What should I do with this stray cat family?
August 29, 2012 8:55 AM   Subscribe

What do I do about this stray cat family with kittens? I would be OK doing TNR, but I don't want to return them to my backyard because my neighbors catch strays and kittens and kill them. I've reached out to local groups for help but they have no room and won't lend me traps because I don't want to return the cats to the same location.

I have a mother cat and 3-4 kittens hanging out in my backyard. The kittens are pretty young, maybe a month old. In my ideal world, I find a rescue for the kittens and TNR the mom.

The Complications:
My neighbors are dicks. I could go on and on about their treatment of cats, but basically they grab kittens off the street, hold them until they're not cute, and then get rid of them. They get rid of adult cats they catch as well.

I trust the mom to be able to get away from them. I don't trust the kittens. The last time I there was a cat family my neighbors caught one of the kittens, got rid of the other, and the mom disappeared.

I can't take the kittens in myself since I hit my landlady's strict two-cat limit. All rescues are full. There's Animal Control, which runs its own rescue, and honestly I would be more comfortable taking the kittens there and giving them a chance than leaving them to my neighbors.

However--I don't have traps. My local stray/feral rescue will likely not assist me. I tried to get their help and borrow a trap with the last cat family, the one that eventually got destroyed by the neighbors, and as soon as the group heard I thought the kittens would be better off at the shelter and didn't want to return the cat to the same area they stopped responding to my emails. This was even after I explained the neighbor situation and tried negotiating just returning the family to a different location.

I don't know what to do. I can't catch the cats myself. Even if I did have traps I don't know how to get the kittens AND the mom at the same time. I can't just grab the mom and leave the kittens there, right? Anyone have recommendations?

Also: I would dearly love to pursue legal routes to deal with the neighbors, but it's not illegal to get rid of pets when they're not cute, and I have not witnessed the killing myself--this was just verbal confirmation from the neighbors themselves. We're on chilly terms and my initial efforts at pet education (suggesting they spay their adult female cat instead of putting her outside when she was in heat) were extremely unwelcome.
posted by schroedinger to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How about Alley Cat Allies?
posted by troika at 9:04 AM on August 29, 2012

Call your local Animal Control/ASPCA and explain your problem, emphasizing the problems with the neighbors.

Is there anywhere like a back porch where you can house everyone until a rescue group can help?

Can you call your landlady and explain that if you took them in it would be temporary? Perhaps she's an animal lover and will be happy to help out.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:04 AM on August 29, 2012

Alley Cat Allies directed me to the aforementioned rescue group. I don't want to name them as from their website it looks like they do good work and this is just an issue where I disagree.

Right now my backyard is fenced in by actual fence and copious amounts of poison ivy and overgrowth, so for now they're chilling back there. There is a covered area via a rotting back porch. I'm concerned for when the kittens get big enough that they wander around to the front where my neighbors get them--that's what happened last time.
posted by schroedinger at 9:10 AM on August 29, 2012

A vet's office might have traps you can borrow.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:16 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Looks like you can buy humane cat traps here. (that was just the first google result, there are more.) They might be a little pricey, but if this is a recurring problem, it might be worth it.

Also, insert obligatory "Schroedinger's cat" joke here.
posted by Weeping_angel at 9:43 AM on August 29, 2012

Oh wow. If I lived near you I'd totally let you borrow traps (I'm in California). I've got three Havahart traps (the box kind with the door that snaps shut when kitties walk in). If you ever end up in a position to do more TNR-type stuff, I highly, *highly* recommend just keeping a few traps on hand. I got mine via Amazon and they were something like $40 apiece. Some models even fold flat when you're not using them so they don't take up much room in storage.

That aside, though...trapping mom-cats is actually not that difficult. For the cats in my SO's parents' neighborhood (where there's a moderately-sized feral colony) what we've done is trap a kitten or two, bring the kitten into the house, and then open the patio door so Momcat can hear/see her baby. Even a completely wild momcat will frequently go to where her baby is, even if that means going to where the humans are. Then, once momcat is in the house (or other small building, or garage) you sort of "herd" her into a small space like a bathroom, put a trap in there with her, and voila. Another thing you can do is put the kittens in a large dog crate, wait until Mom goes in there, and then shut the door -- but you'll still eventually have to get Mom into a trap as most clinics that do TNR require unsocialized cats to be in traps (easier to anesthetize them that way).

As for the kittens...this hasn't worked for me as everyone I know seems to be maxed out on cats or allergic already, but you might try asking around to see if you know anyone outside your neighborhood willing to adopt them. Sorry I can't be more help on that front, but if you have any specific trapping questions I can certainly lend some experience-based advice.
posted by aecorwin at 9:48 AM on August 29, 2012

We had a feral cat have kittens in a shed at work last year. I called the local animal control, who came out with a trap. We put the trap near the cat, loaded it up with food, and left it. A couple hours later, we went back out and the mom cat was in the trap. She was not thrilled with the scenario, but we called the animal control guy again and he came back, took the kittens and loaded everyone up on his truck and took them to our local humane society. I know that where I live in NJ, you can call animal control and they will loan you a trap. At that point you would trap the mom cat, scoop up the kittens, and take them all to the shelter keeping everyone away from your asshole neighbors.
posted by crankylex at 10:08 AM on August 29, 2012

You might try Craigslist to rent a trap or to have someone help you trap the kittens.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:15 AM on August 29, 2012

Since it seems to be a recurring issue why not just buy your own traps? Then you can deal with the kittens in a manner you find appropriate.
posted by 6550 at 12:24 PM on August 29, 2012

Releasing feral cats somewhere other than where they came from is animal cruelty and can be illegal (considered animal dumping). They're likely to die in unfamiliar surroundings. Your best bet is to buy your own trap for about $50 at Ace Hardware. It's ok to trap the mom without the kittens as long as they are weaned, and if you are seeing the kittens out playing they probably are. You should TNR the mom or else you will have this problem every single summer if not more often (ask me how I know!). Once you trap the kittens you can socialize them enough so that they can be adopted. If the kittens are under 12 weeks they are very easy to tame: when I've done it it only took two days and turkey baby food. Is there anyone else (friend, family member) who might be able to tame them if you catch them, since you have landlord issues?

Re: shelters being full, yes you are totally right and I don't have any help for you. Last summer when I had this problem I tried every shelter for 80 miles AND posting on petfinder AND posting on craigslist AND asking everyone I knew. Finally one kitten got adopted through a flier at the vet's and the others ended up going to live with my parents. Oops.
posted by Violet Hour at 7:13 PM on August 29, 2012

I can't buy my own traps for financial reasons, and as my landlady is also my occasional roommate I can't take the kittens in myself. No friends or family in the area to take them--believe me, I've tried this with stray cats before.

I feel a bit silly as it looks like Animal Control has revamped things since I last encountered this issue, since they split from the SPCA they now loan traps and do a lot of stray/feral cat outreach and will loan me a trap and TNR the mom. So I will TNR her and try to catch the kittens and take them to the shelter (more difficult than expected, they're fast!).
posted by schroedinger at 5:19 AM on August 30, 2012

Well, I have caught one kitten and attempted to de-flea it as much as possible. It is in my tiny bathroom and tomorrow I'll take him to the vet. I have another kitten in my cellar--I was trying to herd them down there from my backyard so they didn't run into neighbor's yards. There could actually be more than one kitten down there unfortunately, it's got a bit of junk up against the walls and they could've gotten up to the ceiling. The mom is outside the cellar door meowing pitifully so somebody is definitely down there. :(

I'm going to see if I can't wrangle out more cats from down there after I get back from the emergency room. This morning in the mad scramble away from me one of the kittens got itself stuck in the basement of the vacant house next door, so I climbed down there to get it and it bit me. The bite is looking OK but my school doc says I should get antibiotics and rabies evaluation.
posted by schroedinger at 8:34 PM on August 30, 2012

Cellar kitty was wrangled this morning when I got back from the ER. Both kitties have been dewormed and Capstared at the vet. The orange-and-white kitten (first one I caught) doesn't seem to be eating so I gave him about 10ml of KMR. The grey tabby kitten (cellar kitty) is eating like gangbusters but more skittish than the other. Will post pictures when they're slightly less terrified of everything.
posted by schroedinger at 3:52 PM on August 31, 2012


First, the rabies shots are giving me issues. Turns out the hospital I went to only gives financial aid to people who have no income whatsoever, period. So I didn't get any of the follow-up shots because I can't afford them. I found a nurse practitioner at my university who is submitting a vaccine assistance request to Sanofi to see if they won't donate the rest of the shots.

Adenine (the grey tabby) and Guanine (the orange and white cat) are adjusting OK. I got some tips from a local feral help group to help the socialization process go a bit faster so I'm going to try that.

First, now that I have decided to foster the cats and TNR the mom, rescue groups are much more willing to work with me. One rescue group lent me a dog cage to help socialize them. Another has lent me a kitten trap, and Animal Control lent me a big trap for the mom. It's been a group effort!

Put out the big trap the other day and caught the mom almost immediately, but let her go because I couldn't get the kittens. Today I picked up the kitten trap though. Put out the big trap, again caught the mom almost immediately (guess she's not too smart?). The kittens have taken longer. I caught the black-and-white one who bit me and reset the trap in hopes the last, shyest kitten will come. It's set against the mom's trap to help lure them in.

I'm not sure if anyone is still reading this, but does anyone have recommendations for handling a completely crazy kitten? I want to Capstar the black-and-white cat and give him a bath before I put him in the cage. But he is completely freaking out. He is nearly chewing through my relatively heavy-duty work gloves and squirming so much I can't get a good scruff on him. He's transferred to a carrier and I've put the Capstar in there along with food in hopes he takes it in himself. I am almost worried he DOES have rabies, except it's been 10 days since the bite and if he did he'd be dead by now.
posted by schroedinger at 6:10 PM on September 9, 2012

Another update:

Here are the kittens! Turns out they need to leave my apartment ASAP, the landlady is not happy. If anyone knows of anybody in the Philadelphia area who wants to foster or adopt from this rainbow litter let me know . . .
posted by schroedinger at 2:30 PM on September 11, 2012

« Older More notice vs. more stress?   |   Why does everyone whisper and mumble on phones... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.