Sunday, June 8, 2008

whoops...feral or domestic kittens?

so here is a story parents, grandparents and aunts/uncles will appreciate..and perhaps provide some stepson, peter's son eric, got married two weeks ago in colorado. we went..had a terrific time..and brought my 10 yr old step-granddaughter allie back to napa with us the day after the wedding. the plan was to have her stay with us for 10 days while her dad and new stepmom were on their honeymoon. ( more "steps" used in this story..everyone is family). we stayed in a hotel the night of the wedding..left really early the next morning for the airport...of course had mechanical problems with the plane resulting in a 4 hour delay (thank you, united) drove from the airport to napa..went out to dinner cause by then it was 6:30 p.m....and...finally...made it home.
allie loves napa, and our home, so as soon as we walked in the house and put down our luggage she immediately went out the back door...ran through the yard and, of course, spotted a cat sitting in the rose garden. btw...mose was at a dog "resort" while we were away so i guess the cat felt comfortable making herself at home. i will tell you more about mose's luxury spa vacation later...he really is a spoiled dog!! anyway, allie ran over to see the cat...the cat ran under the porch...allie followed...only to see the cat poking her head out staring at allie. just as i got close enough to warn her about making sure this was a friendly cat a kitten popped his head out next to the cat.  before i could react 3 additional kittens also popped out next to mom. uh oh...can you feel it? 10 yr old girl and 4 kittens?? yikes.  within 5 minutes they were named!!! lucky, cleo, mumu and fluffy. before the night was through she was begging to take one back to colorado....and ensure we found homes for the rest. now we were really in a bind..cause mose was coming home the next day and 1 dog, 1 cat and 4 kittens in our yard was not a mix that was going to work out. we needed some help.
the next morning, peter and allie left to go pick up mose. i went to the gym. upon my return, i was met at the door by a sobbing allie. apparently, mose came home and started barking his head off. big surprise.  the cats went deeper under the house and allie was afraid mose would hurt them.  he wouldn't because he is just a big goofball.  i was actually more worried about what the cat would do to him while protecting her babies. i calmed allie down, phoned the napa humane society and pretty much said HELP!! they told me that we needed to determine whether or not the cat was feral or domesticated. a domesticated cat and her kittens could be trapped and brought to them for adoption..chances would be pretty good because the kittens looked to be about 6 weeks old..and honestly they were cute!...but if the cat was feral, they could not help us and suggested a non-profit group in the area that places feral cats with farmers and vintners to help with the rodent population.

o.k. folks..getting the picture?..10 yr old girl wanting kittens, husband not going for the "trapping the cat and checking to see if feral approach" and golden retriever not accepting animals under the porch...loads of action at the napa farmhouse!! so here is the current state of affairs...the cat/kittens seem to have disappeared! either they are so far under the house, and only come out at night, that we cannot find them..or.. the mom cat has relocated her family somewhere safe..good for mose..but not good for the cat population..i was hoping to at least be able to spay/neuter i would really appreciate your thoughts, ideas and/or suggestions regarding this situation. what should we do? i can not believe this cat had the babies under my porch and they lived there for 6 weeks without us knowing. i suspect the cat moved her kittens in while we were in colorado thinking it was a nice, quiet, safe place.. it this possible?
what do you all think? one thing is never boring at napa farmhouse 1885!!! please post your ideas in the comments section of the blog..or feel free to email me..
napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style"™


elaine said...

We have a lot of cats running around our neighborhood. I have noticed an increase in kittens too and have felt that I should be doing something about the situation. I look forward to hearing ideas and suggestions for the problem. Thank you for telling your story.

nancy said...

I have this problem too. Only in my case I am concerned that the wild cats will harm my cat. Will feral cats attack pets?

jodi said...

I headed up the feral cat program with our local animal shelter a while back, so this is an easy answer -- don't sweat it. :)

Feral cats are kitties that have never had any contact with people, or not enough handling to become tame. Essentially, they are wild animals, and behave as such. It is virtually impossible to tame them past kittenhood, just as it would be to domesticate any other adult wild critter.

Strays, on the other hand, are cats that have been people's pets at one point in time, and got lost, abandoned, whatever. They are usually shy, but can be persuaded to be friendly with food and love.

Humane societys and vets don't like to handle feral cats, since they can be dangerous, and usually end up having to be euthanized, anyway, since they'll never be good "pets". That's why they want to know the difference with your kitty here.

True ferals are going to show some of these signs:

--> Be primarily nocturnal, as is natural for felines in the wild (domesticated cats and even most strays adopt our routine more often than not).

--> Have a 'wild animal' look (more of a fear and strong avoidance versus a stray cat's cautious curiosity). A stray cat will be more active about begging for food, or eating when you're around. A feral will be coming around when you're not there.

--> If trapped, ferals usually freak out at being confined and act out with agressive defense (you should see the feral cat gloves I've got LOL They're not mean, but you have to approach the situation as you would with any other frightened WILD animal), where as stray cats usually huddle up as far away from you as possible and act passively and fearfully. All cats may hiss or growl when they're afraid, but an angry cat will pin their ears back and pull back their lips to show their teeth. Both fearful and angry cats dilate their pupils, but an angry cat will also widen their eyes -- just watch, and you should be able to see a difference between defensive agression and fear.

It's my personal guess that this kitty is a stray, or she wouldn't have let her babies anywhere near you, and she definitely wouldn't stick around for you to look at her. She may just need a little loving to get over a not-so-friendly past, and she'd be a wonderful little pet.

Here's a wonderful site for you to check out -- Lots of resources and information. :) Hope this helps a little, and let us know what you decide to do with her and babies.

elizabeth said...

I think that someone probably dropped them off at your place, which happens all the time around here. Since you can't find them now they may have run off but the only way to tell if they are domesticated is to see if they are friendly. If they slowly warm up to you and willingly come towards you and such then they are fine. If they never let you pet them or get near, even after being around for awhile then they are wild. Good Luck!

napa farmhouse 1885 said...

this is what the humane society person told cat food and open the can when the cat is nearby and can see you. if the cat runs to you it is probably someone's pet and used to being fed. if the cat stays away, but eats the food when you leave it out it is probably a "domesticated feral cat" meaning people in the neighborhood feed it. if the cat leaves the food untouched it is probably domesticated. does this make sense to you guys?

amie c. said...

My family adopted a cat who had a litter of kittens in our garage. She was very friendly right from the start (purring and rubbing up against our legs as soon as we appeared at the door with a food dish) so she was obviously a stray or abandoned pet. When the kittens were few weeks old, she moved them to a neighbor's garage (not sure why) but we continued to feed her at our house. If you want to try to maintain contact with the cat and kittens, you could try leaving food out for her somewhere in the yard that the dog doesn't have access to. If the cat comes to eat regularly and seems friendly, she may bring the kittens to dinner with her later. Or you may be able to watch her movements and spot the new home she's moved them to. I'm not sure this will work because the cat had not become accustomed to being fed by you before she disappeared.

Around here, our city animal control provides traps to catch stray cats and they will try to place them as either pets or barn cats. My neighbor has a litter of kittens under her porch right now. The mother was trapped and taken to the pound when they figured the kittens were old enough to eat on their own. Now they are feeding the kittens and getting them used to being handled by people. If your mother cat and babies do turn up, the kittens can be tamed even if the mother is feral. Good luck, it is good of you to want to help.

jodi said...

Here's a .pdf article on trapping -- It's geared towards trap-neuter-return, but the basic principles and ideas will get you going.

It's pretty basic stuff: the traps are most likely wire box traps (which would be similar to the ones Aimee is referring to). The have a door at one end, and the door gets propped open, and the trigger mechanism is set. You place bait (tuna in oil or anything else super smelly is a good bet) behind the trip plate in the back of the trap. When the cat enters the open trap, they have to step on the trip plate (or be veeery talented to avoid it) to get to the food, and then the door comes down behind them and you've trapped yourself a cat. Just have the shelter staff show you how to set the trap, and be careful not to get your fingers in the way because those doors close fast and hard!!

If you stop feeding her for about 24 hours before you trap her, she should enter the trap no problem. Just set it in a quiet place, preferably where she's used to being fed, and cover the top, sides and back of the trap with a blanket or such. Most cats go in without a fuss. There are some that don't like to step on the wire bottom of the trap, though, but you can solve that by laying newspaper down on the floor of the trap. I like to drip a bit of tuna oil on the paper to entice them to walk in.

Some cats get really suspicious of something new in their "territory", so if you put the trap out a few days before you actually set it, just so she can get used to it, your chances of catching her the first time will be better.

Some kitties get scared and run into the wire walls after they've been trapped, and might bloody up their nose a little, but don't release her out of pity, because it's very rare that a cat will enter a trap again -- they learn fast. Having the blanket over the trap reduces the chances of them doing this, though.

Any other questions, just let me know... I love dealing with feral kitties.