Orphan Black [spotted cat]
October 26, 2016 8:57 AM   Subscribe

I need advice about what to do with a feral cat that now resides in my urban front yard. I like her, she likes me, but I can't take her in.

I live in a rowhome in Phila with a small front yard. A feral cat, whom I have named "Spotless" (cause she has cow like black markings on a white body) moved in. Unlike most of the feral cats in the area, she was sweet and liked attention from us. We started feeding her and now she is on a pretty regular morning and night time feeding / hang out in the yard schedule and during the day when I'm at work she seems to roam and do her cat things. Now that winter is coming i want to know the best way to deal with her, especially in light that she's a little attached to us now and seems to have been rejected somewhat by the rest of street cat society. I cannot take her in because I already have 2 dogs and a cat and I have a baby on the way. My options as I see them are:
1. Catch, neuter, release - The SPCA has a low cos neuter option for cats like this that people just intend to release back to the street to control the cat population. I could do this and then let nature run its course as the winter comes and she can either keep sleeping in my bushes or she'll find another move covered place in a nearby park or abandoned lot.

2. Catch, neuter, surrender for adoption - if the SPCA deems her adoptable.

3. Catch, neuter, release to my front yard, build some sort of shelter for her. I'm thinking something like a dogloo top with some hay flooring.

I feel like the more we do for her, the more human dependent she will be, but because she's feral, I'm not sure she'll ever make it as a house pet. I just don't know how to keep her relatively safe and happy between the extremes of house pet and street cat. How can I do best by Spotless?
posted by WeekendJen to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There's some information from the humane society regarding:

- Caring for outdoor cats in winter
- building a simple cat shelter
posted by INFJ at 9:02 AM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Option 3 is a reasonable option, or a combo of 2 and 3. Thank you for helping ensure she's spayed.

This site has some more options for building your own structure, using a rubbermaid tote and a styrofoam cooler. Please note their emphasis to use STRAW, not HAY for insulation. (I too, use the terms interchangably, but apparently they're different.)
posted by hydra77 at 9:08 AM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would go for 1 or 2.

She may be feral, but if she's already shown affection towards humans that's a good sign that she'll make a good pet to someone, and hopefully your local SPCA isn't so overworked that they'd be able to give her an appropriate evaluation. Obviously, it would be best if she were housed.

That being said, unless you first noticed her as a kitten, she already knows how to survive winters, so I don't see why you'd need to build a shelter for her.

Either way, getting her fixed is the best thing you can do for her and the local ecosystem.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:29 AM on October 26, 2016

Homeless doesn't automatically mean feral. I would surrender her to get fixed and hopefully adopted. I'd also tell them if she doesn't seem adoptable that I would take her back and find a way to set up some sort of outdoor space for her to be warm.... like an outdoor pet house where you can put some heated blankets and give water every day (so she has access to some before it freezes) and food.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 9:35 AM on October 26, 2016

I salute you for being a humane and thoughtful person. I would vote for number 3. I don't think cats do to well in the wild, (hence the popcorn-machinelike reproduction.) My sister had a mother daughter pair of friendly ferals living on her deck. When she moved she managed to find a home for them in the country as fed barn cats. (no really, its not a euphemism, they moved to a farm!) So there is the fact that once you adopt them your kind of stuck with them. Good Luck
posted by Pembquist at 9:38 AM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

If she likes interacting with you and doesn't do well with the local feral population, she's probably a homeless pet rather than a feral cat. Take her in to get neutered, explain the situation to the vet, and ask for their advice. Lay out what you've said here - that you're fine with her as an outdoor cat, you can't take her, but you want her to have a good life. If you surrender her to be adopted, make sure it's to a no-kill shelter, rather than somewhere that she's got a clock ticking over her head.
posted by bile and syntax at 10:28 AM on October 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've immunized and found homes for two cats that were homeless (rather than feral -- though they certainly seemed feral when we first met), and I've continued to let one cat who lives in my yard (who is sort of feral and sort of tame) come in and get some food every day. With a baby on the way, you may not want to keep feeding her twice a day, so I'd vote for finding her a home. If you can do it on your own (via Craigslist, your friend network, etc.), it might be more successful.
posted by slidell at 10:34 AM on October 26, 2016

Just wanted to add that she is a <1 year kitten and does not appear to have ever been in a home, but it is entirely possible that her mother was a house pet that became homeless and that's why she has some tendency towards interaction.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:35 AM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Number 3 makes her your cat. Do you want a cat?
posted by fshgrl at 10:43 AM on October 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

If she's less than tame but not quite feral, you might look at some of the shelters and adoption groups in your area and see if they have a "working cats" program. The one near me (Pittsburgh) takes non-housecats and tries to place them in barns, feed stores, country clubs, etc as pest control.
posted by specialagentwebb at 10:51 AM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you get her spayed as a "feral", they will probably cut the tip off her ear. If you can get her to wear a collar, or if she would be easy for another person to catch, you might want to refer to her as a stray instead. That said, ear tipping isn't that bad, from what I can discern.
posted by amtho at 10:53 AM on October 26, 2016

Well, check out tinykittens.com for opinions/stories on how adoptable and loving "feral" cats can be before you give up on her based on a label. Personally, I would do (and have done) something like option 3 because I'm a softie who would try to win the cat over. Some of the most snuggly cats I've ever had have been rescued "ferals" - they just get so grateful. But if option 2 can be worked out with a no kill shelter that is also appropriate.
posted by dness2 at 3:54 PM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would go with option 2.
Options 1 and 3 leave Spotless exposed to the elements. Its supposed to be a cold, snowy winter here in Philly this year. Plus you're having a baby and your life is going to be pretty different soon, and if you keep Spotless dependent on you, like fshgrl said, it makes her your cat. You obviously have feelings for Spotless or you wouldn't be here asking and you will worry yourself sick about her during the first snowy/below freezing night. If she's as young and sweet as you say, now is the time for her to get with other cats and learn domestic cat behavior so she can be adopted.

Kitty Cottage in Norristown is a fantastic no-kill shelter and might consider taking her, there's usually a waiting list, so give them a call.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:50 PM on October 26, 2016

If you'd rather buy than diy, there a variety of kitty houses available for purchase. This one is for outdoor use, heated, and $63.69.
posted by meemzi at 6:42 PM on October 26, 2016

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