Feral Kittens--What to Do?
December 29, 2006 3:34 PM   Subscribe

I have five kittens living with their mom in my backyard. They're old enough now that I want to trap them and find homes for them. But I need suggetions on traps (they're very wary of humans) and suggestions on where to go to get the mom fixed (I plan on releasing her back into the yard and provide her with shelter and food). I'm in Red Hook, Brooklyn, without a car, so any extremely cheap vets and/or cat rescue groups nearby would be great. Thanks! (Yes, I already have two rescued beasts that live with me, so I'm not keeping any of the new kittens--although I'd like to.)
posted by mixer to Pets & Animals (19 answers total)
Is there some elevated place you could wait with a blanket until they come out, thereupon to swoop down on them, Batman-like, and capture them? I'm serious--I did the same to gather up some kittens being targeted by local hoodlums-in-training. I waited on the edge of a porch until they ventured out into the yard, and, with a banshee-like screech that froze them in their tracks, jumped down and threw the blanket over several of them. (The banshee-like screech was probably a little much, but I was totally into it.)
posted by I Am Not a Lobster at 3:38 PM on December 29, 2006

My parents live in a very rural area and often trap, spay/neuter, and release feral kittens (and, rarely, mamma cats who become trusting over time). They use Havahart raccoon traps baited with something exceptionally tasty like canned tuna or heavy cream.

If you can't find a local rescue group and need more details about doing it yourself, my email is in my profile. I'd be happy to get more details from my folks.
posted by littlegreenlights at 3:42 PM on December 29, 2006

If you want actual trap suggestions, these were used by my family when I was younger. We'd use them to catch skunks and chipmunks and would later release them. The traps are easy to set up and won't harm the cats.
posted by null terminated at 3:43 PM on December 29, 2006

I know someone who needed to trap a cat a while ago (long story -- it was theirs, though). They tried the Have-a-Heart traps but just succeeded in getting some squirrels and raccoons. What ended up working best was just taking a very large Rubbermade tub and putting it over a cat-food dish and propping it up with a stick, connected with a string to someplace you can hide. While it looks like something out of a Looney Toons cartoon, it really worked. The cat wouldn't go into the commercial trap, but it would go under the tub to get food...when it went in, they pulled on the rope, and the tub fell down: one trapped cat. It might help to put the tub and the food dish out in the yard for a while, so that the cat gets used to eating out of it, before you attempt to actually trap it.

It's a time-intensive process, but I definitely applaud your efforts and what you're doing.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:01 PM on December 29, 2006

Best answer: I don't know of any cat rescue groups nearby, but you will often find that no-kill shelters will help you out, by providing havahart traps to capture the critters. Here's a list of nearby animal rescue groups, just call some of the nearer cat places, (this looks like a good place to start) and ask if they can help, or know of another group who can help.
posted by Joh at 4:07 PM on December 29, 2006

Seconding null terminated: The Havahart traps are pretty much standard issue for humane societies, shelters and kennels.
posted by loquacious at 4:19 PM on December 29, 2006

Oh, and you might be able to find more help at one of these organizations.
posted by littlegreenlights at 4:23 PM on December 29, 2006

If they are happy, why not leave them alone? I don't understand this desire to neuter feral animals - like saving fallen women I suppose. Let them live their lives - they may be a bit cold and a bit hungry sometimes, but they won't be denied the pleasure of their species' company, or reproduction, unlike their domestic fellows and they won't be permanently rendered juvenile either.
posted by A189Nut at 4:29 PM on December 29, 2006

Response by poster: Joh:
Thanks for the link to BARC. I'll call them tomorrow to see how they can help.

All the rest:
I appreciate your help. The Havahart traps look good, but I'll try Kadin's advice first, as I got a bunch of tubs around that I can use to trap the buggers.

While the kittens are quite happy now, once it gets cold they will be miserable. Cats can survive outside, but it's a brutal life. Besides, they're KITTENS! CUTE KITTENS!

Who wouldn't want to help them?
posted by mixer at 4:43 PM on December 29, 2006

A189Nut - cats aren't designed for the outdoor life in cold climates. They get frostbite, just as we do. Also, they reproduce like crazy. 5 kittens will quickly turn into 20 - 30 cats, at which time, they'll get loathsome diseases and die in droves - then start the cycle over again. It's not a happy life for a cat. It's much more humane to trap & neuter them and, if possible, tame them and give them good homes.

I've watched it happen, and I don't ever care to see it again.

Mixer, I think both the rubbermaid tub idea & the havahart traps might work. They're both worth a try. It's a lot harder to trap a cat on the second attempt.
posted by clarkstonian at 6:10 PM on December 29, 2006

Response by poster: Word.
Last summer my friend had a litter of four in her backyard. But the mom trusted us, and we were able to play with the keets as they grew up. When they were finally ready to go, it was a little tricky rounding them up, but not super-traumatic. (We also fixed the mom, natch.)

These batch of keets, though, will definitely be trouble--I've only been able to touch them once, after I hid while putting out a bowl of food. Scared the hell out of them!
posted by mixer at 6:17 PM on December 29, 2006

I have nothing constructive to add, but I'm interested to hear what you do to (hopefully) trap them, so please keep us updated. Oh and pictures of newly trapped kitties = cute, so post em!
posted by Diskeater at 6:40 PM on December 29, 2006

Keep in mind most feral cats are very inbred and are lucky to live longer than a year or two in the wild. Even if you take a feral kitten indoors its lifespan is likely to be much shorter than a non-inbred cat. It's pretty common for inbred feral cats to develop feline leukemia, in which the only humane thing to to end their suffering.

My old roommate captured a feral kitten from across the street a few years ago and my brother who ended up adopting it had to have her put down because she developed feline leukemia at less than 2 years of age. She was a very good kitty and it was hard to say goodbye to her after such a short while.

Remember that adopting out feral cats could frequently lead to similar scenarios because of the inbreeding.
posted by camworld at 7:15 PM on December 29, 2006

Um...feline leukemia is an infectious viral disease, it's not caused by inbreeding, it's caused by lack of vaccination and exposure to the disease.
posted by biscotti at 11:03 PM on December 29, 2006

I have trapped a feral cat before and it wasn't easy. I used cans of tuna and every day she'd come a little closer. One day she made it to the screened porch and I just shut the door behind her and kept her. After a while I let her back out but she stayed with me probably because I gave her food and a safe, warm place to sleep and I named her Sushi (for the tuna I used to catch her). I was lucky she was healthy and I did get her fixed eventually as she was with kittens when I "found" her, and the two cats I have now (11 years later) are offspring from her and I love them to pieces, they are both very healthy and thriving - even though one hunts a little excessively, but that's another post. In my personal experience six people will tell you to leave the cat alone, another six will tell you catch it and make friends - I say do what you think is right for the cats.

Here are instructions on how to make an almost no cost feral cat shelter.
posted by goml at 4:52 AM on December 30, 2006

Keep in mind most feral cats are very inbred and are lucky to live longer than a year or two in the wild. Even if you take a feral kitten indoors its lifespan is likely to be much shorter than a non-inbred cat. It's pretty common for inbred feral cats to develop feline leukemia, in which the only humane thing to to end their suffering.

Maybe, but on the other hand, they could be like my cat Trotsky. She was from a litter of feral kittens that lived behind a shed the foot of my garden when I was growing up.

We needed to clear out the cats, but we kept one kitten, and she's now 18! Probably the healthiest cat I've ever known, and while she's starting to creak now, she's only ever been to the vet less than half a dozen times in her entire life.

I think it's also worth saying to mixer: if you're going anywhere near wild cats, be careful! My dad was the lucky guy who had to clear out Trotsky's family, and her mother cat was not happy at all. After trapping her, she bit clean through an industrial strength protective gauntlet and straight into my father's hand. Result? Trip to the hospital, couple of stitches and a few tetanus shots. Wild cats really are wild.
posted by afx237vi at 6:18 AM on December 30, 2006

Response by poster: That's a good idea, afx237vi.
I'll get heavy-duty gloves today!
posted by mixer at 9:57 AM on December 30, 2006

Any luck mixer? Do keep us updated!
posted by Joh at 11:08 AM on January 1, 2007

« Older Weekend killer computer game?   |   Who Needs My Help? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.