What to do about these cats?
May 31, 2014 5:03 AM   Subscribe

A family of cats -- a mother, two kittens, and a father -- has moved into my backyard in Bayside, Queens. Now what?

I live in Queens, in an apartment with a backyard that has a deck that's raised a couple of inches off of the ground. A family of cats has moved in -- they're living under the deck, and playing and sunning themselves on top of it. It's a mother cat and two kittens; she's nursing them. Another cat -- which we assume is the father -- comes around often. They're adorable and my wife's become very attached to them, but we don't want them living in our backyard.

My wife's pregnant and I don't want her to go anywhere near the cats; I don't especially want to go near them either for fear of tracking disease or bugs or whatever into the apartment.

We contacted a bunch of shelters and animal hospitals in the area and none of them were helpful: the composite advise was to take them in and acclimate them to people, and then they'd be adoptable and the shelters would be interested.

The neighbors aren't especially thrilled about the situation. We haven't told our landlord yet but plan to if we can't resolve the situation by the end of the weekend.

The best case scenario would be to find someone to come over, capture the cats, and bring them all to a no-kill adoption shelter. We can't find a come-over-and-get-'em shelters, and were at a loss for what go do.
posted by thursdaystoo to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you looked on Petfinder to find all the rescue groups in your area? Those groups may be more helpful.
posted by MayNicholas at 5:30 AM on May 31, 2014

Did you check out the feral cat initiative?
Looks like they would at least be a wealth of info. "You can request advice and guidance on how to help the street cats in your New York City neighborhood by contacting the NYC Feral Cat Initiative at (212) 330-0033 or info@NYCFeralCat.org."

I am not sure if they have people who could come and get the cats. But cages can be borrowed or rented from them. And if you don't want to handle the cats yourself, I'd ask around the vets in the area if there are any people who would be willing to help out. Or even post an ad on Craigslist.
posted by travelwithcats at 5:32 AM on May 31, 2014

NYC Feral Cat Initiative

Neighborhood Cats, Inc.
2576 Broadway, #555
NY, NY 10025
posted by Majorita at 6:08 AM on May 31, 2014

The FCI will not send people out to get these cats and take them away, but they will probably put you in touch with people in your neighborhood who do TNR, Trap-Neuter-Release. Any experienced TNR person will be able to give you assistance and will probably be willing to help you out in person, they are very dedicated.

It is likely that the adult cats (both of whom are probably sisters, cats do not really live together in tidy little nuclear families in the wild) will be spayed and released, and the kittens fostered until adoption is viable, as kittens are easier to adopt out than adult cats. If the adult cats seem more like abandoned pets than true ferals then they will have a better time with the shelter system.
posted by elizardbits at 9:11 AM on May 31, 2014

While renting a cage and paying for spaying an neutering is one option, if you just want the cats gone (and perhaps could put the cage someplace besides your back yard, away from your wife) you could try cat repellent.

We lived in a neighbourhood with many strays (a colony had grown up around a large, Pike Place-style fish market), and, as the neighbours told us, our corner lot had "traditionally attracted cats and wasps."

Anyway, we had a lot of cats in our yard, and it was very annoying. I scattered a chemical repellent around the yard, and it seemed to work.

And then we got a dog.

I do feel for the plight of the cats, though, but caring for strays and trapping them etc. is really a mission, a labour of love, and a full-time job.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:56 AM on May 31, 2014

A word of warning: if you do feed the cats, you will soon have a colony of strays (i.e., they reproduce quickly). They then become dependent on you and feeding them becomes an obligation, as they'll starve if you don't, once they've become acclimated to regularly receiving food from you.

If you feed them sporadically, you will just be training them to wait longer and longer before leaving to find food elsewhere. If you don't regularly feed them, you will have starving kittens to deal with. If the mothers don't receive enough food, the kittens are weak and sickly, and then you have dead kittens to deal with. And the colony attracts males who fight and piss everywhere all over your backyard, your barbecue, your patio, etc.

This can get ugly very quickly. My point is (just in case your wife was considering keeping them as outdoor feral cats that you feed), the only kind thing to do is get them moved elsewhere. If you are not able to find a way to do that, if you can do a catch-spay-release, that is your next best option.

When we moved into our last house, a small feral colony was living there, and they had been accustomed to being fed regularly. We didn't know what to do and didn't want them to starve, so we fed them. With this extra food, the litters got larger and the population exploded. Then the above miseries ensued. It was a multi-year trauma that I don't want to ever have to deal with again. Much, much easier not to feed them to begin with, and just encourage them to move elsewhere.

Unfortunately, there are no good options here.
posted by ravioli at 10:12 AM on May 31, 2014

Alley Cat Allies is a great resource; here's their page on deterring cats.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 10:31 AM on May 31, 2014

I had that situation and 'was able to lure the adult cats inside. I got them and got them spayed and adopted the two of them. They were great pets. Adopted one kitten, too. The others just disappeared, unfortunately.
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 11:16 AM on May 31, 2014

I know people here mean well, but using repellent is not a great solution and contributes to the feral cat problem because they retain the ability to reproduce. Getting the cats sterile is the better option.
I agree with elizardbits that people who work/volunteer in animal welfare in one form or other tend to be very dedicated and will try to help. Try to find them.
posted by travelwithcats at 12:23 PM on May 31, 2014

If you can't find a no kill shelter there is nothing wrong with trapping them and having them euthanized or taking them to a kill shelter. The universe contains an infinite number of cats and they aren't all destined to find good homes.

It's much kinder than taking them to an overcrowded no kill, where the kittens will likely contract something and die anyway and the adults will languish for years.
posted by fshgrl at 12:29 PM on May 31, 2014

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