Caretaker's Guide

Education

Video Instruction

Shelter Type A

Shelter Type B

Shelter Type C

Love'n Feral Cats and Kittens!

BUILDING A FEEDING STATION

Please Note:

Regarding Shelters: No HAY needed in LA. For warmth we recommend reflector material and fleece bedding (a flea deterrent). For more information select “Managed Care” from the menu on the left.

Instructions for Feeding Feral Cats

  1. Feeding stations should be kept out of sight. This is to protect the food from being contaminated or destroyed. Fresh water should be available and kept clean. Keep feeding stations out of sight, even if you are feeding in your own backyard. Only those persons feeding should know the exact location. Your neighbors may not be as friendly towards the feral cats as you are. A front porch or the curb in a parking lot is not advisable. Improper feeding will put your cats in jeopardy. Respect for your neighbors and for the cats will have good results for the cats and their right to remain and be cared for. Think invisible!
  2. Dry food should be in feeding containers and covered to keep it dry and out of the elements. This can require innovative customized special feeding stations, unless you are feeding at your home, a garage, carport or other sheltered areas. Food bowls or containers set in a solution of soapy water in a larger plate or container are good for ant control. Diatomaceous Earth is also an excellent ant deterrent. To order ORGANIC Diatomaceous Earth call 1-800-835-0123. Having dry food available will keep the cats close to their territory. The cats will not roam to beg and search for food in unsafe places if they have a permanent available food supply. Not all cats will show up for a scheduled feeding. Be sure there is enough food for everyone. When feeding wet food use the same instructions.

    It is counterproductive to put wet food down and then take it up in 15-30 minutes, as has been suggested. Not all cats show up within that time period and you are just wasting your time, effort and the food. Use your common sense when feeding cats and change schedules when required. Your object is to not only feed, but be aware of newcomers so they can be evaluated and necessary steps taken. Kittens may also show up and need to be rescued along with Mom.
  3. Have a regular feeding schedule. If you are using dry feeders, they should be refilled, kept clean from debris and dirt. Food plates or bowls should be black or dark brown and concealed or picked up the following day to avoid exposing the feeding location and possible complaints from neighbors. If you feed at night, then the following morning would be the best time to pick up left over food and the feeding containers. Any obvious neglect could impact the ferals. NEVER USE WHITE PLATES PAPER OR FEED OUT OF CANS. This will create an unsightly mess and will draw attention to the feeding area. The more discreet you are in caretaking, the better for all concerned. DO NOT be complacent when it comes to feeding. Many feral cats or kittens end up being euthanized in shelters or poisoned because of neglect in feeding and uncleanliness at their home site.
  4. Chose the best time to feed wet food. If the weather is hot, late in the evening would be preferable, as the food will not be exposed to the heat during the day.
  5. Be observant of those who show up for feeding. Make sure everyone’s ear is tipped. Check for injuries, appearance of illness, pregnant females, lactating females, kittens or any other unusual situations that might require trapping or vet care.
  6. Do not discuss the cats with strangers or offer information as to their numbers or where they are located. Be friendly, and offer them the For Interested Person Document, a flyer or other information that is professional and offers you authority. If you are a graduate from our workshops, you have this information. You do not need to identify yourself to anyone you do not trust. If you have any problems, contact your local rescue organizations for assistance. Best to have a feeding partner and keep flyers and documents in the car for easy access. I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep printed For Interested Persons Document in the car has helped.

    Our consulting line is available on our website at feralcatcaretakers.org or call (210)820-4122.
  7. Take special care that the feeding area is kept clean from debris or cat feces. More cats have lost their lives in shelters because of FECES. It is offensive and shows disrespect for the public and neighbors. Pay close attention to walkways, in front of entrances and so on. Keep a spray bottle with full strength white vinegar and spray all areas after pick up. No one wants to smell or step into feces and when there is no oversight, this can become a serious problem.
  8. Arrange for someone to feed if you are going on vacation or are ill. A back up is always necessary as circumstances can change drastically in 24 hours. Do not let more than one-day go by without someone monitoring the cats and feeding arrangements. We have an unspoken covenant with the feral cats and kittens to honor and care for them and to do all possible to see they are never abused or needlessly destroyed. Our quality of commitment will impact their lives and determine their right to be equally treated. Every choice we make should be with this in mind. They have much to teach us about ourselves. Never become complacent or let down your guard.
We have an unspoken covenant with the feral cats and kittens to honor and care for them and to do all possible to see they are never abused or needlessly destroyed. Our quality of commitment will impact their lives and determine their right to be equally treated. Every choice we make should be with this in mind. They have much to teach us about ourselves. Never become complacent or let down your guard!

Feeding Stations

If you are feeding feral cats away from your home, feeding stations will be necessary to insure that all of the cats are being fed, not just those that show up when the caretaker arrives. It is important to insure that the cats have plenty of nourishment and this can be accomplished with wildlife in mind, if it is an issue.

Feeding stations should be out of sight and protected from the elements. Use the same criteria as the shelters for keeping the stations out of public view. Plastic storage containers with awnings are good protection for the feeders and water containers. There are dozens of way to set up feeding stations to accommodate the feeders and water containers. Create a feeding station large enough for at least one cat to go completely in and eat without getting wet. Cleanliness is essential in all areas. Refer to Feeding Instructions for Feral Cats.

Shelters and Feeding Stations for Feral Cats

SHELTER: Shelter is essential for all cats living out of doors. Providing shelter can be challenging as well as deeply rewarding. Other than a warm and dry place to sleep at night, it can also provide a safe place away from predators and hostile situations. They also offer a safe place for birthing and kittens are much easier to domesticate and locate when born in a safe shelter. After the requirements for feeding and feeding stations are in place, shelter is the next greatest concern. Talk with other caretakers and exchange information on creative ways to shelter and feed. Look around the area for structures that are safe and can be used for shelter. Be innovative and diligent.

DISCUSSION: All shelters and feeding stations should be out of sight, no matter how friendly the area may appear. The general rule is to camouflage and/or conceal everything and place all outdoor shelters and feeding stations out of sight, with only the persons who are feeding and caretaking aware of their locations. This can include your backyard. Complaints from an unfriendly neighbor could jeopardize your humane efforts on behalf of the stray cats residing there. Neighbors move and people change!

SHELTER AREA: Assessment of safe shelter location should be made in any area where feral or stray cats are being cared for. Shelters should be warm, waterproof and sturdy enough to withstand the elements. Although, we tend to think of shelter as being important only in the winter, it is equally important year around to the cats. On the warmest days, we see the cats in their shelters sleeping.

EXAMPLES OF EXISTING SHELTER: Carports, backyards, gazebos, garages, warehouses, basements with access, barns, storage rooms, tool sheds, laundry rooms, out-buildings, under houses, porches or other structures, abandoned buildings, abandoned houses and many others. Creative comfortable and warm shelter can be created in these areas (if safe), by placing smaller shelter or sleeping areas within the larger structures.

SHELTERS UNDER HOUSES OR OTHER STRUCTURES: If the shelter is under a house or other similar structure, be sure to reduce the opening to about 6 x 6 inches with the ability to make it larger for insertion and removal of shelter and sleeping areas. Place pieces of wood, linoleum or anything with a firm surface and easy to keep clean inside the structure and on the ground outside if there are dirt areas outside of the opening. Then, put the sleeping or shelter into the area, such as cardboard boxes, or cardboard boxes within the cardboard boxes, plastic storage bins, old drawers or plastic drawers (storage type) or any other materials that will provide warmth and comfort – on top of the surface you have provided inside. There are also areas under houses where hot water pipes are located that could provide warmth in the winter. With imagination and innovation, safe and dry shelter can be safely installed. The general rule is to provide shelter within the shelter if the existing areas are large. If you can block off the areas that are not used for shelter, this would discourage the cats from using the dirt as a litter box is this could be a problem. Putting a litter box inside where the space is large enough is also helpful.

PROVIDING OUTSIDE SHELTER: If you are providing shelter for your feral cats on your property it will probably much safer for the cats. The basics for warmth and protection from the elements with food protected and fresh water is equally important. All cats, living out of doors need a safe place to eat, sleep and rest. All outside shelter must be off the ground to keep the inside dry. Bricks, cement blocks, wooden boards, trellis, or any materials that will raise it up off of the ground can be used. If you are putting shelter on uneven ground, in bushes or other discrete areas, leveling of the surface will be necessary. If you are creating shelter in an existing space that is high off the ground, be sure the cats will be able to easily jump into the opening.

Building a  Type “A” Shelter

Building a  Type “B” Shelter

Building a  Type “C” Shelter

The following are instructions and helpful information for constructing outside shelters in a limited amount of space, available under and around bushes or other areas: Begin by measuring the area where the shelter is to be installed. After you have measured the area where the shelter will be installed, this will determine how large a storage container you will need. Cut the existing branches, so the shelter can be placed far back under the foliage. Do not cut too much until you are actually ready to install the shelter, as the brush can serve as support and concealment. If the shelter cannot be completely concealed, use plastic similar foliage, fastened to the shelters and existing bushes to blend into the surrounding landscape. There are various types of materials that can be found at the Arm-Navy Surplus stores that work well. We have planted sturdy plants by shelter areas for concealment and to make the access more difficult for dogs and people. If shelters are being placed in areas without foliage, blend them into the surrounding landscape. For example, a woodpile or wooden palates, use extra wood and existing things that are present to hide the shelter area. Ask yourself, does it blend into the area? If it does, a job well done!

SHELTER FOR TWO or MORE, USING LID AS ROOF: Purchase large heavy-duty plastic storage containers, such as Rubber Maid, with lids. Use a 30-40 gallon or larger, depending upon where they will be installed. Sit them upright with the lid as the roof. We recommend that you sit the storage container upright and use the lid for the roof. A hole must be cut in the container, 6 x 6 inches, up 5 inches from the bottom, cutting near the corner of the bin lengthwise and 5 inches from the end. Do not cut the hole in the center, as it will be drafty and more exposed. This is very important, as it will keep the shelter dry. If you are placing the shelter far back in the bushes or in a concealed place and have room for more than one, they can be positioned for better protection and escape by having them face one another or on an angle facing a dense thick growth, etc. We have created tunnels for escape and used other materials to create barriers that blend into the area. THIS CAN ALSO BE USED AS A FEEDING STATION.

When using large plastic containers with one hole cut on the facing side, lengthwise, or the end, an awning must be made. A heavy awning covering the opening and extending beyond the width of the shelter, gives an added amount of protection and is an essential part of shelter building, even if wood is used. If there is a need for an additional escape hole, do not cut holes directly across from each other, as it creates a draft. Additional awning will be required to cover the additional hole. All awnings must reach to the ground and past about 10-12 inches at least. A brick will be put at the bottom of the awning in the front on the surface to hold it down and keep from blowing. The awnings make the cats feel safe as they can exit the opening and run in either direction behind the safety of the awning. I have observed cats staying in their shelters with gardeners working all around them. The small opening of 6 x 6 inches does not allow for large predators. As a rule, create an awning in front of any type of shelter that sits on the ground. Awnings can be made of heavy duty (4 mm.) black plastic rolls, rolls of Lucite, plastic sheets, heavy-duty garbage bags or many other suitable materials, as long as they blend into the environment. 

To create an awning, measure from the back at ground level, across the top and down the front of the container or other type of shelter, to ground level, adding an additional 10-12 inches in length beyond ground level in the front. Measure an additional 10-12 inches on either side of the opening for width to keep the wind and rain from blowing in the sides (which will be folded to create a smaller opening) and duct taped like a cup. Cut and fold the awning material according to the measurements. You will have a sturdy large piece of awning material duct taped and ready to install. The measurements of the awning will start from the back of the shelter, across the top, down the front, extending out 10-12 inches on either side and extending 10-12 inches in front past ground level. The sides of the container should be covered with lighter plastic garbage bags, etc. If the shelters are small, any good insulation can be installed on the outside, leaving room for fleece or bedding.

For good insulation and warmth, rolls of thick silver reflector material can be cut to fit the bottom of the shelters and will reflect the cat’s warmth back into the bedding. The material can also be used as inside insulation if the weather is very cold.

Awnings create insulation and protection and keep the rain and wind from entering the shelter. The longer length in front of the opening will help keep the flap from blowing (a brick can be placed on the flap if very windy to provide additional safety). After the measurements have been completed, the awning is then sealed with black duct tape over the folds and along the bottom to be sure no leakage of water can enter. The awning will be a rectangular piece of heavy duty black plastic or other similar material, sealed with black duct tape and ready to be attached to the bin with duct tape. Before attaching, you have the option of placing the awning under the lid and snapping it down tight or attaching it on the outside of the complete shelter. With this method, you can snap the cover (roof) off and on for easier cleaning or replacement. Tucking the sides of the awning in cup shaped and duct taped will be warmer and safer. Always use dark materials that are less noticable and camouflage when necessary. Black or dark brown spray paint can be used on the container if indicated rather than covering the sides with plastic.

Install the shelter off the ground on bricks, trellis, cement blocks, wood, or anything that will provide a sturdy platform a off the ground. Make sure the shelter is steady and up against something firm. If this cannot be done put cement blocks on the top and sides to secure it in place.

Measure and cut carpeting for the bed inside. Place the reflector material, cut to size, on top of the carpet or other material placed on the bottom the shelter. Several layers of fleece on top for the winter and towels in the summer. Towels hold dampness, so should not be used in the winter and wet months, but they are easy to launder and good for the summer. Fleece has been the best and warmest material for the beds. It dries very fast and does not hold moisture. If there are several layers, the cats can scoop them up into a warm and cozy bed.

SHELTER FOR TWO OR MORE WITH STORAGE CONTAINER PLACED ON THE SIDE: Use 25-45 gallon Rubbermaid plastic storage container is placed on its side, with the opening facing you. The lid will not be used for this shelter. Purchase a storage drawer, the type used to store bedding under the bed, about 4-6 inches in height that will perfectly fit into the opening of the storage container when placed on its side. You now have a large plastic storage container and a drawer 4-6 inches in height sliding completely into the opening. In the 40-gallon container, there is enough room for 3-4 cats in the drawer cuddled up.

Make a plastic shade and duct tape it to the front of the opening, just to the bottom of the drawer. Measure the shade in about one-inch to allow adequate opening on either side for the cats can get in and out easily. This will give the shelter a safer and warmer opening before you install the larger and heavier awning. Begin making the larger awning, as with the previous shelter. The awning being 10-12 inches longer can also be draped close against the opening with a brick holding it in place. Make sure the cats can enter and exit rapidly and there are no tight areas on either side. Because of the larger opening with the container on its side, the inside plastic shade is important to be in place and hanging in front of the opening before the large awning is installed, up off the ground.

Putting wood, cement blocks or other materials on the ground in front of the opening to keep the bedding drier and cleaner, providing a threshold that will cover the mud and puddles of water. There are many innovative ways to provide shelter that is safe, warm and dry. Plan ahead carefully. After the shelter is ready, put a little catnip or special treats inside to lure them in. If you are so inclined, a prayer for the beloved occupants could be said.

Experience has taught us that no matter how friendly the area may appear, if you are providing shelter away from your home, concealment is absolutely necessary. Circumstances change and people change. Occupants of apartments and homes change ownership and occupancy. There can be construction and other circumstances that change the environment – so daily visits to the home site is essential.

Materials That Can Be Used for Sheltering

Plastic storage containers (Rubbermaid type 25 gal) with snap on lids
Plastic storage drawers 4-6 inches in height
Foam insulated boxes (need to be weighed down)
Reflective insulation material for warmth
Wooden boxes, milk crates, discarded materials for innovative construction
Plexiglas can be cut to size and rectangular or tent-like shelter can be made with wooden flooring from wooden palates.
Dog igloos
Covered litter boxes. Reduce the size of the hole and cover in black plastic and make awning.
Discarded or purchased shelter-type materials
Dumpsters in certain locations are an excellent source for shelter materials
Lucite sheets or rolls for covering large areas for waterproofing and awnings
Small nails, staples and gun
Lots of black duct tape
Black and Silver Tarps, Heavy duty plastic material in rolls or garbage bags
Reflector material or linoleum are good insulation for the bottom of the beds
Fleece bedding for the winter and light weight materials the summer

In colder climates, additional insulation will be required.

Feral cats and kittens have a right to life and a right to be humanely cared for.

Dona Cosgrove Baker, Founder, Feral Cat Caretakers’ Coalition

Managed Care, Negotiating for and Relocating Feral Cats

Managed Care at Home Site Location

One of the most important factors in creating a safe and well-managed environment for feral cats is that everyone involved be knowledgeable about their care. There are numerous situations where the caretaker is not familiar with information essential to maintaining a safe home site for the ferals they are caring for. What usually begins with feeding a cat or two, can escalate into an explosion of cats and kittens over a short period of time.

Feral cat caretaking is a long-term commitment and it is necessary to understand how to do it successfully. There are circumstances where the caretaker, unknowingly, creates difficult situations that could have been prevented with the proper information and action. Every caretaker should be informed and educated as to the implementation of trap, neuter, vaccinate and return. This is to be carried out as an essential part of caretaking.

Feeding

Many complaints are directly related to feeding. Since feeding is one of the most important aspects of care, special detailed information as to how this can be accomplished successfully, is the first objective. Refer to Instructions for Feeding Feral Cats and Feeding Priorities under Challenging Circumstances. No matter how friendly the immediate area, feeding should be done with utmost discretion, even if you are feeding on your own property and it is completely safe and protected. Not all of your neighbors may be friendly to your endeavor. Permanent feeding stations should be protected from the elements, placed out of sight and, if necessary, camouflaged. Dry food and water containers can be covered with dark plastic material and duct tape or sprayed with an exterior brown, dark green or black paint. Be careful not to spray paint on the food and water surfaces. Four sided box type structures can be easily made to enclose a feeding station. Thick art foam board or any sturdy material that can be cut and put together with duct tape and glue and covered with heavy black plastic garbage bags or other dark plastic materials, with an opening to place food and water during the winter months, usually hold up well. This type of cover would need to be modified for areas with heavy rains and/or extremely cold weather.

If the cats are being fed on a daily basis, without the use of permanent feeding stations, do not draw unnecessary attention to where and when they are being fed. This is especially important in hostile territory. Do not use white paper plates. Do not leave plates with food unless they are out of sight and protected from the elements. Dark plastic plates or anything that blends into the surrounding environment, for all feeding is recommended. Feeding from cans and leaving empty cans and food containers will create an unsightly mess. You can be asking for trouble.

There are numerous innovative ways to safely feed without drawing unnecessary attention. Look around the area and locate the best place. Feeding under your vehicle or one safely parked, in the bushes, behind dumpsters, in small corners of buildings, abandoned areas and buildings, alleys with little or no traffic, behind structures, near fences, etc. You may need to move the feeding area to the near vicinity if it becomes unsafe. In most cases, having permanent feeding stations that are out of sight is safer for the cats. The cats do not need to come out when you arrive for food, if they feel it is unsafe. Dry food can be continually supplied with only the wet food when you arrive. I cannot stress enough that feeding stations that are in sight are, for the most part, unsafe for the cats. It is better to have a few small ones hidden, than have a large obtrusive one. People who do not like cats have open season with large, in view feeding stations. This type of feeding may be more convenient for the caretaker, but can put the cats in jeopardy.

Inexpensive plastic storage bins that have been painted or can be purchased in brown, green or black, and covered with black plastic material can be placed in discrete places out of sight. To make them more waterproof, flap-like awnings can be created from heavy plastic sheets or garbage bags and duct tape to further protect the food and provide camouflage. Refer to Sheltering and Feeding Stations.

It is important not to discuss with strangers, how many cats there are and where they are being fed. Keep your conversations confined to your circle of trusted friends. When you feed, if indicated, check the surroundings. Does it feel and look safe? If not, wait a while before you bring out the food.

If the feeding areas have not been properly maintained and this is the only complaint, follow the proper guidelines. Go out of your way to assure anyone complaining that you will make every effort to maintain a properly cared for area.

It only takes one complaint to jeopardize their chances to be fed and cared for. Your decisions and choices should be made with this in mind.

Food

We recommend, if possible, a good quality of dry and canned food be available for your feral cats and kittens. Inexpensive food will fill an empty belly, in the short term, but in the long term, you can have malnourished unhealthy cats and kittens, susceptible to disease and sickness. Feral cats, living out of doors are under considerable more stress than the cats living inside your home. They require extra nourishment to maintain a healthy immune system. Depending upon your financial resources, you may need to contact local pet stores and animal welfare organizations for food donations. Garage and bake sales, car washes and other ways of raising money can be helpful. If you know other people who are feeding or you have friends who could get together and form a group to help transport food and feed, this can relieve some of the burden. Do not hesitate to ask at the local markets, religious organizations and other places for donations for food. Use every resource you can think of for assistance. Initially, you may be the only person the feral cats and kittens have to care for them. It is a long- term commitment.

Cleanliness

Feral cats living in close proximity to private residences, public places, businesses and so on, roam around the immediate areas. They will also use these areas for their litter box needs. This can be another common complaint, and reinforce the “myth” that “cats are dirty and unhealthy” to have around. Persons will not take kindly to picking up noticeable and odorous cat litter from their area. Just as there are dog scoopers and bags for deposits, the caretaker may need to keep an area cat feces clean. Many caretakers use litter boxes in areas where cat feces is a problem. If the boxes are outside a structure, they will need to be covered. Keeping them clean will also be one of the responsibilities of feral cat caretaking. If males are spraying on cars and other public places, a spray bottle with deodorizer will be required to alleviate the problem. We have also recommended car covers for unwanted paw prints. Take a walk around the area and see if anything needs your attention. Usually, once the males are neutered, the spraying is reduced or stops. Cleanliness and neatness will prevent a lot of problems from arising.

Feral cat caretaking is labor intensive and requires commitment and responsible choices, but in the long run, the rewards far outweigh the time and effort. You can close your eyes at night knowing that you have made a very important and compassionate contribution to the “homeless ones”, and to the community they live in. There may be times when you may question this, but rest assured, your contribution is priceless.

Nothing is more time consuming and stressful for a caretaker than being confronted with a situation where the cats “must be gotten rid of” because of complaints that might have been avoided.

Negotiating For Their Right To Stay And Be Cared For

Unfortunately, there are many circumstances when the caretaker is confronted with a hostile situation and negotiations for the feral cats right to stay and be cared for at their home site becomes an urgent priority. In addition, their very lives may be in jeopardy. If the caretaker, or person who has taken the responsibility of caring for the cats, does not have the necessary skills or is too emotionally involved to negotiate, a friend, relative or experienced person connected with an animal welfare organization will be required. There are instances when the situation is so emotionally charged, that face to face communication is not possible for the caretaker. Someone who can present a rational and informed presentation is essential. At the start of official negotiations, come prepared with all of the documents and information that is available and be well versed in any questions that may be asked. Negotiations go smoother when all parties are well informed about the situation and what needs to be done to resolve the problem. Do your homework. A calm and understanding manner will go a long way in negotiating.

What are the issues confronting you and what do you need to resolve the situation?

Distribution of For All Interested and Concerned Parties is a good place to start. I have found that the more printed materials you have that are educational, the better your chances are to shift from emotional and aggressive stance to a more linear approach. Arrange everything in a colored folder with your card as if you were giving the most important presentation in your life. All printed materials should be professional and neat. I have used this method under extreme conditions in board meetings and meetings in alleys. Bring plenty of portfolios for everyone. No one should go away empty handed.

Some of the issues confronting you can range from the cats not being spayed or neutered, thereby creating nuisance situations with mating, spraying and yowling and other disturbing behavior. If the cats have not been spayed or neutered, Refer to Instructions for Humane Trapping of Feral or Rescued Cats and Kittens. This document should also be included in the informational document, for negotiating. Other issues can include sick kittens, nursing mothers, paw prints on cars, cats using open public or private areas as litter boxes or persons who just “want to get rid of them”. It can be the absence, death or illness of a caretaker. Every situation is unique and there are countless circumstances that can warrant negotiations and action of some nature. Some will require a simple and straightforward resolution, while others will be more complicated. However, each one will need to be carefully evaluated and acted upon according to the circumstances.

Keep a record of the complaint and complaining person or persons, with names and phone numbers. Be very professional and official in your demeanor. After you have gathered the pros and cons of the situation, you need to decide what action to take. Go over each complaint and determine what needs to be done to remedy the situation. Identify those persons who are cat friendly and form a group of volunteers and advocates from them. If there are no cat friendly persons, then you will need to negotiate with whomever is complaining. The For All Interested and Concerned Parties document includes statistics for the Los Angeles area, but is also applicable in content to areas throughout the United States.

Having pertinent educational materials, professionally presented, is essential. Situations that seemed hopeless have turned around, with the cats being cared for safely at their original home site.

Moving Feeding Stations To Nearby Site – Trapping not required

If negotiations fail for the cats to remain at their home site or the area is being demolished, under construction or there are other hazards present, moving the feeding stations and shelters to a nearby location could be a viable option. In many cases, the relocation off the property in question or on the same property to a safer location may be all that is required. Canvas the area and use your common sense. Talk with persons in the adjacent and surrounding areas as to the possibility of locating permanent feeding stations and sheltering. 

Once again, leave For all Interested and Concerned Parties document and educational materials with your name and phone number or create your own document or flyer for a particular situation. If indicated, talk to managers, tenants, neighbors, homeowners and businesses in the area, but stay within a reasonable radius. In cases where the area is industrial or commercial, private homes or small businesses adjacent to the larger areas can be good places for permanent relocation. Be creative. Talk to other caretakers, your local pet rescue organizations, get advice and assistance. Try not to be intimidated. Be friendly, informative and persevere. More importantly, no matter how the circumstances present or how bleak they may look, always personally question everyone and make your own contacts and come to your own conclusions after the situation has been thoroughly assessed. We have had people tell us the situation was hopeless, no one would ever cooperate and so on. The results were just the opposite once we began personally talking to people in the area and presenting our case. Best to negotiate with persons who have the authority to make decisions.

Example: Over the past several years, we had been successfully feeding and caretaking a colony of 23 cats at an industrial location with businesses, offices, warehouses and garden areas. The cat were residing in the area where the offices were located where shelter was available and the caretaker who worked in one of the offices was feeding and managing. Everyone was spayed and neutered and no kittens had been born for many years. Management did not approve of the cats but we won the battle. Everything was good until the person caretaking left her employment. Within a few days we were issued an edict that all the cats had to be off the property within 30 days or they would be trapped and taken to the shelter. All feeding stations at the area were destroyed as well as anything the cats had been using.
We began negotiations with the businesses on the property and found the perfect location about ¾ of a block away on the same property (12 acres). Agreements were drawn up and we began the process.

We began to feed the cats about 50 feet from the original site. After a few days at this area, we moved another 20-30 feet and so on. In the meantime, we constructed five shelters (see our video on sheltering) and installed them at the
new site. Put treats inside. We also set up their permanent feeding stations discretely located and safe. Put some dry food in and sprinkled some treats around the area.

We continued to feed them a tasty wet food and about half way, most of the cats had found the new feeding and shelter and were not showing up at our feeding trail of 50 feet. We accomplished this in about three weeks. They never went back to the old location. You can be creative and do variations on this relocation. We do not advise crossing streets unless absolutely necessary. If doing a relocation along an alley to a destination, do the same process with homeowners.

Creating shelters from permanent structures at the site. We have placed heavy duty black plastic and waterproof tarps over wooden palates that were stacked up permanently and then slid cut up pieces of cardboard in between the openings on the bottom. The cats were already hiding in the wooden palates for shelter and this just made it waterproof and warmer. Everything was easily replaced. Refer to our Sheltering and Feeding Stations. No HAY needed in LA. For warmth we recommend reflector material and fleece bedding (a flea deterrent). 

This method does not require trapping. Circumstances vary and the decision as to how this is coordinated into the move should be made by the caretaker and all persons involved in the welfare of the cats.

Agreements

Once any form of agreement has been negotiated, take the necessary steps to implement whatever has been agreed to. In some cases, a simply written agreement is appropriate or in other instances a more comprehensive one may be required. A written agreement can be a valuable reference when negotiating as an example of success and trustworthiness. It can also act to absolve the caretakers of any liability while caretaking. It outlines specifically what is being done and by whom and is a good accumulative resource record. Refer to Agreements.

Relocation To Areas When Trapping Is Required

If there are no other options and the cats must be removed from their present location, your only alternative will be to trap and relocate to a pre-negotiated and safe place. Trapping and relocation can be as close as a mile away to a residential area in backyards, to farms, horse ranches or any rural area or city area that is safe and a permanent caretaker and shelter is available. There are stringent guidelines for relocating feral cats.

There are numerous ways to make contact with persons who will accept feral cats for relocation. You can advertise in the local and rural newspapers, write letters to farms, horse ranches and other suitable areas. Put up flyers in pet stores, veterinary offices, markets and any place where the public can see the notice. Contact your local humane societies, rescue groups and other animal welfare agencies for contacts and information. Talk to all of your friends who may have backyards or know of a safe place to relocate.

Since feral cats form colonies (families) that are very close, a lot will depend upon how many will need to be relocated. It is always better to relocate at least 2 together from a colony, if not more, depending upon how much space is available. Relocation is worrisome and stressful for all concerned and should only be considered if all else fails.

If the cats have not been spayed or neutered, this will need to be done prior to relocation. Refer to Instructions for Humane Trapping of Feral or Rescued Cats and Kittens.

After you have made contact with a prospective relocation area, you will need to go there and negotiate an agreement as to where and how the cats will be cared for. Inquiries as to what dangers there are at the location, such as coyotes and other predators is important. Relocation to places where the cats will be preyed upon is not acceptable.

Guidelines

During the journey to their new home, make the trip as stress free as possible. Do not play loud music or create a lot of noise while traveling with the cats. Be sure there is enough ventilation in their carriers, crates or whatever enclosure you have them in for the trip. Under no circumstances put a cat in the trunk or open bed of a truck. They must be protected from any condition that will create stress. Depending upon the length of their journey, be sure they are provided with water and food, even though they may not partake. Make them as comfortable as possible and keep them covered appropriately to lessen their fear of being enclosed and in a strange environment. Check on them frequently to be sure they are not suffering from car sickness or hyperventilating. Cats do not adjust easily to change and this change is a very serious one for them to adjust to. If they have recently had surgery, make sure they have recovered sufficiently for the journey. They are being taken to an entirely strange and frightening place where there are no familiar smells or landmarks to boundary their territory. They will be enclosed for 4 weeks or more in a strange place that is totally different from what they have experienced. Every effort should be made to make their journey and confinement experience as calm and protective as possible.

Their new home must be adequately prepared before their arrival. The four week confinement should be in a safe, enclosed, water proof and escape proof dwelling, on the premises. It can be a guestroom, laundry room, garage, barn, out-buildings, storage areas, spare rooms or any place with light and good ventilation. Keep in mind that the place where the cats will be confined should also be their safe haven when released. They will need to have access to and from this location. Litter boxes will be required. Create safe places for them. If in a small room, place bedding and boxes for them to hid and sleep in. Cardboard boxes or carriers with blankets and bedding make good hiding places and are warm for sleeping. They can also be covered with blankets or towels to make them more cozy and safer for hiding. If they are in a large area, put their boxes, carriers, litter box and food in a more confined space, rather than scattering it about. Keep everything away from the door and away from drafts during the winter. When entering and leaving the area, create a barrier in front of you and behind you, such as a piece of cardboard, towel, etc. Enter and leave carefully to see that no one escapes. Most of the time the cats will hide and stay as far away as possible, but there may be a brave one who will try to escape. It is best to do the feeding and cleaning during the daylight hours.

A trap should be available at the relocation home along with trapping instructions.

If a cat escapes out of the room, create a safe and dry shelter with special wet food and water next to the place where it escaped from. Put as many things with their smells on it, perhaps the carrier or crate used during the trip. Re-trapping the cat should be attempted right away for the four- week period of confinement. We had one cat escape and as a result, the time of confinement for everyone was extended until the re-introduced cat had stayed the four weeks. However, no one seemed to mind, as it was safe, warm and cozy with big windows for sunning.

However, if there is no success in re-trapping, be sure that the above noted instructions for feeding and shelter are provided for the escapee. Also, be alert to sighting the cat as it may find a new place to hide. If you manage to locate the cat, provide food and shelter near the area where it is hiding, since the food and water is enclosed in the room with the other cats and there would be no access to it. Depending upon how long a time it has been since it escaped, you might also try setting the trap and if successful, return it to the new relocation holding room, with a little longer stay for those already there.

One relocation that we accomplished resulted in a little gray tabby (very) feral female named Gracie not wanting to leave her new found home (the bridle room for horses) where she had spent a few more than the usual required four weeks. The cat door was opened, then the big door, people came and went, horses walked by, no amount of coaxing with food or anything else could get Gracie to leave the bridle room. When all was quiet, she would sun herself by the big window and when people came, she would hide. But, she never left the bridle room. Finally, after three months, a big towel was wrapped around her and she was pushed and squeezed into a carrier and taken to a beautiful guesthouse furnished with priceless antiques. There were eight other special felines living in this luxurious (indoor only) guesthouse. Gracie has lived there for three years now and still no one can touch her. She sleeps on a very expensive antique bed and is quite content. However, the other cats at the relocation site, after their confinement period was up, flew out the door and have remained on the property in barns and in other safe dwellings. Not Gracie, she had her eyes on that guesthouse and lives there in absolute luxury and safety. We call the good lady at Christmas to thank her and hear all about Gracie.

Caretaking

A vital aspect of relocation is the new caretaker. The new caretaker or caretakers should be totally committed and responsible in assuring the feral cats will be taken care of with compassion, patience and understanding. The caretaker will be feeding and tending to the needs of the cats and it is important that they spend some time talking with them at least three times a day. They will soon become accustomed to the smells and voices associated with their food and new home and this will reassure them, even though they may never come out of hiding. The objective is to provide a safe and lifetime home for the feral cats who have been relocated. After they have been allowed out of their initial space following the four week period of confinement, it is essential that at least one, and if possible two small openings be available for them to enter and leave their original shelter area as they please. They will become frightened easily and will require easy access to the only safe place they know. They may find another safe shelter area, if there are several buildings on the property, such as barns, garages, etc., but it is best to let them decide.

Once released, the new caretakers should observe them as closely as possible, keep a daily head count and watch for any signs of problems. Plentiful wet food along with dry food on a daily basis is a necessity. The food should be of good quality and fresh water available at all times. If they are participating in rodent control, they will still require daily feeding with nourishing food. Contrary to popular opinion, cats cannot remain healthy on a diet of rodents. Many will not eat them unless near starvation.

Most ranches and farms have dogs living on the premises. It is important the dogs see the cats as residents and are not allowed to harm them once they are out of their shelter to roam around. Carefully evaluate any situation where dogs are present and the possibility of them harming the cats, before you decide on the relocation. It may be necessary to confine the dogs for a reasonable period of time, to allow the cats to become accustomed to their new surroundings, before being confronted with the dogs. Feral cats do not take kindly to dogs as they have been living out of doors in unsafe conditions, and are exposed to all types of dangers, including dogs that kill cats and kittens. It will be a big enough adjustment for them to familiarize themselves with their new home, without being chased or frightened unnecessarily, even if the dogs would never harm them. The cats do not know this. If there are gardeners working on the property, they should be informed about the use of harmful pesticides and discontinue use where the cats are residing. Persons on the premises need to be notified of the cats living there and every effort made to create a safe and compassionate environment.

The persons or organizations who brought the cats to their new home should be in contact with the new caretaker during the weeks while in confinement and then weekly following release, to be sure they are all accounted for and adjusting well. Continued contact is needed and during the years they live in their new home. Communication between all concerned parties is essential.

Moving Feeding Stations to Nearby Site – Trapping not required

If negotiations fail for the cats to remain at their home site or the area is being demolished, under construction or there are other hazards present, moving the feeding stations and shelters to a nearby location could be a viable option. In many cases, the relocation off the property in question or on the same property to a safer location may be all that is required. Canvas the area and use your common sense. Talk with persons in the adjacent and surrounding areas as to the possibility of locating permanent feeding stations and sheltering. 

Once again, leave For all Interested and Concerned Parties document and educational materials with your name and phone number or create your own document or flyer for a particular situation. If indicated, talk to managers, tenants, neighbors, homeowners and businesses in the area, but stay within a reasonable radius. In cases where the area is industrial or commercial, private homes or small businesses adjacent to the larger areas can be good places for permanent relocation. Be creative. Talk to other caretakers, your local pet rescue organizations, get advice and assistance. Try not to be intimidated. Be friendly, informative and persevere. More importantly, no matter how the circumstances present or how bleak they may look, always personally question everyone and make your own contacts and come to your own conclusions after the situation has been thoroughly assessed. We have had people tell us the situation was hopeless, no one would ever cooperate and so on. The results were just the opposite once we began personally talking to people in the area and presenting our case. Best to negotiate with persons who have the authority to make decisions.

Example: Over the past several years, we had been successfully feeding and caretaking a colony of 23 cats at an industrial location with businesses, offices, warehouses and garden areas. The cat were residing in the area where the offices were located where shelter was available and the caretaker who worked in one of the offices was feeding and managing. Everyone was spayed and neutered and no kittens had been born for many years. Management did not approve of the cats but we won the battle. Everything was good until the person caretaking left her employment. Within a few days we were issued an edict that all the cats had to be off the property within 30 days or they would be trapped and taken to the shelter. All feeding stations at the area were destroyed as well as anything the cats had been using.
We began negotiations with the businesses on the property and found the perfect location about ¾ of a block away on the same property (12 acres). Agreements were drawn up and we began the process.

We began to feed the cats about 50 feet from the original site. After a few days at this area, we moved another 20-30 feet and so on. In the meantime, we constructed five shelters (see our video on sheltering) and installed them at the
new site. Put treats inside. We also set up their permanent feeding stations discretely located and safe. Put some dry food in and sprinkled some treats around the area.

We continued to feed them a tasty wet food and about half way, most of the cats had found the new feeding and shelter and were not showing up at our feeding trail of 50 feet. We accomplished this in about three weeks. They never went back to the old location. You can be creative and do variations on this relocation. We do not advise crossing streets unless absolutely necessary. If doing a relocation along an alley to a destination, do the same process with homeowners.

Creating shelters from permanent structures at the site. We have placed heavy duty black plastic and waterproof tarps over wooden palates that were stacked up permanently and then slid cut up pieces of cardboard in between the openings on the bottom. The cats were already hiding in the wooden palates for shelter and this just made it waterproof and warmer. Everything was easily replaced. Refer to our Sheltering and Feeding Stations.NO HAY NEEDED IN LA!

This method does not require trapping. Circumstances vary and the decision as to how this is coordinated into the move should be made by the caretaker and all persons involved in the welfare of the cats.

Agreements

Once any form of agreement has been negotiated, take the necessary steps to implement whatever has been agreed to. In some cases, a simply written agreement is appropriate or in other instances a more comprehensive one may be required. A written agreement can be a valuable reference when negotiating as an example of success and trustworthiness. It can also act to absolve the caretakers of any liability while caretaking. It outlines specifically what is being done and by whom and is a good accumulative resource record. Refer to Agreements.

Relocation To Areas When Trapping Is Required

If there are no other options and the cats must be removed from their present location, your only alternative will be to trap and relocate to a pre-negotiated and safe place. Trapping and relocation can be as close as a mile away to a residential area in backyards, to farms, horse ranches or any rural area or city area that is safe and a permanent caretaker and shelter is available. There are stringent guidelines for relocating feral cats.

There are numerous ways to make contact with persons who will accept feral cats for relocation. You can advertise in the local and rural newspapers, write letters to farms, horse ranches and other suitable areas. Put up flyers in pet stores, veterinary offices, markets and any place where the public can see the notice. Contact your local humane societies, rescue groups and other animal welfare agencies for contacts and information. Talk to all of your friends who may have backyards or know of a safe place to relocate.

Since feral cats form colonies (families) that are very close, a lot will depend upon how many will need to be relocated. It is always better to relocate at least 2 together from a colony, if not more, depending upon how much space is available. Relocation is worrisome and stressful for all concerned and should only be considered if all else fails.

If the cats have not been spayed or neutered, this will need to be done prior to relocation. Refer to Instructions for Humane Trapping of Feral or Rescued Cats and Kittens.

After you have made contact with a prospective relocation area, you will need to go there and negotiate an agreement as to where and how the cats will be cared for. Inquiries as to what dangers there are at the location, such as coyotes and other predators is important. Relocation to places where the cats will be preyed upon is not acceptable.

Guidelines

During the journey to their new home, make the trip as stress free as possible. Do not play loud music or create a lot of noise while traveling with the cats. Be sure there is enough ventilation in their carriers, crates or whatever enclosure you have them in for the trip. Under no circumstances put a cat in the trunk or open bed of a truck. They must be protected from any condition that will create stress. Depending upon the length of their journey, be sure they are provided with water and food, even though they may not partake. Make them as comfortable as possible and keep them covered appropriately to lessen their fear of being enclosed and in a strange environment. Check on them frequently to be sure they are not suffering from car sickness or hyperventilating. Cats do not adjust easily to change and this change is a very serious one for them to adjust to. If they have recently had surgery, make sure they have recovered sufficiently for the journey. They are being taken to an entirely strange and frightening place where there are no familiar smells or landmarks to boundary their territory. They will be enclosed for 4 weeks or more in a strange place that is totally different from what they have experienced. Every effort should be made to make their journey and confinement experience as calm and protective as possible.

Their new home must be adequately prepared before their arrival. The four week confinement should be in a safe, enclosed, water proof and escape proof dwelling, on the premises. It can be a guestroom, laundry room, garage, barn, out-buildings, storage areas, spare rooms or any place with light and good ventilation. Keep in mind that the place where the cats will be confined should also be their safe haven when released. They will need to have access to and from this location. Litter boxes will be required. Create safe places for them. If in a small room, place bedding and boxes for them to hid and sleep in. Cardboard boxes or carriers with blankets and bedding make good hiding places and are warm for sleeping. They can also be covered with blankets or towels to make them more cozy and safer for hiding. If they are in a large area, put their boxes, carriers, litter box and food in a more confined space, rather than scattering it about. Keep everything away from the door and away from drafts during the winter. When entering and leaving the area, create a barrier in front of you and behind you, such as a piece of cardboard, towel, etc. Enter and leave carefully to see that no one escapes. Most of the time the cats will hide and stay as far away as possible, but there may be a brave one who will try to escape. It is best to do the feeding and cleaning during the daylight hours.

A trap should be available at the relocation home along with trapping instructions.

If a cat escapes out of the room, create a safe and dry shelter with special wet food and water next to the place where it escaped from. Put as many things with their smells on it, perhaps the carrier or crate used during the trip. Re-trapping the cat should be attempted right away for the four- week period of confinement. We had one cat escape and as a result, the time of confinement for everyone was extended until the re-introduced cat had stayed the four weeks. However, no one seemed to mind, as it was safe, warm and cozy with big windows for sunning.

However, if there is no success in re-trapping, be sure that the above noted instructions for feeding and shelter are provided for the escapee. Also, be alert to sighting the cat as it may find a new place to hide. If you manage to locate the cat, provide food and shelter near the area where it is hiding, since the food and water is enclosed in the room with the other cats and there would be no access to it. Depending upon how long a time it has been since it escaped, you might also try setting the trap and if successful, return it to the new relocation holding room, with a little longer stay for those already there.

One relocation that we accomplished resulted in a little gray tabby (very) feral female named Gracie not wanting to leave her new found home (the bridle room for horses) where she had spent a few more than the usual required four weeks. The cat door was opened, then the big door, people came and went, horses walked by, no amount of coaxing with food or anything else could get Gracie to leave the bridle room. When all was quiet, she would sun herself by the big window and when people came, she would hide. But, she never left the bridle room. Finally, after three months, a big towel was wrapped around her and she was pushed and squeezed into a carrier and taken to a beautiful guesthouse furnished with priceless antiques. There were eight other special felines living in this luxurious (indoor only) guesthouse. Gracie has lived there for three years now and still no one can touch her. She sleeps on a very expensive antique bed and is quite content. However, the other cats at the relocation site, after their confinement period was up, flew out the door and have remained on the property in barns and in other safe dwellings. Not Gracie, she had her eyes on that guesthouse and lives there in absolute luxury and safety. We call the good lady at Christmas to thank her and hear all about Gracie.

Caretaking

A vital aspect of relocation is the new caretaker. The new caretaker or caretakers should be totally committed and responsible in assuring the feral cats will be taken care of with compassion, patience and understanding. The caretaker will be feeding and tending to the needs of the cats and it is important that they spend some time talking with them at least three times a day. They will soon become accustomed to the smells and voices associated with their food and new home and this will reassure them, even though they may never come out of hiding. The objective is to provide a safe and lifetime home for the feral cats who have been relocated. After they have been allowed out of their initial space following the four week period of confinement, it is essential that at least one, and if possible two small openings be available for them to enter and leave their original shelter area as they please. They will become frightened easily and will require easy access to the only safe place they know. They may find another safe shelter area, if there are several buildings on the property, such as barns, garages, etc., but it is best to let them decide.

Once released, the new caretakers should observe them as closely as possible, keep a daily head count and watch for any signs of problems. Plentiful wet food along with dry food on a daily basis is a necessity. The food should be of good quality and fresh water available at all times. If they are participating in rodent control, they will still require daily feeding with nourishing food. Contrary to popular opinion, cats cannot remain healthy on a diet of rodents. Many will not eat them unless near starvation.

Most ranches and farms have dogs living on the premises. It is important the dogs see the cats as residents and are not allowed to harm them once they are out of their shelter to roam around. Carefully evaluate any situation where dogs are present and the possibility of them harming the cats, before you decide on the relocation. It may be necessary to confine the dogs for a reasonable period of time, to allow the cats to become accustomed to their new surroundings, before being confronted with the dogs. Feral cats do not take kindly to dogs as they have been living out of doors in unsafe conditions, and are exposed to all types of dangers, including dogs that kill cats and kittens. It will be a big enough adjustment for them to familiarize themselves with their new home, without being chased or frightened unnecessarily, even if the dogs would never harm them. The cats do not know this. If there are gardeners working on the property, they should be informed about the use of harmful pesticides and discontinue use where the cats are residing. Persons on the premises need to be notified of the cats living there and every effort made to create a safe and compassionate environment.

The persons or organizations who brought the cats to their new home should be in contact with the new caretaker during the weeks while in confinement and then weekly following release, to be sure they are all accounted for and adjusting well. Continued contact is needed and during the years they live in their new home. Communication between all concerned parties is essential.

How to Domesticate and Care for Feral or Rescued Kittens

To domesticate means “To adapt to life in intimate association with humans”
Feral and rescued kittens are the offspring of female feral cats or unaltered female domestic cats.

Since the kittens have not had an opportunity to bond with humans, they are often wary and mistrustful. Even at a very young age, their mothers have taught them ways to survive. Their instinct from being born in unprotected and unsafe places is to run and try to get away. Though small, they can bite and scratch when frightened and under no circumstances should they be handled roughly. It is important to minimize any exposure to scratching or biting. A 4-5 week old kitten is quite fragile and can be easily calmed and should be handled softly and wrapped in bunting when holding.

Feral and rescued kittens come from varied backgrounds and will have distinct personalities. The circumstances under which they were born and the ability of the mother to protect and care for them can influence their behavior. We may never know what rigors the mother went through to birth them and what they experienced in unsafe and hostile surroundings. Under the best conditions, even the rescue itself can be an extremely frightening experience. Felines do not adapt easily to any change. Persons caring for or adopting a rescue kitten or cat should educate themselves about their unique natures and needs. This is vital information for everyone to have and there are many good web sites available. We are only covering the basics for kitten care. There is much more to nurturing and raising kittens than can be addressed in this document. Research other resources on the internet, kitten rescue organizations and books. Confer with persons who have experience. The more you know, the better it will be for the precious lives you are caring for.

Under normal circumstances, partially weaned kittens may be taken from the mother from four to six weeks. Generally, this age is considered easiest for socialization. Kittens twelve to sixteen weeks and older have been successfully socialized. Any person attempting to work with kittens should be responsible and educated and endowed with an abundance of patience and compassion.

Domesticating Instructions

When the kittens are first brought to their new home they should be placed in a quiet and safe area away from noise, children and other animals for minimum of 10 days in isolation. A veterinarian should also examine them. If there are other animals in the household the minimum ten day period of confinement is necessary. This can be a bathroom, a small utility room, spare room or any place that is quiet and enclosed, warm and safe, but not totally dark. Be sure they have warm beds, food, water, litter box and toys. If the room has no windows, leave a night light on in the room during the night and a regular light on during the day. Keeping the kittens warm and away from drafts essential to their survival, as they no longer have their mother to comfort them and provide warmth. Depending upon the age you may need a heated Snuggle Safe disc or heating pad. Be sure the kittens have a way to get off the heat and test it on your forearm for warmth. Bach Flower Remedies such as Rescue Remedy and other combinations have a calming effect on kittens and help them adjust. If there are no other animals in the household, keeping them confined in a bathroom or smaller place at the beginning until they feel secure is essential. For older & more feral kittens we recommend the Urban League Site.  The have a great video called Tough Love dealing with older ferals. Kitten Rescue also has in-depth instructions for domesticating, bottle feeding and neo-natal kitten care.

Place a small liter box and soft cuddly bedding into the cage. Visit them often or if they are in a room where you normally spend a lot of time, this is even better. Speak to them softly. Place a bowl of a quality milk replacement formula and moist kitten food into the cage or carrier or confined room and remain while they eat and drink to be sure they can drink the milk without assistance. Partially weaned kittens need to learn how to lap milk without choking. If they have never had milk from a dish, you may need to dip your finger in the milk and put some on their lips or side of mouth until they understand how to drink. Stay with them until they know what to do. Keep plenty of food available, as it will be reassuring.

Always move slowly talking to them in a low and soothing manner. Leave a radio playing soft music in the room or having a television set on very low volume will also get them used to human voices. Keep the liter box clean and replace the bedding immediately if soiled. ALWAYS WASH YOUR HANDS BEFORE AND AFTER HANDLING KITTENS.

I usually begin touching them within a few hours after they are comfortably settled, or at least the following day. Even though they may be frightened, it is important they smell and feel the soft and loving warmth of the person that will be caring for them, as soon as possible.

Select the least aggressive or frightened kitten. Securely, but gently, grip it by the nape of the neck, wrap it with a soft towel or soft bedding and place in your lap. Wrapping the kitten in the soft bunting (fleece material) is comforting and allows you more control. Move your hands slowly when handling them, as they may not have made the connection between the hands and the nurturing and bonding that takes place through them. Stroke the kitten’s body while speaking in soft reassuring tones until you feel the kitten has relaxed. Slowly, pull some of the soft blanket or towel from the kitten and cuddle it next to your body. They like the feel of bare skin. Watch out for the nails on parts of your exposed chest. After you feel the kitten relax and less afraid, gently place the kitten back into the cage or carrier and go through the process with each kitten. Clipping their nails is essential.

A frightened kitten may hiss and spit at humans as their response to being taken from their mother, a trip to the veterinarian for examination and then to a strange and unfamiliar environment. The kitten that acts the most ferocious is usually the most scared, but can give you a scratch or bite and may try to escape if given a chance. Any bites should be cleaned with an antiseptic and antibiotic solutions.

Gently stroking the top of their head and chin will help the kitten to relax. Brushing and combing for fleas is also a good method to remove any fleas. Approach the kitten from behind while petting and introducing combs and brushes. Face to face contact is sometimes difficult at first. Little by little you will feel them respond and relax in your arms. Your voice, presence and tender touch will be the most comforting event in their lives, other than food.

During the period when you are taking them out of their safe place and putting them in your lap, also try to lure them out of the carrier or cage with special wet food such as chicken or Gerber’s Baby food, chicken, toys such as cat dancer, feather toys, or balls. Use this time to bond with them by introducing them to the toys you have provided. They may run back into their safe place, but this will help them considerably to develop trust. Playing is an excellent way to gain their attention and overcome fear. When they respond well to having access to the safe enclosed room that contains their carrier or cage, let them out for short periods of time. A small floor scratcher or scratching post is a necessary training tool right from the start. Gently put their paws on the scratchers and show them how it is done.

Generally, within 5-10 days the kittens should have made considerable progress. They will be showing their distinct personalities. Interacting with them as they play and learn can be a fascinating experience. They should now have access to their room and can be placed in the cage only if necessary. If they seem uncomfortable in a larger space, it would be best to place them back into their cage or carrier at night for sleep. This will assure their safety during the night and also provide a cozy place for them to sleep together. Use your own judgement. If there is a kitten that seems less playful and sociable, pay special attention to that kitten and be sure it is not being left out. When you bring fresh food in the morning let them out of the carrier or cage for the day, free to roam around and play. Always leave the carrier or cage open after they are out so they will have a safe place to retreat, if necessary. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. No matter where they are in the room, they need to have their bed and safe place available to them at all times. Never close off their safe place and leave them alone.

If they are not already using the litter box, pick up each kitten and place them in the litter box, using their front paws to gently paw at the litter. Training to use the litter box is very important and simple. It doesn’t take them long to learn. They may even choose to lie in it, so keep the box clean. Cheap Clumping litter should never be used for kittens. We use World’s Best Litter.

Kitten-proof the room before letting the kittens out. Seal up any nooks and crannies where a frightened kitten may enter and become trapped or inaccessible to you. Bathroom sinks often have spaces between cabinets just large enough for a kitten. Block access to behind bookcases and heavy furniture. Look for anyplace where a kitten can become wedged. Be careful not to leave OPEN TOILETS or anything that could be climbed and pulled down on top of the kitten. Protect knick-knacks, clothes and plants (some poisonous) from curious kittens.

If there is one kitten who seems slower to respond, additional attention will be required. Some kittens are very shy which may not have anything to do with them being feral or rescued. It can just be the personality of the kitten as with humans. The shy ones need more reassurance. If the kittens have names, use then frequently. A small room for containment is better than a large room or bedroom. Their world has to expand at a slow rate and large open rooms tend to scare them. In bedrooms, they can hide under the bed and it could be difficult to get out without injury. COMMON SENSE WITH WELL THOUGHT OUT CHOICES WILL ENSURE THEIR SAFETY AND YOUR PEACE OF MIND. SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE IF IN DOUBT.

Feeding Instructions 4-5 Weeks or Older

KMR powder or any quality milk supplement is a must. Follow directions on the container and be sure to have it available fresh in the morning and evening with regular moist food. You may need to use a bottle for the kittens before they are completely weaned. Nursing bottles are available in pet stores. Get advice from your veterinarian as to the proper way to bottle feed or go to the below listed web site for detailed instructions. Boiled chicken breasts cut up and shredded, nutritious moist kitten food and a small bowl of kitten dry food are good starters. All of the food should be of high quality and the bowls kept clean and the food fresh. Each kitten can eat one can of wet food per day and sometimes more. This can be in addition to milk, chicken and dry food. Do not be concerned about their overeating. They are growing and need a lot of nourishment. I once asked my veterinarian how much to feed a kitten and he said, “how much can you afford”? A bowl of fresh water changed daily should also be part of their diet. When introducing the milk supplement (unless they are being bottle-fed) take your finger and dip it into the bowl and wipe on the lips or side of the mouth. You need to make sure they can lap up the milk without choking or coughing. The bowls or dishes should be low and wide for easier access. The milk builds the immune system and is essential for those kittens not completely weaned. (I personally always include it whether they are weaned or not. It has helped in bonding with the kittens). BE SURE TO HANDLE EACH KITTEN BEFORE THEY EAT AND PLACE THEM AT THEIR DISHES WITH A GENTLE TOUCH. STAY THERE TO BE SURE EVERYONE IS EATING AND DRINKING MILK REPLACEMENT.

Check the stools for diarrhea, signs of constipation or worms and be sure they show no difficulty in urinating, such as straining. Special attention to cleanliness of the litter box is essential, as many kittens lay in the litter boxes for reassurance. They have not made the total connection that the litter box is only for litter and prefer to play and lay in the box as part of their safe place to be.

When the kittens have adjusted well and are playing and responding to you in a trustful manner, it is a good idea to encourage friends to visit and handle them as often as possible. Socialization with other persons will help them adjust more readily, especially if they are being adopted to other homes.

Kittens and older cats will dart out the front door. The signs one sees posted all over the city are usually the result of someone not being diligent or ill informed about this. Be sure to inform EVERYONE who enters your home to be on guard that there are kittens present. Cats and kittens darting out the door could prove fatal. When entering and leaving hold a folded newspaper, piece of cardboard, or towel in your hands as a barrier to prevent and discourage them from attempting to dash out the door. A squirt bottle with water left outside the door is a good deterrent to have before entering.

Check carefully before you open and close the door and advise everyone of the same technique. This will discourage the cats and kittens for a period of time, but they will try again, when you least expect it. I cannot stress enough, the importance of this precaution.

Foster Parents Who Will Be Helping With Adoption

If you are a foster parent and plan to participate in the adoption process, here are some pointers. During the time you and are caring for the kittens, begin to inform your friends that the kittens are being prepared for adoption. If you plan to place them with adoption organizations, they must be contacted well in advance for their requirements. They will also be able to furnish detailed information on kitten care and getting kittens ready for adoption and offer stringent guidelines for a safe and responsible adoption. Ask their advice, even if you are adopting to friends or family.

When talking to prospective “parents” each home should be evaluated carefully. We recommend indoor homes only. Taking two kittens together is ideal. In some cases, a one cat household is not the best situation for the cat. They usually do better with a companion. Taking two kittens also allows for well-adjusted and happy kittens, as they can be friends and playmates for life. It is extremely difficult for kittens to be separated from their mothers and litter mates. We sometimes forget, they are families.

Mutually agreed to arrangements are an essential part of any adoption, prior to placing the kittens in their new homes. See our Adoption Agreement on Pages 219-220. We recommend that all provisions in our Adoption Agreement be carried out before placing kittens in adoptive homes. If you have no experience in placing kittens, contact adoption organizations and kitten rescue groups in your area. It is essential that you be properly informed before allowing any kitten into an unknown environment. We recommend home delivery as he only way to assess that they are in a safe and loving home. For additional information regarding care and feeding of kittens under 5 weeks of age, please see the web sites of www.feralcat.com/raising.html and www.hdw-inc.com/tinykitten.htm.

How to Kitten Proof Your Home

Kittens and puppies are naturally inquisitive, which can often lead to serious injury.  Here are some tips on how you can make your house safer for the new arrival.

Shocking-Young animals love to chew when they are teething.  Keep electrical wires out of reach, securely covered or sprayed with pet-repellent spray.

They’d die for some chocolate…Chocolate can be dangerous.  It contains theobromine, a powerful stimulant that is toxic to pets.  Sweets, cakes and cookies can also upset a young animal’s GI tract and lead to diarrhea and vomiting, which can be serious.  Never give turkey, chicken or rib bones as a treat.  They can splinter and cause serious injury.

Common household killers…Cleaning agents, bleach, ammonia, disinfectants, drain cleaner, oven cleaner, paint, gasoline and rat poison.   Keep them locked up. CHECK THE ANTIFREEZE…Pets are attracted to the odor and sweet taste of antifreeze.  Store it high and tightly sealed, wiping up any spills on the garage floor.  Window-washing solution also contains antifreeze.  Remember, engine warmth promotes cat naps, so HONK YOUR HORN to wake pets who may be under the hood.

Killer house plants… Poisonous plants include lilies, philodendron, dieffenbachia, elephant ear, eucalyptus, spider plants, azalea, ivy, amaryllis, pyracantha, oleander, boxwood, Jerusalem Cherry and plant bulbs, holly and mistletoe. Keep off the grass…If you treat your lawn with chemicals, keep pets away.  Read and follow label directions carefully. It fit yesterday…Kittens and puppies grow rapidly.  Collars and harnesses can be rapidly  outgrown, leading to serious wounds.

Take care of personal care items and medications…Cosmetics, shampoos, skin creams, hair-perm solutions, depilatories, suntan lotions, sleeping pills, antihistamines, aspirin and acetaminophen can be lethal to pets. Don’t leave plastic bags out.  Inquisitive young animals, especially kittens can suffocate in a short time.

The heat is on. Watch out for hot irons, coffeepots and space heaters. Kittens and puppies may jump to new heights.  Use a fireplace screen. Keep covers on toilet seats, hot tubs & swimming pools.  Kittens and even young puppies can fall in and not be able to get out. RULE OF THUMB…If any or all of something will fit in a mouth, it is dangerous: Watch out for cigarette butts, rubber bands, balloons, sewing needles, thread, string, ribbons and yes even pantyhose.  What goes in must come out, often via surgery.

WATCH ALL DOORS THAT OPEN TO OUTSIDE.  USE NEWSPAPER OR TOWEL AS YOU ENTER AND LEAVE TO DISCOURAGE THEM FROM DARTING OUT. TELL YOUR FRIENDS AND RELATIVES TO WATCH OUT FOR KITTENS AS THEY ENTER AND LEAVE YOUR HOME.

Ten Proven Successful Steps for Introducing a New Cat or Kitten to Your Household

1. Prepare a safe room for the new arrival where they will stay for a minimum of 10 days before being introduced into their new home and family. Put a litter box, food and water and make a cozy, warm bed for them to sleep in. Toys are always good. If possible, bring bedding with their smells they have accumulated from their previous location. This will make them feel safer and also help with cross scenting for a better introduction to the other cats. A floor scratcher or scratching post is A MUST and a window for sunshine (be sure all screens are secure). .

2. Visit as much as possible every day. Groom and pet them often. Then pet the cats that you would like to introduce to your newcomer. Cross scenting is an invaluable way of helping the cats get acquainted. They will get to know each other through the door by putting their paws underneath and doing things that cats do to become acquainted. With the door closed no one feels threatened.

3. Exchange food bowls and water dishes. Give the same amount of attention to the cats in the household that you give to the newcomer. Everyone should feel loved and secure with a stranger in their midst. We also rub our hands in some tasty dry food and then rub the smells on the cats. Having good quality and delicious food will also help with the transition. Offer everyone the same food!

4. If you have a screen or some type of transparent barrier you can put up temporarily at the door, this will definitely help. Then you can open the door and they can also see one another. If this is done several times a day, it can be a good way to introduce newcomers. However, this should only be done under supervision. Having a large dog crate in the room with the other cats gives them good way to interact. Cats like to make eye contact and do body language. The crate should be covered on three sides and the top and either a carrier or cardboard box inside for hiding if necessary along with food, toys and other goodies. If you are taming a feral cat or an older kitten, the length of time in the crate will need to be increased, after which you need to make the determination as to how frightened the cat remains and if when letting out, it will bolt and hide. This may happen, but it does not necessarily mean the cat will not adjust. Give a feral cat time and under most circumstances they will become very loving and grateful friends.

We also use two story playpens that can be ordered online. Covered except for the front at first, it gives everyone a chance to smell and see each other. We teach this introduction in our Community Cat Workshops and have a demonstration.

5. When you are ready to let your new cat/kitten into the household to interact with the other cats (you must be present), the best time is after everyone has eaten and preferably when they would normally take their naps. They will be more relaxed. Follow the cats and watch over them carefully for the first 24-48 hours. Keep all of the newcomer’s things in their room until the transition is complete, as you may need to put them back into the room (or crate) at night. It will also be their familiar safe haven. Go at a slow at a comfortable pace. There is no hurry, as this is a permanent home for the newcomer and he or she will be there for their lifetime.

6. GOING THROUGH ALL OF THE PROCESSES SLOWLY AND WITH EASE WILL PAY OFF IN THE LONG RUN WITH A HAPPY AND WELL-ADJUSTED HOUSEHOLD. NEVER BRING A NEW CAT OR KITTEN INTO A HOUSEHOLD AND LET THEM LOOSE WHEN THEY ARRIVE. This type of introduction will not be successful and the cat and/or kitten will probably find a hiding place and be difficult to remove. Cats are creatures of familiarity. INTRODUCTION MUST BE SLOW AND EASY.

7. CATS ARE VERY SENSITIVE TO CHANGE AND NEED TO BE FAMILIAR WITH THE HOUSE, ITS SMELLS, WHERE THE LITTER BOX IS, WHERE THE FOOD IS AND MOST OF ALL THE OTHER ANIMALS AND PEOPLE IN THE HOUSEHOLD UNTIL THEY FEEL COMFORTABLE.

8. At first when they are out in the household WITH THE OTHER CATS, there may some hissing or growling or running and hiding from one another. It is their way of communicating a complicated language that we do not understand. It has been our personal experience that if the introduction is done properly, you will have wonderful satisfying results and the cats will live together in harmony. OF COURSE ALL OF THE CATS IN THE HOUSEHOLD MUST BE SPAYED OR NEUTERED.

9. Do not reprimand them if the situation becomes tense. Pick up one of the cats and remove them from the area and place in a less confined space, but do not place the newcomer back behind a closed door, once you have taken the food, litter box and their bed out. It will appear that they are being punished. A good way to relieve tension is with an interactive toy OR SOMETHING TO DISTRACT.

10. Food is always a good tension breaker. Keep something everyone likes a lot and this can have a calming effect. There are also Bach Flower Remedies like Rescue Remedy, which we use in many circumstances, from rescuing to helping in stressful situations.

ONE LAST PRECAUTION: SINCE THE CAT OR KITTEN WILL BE INDOORS ONLY – WATCH THE DOORS TO THE OUTSIDE. IF A CAT OR KITTEN ESCAPES INTO A NEW AND THREATENING TERRITORY, YOU MAY NEVER SEE THEM AGAIN AS THEY WILL BOLT AND HIDE OR WORSE! If your have an adventurous cat, keep a spray bottle with water by the door and use it when leaving and entering to discourage them. If they escape, take immediate steps to get them back!

Video Instruction

Shelter Type A

Shelter Type B

Shelter Type C

Love'n Feral Cats and Kittens!

BUILDING A FEEDING STATION

Please Note:

Regarding Shelters: No HAY needed in LA. For warmth we recommend reflector material and fleece bedding (a flea deterrent). For more information select “Managed Care” from the menu on the left.

Instructions for Feeding Feral Cats

  1. Feeding stations should be kept out of sight. This is to protect the food from being contaminated or destroyed. Fresh water should be available and kept clean. Keep feeding stations out of sight, even if you are feeding in your own backyard. Only those persons feeding should know the exact location. Your neighbors may not be as friendly towards the feral cats as you are. A front porch or the curb in a parking lot is not advisable. Improper feeding will put your cats in jeopardy. Respect for your neighbors and for the cats will have good results for the cats and their right to remain and be cared for. Think invisible!
  2. Dry food should be in feeding containers and covered to keep it dry and out of the elements. This can require innovative customized special feeding stations, unless you are feeding at your home, a garage, carport or other sheltered areas. Food bowls or containers set in a solution of soapy water in a larger plate or container are good for ant control. Diatomaceous Earth is also an excellent ant deterrent. To order ORGANIC Diatomaceous Earth call 1-800-835-0123. Having dry food available will keep the cats close to their territory. The cats will not roam to beg and search for food in unsafe places if they have a permanent available food supply. Not all cats will show up for a scheduled feeding. Be sure there is enough food for everyone. When feeding wet food use the same instructions.

    It is counterproductive to put wet food down and then take it up in 15-30 minutes, as has been suggested. Not all cats show up within that time period and you are just wasting your time, effort and the food. Use your common sense when feeding cats and change schedules when required. Your object is to not only feed, but be aware of newcomers so they can be evaluated and necessary steps taken. Kittens may also show up and need to be rescued along with Mom.
  3. Have a regular feeding schedule. If you are using dry feeders, they should be refilled, kept clean from debris and dirt. Food plates or bowls should be black or dark brown and concealed or picked up the following day to avoid exposing the feeding location and possible complaints from neighbors. If you feed at night, then the following morning would be the best time to pick up left over food and the feeding containers. Any obvious neglect could impact the ferals. NEVER USE WHITE PLATES PAPER OR FEED OUT OF CANS. This will create an unsightly mess and will draw attention to the feeding area. The more discreet you are in caretaking, the better for all concerned. DO NOT be complacent when it comes to feeding. Many feral cats or kittens end up being euthanized in shelters or poisoned because of neglect in feeding and uncleanliness at their home site.
  4. Chose the best time to feed wet food. If the weather is hot, late in the evening would be preferable, as the food will not be exposed to the heat during the day.
  5. Be observant of those who show up for feeding. Make sure everyone’s ear is tipped. Check for injuries, appearance of illness, pregnant females, lactating females, kittens or any other unusual situations that might require trapping or vet care.
  6. Do not discuss the cats with strangers or offer information as to their numbers or where they are located. Be friendly, and offer them the For Interested Person Document, a flyer or other information that is professional and offers you authority. If you are a graduate from our workshops, you have this information. You do not need to identify yourself to anyone you do not trust. If you have any problems, contact your local rescue organizations for assistance. Best to have a feeding partner and keep flyers and documents in the car for easy access. I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep printed For Interested Persons Document in the car has helped.

    Our consulting line is available on our website at feralcatcaretakers.org or call (210)820-4122.
  7. Take special care that the feeding area is kept clean from debris or cat feces. More cats have lost their lives in shelters because of FECES. It is offensive and shows disrespect for the public and neighbors. Pay close attention to walkways, in front of entrances and so on. Keep a spray bottle with full strength white vinegar and spray all areas after pick up. No one wants to smell or step into feces and when there is no oversight, this can become a serious problem.
  8. Arrange for someone to feed if you are going on vacation or are ill. A back up is always necessary as circumstances can change drastically in 24 hours. Do not let more than one-day go by without someone monitoring the cats and feeding arrangements. We have an unspoken covenant with the feral cats and kittens to honor and care for them and to do all possible to see they are never abused or needlessly destroyed. Our quality of commitment will impact their lives and determine their right to be equally treated. Every choice we make should be with this in mind. They have much to teach us about ourselves. Never become complacent or let down your guard.
We have an unspoken covenant with the feral cats and kittens to honor and care for them and to do all possible to see they are never abused or needlessly destroyed. Our quality of commitment will impact their lives and determine their right to be equally treated. Every choice we make should be with this in mind. They have much to teach us about ourselves. Never become complacent or let down your guard!

Feeding Stations

If you are feeding feral cats away from your home, feeding stations will be necessary to insure that all of the cats are being fed, not just those that show up when the caretaker arrives. It is important to insure that the cats have plenty of nourishment and this can be accomplished with wildlife in mind, if it is an issue.

Feeding stations should be out of sight and protected from the elements. Use the same criteria as the shelters for keeping the stations out of public view. Plastic storage containers with awnings are good protection for the feeders and water containers. There are dozens of way to set up feeding stations to accommodate the feeders and water containers. Create a feeding station large enough for at least one cat to go completely in and eat without getting wet. Cleanliness is essential in all areas. Refer to Feeding Instructions for Feral Cats.

Shelters and Feeding Stations for Feral Cats

SHELTER: Shelter is essential for all cats living out of doors. Providing shelter can be challenging as well as deeply rewarding. Other than a warm and dry place to sleep at night, it can also provide a safe place away from predators and hostile situations. They also offer a safe place for birthing and kittens are much easier to domesticate and locate when born in a safe shelter. After the requirements for feeding and feeding stations are in place, shelter is the next greatest concern. Talk with other caretakers and exchange information on creative ways to shelter and feed. Look around the area for structures that are safe and can be used for shelter. Be innovative and diligent.

DISCUSSION: All shelters and feeding stations should be out of sight, no matter how friendly the area may appear. The general rule is to camouflage and/or conceal everything and place all outdoor shelters and feeding stations out of sight, with only the persons who are feeding and caretaking aware of their locations. This can include your backyard. Complaints from an unfriendly neighbor could jeopardize your humane efforts on behalf of the stray cats residing there. Neighbors move and people change!

SHELTER AREA: Assessment of safe shelter location should be made in any area where feral or stray cats are being cared for. Shelters should be warm, waterproof and sturdy enough to withstand the elements. Although, we tend to think of shelter as being important only in the winter, it is equally important year around to the cats. On the warmest days, we see the cats in their shelters sleeping.

EXAMPLES OF EXISTING SHELTER: Carports, backyards, gazebos, garages, warehouses, basements with access, barns, storage rooms, tool sheds, laundry rooms, out-buildings, under houses, porches or other structures, abandoned buildings, abandoned houses and many others. Creative comfortable and warm shelter can be created in these areas (if safe), by placing smaller shelter or sleeping areas within the larger structures.

SHELTERS UNDER HOUSES OR OTHER STRUCTURES: If the shelter is under a house or other similar structure, be sure to reduce the opening to about 6 x 6 inches with the ability to make it larger for insertion and removal of shelter and sleeping areas. Place pieces of wood, linoleum or anything with a firm surface and easy to keep clean inside the structure and on the ground outside if there are dirt areas outside of the opening. Then, put the sleeping or shelter into the area, such as cardboard boxes, or cardboard boxes within the cardboard boxes, plastic storage bins, old drawers or plastic drawers (storage type) or any other materials that will provide warmth and comfort – on top of the surface you have provided inside. There are also areas under houses where hot water pipes are located that could provide warmth in the winter. With imagination and innovation, safe and dry shelter can be safely installed. The general rule is to provide shelter within the shelter if the existing areas are large. If you can block off the areas that are not used for shelter, this would discourage the cats from using the dirt as a litter box is this could be a problem. Putting a litter box inside where the space is large enough is also helpful.

PROVIDING OUTSIDE SHELTER: If you are providing shelter for your feral cats on your property it will probably much safer for the cats. The basics for warmth and protection from the elements with food protected and fresh water is equally important. All cats, living out of doors need a safe place to eat, sleep and rest. All outside shelter must be off the ground to keep the inside dry. Bricks, cement blocks, wooden boards, trellis, or any materials that will raise it up off of the ground can be used. If you are putting shelter on uneven ground, in bushes or other discrete areas, leveling of the surface will be necessary. If you are creating shelter in an existing space that is high off the ground, be sure the cats will be able to easily jump into the opening.

Building a  Type “A” Shelter

Building a  Type “B” Shelter

Building a  Type “C” Shelter

The following are instructions and helpful information for constructing outside shelters in a limited amount of space, available under and around bushes or other areas: Begin by measuring the area where the shelter is to be installed. After you have measured the area where the shelter will be installed, this will determine how large a storage container you will need. Cut the existing branches, so the shelter can be placed far back under the foliage. Do not cut too much until you are actually ready to install the shelter, as the brush can serve as support and concealment. If the shelter cannot be completely concealed, use plastic similar foliage, fastened to the shelters and existing bushes to blend into the surrounding landscape. There are various types of materials that can be found at the Arm-Navy Surplus stores that work well. We have planted sturdy plants by shelter areas for concealment and to make the access more difficult for dogs and people. If shelters are being placed in areas without foliage, blend them into the surrounding landscape. For example, a woodpile or wooden palates, use extra wood and existing things that are present to hide the shelter area. Ask yourself, does it blend into the area? If it does, a job well done!

SHELTER FOR TWO or MORE, USING LID AS ROOF: Purchase large heavy-duty plastic storage containers, such as Rubber Maid, with lids. Use a 30-40 gallon or larger, depending upon where they will be installed. Sit them upright with the lid as the roof. We recommend that you sit the storage container upright and use the lid for the roof. A hole must be cut in the container, 6 x 6 inches, up 5 inches from the bottom, cutting near the corner of the bin lengthwise and 5 inches from the end. Do not cut the hole in the center, as it will be drafty and more exposed. This is very important, as it will keep the shelter dry. If you are placing the shelter far back in the bushes or in a concealed place and have room for more than one, they can be positioned for better protection and escape by having them face one another or on an angle facing a dense thick growth, etc. We have created tunnels for escape and used other materials to create barriers that blend into the area. THIS CAN ALSO BE USED AS A FEEDING STATION.

When using large plastic containers with one hole cut on the facing side, lengthwise, or the end, an awning must be made. A heavy awning covering the opening and extending beyond the width of the shelter, gives an added amount of protection and is an essential part of shelter building, even if wood is used. If there is a need for an additional escape hole, do not cut holes directly across from each other, as it creates a draft. Additional awning will be required to cover the additional hole. All awnings must reach to the ground and past about 10-12 inches at least. A brick will be put at the bottom of the awning in the front on the surface to hold it down and keep from blowing. The awnings make the cats feel safe as they can exit the opening and run in either direction behind the safety of the awning. I have observed cats staying in their shelters with gardeners working all around them. The small opening of 6 x 6 inches does not allow for large predators. As a rule, create an awning in front of any type of shelter that sits on the ground. Awnings can be made of heavy duty (4 mm.) black plastic rolls, rolls of Lucite, plastic sheets, heavy-duty garbage bags or many other suitable materials, as long as they blend into the environment. 

To create an awning, measure from the back at ground level, across the top and down the front of the container or other type of shelter, to ground level, adding an additional 10-12 inches in length beyond ground level in the front. Measure an additional 10-12 inches on either side of the opening for width to keep the wind and rain from blowing in the sides (which will be folded to create a smaller opening) and duct taped like a cup. Cut and fold the awning material according to the measurements. You will have a sturdy large piece of awning material duct taped and ready to install. The measurements of the awning will start from the back of the shelter, across the top, down the front, extending out 10-12 inches on either side and extending 10-12 inches in front past ground level. The sides of the container should be covered with lighter plastic garbage bags, etc. If the shelters are small, any good insulation can be installed on the outside, leaving room for fleece or bedding.

For good insulation and warmth, rolls of thick silver reflector material can be cut to fit the bottom of the shelters and will reflect the cat’s warmth back into the bedding. The material can also be used as inside insulation if the weather is very cold.

Awnings create insulation and protection and keep the rain and wind from entering the shelter. The longer length in front of the opening will help keep the flap from blowing (a brick can be placed on the flap if very windy to provide additional safety). After the measurements have been completed, the awning is then sealed with black duct tape over the folds and along the bottom to be sure no leakage of water can enter. The awning will be a rectangular piece of heavy duty black plastic or other similar material, sealed with black duct tape and ready to be attached to the bin with duct tape. Before attaching, you have the option of placing the awning under the lid and snapping it down tight or attaching it on the outside of the complete shelter. With this method, you can snap the cover (roof) off and on for easier cleaning or replacement. Tucking the sides of the awning in cup shaped and duct taped will be warmer and safer. Always use dark materials that are less noticable and camouflage when necessary. Black or dark brown spray paint can be used on the container if indicated rather than covering the sides with plastic.

Install the shelter off the ground on bricks, trellis, cement blocks, wood, or anything that will provide a sturdy platform a off the ground. Make sure the shelter is steady and up against something firm. If this cannot be done put cement blocks on the top and sides to secure it in place.

Measure and cut carpeting for the bed inside. Place the reflector material, cut to size, on top of the carpet or other material placed on the bottom the shelter. Several layers of fleece on top for the winter and towels in the summer. Towels hold dampness, so should not be used in the winter and wet months, but they are easy to launder and good for the summer. Fleece has been the best and warmest material for the beds. It dries very fast and does not hold moisture. If there are several layers, the cats can scoop them up into a warm and cozy bed.

SHELTER FOR TWO OR MORE WITH STORAGE CONTAINER PLACED ON THE SIDE: Use 25-45 gallon Rubbermaid plastic storage container is placed on its side, with the opening facing you. The lid will not be used for this shelter. Purchase a storage drawer, the type used to store bedding under the bed, about 4-6 inches in height that will perfectly fit into the opening of the storage container when placed on its side. You now have a large plastic storage container and a drawer 4-6 inches in height sliding completely into the opening. In the 40-gallon container, there is enough room for 3-4 cats in the drawer cuddled up.

Make a plastic shade and duct tape it to the front of the opening, just to the bottom of the drawer. Measure the shade in about one-inch to allow adequate opening on either side for the cats can get in and out easily. This will give the shelter a safer and warmer opening before you install the larger and heavier awning. Begin making the larger awning, as with the previous shelter. The awning being 10-12 inches longer can also be draped close against the opening with a brick holding it in place. Make sure the cats can enter and exit rapidly and there are no tight areas on either side. Because of the larger opening with the container on its side, the inside plastic shade is important to be in place and hanging in front of the opening before the large awning is installed, up off the ground.

Putting wood, cement blocks or other materials on the ground in front of the opening to keep the bedding drier and cleaner, providing a threshold that will cover the mud and puddles of water. There are many innovative ways to provide shelter that is safe, warm and dry. Plan ahead carefully. After the shelter is ready, put a little catnip or special treats inside to lure them in. If you are so inclined, a prayer for the beloved occupants could be said.

Experience has taught us that no matter how friendly the area may appear, if you are providing shelter away from your home, concealment is absolutely necessary. Circumstances change and people change. Occupants of apartments and homes change ownership and occupancy. There can be construction and other circumstances that change the environment – so daily visits to the home site is essential.

Materials That Can Be Used for Sheltering

Plastic storage containers (Rubbermaid type 25 gal) with snap on lids
Plastic storage drawers 4-6 inches in height
Foam insulated boxes (need to be weighed down)
Reflective insulation material for warmth
Wooden boxes, milk crates, discarded materials for innovative construction
Plexiglas can be cut to size and rectangular or tent-like shelter can be made with wooden flooring from wooden palates.
Dog igloos
Covered litter boxes. Reduce the size of the hole and cover in black plastic and make awning.
Discarded or purchased shelter-type materials
Dumpsters in certain locations are an excellent source for shelter materials
Lucite sheets or rolls for covering large areas for waterproofing and awnings
Small nails, staples and gun
Lots of black duct tape
Black and Silver Tarps, Heavy duty plastic material in rolls or garbage bags
Reflector material or linoleum are good insulation for the bottom of the beds
Fleece bedding for the winter and light weight materials the summer

In colder climates, additional insulation will be required.

Feral cats and kittens have a right to life and a right to be humanely cared for.

Dona Cosgrove Baker, Founder, Feral Cat Caretakers’ Coalition

Managed Care, Negotiating for and Relocating Feral Cats

Managed Care at Home Site Location

One of the most important factors in creating a safe and well-managed environment for feral cats is that everyone involved be knowledgeable about their care. There are numerous situations where the caretaker is not familiar with information essential to maintaining a safe home site for the ferals they are caring for. What usually begins with feeding a cat or two, can escalate into an explosion of cats and kittens over a short period of time.

Feral cat caretaking is a long-term commitment and it is necessary to understand how to do it successfully. There are circumstances where the caretaker, unknowingly, creates difficult situations that could have been prevented with the proper information and action. Every caretaker should be informed and educated as to the implementation of trap, neuter, vaccinate and return. This is to be carried out as an essential part of caretaking.

Feeding

Many complaints are directly related to feeding. Since feeding is one of the most important aspects of care, special detailed information as to how this can be accomplished successfully, is the first objective. Refer to Instructions for Feeding Feral Cats and Feeding Priorities under Challenging Circumstances. No matter how friendly the immediate area, feeding should be done with utmost discretion, even if you are feeding on your own property and it is completely safe and protected. Not all of your neighbors may be friendly to your endeavor. Permanent feeding stations should be protected from the elements, placed out of sight and, if necessary, camouflaged. Dry food and water containers can be covered with dark plastic material and duct tape or sprayed with an exterior brown, dark green or black paint. Be careful not to spray paint on the food and water surfaces. Four sided box type structures can be easily made to enclose a feeding station. Thick art foam board or any sturdy material that can be cut and put together with duct tape and glue and covered with heavy black plastic garbage bags or other dark plastic materials, with an opening to place food and water during the winter months, usually hold up well. This type of cover would need to be modified for areas with heavy rains and/or extremely cold weather.

If the cats are being fed on a daily basis, without the use of permanent feeding stations, do not draw unnecessary attention to where and when they are being fed. This is especially important in hostile territory. Do not use white paper plates. Do not leave plates with food unless they are out of sight and protected from the elements. Dark plastic plates or anything that blends into the surrounding environment, for all feeding is recommended. Feeding from cans and leaving empty cans and food containers will create an unsightly mess. You can be asking for trouble.

There are numerous innovative ways to safely feed without drawing unnecessary attention. Look around the area and locate the best place. Feeding under your vehicle or one safely parked, in the bushes, behind dumpsters, in small corners of buildings, abandoned areas and buildings, alleys with little or no traffic, behind structures, near fences, etc. You may need to move the feeding area to the near vicinity if it becomes unsafe. In most cases, having permanent feeding stations that are out of sight is safer for the cats. The cats do not need to come out when you arrive for food, if they feel it is unsafe. Dry food can be continually supplied with only the wet food when you arrive. I cannot stress enough that feeding stations that are in sight are, for the most part, unsafe for the cats. It is better to have a few small ones hidden, than have a large obtrusive one. People who do not like cats have open season with large, in view feeding stations. This type of feeding may be more convenient for the caretaker, but can put the cats in jeopardy.

Inexpensive plastic storage bins that have been painted or can be purchased in brown, green or black, and covered with black plastic material can be placed in discrete places out of sight. To make them more waterproof, flap-like awnings can be created from heavy plastic sheets or garbage bags and duct tape to further protect the food and provide camouflage. Refer to Sheltering and Feeding Stations.

It is important not to discuss with strangers, how many cats there are and where they are being fed. Keep your conversations confined to your circle of trusted friends. When you feed, if indicated, check the surroundings. Does it feel and look safe? If not, wait a while before you bring out the food.

If the feeding areas have not been properly maintained and this is the only complaint, follow the proper guidelines. Go out of your way to assure anyone complaining that you will make every effort to maintain a properly cared for area.

It only takes one complaint to jeopardize their chances to be fed and cared for. Your decisions and choices should be made with this in mind.

Food

We recommend, if possible, a good quality of dry and canned food be available for your feral cats and kittens. Inexpensive food will fill an empty belly, in the short term, but in the long term, you can have malnourished unhealthy cats and kittens, susceptible to disease and sickness. Feral cats, living out of doors are under considerable more stress than the cats living inside your home. They require extra nourishment to maintain a healthy immune system. Depending upon your financial resources, you may need to contact local pet stores and animal welfare organizations for food donations. Garage and bake sales, car washes and other ways of raising money can be helpful. If you know other people who are feeding or you have friends who could get together and form a group to help transport food and feed, this can relieve some of the burden. Do not hesitate to ask at the local markets, religious organizations and other places for donations for food. Use every resource you can think of for assistance. Initially, you may be the only person the feral cats and kittens have to care for them. It is a long- term commitment.

Cleanliness

Feral cats living in close proximity to private residences, public places, businesses and so on, roam around the immediate areas. They will also use these areas for their litter box needs. This can be another common complaint, and reinforce the “myth” that “cats are dirty and unhealthy” to have around. Persons will not take kindly to picking up noticeable and odorous cat litter from their area. Just as there are dog scoopers and bags for deposits, the caretaker may need to keep an area cat feces clean. Many caretakers use litter boxes in areas where cat feces is a problem. If the boxes are outside a structure, they will need to be covered. Keeping them clean will also be one of the responsibilities of feral cat caretaking. If males are spraying on cars and other public places, a spray bottle with deodorizer will be required to alleviate the problem. We have also recommended car covers for unwanted paw prints. Take a walk around the area and see if anything needs your attention. Usually, once the males are neutered, the spraying is reduced or stops. Cleanliness and neatness will prevent a lot of problems from arising.

Feral cat caretaking is labor intensive and requires commitment and responsible choices, but in the long run, the rewards far outweigh the time and effort. You can close your eyes at night knowing that you have made a very important and compassionate contribution to the “homeless ones”, and to the community they live in. There may be times when you may question this, but rest assured, your contribution is priceless.

Nothing is more time consuming and stressful for a caretaker than being confronted with a situation where the cats “must be gotten rid of” because of complaints that might have been avoided.

Negotiating For Their Right To Stay And Be Cared For

Unfortunately, there are many circumstances when the caretaker is confronted with a hostile situation and negotiations for the feral cats right to stay and be cared for at their home site becomes an urgent priority. In addition, their very lives may be in jeopardy. If the caretaker, or person who has taken the responsibility of caring for the cats, does not have the necessary skills or is too emotionally involved to negotiate, a friend, relative or experienced person connected with an animal welfare organization will be required. There are instances when the situation is so emotionally charged, that face to face communication is not possible for the caretaker. Someone who can present a rational and informed presentation is essential. At the start of official negotiations, come prepared with all of the documents and information that is available and be well versed in any questions that may be asked. Negotiations go smoother when all parties are well informed about the situation and what needs to be done to resolve the problem. Do your homework. A calm and understanding manner will go a long way in negotiating.

What are the issues confronting you and what do you need to resolve the situation?

Distribution of For All Interested and Concerned Parties is a good place to start. I have found that the more printed materials you have that are educational, the better your chances are to shift from emotional and aggressive stance to a more linear approach. Arrange everything in a colored folder with your card as if you were giving the most important presentation in your life. All printed materials should be professional and neat. I have used this method under extreme conditions in board meetings and meetings in alleys. Bring plenty of portfolios for everyone. No one should go away empty handed.

Some of the issues confronting you can range from the cats not being spayed or neutered, thereby creating nuisance situations with mating, spraying and yowling and other disturbing behavior. If the cats have not been spayed or neutered, Refer to Instructions for Humane Trapping of Feral or Rescued Cats and Kittens. This document should also be included in the informational document, for negotiating. Other issues can include sick kittens, nursing mothers, paw prints on cars, cats using open public or private areas as litter boxes or persons who just “want to get rid of them”. It can be the absence, death or illness of a caretaker. Every situation is unique and there are countless circumstances that can warrant negotiations and action of some nature. Some will require a simple and straightforward resolution, while others will be more complicated. However, each one will need to be carefully evaluated and acted upon according to the circumstances.

Keep a record of the complaint and complaining person or persons, with names and phone numbers. Be very professional and official in your demeanor. After you have gathered the pros and cons of the situation, you need to decide what action to take. Go over each complaint and determine what needs to be done to remedy the situation. Identify those persons who are cat friendly and form a group of volunteers and advocates from them. If there are no cat friendly persons, then you will need to negotiate with whomever is complaining. The For All Interested and Concerned Parties document includes statistics for the Los Angeles area, but is also applicable in content to areas throughout the United States.

Having pertinent educational materials, professionally presented, is essential. Situations that seemed hopeless have turned around, with the cats being cared for safely at their original home site.

Moving Feeding Stations To Nearby Site – Trapping not required

If negotiations fail for the cats to remain at their home site or the area is being demolished, under construction or there are other hazards present, moving the feeding stations and shelters to a nearby location could be a viable option. In many cases, the relocation off the property in question or on the same property to a safer location may be all that is required. Canvas the area and use your common sense. Talk with persons in the adjacent and surrounding areas as to the possibility of locating permanent feeding stations and sheltering. 

Once again, leave For all Interested and Concerned Parties document and educational materials with your name and phone number or create your own document or flyer for a particular situation. If indicated, talk to managers, tenants, neighbors, homeowners and businesses in the area, but stay within a reasonable radius. In cases where the area is industrial or commercial, private homes or small businesses adjacent to the larger areas can be good places for permanent relocation. Be creative. Talk to other caretakers, your local pet rescue organizations, get advice and assistance. Try not to be intimidated. Be friendly, informative and persevere. More importantly, no matter how the circumstances present or how bleak they may look, always personally question everyone and make your own contacts and come to your own conclusions after the situation has been thoroughly assessed. We have had people tell us the situation was hopeless, no one would ever cooperate and so on. The results were just the opposite once we began personally talking to people in the area and presenting our case. Best to negotiate with persons who have the authority to make decisions.

Example: Over the past several years, we had been successfully feeding and caretaking a colony of 23 cats at an industrial location with businesses, offices, warehouses and garden areas. The cat were residing in the area where the offices were located where shelter was available and the caretaker who worked in one of the offices was feeding and managing. Everyone was spayed and neutered and no kittens had been born for many years. Management did not approve of the cats but we won the battle. Everything was good until the person caretaking left her employment. Within a few days we were issued an edict that all the cats had to be off the property within 30 days or they would be trapped and taken to the shelter. All feeding stations at the area were destroyed as well as anything the cats had been using.
We began negotiations with the businesses on the property and found the perfect location about ¾ of a block away on the same property (12 acres). Agreements were drawn up and we began the process.

We began to feed the cats about 50 feet from the original site. After a few days at this area, we moved another 20-30 feet and so on. In the meantime, we constructed five shelters (see our video on sheltering) and installed them at the
new site. Put treats inside. We also set up their permanent feeding stations discretely located and safe. Put some dry food in and sprinkled some treats around the area.

We continued to feed them a tasty wet food and about half way, most of the cats had found the new feeding and shelter and were not showing up at our feeding trail of 50 feet. We accomplished this in about three weeks. They never went back to the old location. You can be creative and do variations on this relocation. We do not advise crossing streets unless absolutely necessary. If doing a relocation along an alley to a destination, do the same process with homeowners.

Creating shelters from permanent structures at the site. We have placed heavy duty black plastic and waterproof tarps over wooden palates that were stacked up permanently and then slid cut up pieces of cardboard in between the openings on the bottom. The cats were already hiding in the wooden palates for shelter and this just made it waterproof and warmer. Everything was easily replaced. Refer to our Sheltering and Feeding Stations. No HAY needed in LA. For warmth we recommend reflector material and fleece bedding (a flea deterrent). 

This method does not require trapping. Circumstances vary and the decision as to how this is coordinated into the move should be made by the caretaker and all persons involved in the welfare of the cats.

Agreements

Once any form of agreement has been negotiated, take the necessary steps to implement whatever has been agreed to. In some cases, a simply written agreement is appropriate or in other instances a more comprehensive one may be required. A written agreement can be a valuable reference when negotiating as an example of success and trustworthiness. It can also act to absolve the caretakers of any liability while caretaking. It outlines specifically what is being done and by whom and is a good accumulative resource record. Refer to Agreements.

Relocation To Areas When Trapping Is Required

If there are no other options and the cats must be removed from their present location, your only alternative will be to trap and relocate to a pre-negotiated and safe place. Trapping and relocation can be as close as a mile away to a residential area in backyards, to farms, horse ranches or any rural area or city area that is safe and a permanent caretaker and shelter is available. There are stringent guidelines for relocating feral cats.

There are numerous ways to make contact with persons who will accept feral cats for relocation. You can advertise in the local and rural newspapers, write letters to farms, horse ranches and other suitable areas. Put up flyers in pet stores, veterinary offices, markets and any place where the public can see the notice. Contact your local humane societies, rescue groups and other animal welfare agencies for contacts and information. Talk to all of your friends who may have backyards or know of a safe place to relocate.

Since feral cats form colonies (families) that are very close, a lot will depend upon how many will need to be relocated. It is always better to relocate at least 2 together from a colony, if not more, depending upon how much space is available. Relocation is worrisome and stressful for all concerned and should only be considered if all else fails.

If the cats have not been spayed or neutered, this will need to be done prior to relocation. Refer to Instructions for Humane Trapping of Feral or Rescued Cats and Kittens.

After you have made contact with a prospective relocation area, you will need to go there and negotiate an agreement as to where and how the cats will be cared for. Inquiries as to what dangers there are at the location, such as coyotes and other predators is important. Relocation to places where the cats will be preyed upon is not acceptable.

Guidelines

During the journey to their new home, make the trip as stress free as possible. Do not play loud music or create a lot of noise while traveling with the cats. Be sure there is enough ventilation in their carriers, crates or whatever enclosure you have them in for the trip. Under no circumstances put a cat in the trunk or open bed of a truck. They must be protected from any condition that will create stress. Depending upon the length of their journey, be sure they are provided with water and food, even though they may not partake. Make them as comfortable as possible and keep them covered appropriately to lessen their fear of being enclosed and in a strange environment. Check on them frequently to be sure they are not suffering from car sickness or hyperventilating. Cats do not adjust easily to change and this change is a very serious one for them to adjust to. If they have recently had surgery, make sure they have recovered sufficiently for the journey. They are being taken to an entirely strange and frightening place where there are no familiar smells or landmarks to boundary their territory. They will be enclosed for 4 weeks or more in a strange place that is totally different from what they have experienced. Every effort should be made to make their journey and confinement experience as calm and protective as possible.

Their new home must be adequately prepared before their arrival. The four week confinement should be in a safe, enclosed, water proof and escape proof dwelling, on the premises. It can be a guestroom, laundry room, garage, barn, out-buildings, storage areas, spare rooms or any place with light and good ventilation. Keep in mind that the place where the cats will be confined should also be their safe haven when released. They will need to have access to and from this location. Litter boxes will be required. Create safe places for them. If in a small room, place bedding and boxes for them to hid and sleep in. Cardboard boxes or carriers with blankets and bedding make good hiding places and are warm for sleeping. They can also be covered with blankets or towels to make them more cozy and safer for hiding. If they are in a large area, put their boxes, carriers, litter box and food in a more confined space, rather than scattering it about. Keep everything away from the door and away from drafts during the winter. When entering and leaving the area, create a barrier in front of you and behind you, such as a piece of cardboard, towel, etc. Enter and leave carefully to see that no one escapes. Most of the time the cats will hide and stay as far away as possible, but there may be a brave one who will try to escape. It is best to do the feeding and cleaning during the daylight hours.

A trap should be available at the relocation home along with trapping instructions.

If a cat escapes out of the room, create a safe and dry shelter with special wet food and water next to the place where it escaped from. Put as many things with their smells on it, perhaps the carrier or crate used during the trip. Re-trapping the cat should be attempted right away for the four- week period of confinement. We had one cat escape and as a result, the time of confinement for everyone was extended until the re-introduced cat had stayed the four weeks. However, no one seemed to mind, as it was safe, warm and cozy with big windows for sunning.

However, if there is no success in re-trapping, be sure that the above noted instructions for feeding and shelter are provided for the escapee. Also, be alert to sighting the cat as it may find a new place to hide. If you manage to locate the cat, provide food and shelter near the area where it is hiding, since the food and water is enclosed in the room with the other cats and there would be no access to it. Depending upon how long a time it has been since it escaped, you might also try setting the trap and if successful, return it to the new relocation holding room, with a little longer stay for those already there.

One relocation that we accomplished resulted in a little gray tabby (very) feral female named Gracie not wanting to leave her new found home (the bridle room for horses) where she had spent a few more than the usual required four weeks. The cat door was opened, then the big door, people came and went, horses walked by, no amount of coaxing with food or anything else could get Gracie to leave the bridle room. When all was quiet, she would sun herself by the big window and when people came, she would hide. But, she never left the bridle room. Finally, after three months, a big towel was wrapped around her and she was pushed and squeezed into a carrier and taken to a beautiful guesthouse furnished with priceless antiques. There were eight other special felines living in this luxurious (indoor only) guesthouse. Gracie has lived there for three years now and still no one can touch her. She sleeps on a very expensive antique bed and is quite content. However, the other cats at the relocation site, after their confinement period was up, flew out the door and have remained on the property in barns and in other safe dwellings. Not Gracie, she had her eyes on that guesthouse and lives there in absolute luxury and safety. We call the good lady at Christmas to thank her and hear all about Gracie.

Caretaking

A vital aspect of relocation is the new caretaker. The new caretaker or caretakers should be totally committed and responsible in assuring the feral cats will be taken care of with compassion, patience and understanding. The caretaker will be feeding and tending to the needs of the cats and it is important that they spend some time talking with them at least three times a day. They will soon become accustomed to the smells and voices associated with their food and new home and this will reassure them, even though they may never come out of hiding. The objective is to provide a safe and lifetime home for the feral cats who have been relocated. After they have been allowed out of their initial space following the four week period of confinement, it is essential that at least one, and if possible two small openings be available for them to enter and leave their original shelter area as they please. They will become frightened easily and will require easy access to the only safe place they know. They may find another safe shelter area, if there are several buildings on the property, such as barns, garages, etc., but it is best to let them decide.

Once released, the new caretakers should observe them as closely as possible, keep a daily head count and watch for any signs of problems. Plentiful wet food along with dry food on a daily basis is a necessity. The food should be of good quality and fresh water available at all times. If they are participating in rodent control, they will still require daily feeding with nourishing food. Contrary to popular opinion, cats cannot remain healthy on a diet of rodents. Many will not eat them unless near starvation.

Most ranches and farms have dogs living on the premises. It is important the dogs see the cats as residents and are not allowed to harm them once they are out of their shelter to roam around. Carefully evaluate any situation where dogs are present and the possibility of them harming the cats, before you decide on the relocation. It may be necessary to confine the dogs for a reasonable period of time, to allow the cats to become accustomed to their new surroundings, before being confronted with the dogs. Feral cats do not take kindly to dogs as they have been living out of doors in unsafe conditions, and are exposed to all types of dangers, including dogs that kill cats and kittens. It will be a big enough adjustment for them to familiarize themselves with their new home, without being chased or frightened unnecessarily, even if the dogs would never harm them. The cats do not know this. If there are gardeners working on the property, they should be informed about the use of harmful pesticides and discontinue use where the cats are residing. Persons on the premises need to be notified of the cats living there and every effort made to create a safe and compassionate environment.

The persons or organizations who brought the cats to their new home should be in contact with the new caretaker during the weeks while in confinement and then weekly following release, to be sure they are all accounted for and adjusting well. Continued contact is needed and during the years they live in their new home. Communication between all concerned parties is essential.

Moving Feeding Stations to Nearby Site – Trapping not required

If negotiations fail for the cats to remain at their home site or the area is being demolished, under construction or there are other hazards present, moving the feeding stations and shelters to a nearby location could be a viable option. In many cases, the relocation off the property in question or on the same property to a safer location may be all that is required. Canvas the area and use your common sense. Talk with persons in the adjacent and surrounding areas as to the possibility of locating permanent feeding stations and sheltering. 

Once again, leave For all Interested and Concerned Parties document and educational materials with your name and phone number or create your own document or flyer for a particular situation. If indicated, talk to managers, tenants, neighbors, homeowners and businesses in the area, but stay within a reasonable radius. In cases where the area is industrial or commercial, private homes or small businesses adjacent to the larger areas can be good places for permanent relocation. Be creative. Talk to other caretakers, your local pet rescue organizations, get advice and assistance. Try not to be intimidated. Be friendly, informative and persevere. More importantly, no matter how the circumstances present or how bleak they may look, always personally question everyone and make your own contacts and come to your own conclusions after the situation has been thoroughly assessed. We have had people tell us the situation was hopeless, no one would ever cooperate and so on. The results were just the opposite once we began personally talking to people in the area and presenting our case. Best to negotiate with persons who have the authority to make decisions.

Example: Over the past several years, we had been successfully feeding and caretaking a colony of 23 cats at an industrial location with businesses, offices, warehouses and garden areas. The cat were residing in the area where the offices were located where shelter was available and the caretaker who worked in one of the offices was feeding and managing. Everyone was spayed and neutered and no kittens had been born for many years. Management did not approve of the cats but we won the battle. Everything was good until the person caretaking left her employment. Within a few days we were issued an edict that all the cats had to be off the property within 30 days or they would be trapped and taken to the shelter. All feeding stations at the area were destroyed as well as anything the cats had been using.
We began negotiations with the businesses on the property and found the perfect location about ¾ of a block away on the same property (12 acres). Agreements were drawn up and we began the process.

We began to feed the cats about 50 feet from the original site. After a few days at this area, we moved another 20-30 feet and so on. In the meantime, we constructed five shelters (see our video on sheltering) and installed them at the
new site. Put treats inside. We also set up their permanent feeding stations discretely located and safe. Put some dry food in and sprinkled some treats around the area.

We continued to feed them a tasty wet food and about half way, most of the cats had found the new feeding and shelter and were not showing up at our feeding trail of 50 feet. We accomplished this in about three weeks. They never went back to the old location. You can be creative and do variations on this relocation. We do not advise crossing streets unless absolutely necessary. If doing a relocation along an alley to a destination, do the same process with homeowners.

Creating shelters from permanent structures at the site. We have placed heavy duty black plastic and waterproof tarps over wooden palates that were stacked up permanently and then slid cut up pieces of cardboard in between the openings on the bottom. The cats were already hiding in the wooden palates for shelter and this just made it waterproof and warmer. Everything was easily replaced. Refer to our Sheltering and Feeding Stations.NO HAY NEEDED IN LA!

This method does not require trapping. Circumstances vary and the decision as to how this is coordinated into the move should be made by the caretaker and all persons involved in the welfare of the cats.

Agreements

Once any form of agreement has been negotiated, take the necessary steps to implement whatever has been agreed to. In some cases, a simply written agreement is appropriate or in other instances a more comprehensive one may be required. A written agreement can be a valuable reference when negotiating as an example of success and trustworthiness. It can also act to absolve the caretakers of any liability while caretaking. It outlines specifically what is being done and by whom and is a good accumulative resource record. Refer to Agreements.

Relocation To Areas When Trapping Is Required

If there are no other options and the cats must be removed from their present location, your only alternative will be to trap and relocate to a pre-negotiated and safe place. Trapping and relocation can be as close as a mile away to a residential area in backyards, to farms, horse ranches or any rural area or city area that is safe and a permanent caretaker and shelter is available. There are stringent guidelines for relocating feral cats.

There are numerous ways to make contact with persons who will accept feral cats for relocation. You can advertise in the local and rural newspapers, write letters to farms, horse ranches and other suitable areas. Put up flyers in pet stores, veterinary offices, markets and any place where the public can see the notice. Contact your local humane societies, rescue groups and other animal welfare agencies for contacts and information. Talk to all of your friends who may have backyards or know of a safe place to relocate.

Since feral cats form colonies (families) that are very close, a lot will depend upon how many will need to be relocated. It is always better to relocate at least 2 together from a colony, if not more, depending upon how much space is available. Relocation is worrisome and stressful for all concerned and should only be considered if all else fails.

If the cats have not been spayed or neutered, this will need to be done prior to relocation. Refer to Instructions for Humane Trapping of Feral or Rescued Cats and Kittens.

After you have made contact with a prospective relocation area, you will need to go there and negotiate an agreement as to where and how the cats will be cared for. Inquiries as to what dangers there are at the location, such as coyotes and other predators is important. Relocation to places where the cats will be preyed upon is not acceptable.

Guidelines

During the journey to their new home, make the trip as stress free as possible. Do not play loud music or create a lot of noise while traveling with the cats. Be sure there is enough ventilation in their carriers, crates or whatever enclosure you have them in for the trip. Under no circumstances put a cat in the trunk or open bed of a truck. They must be protected from any condition that will create stress. Depending upon the length of their journey, be sure they are provided with water and food, even though they may not partake. Make them as comfortable as possible and keep them covered appropriately to lessen their fear of being enclosed and in a strange environment. Check on them frequently to be sure they are not suffering from car sickness or hyperventilating. Cats do not adjust easily to change and this change is a very serious one for them to adjust to. If they have recently had surgery, make sure they have recovered sufficiently for the journey. They are being taken to an entirely strange and frightening place where there are no familiar smells or landmarks to boundary their territory. They will be enclosed for 4 weeks or more in a strange place that is totally different from what they have experienced. Every effort should be made to make their journey and confinement experience as calm and protective as possible.

Their new home must be adequately prepared before their arrival. The four week confinement should be in a safe, enclosed, water proof and escape proof dwelling, on the premises. It can be a guestroom, laundry room, garage, barn, out-buildings, storage areas, spare rooms or any place with light and good ventilation. Keep in mind that the place where the cats will be confined should also be their safe haven when released. They will need to have access to and from this location. Litter boxes will be required. Create safe places for them. If in a small room, place bedding and boxes for them to hid and sleep in. Cardboard boxes or carriers with blankets and bedding make good hiding places and are warm for sleeping. They can also be covered with blankets or towels to make them more cozy and safer for hiding. If they are in a large area, put their boxes, carriers, litter box and food in a more confined space, rather than scattering it about. Keep everything away from the door and away from drafts during the winter. When entering and leaving the area, create a barrier in front of you and behind you, such as a piece of cardboard, towel, etc. Enter and leave carefully to see that no one escapes. Most of the time the cats will hide and stay as far away as possible, but there may be a brave one who will try to escape. It is best to do the feeding and cleaning during the daylight hours.

A trap should be available at the relocation home along with trapping instructions.

If a cat escapes out of the room, create a safe and dry shelter with special wet food and water next to the place where it escaped from. Put as many things with their smells on it, perhaps the carrier or crate used during the trip. Re-trapping the cat should be attempted right away for the four- week period of confinement. We had one cat escape and as a result, the time of confinement for everyone was extended until the re-introduced cat had stayed the four weeks. However, no one seemed to mind, as it was safe, warm and cozy with big windows for sunning.

However, if there is no success in re-trapping, be sure that the above noted instructions for feeding and shelter are provided for the escapee. Also, be alert to sighting the cat as it may find a new place to hide. If you manage to locate the cat, provide food and shelter near the area where it is hiding, since the food and water is enclosed in the room with the other cats and there would be no access to it. Depending upon how long a time it has been since it escaped, you might also try setting the trap and if successful, return it to the new relocation holding room, with a little longer stay for those already there.

One relocation that we accomplished resulted in a little gray tabby (very) feral female named Gracie not wanting to leave her new found home (the bridle room for horses) where she had spent a few more than the usual required four weeks. The cat door was opened, then the big door, people came and went, horses walked by, no amount of coaxing with food or anything else could get Gracie to leave the bridle room. When all was quiet, she would sun herself by the big window and when people came, she would hide. But, she never left the bridle room. Finally, after three months, a big towel was wrapped around her and she was pushed and squeezed into a carrier and taken to a beautiful guesthouse furnished with priceless antiques. There were eight other special felines living in this luxurious (indoor only) guesthouse. Gracie has lived there for three years now and still no one can touch her. She sleeps on a very expensive antique bed and is quite content. However, the other cats at the relocation site, after their confinement period was up, flew out the door and have remained on the property in barns and in other safe dwellings. Not Gracie, she had her eyes on that guesthouse and lives there in absolute luxury and safety. We call the good lady at Christmas to thank her and hear all about Gracie.

Caretaking

A vital aspect of relocation is the new caretaker. The new caretaker or caretakers should be totally committed and responsible in assuring the feral cats will be taken care of with compassion, patience and understanding. The caretaker will be feeding and tending to the needs of the cats and it is important that they spend some time talking with them at least three times a day. They will soon become accustomed to the smells and voices associated with their food and new home and this will reassure them, even though they may never come out of hiding. The objective is to provide a safe and lifetime home for the feral cats who have been relocated. After they have been allowed out of their initial space following the four week period of confinement, it is essential that at least one, and if possible two small openings be available for them to enter and leave their original shelter area as they please. They will become frightened easily and will require easy access to the only safe place they know. They may find another safe shelter area, if there are several buildings on the property, such as barns, garages, etc., but it is best to let them decide.

Once released, the new caretakers should observe them as closely as possible, keep a daily head count and watch for any signs of problems. Plentiful wet food along with dry food on a daily basis is a necessity. The food should be of good quality and fresh water available at all times. If they are participating in rodent control, they will still require daily feeding with nourishing food. Contrary to popular opinion, cats cannot remain healthy on a diet of rodents. Many will not eat them unless near starvation.

Most ranches and farms have dogs living on the premises. It is important the dogs see the cats as residents and are not allowed to harm them once they are out of their shelter to roam around. Carefully evaluate any situation where dogs are present and the possibility of them harming the cats, before you decide on the relocation. It may be necessary to confine the dogs for a reasonable period of time, to allow the cats to become accustomed to their new surroundings, before being confronted with the dogs. Feral cats do not take kindly to dogs as they have been living out of doors in unsafe conditions, and are exposed to all types of dangers, including dogs that kill cats and kittens. It will be a big enough adjustment for them to familiarize themselves with their new home, without being chased or frightened unnecessarily, even if the dogs would never harm them. The cats do not know this. If there are gardeners working on the property, they should be informed about the use of harmful pesticides and discontinue use where the cats are residing. Persons on the premises need to be notified of the cats living there and every effort made to create a safe and compassionate environment.

The persons or organizations who brought the cats to their new home should be in contact with the new caretaker during the weeks while in confinement and then weekly following release, to be sure they are all accounted for and adjusting well. Continued contact is needed and during the years they live in their new home. Communication between all concerned parties is essential.

How to Domesticate and Care for Feral or Rescued Kittens

To domesticate means “To adapt to life in intimate association with humans”
Feral and rescued kittens are the offspring of female feral cats or unaltered female domestic cats.

Since the kittens have not had an opportunity to bond with humans, they are often wary and mistrustful. Even at a very young age, their mothers have taught them ways to survive. Their instinct from being born in unprotected and unsafe places is to run and try to get away. Though small, they can bite and scratch when frightened and under no circumstances should they be handled roughly. It is important to minimize any exposure to scratching or biting. A 4-5 week old kitten is quite fragile and can be easily calmed and should be handled softly and wrapped in bunting when holding.

Feral and rescued kittens come from varied backgrounds and will have distinct personalities. The circumstances under which they were born and the ability of the mother to protect and care for them can influence their behavior. We may never know what rigors the mother went through to birth them and what they experienced in unsafe and hostile surroundings. Under the best conditions, even the rescue itself can be an extremely frightening experience. Felines do not adapt easily to any change. Persons caring for or adopting a rescue kitten or cat should educate themselves about their unique natures and needs. This is vital information for everyone to have and there are many good web sites available. We are only covering the basics for kitten care. There is much more to nurturing and raising kittens than can be addressed in this document. Research other resources on the internet, kitten rescue organizations and books. Confer with persons who have experience. The more you know, the better it will be for the precious lives you are caring for.

Under normal circumstances, partially weaned kittens may be taken from the mother from four to six weeks. Generally, this age is considered easiest for socialization. Kittens twelve to sixteen weeks and older have been successfully socialized. Any person attempting to work with kittens should be responsible and educated and endowed with an abundance of patience and compassion.

Domesticating Instructions

When the kittens are first brought to their new home they should be placed in a quiet and safe area away from noise, children and other animals for minimum of 10 days in isolation. A veterinarian should also examine them. If there are other animals in the household the minimum ten day period of confinement is necessary. This can be a bathroom, a small utility room, spare room or any place that is quiet and enclosed, warm and safe, but not totally dark. Be sure they have warm beds, food, water, litter box and toys. If the room has no windows, leave a night light on in the room during the night and a regular light on during the day. Keeping the kittens warm and away from drafts essential to their survival, as they no longer have their mother to comfort them and provide warmth. Depending upon the age you may need a heated Snuggle Safe disc or heating pad. Be sure the kittens have a way to get off the heat and test it on your forearm for warmth. Bach Flower Remedies such as Rescue Remedy and other combinations have a calming effect on kittens and help them adjust. If there are no other animals in the household, keeping them confined in a bathroom or smaller place at the beginning until they feel secure is essential. For older & more feral kittens we recommend the Urban League Site.  The have a great video called Tough Love dealing with older ferals. Kitten Rescue also has in-depth instructions for domesticating, bottle feeding and neo-natal kitten care.

Place a small liter box and soft cuddly bedding into the cage. Visit them often or if they are in a room where you normally spend a lot of time, this is even better. Speak to them softly. Place a bowl of a quality milk replacement formula and moist kitten food into the cage or carrier or confined room and remain while they eat and drink to be sure they can drink the milk without assistance. Partially weaned kittens need to learn how to lap milk without choking. If they have never had milk from a dish, you may need to dip your finger in the milk and put some on their lips or side of mouth until they understand how to drink. Stay with them until they know what to do. Keep plenty of food available, as it will be reassuring.

Always move slowly talking to them in a low and soothing manner. Leave a radio playing soft music in the room or having a television set on very low volume will also get them used to human voices. Keep the liter box clean and replace the bedding immediately if soiled. ALWAYS WASH YOUR HANDS BEFORE AND AFTER HANDLING KITTENS.

I usually begin touching them within a few hours after they are comfortably settled, or at least the following day. Even though they may be frightened, it is important they smell and feel the soft and loving warmth of the person that will be caring for them, as soon as possible.

Select the least aggressive or frightened kitten. Securely, but gently, grip it by the nape of the neck, wrap it with a soft towel or soft bedding and place in your lap. Wrapping the kitten in the soft bunting (fleece material) is comforting and allows you more control. Move your hands slowly when handling them, as they may not have made the connection between the hands and the nurturing and bonding that takes place through them. Stroke the kitten’s body while speaking in soft reassuring tones until you feel the kitten has relaxed. Slowly, pull some of the soft blanket or towel from the kitten and cuddle it next to your body. They like the feel of bare skin. Watch out for the nails on parts of your exposed chest. After you feel the kitten relax and less afraid, gently place the kitten back into the cage or carrier and go through the process with each kitten. Clipping their nails is essential.

A frightened kitten may hiss and spit at humans as their response to being taken from their mother, a trip to the veterinarian for examination and then to a strange and unfamiliar environment. The kitten that acts the most ferocious is usually the most scared, but can give you a scratch or bite and may try to escape if given a chance. Any bites should be cleaned with an antiseptic and antibiotic solutions.

Gently stroking the top of their head and chin will help the kitten to relax. Brushing and combing for fleas is also a good method to remove any fleas. Approach the kitten from behind while petting and introducing combs and brushes. Face to face contact is sometimes difficult at first. Little by little you will feel them respond and relax in your arms. Your voice, presence and tender touch will be the most comforting event in their lives, other than food.

During the period when you are taking them out of their safe place and putting them in your lap, also try to lure them out of the carrier or cage with special wet food such as chicken or Gerber’s Baby food, chicken, toys such as cat dancer, feather toys, or balls. Use this time to bond with them by introducing them to the toys you have provided. They may run back into their safe place, but this will help them considerably to develop trust. Playing is an excellent way to gain their attention and overcome fear. When they respond well to having access to the safe enclosed room that contains their carrier or cage, let them out for short periods of time. A small floor scratcher or scratching post is a necessary training tool right from the start. Gently put their paws on the scratchers and show them how it is done.

Generally, within 5-10 days the kittens should have made considerable progress. They will be showing their distinct personalities. Interacting with them as they play and learn can be a fascinating experience. They should now have access to their room and can be placed in the cage only if necessary. If they seem uncomfortable in a larger space, it would be best to place them back into their cage or carrier at night for sleep. This will assure their safety during the night and also provide a cozy place for them to sleep together. Use your own judgement. If there is a kitten that seems less playful and sociable, pay special attention to that kitten and be sure it is not being left out. When you bring fresh food in the morning let them out of the carrier or cage for the day, free to roam around and play. Always leave the carrier or cage open after they are out so they will have a safe place to retreat, if necessary. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. No matter where they are in the room, they need to have their bed and safe place available to them at all times. Never close off their safe place and leave them alone.

If they are not already using the litter box, pick up each kitten and place them in the litter box, using their front paws to gently paw at the litter. Training to use the litter box is very important and simple. It doesn’t take them long to learn. They may even choose to lie in it, so keep the box clean. Cheap Clumping litter should never be used for kittens. We use World’s Best Litter.

Kitten-proof the room before letting the kittens out. Seal up any nooks and crannies where a frightened kitten may enter and become trapped or inaccessible to you. Bathroom sinks often have spaces between cabinets just large enough for a kitten. Block access to behind bookcases and heavy furniture. Look for anyplace where a kitten can become wedged. Be careful not to leave OPEN TOILETS or anything that could be climbed and pulled down on top of the kitten. Protect knick-knacks, clothes and plants (some poisonous) from curious kittens.

If there is one kitten who seems slower to respond, additional attention will be required. Some kittens are very shy which may not have anything to do with them being feral or rescued. It can just be the personality of the kitten as with humans. The shy ones need more reassurance. If the kittens have names, use then frequently. A small room for containment is better than a large room or bedroom. Their world has to expand at a slow rate and large open rooms tend to scare them. In bedrooms, they can hide under the bed and it could be difficult to get out without injury. COMMON SENSE WITH WELL THOUGHT OUT CHOICES WILL ENSURE THEIR SAFETY AND YOUR PEACE OF MIND. SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE IF IN DOUBT.

Feeding Instructions 4-5 Weeks or Older

KMR powder or any quality milk supplement is a must. Follow directions on the container and be sure to have it available fresh in the morning and evening with regular moist food. You may need to use a bottle for the kittens before they are completely weaned. Nursing bottles are available in pet stores. Get advice from your veterinarian as to the proper way to bottle feed or go to the below listed web site for detailed instructions. Boiled chicken breasts cut up and shredded, nutritious moist kitten food and a small bowl of kitten dry food are good starters. All of the food should be of high quality and the bowls kept clean and the food fresh. Each kitten can eat one can of wet food per day and sometimes more. This can be in addition to milk, chicken and dry food. Do not be concerned about their overeating. They are growing and need a lot of nourishment. I once asked my veterinarian how much to feed a kitten and he said, “how much can you afford”? A bowl of fresh water changed daily should also be part of their diet. When introducing the milk supplement (unless they are being bottle-fed) take your finger and dip it into the bowl and wipe on the lips or side of the mouth. You need to make sure they can lap up the milk without choking or coughing. The bowls or dishes should be low and wide for easier access. The milk builds the immune system and is essential for those kittens not completely weaned. (I personally always include it whether they are weaned or not. It has helped in bonding with the kittens). BE SURE TO HANDLE EACH KITTEN BEFORE THEY EAT AND PLACE THEM AT THEIR DISHES WITH A GENTLE TOUCH. STAY THERE TO BE SURE EVERYONE IS EATING AND DRINKING MILK REPLACEMENT.

Check the stools for diarrhea, signs of constipation or worms and be sure they show no difficulty in urinating, such as straining. Special attention to cleanliness of the litter box is essential, as many kittens lay in the litter boxes for reassurance. They have not made the total connection that the litter box is only for litter and prefer to play and lay in the box as part of their safe place to be.

When the kittens have adjusted well and are playing and responding to you in a trustful manner, it is a good idea to encourage friends to visit and handle them as often as possible. Socialization with other persons will help them adjust more readily, especially if they are being adopted to other homes.

Kittens and older cats will dart out the front door. The signs one sees posted all over the city are usually the result of someone not being diligent or ill informed about this. Be sure to inform EVERYONE who enters your home to be on guard that there are kittens present. Cats and kittens darting out the door could prove fatal. When entering and leaving hold a folded newspaper, piece of cardboard, or towel in your hands as a barrier to prevent and discourage them from attempting to dash out the door. A squirt bottle with water left outside the door is a good deterrent to have before entering.

Check carefully before you open and close the door and advise everyone of the same technique. This will discourage the cats and kittens for a period of time, but they will try again, when you least expect it. I cannot stress enough, the importance of this precaution.

Foster Parents Who Will Be Helping With Adoption

If you are a foster parent and plan to participate in the adoption process, here are some pointers. During the time you and are caring for the kittens, begin to inform your friends that the kittens are being prepared for adoption. If you plan to place them with adoption organizations, they must be contacted well in advance for their requirements. They will also be able to furnish detailed information on kitten care and getting kittens ready for adoption and offer stringent guidelines for a safe and responsible adoption. Ask their advice, even if you are adopting to friends or family.

When talking to prospective “parents” each home should be evaluated carefully. We recommend indoor homes only. Taking two kittens together is ideal. In some cases, a one cat household is not the best situation for the cat. They usually do better with a companion. Taking two kittens also allows for well-adjusted and happy kittens, as they can be friends and playmates for life. It is extremely difficult for kittens to be separated from their mothers and litter mates. We sometimes forget, they are families.

Mutually agreed to arrangements are an essential part of any adoption, prior to placing the kittens in their new homes. See our Adoption Agreement on Pages 219-220. We recommend that all provisions in our Adoption Agreement be carried out before placing kittens in adoptive homes. If you have no experience in placing kittens, contact adoption organizations and kitten rescue groups in your area. It is essential that you be properly informed before allowing any kitten into an unknown environment. We recommend home delivery as he only way to assess that they are in a safe and loving home. For additional information regarding care and feeding of kittens under 5 weeks of age, please see the web sites of www.feralcat.com/raising.html and www.hdw-inc.com/tinykitten.htm.

How to Kitten Proof Your Home

Kittens and puppies are naturally inquisitive, which can often lead to serious injury.  Here are some tips on how you can make your house safer for the new arrival.

Shocking-Young animals love to chew when they are teething.  Keep electrical wires out of reach, securely covered or sprayed with pet-repellent spray.

They’d die for some chocolate…Chocolate can be dangerous.  It contains theobromine, a powerful stimulant that is toxic to pets.  Sweets, cakes and cookies can also upset a young animal’s GI tract and lead to diarrhea and vomiting, which can be serious.  Never give turkey, chicken or rib bones as a treat.  They can splinter and cause serious injury.

Common household killers…Cleaning agents, bleach, ammonia, disinfectants, drain cleaner, oven cleaner, paint, gasoline and rat poison.   Keep them locked up. CHECK THE ANTIFREEZE…Pets are attracted to the odor and sweet taste of antifreeze.  Store it high and tightly sealed, wiping up any spills on the garage floor.  Window-washing solution also contains antifreeze.  Remember, engine warmth promotes cat naps, so HONK YOUR HORN to wake pets who may be under the hood.

Killer house plants… Poisonous plants include lilies, philodendron, dieffenbachia, elephant ear, eucalyptus, spider plants, azalea, ivy, amaryllis, pyracantha, oleander, boxwood, Jerusalem Cherry and plant bulbs, holly and mistletoe. Keep off the grass…If you treat your lawn with chemicals, keep pets away.  Read and follow label directions carefully. It fit yesterday…Kittens and puppies grow rapidly.  Collars and harnesses can be rapidly  outgrown, leading to serious wounds.

Take care of personal care items and medications…Cosmetics, shampoos, skin creams, hair-perm solutions, depilatories, suntan lotions, sleeping pills, antihistamines, aspirin and acetaminophen can be lethal to pets. Don’t leave plastic bags out.  Inquisitive young animals, especially kittens can suffocate in a short time.

The heat is on. Watch out for hot irons, coffeepots and space heaters. Kittens and puppies may jump to new heights.  Use a fireplace screen. Keep covers on toilet seats, hot tubs & swimming pools.  Kittens and even young puppies can fall in and not be able to get out. RULE OF THUMB…If any or all of something will fit in a mouth, it is dangerous: Watch out for cigarette butts, rubber bands, balloons, sewing needles, thread, string, ribbons and yes even pantyhose.  What goes in must come out, often via surgery.

WATCH ALL DOORS THAT OPEN TO OUTSIDE.  USE NEWSPAPER OR TOWEL AS YOU ENTER AND LEAVE TO DISCOURAGE THEM FROM DARTING OUT. TELL YOUR FRIENDS AND RELATIVES TO WATCH OUT FOR KITTENS AS THEY ENTER AND LEAVE YOUR HOME.

Ten Proven Successful Steps for Introducing a New Cat or Kitten to Your Household

1. Prepare a safe room for the new arrival where they will stay for a minimum of 10 days before being introduced into their new home and family. Put a litter box, food and water and make a cozy, warm bed for them to sleep in. Toys are always good. If possible, bring bedding with their smells they have accumulated from their previous location. This will make them feel safer and also help with cross scenting for a better introduction to the other cats. A floor scratcher or scratching post is A MUST and a window for sunshine (be sure all screens are secure). .

2. Visit as much as possible every day. Groom and pet them often. Then pet the cats that you would like to introduce to your newcomer. Cross scenting is an invaluable way of helping the cats get acquainted. They will get to know each other through the door by putting their paws underneath and doing things that cats do to become acquainted. With the door closed no one feels threatened.

3. Exchange food bowls and water dishes. Give the same amount of attention to the cats in the household that you give to the newcomer. Everyone should feel loved and secure with a stranger in their midst. We also rub our hands in some tasty dry food and then rub the smells on the cats. Having good quality and delicious food will also help with the transition. Offer everyone the same food!

4. If you have a screen or some type of transparent barrier you can put up temporarily at the door, this will definitely help. Then you can open the door and they can also see one another. If this is done several times a day, it can be a good way to introduce newcomers. However, this should only be done under supervision. Having a large dog crate in the room with the other cats gives them good way to interact. Cats like to make eye contact and do body language. The crate should be covered on three sides and the top and either a carrier or cardboard box inside for hiding if necessary along with food, toys and other goodies. If you are taming a feral cat or an older kitten, the length of time in the crate will need to be increased, after which you need to make the determination as to how frightened the cat remains and if when letting out, it will bolt and hide. This may happen, but it does not necessarily mean the cat will not adjust. Give a feral cat time and under most circumstances they will become very loving and grateful friends.

We also use two story playpens that can be ordered online. Covered except for the front at first, it gives everyone a chance to smell and see each other. We teach this introduction in our Community Cat Workshops and have a demonstration.

5. When you are ready to let your new cat/kitten into the household to interact with the other cats (you must be present), the best time is after everyone has eaten and preferably when they would normally take their naps. They will be more relaxed. Follow the cats and watch over them carefully for the first 24-48 hours. Keep all of the newcomer’s things in their room until the transition is complete, as you may need to put them back into the room (or crate) at night. It will also be their familiar safe haven. Go at a slow at a comfortable pace. There is no hurry, as this is a permanent home for the newcomer and he or she will be there for their lifetime.

6. GOING THROUGH ALL OF THE PROCESSES SLOWLY AND WITH EASE WILL PAY OFF IN THE LONG RUN WITH A HAPPY AND WELL-ADJUSTED HOUSEHOLD. NEVER BRING A NEW CAT OR KITTEN INTO A HOUSEHOLD AND LET THEM LOOSE WHEN THEY ARRIVE. This type of introduction will not be successful and the cat and/or kitten will probably find a hiding place and be difficult to remove. Cats are creatures of familiarity. INTRODUCTION MUST BE SLOW AND EASY.

7. CATS ARE VERY SENSITIVE TO CHANGE AND NEED TO BE FAMILIAR WITH THE HOUSE, ITS SMELLS, WHERE THE LITTER BOX IS, WHERE THE FOOD IS AND MOST OF ALL THE OTHER ANIMALS AND PEOPLE IN THE HOUSEHOLD UNTIL THEY FEEL COMFORTABLE.

8. At first when they are out in the household WITH THE OTHER CATS, there may some hissing or growling or running and hiding from one another. It is their way of communicating a complicated language that we do not understand. It has been our personal experience that if the introduction is done properly, you will have wonderful satisfying results and the cats will live together in harmony. OF COURSE ALL OF THE CATS IN THE HOUSEHOLD MUST BE SPAYED OR NEUTERED.

9. Do not reprimand them if the situation becomes tense. Pick up one of the cats and remove them from the area and place in a less confined space, but do not place the newcomer back behind a closed door, once you have taken the food, litter box and their bed out. It will appear that they are being punished. A good way to relieve tension is with an interactive toy OR SOMETHING TO DISTRACT.

10. Food is always a good tension breaker. Keep something everyone likes a lot and this can have a calming effect. There are also Bach Flower Remedies like Rescue Remedy, which we use in many circumstances, from rescuing to helping in stressful situations.

ONE LAST PRECAUTION: SINCE THE CAT OR KITTEN WILL BE INDOORS ONLY – WATCH THE DOORS TO THE OUTSIDE. IF A CAT OR KITTEN ESCAPES INTO A NEW AND THREATENING TERRITORY, YOU MAY NEVER SEE THEM AGAIN AS THEY WILL BOLT AND HIDE OR WORSE! If your have an adventurous cat, keep a spray bottle with water by the door and use it when leaving and entering to discourage them. If they escape, take immediate steps to get them back!