trap
• Towel or folded newspaper to cover the trap floor
• Blanket or sheet large enough to cover the entire trap
• Plastic lid or small paper plate to hold the bait
• Tuna fish or sardines, (type intended for humane consumption, not cat food)
• Can opener and spoon or fork
• Regular food and water for feeding the remainder of the colony after the trapping session
• Squeeze carrier/cage (optional)

Trapping

1. Arrange for veterinary care beforehand with a veterinarian who is familiar with feral cats.
2. Cats for the October 20th National Feral Cat Day Spay/Neuter Event should be delivered to Nevada Humane Society by 9 AM, and should be picked up between 4 and 5 PM.
3. Plan your trapping session with a partner. An extra pair of hands will most always be needed. Never go alone to remote or urban trapping sites.
4. Do not do the regular feeding. Planning your trapping session at, or shortly after, the regular feeding time is often effective. Some hunger will make the bait more attractive.
5. Put a towel or folded newspapers on the floor of the trap to cover the platform (release mechanism) and the mesh floor of the trap.
6. Place the bait on the plastic lid or paper plate and place it at the end furthest from the trap entry. Make a trail of small mounds of the bait that lead into the trap. (You can drop bits of tuna trough the mesh top of the trap onto the floor below.)
7. Set the trap and wait. Do not leave visual range, but watch at a distance that is not disturbing to the cats. Never leave a trap unattended. (Sitting in a car nearby works well.)
8. Covering all but the door opening to the trap often gives the best results, (make sure that the cover will not obstruct the door closing). If the cats remain nervous and will not enter the trap you may try uncovering the back end, or leaving the entire trap uncovered.
9. As soon as the cat is trapped, quickly cover the entire trap with the blanket or sheet to calm and quiet the animal.
10. You may carefully transfer the animal to small cat carrier (in a confined space, like a garage) if you are planning to trap additional cats, otherwise the cat should remain in the trap which functions as a carrier. Keep the trap or carrier covered during transit. Most vets prefer that the cat be delivered in the trap or a squeeze carrier as the wire mesh makes it easier for them to safely administer a tranquilizing injection to the cat. A plastic cat carrier makes it more difficult for the vet and more stressful for the cat.
11. Take care not to tip the trap or to allow it to be overturned as the door may come open. The door may be secured shut with a twist tie or short length of string.
12. Don’t forget to feed the other animals before you leave the site with the trapped animals.
13. If possible, record the cat’s vital statistics and take a picture of the cat in the trap to help with future identification. Keeping a file or album with the cats photos, description, sex, approximate age, dates of trapping and vaccinations are important. We recommend using the Alley Cat Allies Colony Tracking System form.
Release

In good weather most males and females can be released the following day. As feral cats experience stress while in captivity they should not be held longer than necessary.
In extremely cold weather or if there have been any surgical complications they may need to be kept for a few days before release.
Why You Should Never Leave a Trap Unattended
It is best to wait just of out of view, inside a car often works well, especially if the care can be positioned so that you can see the traps. If that is not possible listen for the sound of the traps closing just out of visual range and check them every 10 minutes at the most.
Cats in unattended traps can be:
• Injure themselves trying to escape from the trap
• Attacked, injured, or traumatized by dogs, raccoons, and other animals who may be drawn to the smell of the food
• Hurt by cruel humans.
• Traps can be stolen or smashed.
• Released, then making it much more difficult to re-trap the now trap-shy cat.
All of these things have actually been experienced by cat trappers.
What To Do If the Cat Won’t Go Into the Trap
Be sure that you have . . .
. . .covered the mesh floor of the trap.
. . .put a trail of small bits of bait leading into the trap.
Other things to try:
• Vary the way that you are covering the trap. Most cats prefer the trap to be covered, but some will only go in if they can see out the far end — try uncovering the far end only. A few cats prefer the trap to be uncovered, but you’ll want to be near by to cover the trap as soon as they are trapped, to calm the cat.
• Wait two hours past the regular feeding time.
• Try different bait; sardines, tuna fish in oil, and deli turkey are favorites.
• Wash the trap with a scrub brush and soap and water, rinse completely and air dry. If the cat can smell another cat they may avoid the trap. If a cat has urinated in the trap or sprayed on the trap, spray the trap with a mild bleach and water solution (this will neutralize the urine ), then rinse it thoroughly and allow it to air dry.
• Try using a larger size trap, some cats, particularly larger cats, may be reluctant to go into the regular cat-sized traps. Try a raccoon size model.
If these tips fail:
• Tie the trap door open and feed the cat a short distance from the trap. Move the food closer each day. In the course of a few days you should be able to put the food inside the trap, and finally all the way at the back of the trap. Once the cat is comfortably eating in the trap you can set it and catch him.
• Some cats will only go into a wooden drop (or pull) trap. Contact us for instructions on how to construct such a trap or where to borrow one.
Trapping A Group Of Kittens
To get multiple kittens at once, or a mom with kittens, you can use a conventional trap like a pull trap (you’ll need a large or raccoon–size trap):
• Bait the trap as usual, the only difference is that you may want to use a bit more food, as you are trying to capture multiple animals at once.
• Tie a length of sturdy twine to a stick that is the appropriate height to prop the trap door open. The twine must be long enough for you to operate the trap from a distance, preferably from inside of a car where you presence is least likely to frighten the cats.
• Watch until several kittens are all inside and pull the twine to close the door.
• It’s worthwhile to do a test run to see that you have the stick positioned in such a way that the trap will close properly.


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