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January 13, 2014 1:22 AM   Subscribe

Help! There's a feral cat right outside my door. I think she(?) might be either sick or about to have kittens. What (if anything) should I do?

It's 2am here, so my options (and other sources of help) are limited. It's Phoenix, so not crazy winter, although it is kind of chilly out. Should I get her(?) a blanket or something? We have a lot of feral cats around, and I usually never feed them, but something's clearly wrong with this one. She(?) doesn't run away at all; she hissed at me and then stood her ground. As long as I don't get too close, she's pointedly ignoring me (and my flashlight). She's(?) hunkered down in kind of a nesty place between a tree and a wall. Should I get her some water? Try to get closer? (I really don't think that's a great idea...)
posted by Weeping_angel to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would put a box or crate outside that has an old blanket or something similar inside. That way, the cat can find shelter. I would also put some water out.
Then I'd leave the animal alone and in the morning check on her or him again, and call your local source of help for stray animals.

Not saying this is the best option. But it's what I would do.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:45 AM on January 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

Interacting with people is itself a source of great stress for wild/feral animals, and it sounds as though this cat's coping resources are limited as it is. Well-meaning attempts to get up in his/her space are likely to worsen whatever problems (s)he has, and could result in you getting injured or infected with something.

I'd leave her alone (wild animals are perfectly accustomed to taking care of themselves sans human intervention) and if she's still there in the morning, maybe call a local wildlife shelter/animal control for advice or assistance.
posted by Bardolph at 1:46 AM on January 13, 2014

Here is how to make an outdoor kitty shelter. If you don't have plastic tubs then cardboard boxes waterproofed with garbage bags will do the job. Put some food and water out too.

Don't get in kitty's face too much, ferals are not just stray or shy domestic cats. A domestic cat wants human company, if not yours. A feral cat hates and fears you with all its claws and teeth.
posted by tel3path at 2:06 AM on January 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

You can also make a cat shelter similar to the one tel3path linked out of a styrofoam cooler - the idea has been making the rounds up here because it is much colder and could potentially save the life of a feral cat. You might want to consider cutting an additional egress hole so the cat does not feel trapped, or get trapped if another animal should try to climb in.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:18 AM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok, I've given her some water. I'm not going to feed her because, like I said, there are a LOT of feral cats around here and I don't need more of them. I checked, and it's not going to get below 40deg here tonight, so I think she'll be ok. She came out for a second and yowled at my door before retreating to her tree. Hopefully, this will all be for naught and she'll be gone in the morning.
posted by Weeping_angel at 2:24 AM on January 13, 2014

Mod note: A couple of comments deleted; OP is not asking about feral cats killing wildlife, or if they should destroy the cat.
posted by taz (staff) at 5:49 AM on January 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

If she is having kittens, then giving them a box to be in will not only help them keep warm, but will also help in bringing them in. Then the kittens can be brought into a rescue organization, and won't have to grow up feral. The fact that the cat is coming to you is promising, since she and the kittens could be more affectionate than average.
posted by amtho at 6:34 AM on January 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just a heads up that we rescued a feral kitten a few months ago, and got bitten doing it. We were all (including the kitten) on a rabies watch by our local animal welfare for ten days while the kitten was quarantined. So avoid getting close enough for the cat to scratch or bite you-- that was a level of stress we hadn't expected when we were trying to help.
posted by instamatic at 6:44 AM on January 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It should be pretty obvious if she's about to have kittens or not. Most ferals/strays are pretty scrawny. If she has any kind of bulge or "hanging" look in her midsection, she is probably pregnant. Her behavior sounds like she's looking for shelter to give birth. Putting out a box is the most humane thing you can do. Put it away from the door, maybe next to the house but in her line of sight, not getting any closer than you have, and head back inside. If you have rubber kitchen gloves you might want to wear them as a precaution.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:03 AM on January 13, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I woke up in the morning and she's gone, so no sick cats or kittens today. She did look potentially pregnant, so if she comes back I'll get her a box and then stay out of her hair (well, fur).
posted by Weeping_angel at 9:52 AM on January 13, 2014

She's probably already given birth. Could you contact a local cat rescue org and tell them about her? They might want to come find her and the kittens; the earlier they can capture them, the better the chances that the kittens can find good homes.

Also, if you're feeling charitable, it would be sweet of you to put some food out where you think she will find it. Of course, the other feral cats are a factor, so if you think of a place she's more likely to look than the others, that would be great; however, nursing kittens is super draining on kitties, so extra food could be important for her.
posted by amtho at 11:07 AM on January 13, 2014

A feral cat won't come to your door, whether she's having kittens or not. A cat who used to have a home, probably in your neighborhood, or who was dumped off because she was pregnant - even though she thought she had a family and a home - would come to your door if she needs help - she's expecting kindness and acceptance from people, maybe something to eat and a box or sheltered place for her kittens, someplace she'll be safe from marauding feral tom cats. It's not, after all, unusual for wild tom cats to kill kittens so the mother cat will come back into heat.

Feral cats are the ones who split when you come out the door and won't let you get anywhere near them.

I hate people who dump pregnant cats and dogs off like trash.
posted by aryma at 7:51 PM on January 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

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