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Snarp's avatar

How do I find a home for 8 feral cats?

Asked by Snarp (11249points) April 21st, 2010

So an elderly relative went to the hospital and is now in a nursing home. We don’t know if she will be able to return to her own home again or not, but it’s unlikely. She was sort of the crazy cat lady and has eight cats (at least she says so), all of which were strays she just started feeding and that ended up living in her house. These cats are essentially wild. They hide the instant you walk in the house and do not come out except for panicked runs from one hiding place to another. Even opening a can of cat food does not bring them out. I have been feeding them and cleaning the cat boxes for several days now and trying to be as quiet and slow as possible, opening the canned food very deliberately, but they show no sign of warming up. They would have to be trapped just to get them out of the house. Is it possible to find loving homes for cats that would need a lot of work just to get to the point where they don’t run and hide 24/7? I’m terrified that these cats could end up in a shelter where they’ll finally get put to sleep.

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40 Answers

anartist's avatar

Perhaps talk to someone in an organization in your area that cares for feral cats in the wild. They could be spayed and neutered, given shots and released to form their own colony or clowder that is serviced by volunteers.
One site of many

DarkScribe's avatar

Sad as it seems – you don’t.

Snarp's avatar

@anartist The thought of releasing them has crossed our minds, I think they are fixed (though how she got them to the vet, I don’t know). But I generally don’t like the idea of setting cats loose in the city. I’m not sure how well they’d get by on their own having been fed for quite some time, I really don’t like the idea of them killing song birds, and then there’s traffic, etc. Seems like the cats on that site are living in the wild already, then spayed and released again. Adding new cats to the wild seems like a bad idea.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Oh, I do feel sorry for you. That is such a burden for a kind, tender hearted person such as yourself.
Maybe a free ad in the local paper? But do not expect an overwhelming response. Give yourself a deadline and then follow through.
Absolutely do not simply let them go. At best they will end up as songbird killers. At worst they will become roadkill or coyote food.
That is why shelters were established.
You have my sympathy.

anartist's avatar

Please consider helping them live the best life they can live. If your relative may not return, getting them in a controlled release program with the help of volunteers is the kindest thing you could do. the Humane Society link lists hundreds of feral cat organizations by state. At least call one and ask them what they recommend. They are usually put to death first in shelters [before lost or surrendered tame house cats and tameable kittens] because they are unadoptable. They are too old to be tamed.

DarkScribe's avatar

@anartist getting them in a controlled release program

A release program for feral cats? Release to where – they didn’t come from the wild – a feral cat is a domestic cat gone wild. What about the native fauna that they destroy?

Trillian's avatar

Feral cats are probably never going to be adoptable. I saw a special not too long ago about a couple houses where people had been hoarding animals among other things. They had to wear respirators in the house with the cats and I guess there were over 100 of them. The Humane Society or the ASPCA had to step in and rescue them.
It’s a tough call, and I am sorry about it for you. I love cats and mine just left a month ago, I’m pretty sure to go off and die. She was about fifteen years old. Or thereabout, I had gotten her from a shelter in ‘96. They need food and shelter.
Your best bet is still your local shelter. You could stipulate to them a “no kill” request and stay in the loop. Then just start contacting all the organizations in your area for help and put up notices. People that go to animal Clinics are probably a good start so try to put flyers up in all the Vets offices, churches, Kiwanis, Elks clubs, etc. you could even send out an appeal over public radio.
Good luck, bless you for caring and taking and active stand.

Snarp's avatar

BTW, everyone should make plans for their pets if something happens to them, just as they would for their children, especially as you get older.

Buttonstc's avatar

The sad truth is that the chances of finding eight people willing to adopt an adult feral cat when the shelters are full of loveable, friendly, cuddly cats and kittens which are running out of time, is highly unlikely.

This is why the shelters euthanize these cats first because even if someone does adopt one of these cats, the chances that they will be returned once the kindhearted person tires of trying to socialize them are very high.

It is unfortunate, but it is reality. The best thing you can do is to contact one of the organizations in your area which deals with ferals and let them guide you. They have lots of experience with situations like this. Follow their advice.

Most no-kill shelters have long waiting lists and would be very unlikely to want to accept EIGHT ferals. They will likely refer you to a group that deals with ferals.

Regular shelters without a no-kill policy may likely tell you one thing and do another. It’s really very unrealistic to expect them to euthanize other well-socialized cats in order to keep these cats whose adoption chances are very slim.

The only other place I can think of where ferals MIGHT be placed is on a farm where they need some mousers. But if your relative kept them housebound, it’s unlikely they developed hunting skills. Most farmers don’t need eight cats.

You have my sympathies for what is overall a very unfortunate situation for all concerned.

Contact a local ferals group from the links above and follow their recommendations.

Dark Scribe mentioned concern for the local birds and such, but I think it’s pretty unlikely these cats have much hunting skill. Do what’s best for them.

Sophief's avatar

Where do you live?

Snarp's avatar

@Buttonstc At least some of them were indoor/outdoor, so they may have some hunting ability. Farms might not be a bad idea, but probably four to eight farms rather than one farm for all. I’ve got a cat with no claws (front or back, never heard of anyone doing this, but her former owners did) who has never been outside. Nevertheless she can catch mice. I’m not sure there is such a thing as a cat without hunting skills.

Snarp's avatar

@Sophief Across the pond.

Buttonstc's avatar


You are right in that most cats have hunting skills regarding pursuit behaviors, stalking, pouncing, etc. So I see what you mean in that regard.

But actually being able to dispatch the prey efficiently with that precise neck bite is a learned skill which is taught to the kittens by the momma cat.

I saw a documentary about this one time on the Disc. channel in which a bunch of researchers studied this in detail. It wasn’t something I had really thought about before.

But I remembered back when I lived in Philly and a nearby house burned down and we got an influx of evicted mice.

I woke up one morning to see the entire kitchen and linoleum floor covered with tons of little blood drops and spatters all over and one very dead mouse.

My guess is it died from a heart attack or sheer terror after being an all-night toy for my cat who obviously lacked killing skills :) he just chased that mouse all over the place all night long. I’m sure he slept well that day :D

Had this been out in the wild rather than the confined space of a small city apt. I’m quite sure the mouse would have escaped after being initially caught.

But if you have enough farms nearby to where you live, that might be a possible solution for some of those cats. I’m not sure if there is some centralized efficient way to reach potential farm adopters but hopefully one of the local ferals org. may have some ideas or resources.

Good luck and keep us posted on what happens with the cats.

Snarp's avatar

@Buttonstc My biggest concern about a farm is that if the cats are left outdoors, even at a farm, they will attempt to return to their home.

Buttonstc's avatar

Well, I don’t really know what else to recommend other than contacting a local ferals group and benefit from their expertise. Is there one nearby?

Are there more than just these eight cats ? I mean, are there others out there who were kind of coming and going.

I thought she was keeping them as indoor cats, as many do. What are the chances that there are many others out there that she was also feeding?

anartist's avatar

They will have no allegiance to that home if they are not fed there. They might even willingly escape it now and form a colony naturally that could be supported.

Snarp's avatar

@Buttonstc There are almost certainly others that were being fed, eight is the likely number living in the house, though we’ve only seen six.

anartist's avatar

the others may be outside nearby. A colony may already exist. Where do you live?

anartist's avatar

why not just open the door and if they leave feed them on the porch for now and at least eliminate the litter problems?

anartist's avatar

UK ferals or EU ferals?

Seek's avatar

@anartist is nothing if not observant.

Buttonstc's avatar

This is the website for Alley Cat Allies which has links to local groups in their network here in the US.

I hope there’s one in your area.

Snarp's avatar

@Buttonstc BTW, I don’t mean to put down your suggestions in any way, I’m just sharing my thought process on all this. I’m considering everything.

Buttonstc's avatar

That’s fine. I understand that this is a difficult situation without a one size fits all solution.

BTW Can you ask her about whether or not she had any of them neutered?

It’s an important aspect of any potential solution.

syz's avatar

Your best bet is to contact a rescue organization or the ASPCA.

Snarp's avatar

@Buttonstc We think she had them neutered, and we will certainly ask before we do anything. No matter what they will be neutered before they find new living arrangements.

anartist's avatar

@Snarp oh, you were saying across the pond to someone else. All the previous references were US. The US Humane Society with state links.
@Seek_Kolinahr I wrote my last reply simultaneously with @Sharp and went back to the pissing contest on the photo sources before I saw Sharp’s answer.

Buttonstc's avatar

Oh, a pissing contest, Whoopeee ! !

Buttonstc's avatar

Yeah, I just got through reading it…(yawn)

Not really half as thrilling as it sounded unfortunately.


semblance's avatar

I doubt that all or even most of these cats are truly feral. It sounds like they are acting as a cat community, not interacting well with humans. They are out of practice in getting along with humans and some of them may have been mistreated in the past. They are a management problem. They need to be reintroduced to human society.

This can be addressed, but it takes a lot of work and some money. Hopefully the relatives estate will have funds to handle it.

The first thing to do, aside from trying to keep them fed and watered, is to trap them in humane traps, one by one. Take each one to a vet to be evaluated for health. If healthy, the animal should receive normal vaccinations. If the animal appears to be very sick, euthanasia is probably the best option. Any healthy animal that has not yet been neutered should be. With tomcats this may make them much milder and more tractable, although that takes time. Anyway, assuming the cat comes through the vet check and neutering process okay, if it can be kept in a controlled environment for a time where it cannot get away it can probably be gentled and become accustomed to handling.

This would require finding potential adoptive owners on a case by case basis. Ads in local papers, community boards, veterinary office boards, and pet supply stores (not the kind that sell pets) are the places to find potential owners.

There may be an animal rescure organization in your area. If so, I would contact it for advice.

tinyfaery's avatar

I brought a feral cat into my house about 2½ years ago. She still will not let me pick her up, but she walks up to me and rubs around my legs and she lets me pet her. She has learned to play with my other cats, and she comes out to hang-out with everyone. She has really come a long way and I know that with time she will become more and more like any other pet cat.

These cats can be retrained and become loving pets. Do what you can for them. Many of the links above are great places to start.

tinyfaery's avatar

She just came out to say hi and she let me pet her.

snowberry's avatar

I tamed a very mean cat once. If she had been feral, she might have been easier to tame. My friend left her with me, and we constructed a kennel for her. It started out in the garage, but the kids kept trying to pet the cat through the bars, and I was afraid she’d bite their fingers off, so I moved her outside under a tree. I gave up trying to clean her litter box, or open the door to feed her. We trapped her inside her shelter, removed the litter box, and put in two big dishes, one for food, and the other for water. I could fill the water dish with the hose, and the food fell through the wire netting in the top of the cage to land in her dish.

Every few days we moved her cage over, which made a litter box unnecessary. At first, she was so unpleasant, I’d get scared trying to move the cage without heavy leather gloves. I set up a routine where I fed and watered her every other day, and pretty much forgot about her.

Then about two weeks in to her confinement, she began to act really nice, rubbing up against the fencing, purring, etc. Still, I was scared to get close to her in any way, because I had had so many bad experiences with her. By the end of the summer, I had worked up my courage to pet the cat through the wire netting, and she liked it!

I decided to wait until my friend returned to open the cage, because I didn’t want her to run out and disappear. When my friend returned, she said we had tamed her cat!

Theby's avatar

I had a feral cat for 7 years. The whole time I had him he was scared. I could pat him and he used to sleep on my bed but when I had visitors he went under the bed. He was frightened of everything, even birds! I once took him to the vet and he told me that if I ever left him he would become fully feral again. I took him to New Zealand from Australia to live and he loved it there as it was out in the country. My mother was ill at the time and we lived with her. He gradually came to trust my mother as well. When I had to return to Australia I left my cat with my mother. Sadly, he did again become feral and my mother could not get him inside. He had to be euthanazed eventually because he wouldn’t eat and got very sick. I still think about him and feel guilty to this day. If you do manage to find homes for your cats please remember that it takes a lot of dedication and time to gain their trust. You will need to pick your respective cat adopters with care. I think you are wonderful for trying to help these maligned creatures and my heart goes out to you in empathy. Good luck.

anartist's avatar

@Theby oh that breaks my heart
—i know how you feel—i lost a darlin boy—he went feral because he could not bear the place i moved to. He was born in my closet. he lived with me for three years. I had him neutered late in life. then we moved to a house where my roommate had 3 fertile himalayans in heat. He tried and failed and was ashamed and ran away and gradually made it back to my old apartment where he kept trying to get in a cat door that wasn’t there and then went to live under a house. I found him and brought him back 3 times. he acted feral with me who used to take showers with him—until he heard a familiar noise. the can opener. I always took a can of cat food to help catch him and bring him back. Finally a friend in the country offered to keep him until i could move but he let a dog chase him into the woods and my darlin’ boy never came back. that was 30 years ago and it still hurts thinking of him driven into the woods.

At times the switch between feral and nonferal has a hair trigger

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