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Old 11-01-2014, 07:08 PM
 
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I guess I'd just like some advice on this situation. I just spent the last week vacationing up in the PA mountain area. Late one night I thought I heard a kitten crying, but I couldn't find the source. The following night I spotted not one but THREE kittens in the parking lot area for the villa. All three looked in excellent health and were a good weight- nice, clear ears and ears, glossy coats, etc. They appeared to be around 8 weeks old. I was able to locate their den, which was basically the best an outdoor cat could possibly hope for- a nice, dry hole in a rock that had multiple branching tunnels and was under an overhang protecting it from the rain.

I spent about two hours talking to them and throwing them little tidbits and got one to come close enough to eat from my hand, but they were clearly feral cats in the making. Any movement or attempt to touch them would send them bolting for cover. At that time I could not locate a mother cat, and the fact that I kept hearing them cry made me concerned that something had happened to her.

I checked out of the villa this morning and called a friend to bring up a cat carrier. However, this time the mother was there- she was CLEARLY feral and wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. She was also clearly a good momma and kept a close eye on me anytime I went near her kittens. I was actually able to scruff one of the kittens, and momma almost flew at me despite her own fear and growled at me the entire time. The kitten was also very aggressive when scruffed.

So...in the end, I let the kitten go. I have no doubt that with time, I could have captured all three (and possibly live trapped momma). But...if I had gotten them, I don't know what I would have done with them. Any shelter in my area would euthanize them immediately for being feral. I might be able to foster short term, but I simply can't take on three (or four!) additional cats. The best I could probably do is TNR them in my area, and transportation is very stressful for ferals.

If the momma hadn't have shown herself, I would have caught them and crossed each bridge as I came to it, but since she was there and clearly doing a very good job, I decided they had a better chance where they were. Still...I'm second-guessing myself and wondering if I should make the two hour drive tomorrow and try to capture them after all. It goes against all of my instincts to leave an animal outdoors, especially with winter on the way, but I know ferals are often better left alone (or ideally in a managed colony.)

Any thoughts?
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Old 11-01-2014, 08:28 PM
 
Location: On the sunny side of a mountain
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Leaving them had to go against your instincts but I think it may be the best for them. Without a viable place to keep them long term and someone to dedicate themselves to their care I do believe they are better where they are.
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Old 11-01-2014, 08:58 PM
 
Location: Cambridge, MA
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If it's "only" two hours' drive away, if I were in your shoes I'd be making the effort.

Blaliko also did a very good job with her litter of six kittens, 2 1/2 years ago. They, too, were impeccably groomed and well fed (thanks to cat-friendly neighborhood residents including, ahem, Yours Truly. ) It took as long to round up all the little ones as it did because of the excellent protection Mama gave them. (A half-dozen offspring are too much to keep an eye on all at once. Anyone would agree. Blaliko was taking them from hiding in groups of three for playtime. No doubt the ones who had to wait their turn were given a no-nonsense lecture about staying where they were!) History - and countless posts from me - shows that all six did eventually get caught for neuter/spay and adoption, with the elusive Kitten 6 being Seteria. Granted, the Blaliko saga unfolded close to home and much of it took place literally in my own back yard. But I could've easily "looked the other way" just the same. Am I glad I didn't! Clean and healthy the kittens (as well as their mother) were, yes. A few months down the line, though, Blaliko and her daughters would've all wound up with litters. And each of their lives would've been far less pleasant and no doubt much abbreviated.

From what I can gather, this "villa" is a free-standing and privately owned place. That is to say, it's not part of a group of dwellings nor is it considered to be on the property of a hotel or resort. Are the owners aware of their feline tenants? Have other people rented it to enjoy the foliage? (At least they now don't have to watch out for Eric Frein! ) Is there a way of communicating your intentions in advance of going there? The last thing that needs to happen is to have a "crazy cat person" hauled in for trespassing, let alone confusion to any degree.

My vote is strongly in favor of TNR. Keep traps covered with a blanket or towel, and cats remarkably stay calm. Optimally these four should be returned whence they came, although it'll be hard to turn them loose knowing they'll have to fend for themselves in worsening weather. They at least have decent shelter - and perhaps the homeowners would be amenable to keeping them fed.
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Old 11-01-2014, 10:48 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goyguy View Post

From what I can gather, this "villa" is a free-standing and privately owned place. That is to say, it's not part of a group of dwellings nor is it considered to be on the property of a hotel or resort. Are the owners aware of their feline tenants? Have other people rented it to enjoy the foliage? (At least they now don't have to watch out for Eric Frein! ) Is there a way of communicating your intentions in advance of going there? The last thing that needs to happen is to have a "crazy cat person" hauled in for trespassing, let alone confusion to any degree.
No, the villa is part of a resort and connected to many other villas. It's a timeshare unit, so there are people staying there year round and it's owned by a hotel chain. I know for a fact other people have been feeding the cats, because I saw dry food left out by their den...but I don't know if the owners of the property are aware of them. I also heard that another timeshare owner had captured a kitten in the same location over two weeks ago, and I'm betting it was part of this litter (but probably young enough at that point to be more easily caught and tamed...though I do think these three would be easily tamed down with some patience and effort.) I was hesitate to mention it to the property owners because I'm not sure if they would see the cats as a nuisance and turn them over to a shelter instead of agreeing to let me TNR them. If I do bring up a live trap for momma I'm going to have to speak with them so they don't remove it.
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Old 11-02-2014, 11:19 AM
 
Location: Cambridge, MA
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Fingers are crossed that the kitten who was caught was either adopted by its captors or TNR'd!
It's reassuring to know that other people are looking out for this family, at least to the extent of providing food. And I agree that the company under whose ownership the property falls doesn't have to know about what may transpire, beyond the trap setting for the mother cat.

Not only because of my experience with Blaliko (who exhibited "feral" behavior for some ten months before consenting to adopt me) do I have a sneaking suspicion that the mom cat was originally a pet. Not-nice things can happen to an intact female when she phases from being a cute kitten into an expectant cat.
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Old 11-02-2014, 02:07 PM
 
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I've decided to call my vet tomorrow and see if we can work out something as far as s/n at a discount.

Do you think I could perhaps transport them down locally and release them in my backyard area? That way I could set up someplace warm for them and provide food. I'm just afraid they'll bolt and never be seen again.
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Old 11-02-2014, 02:53 PM
 
Location: Cambridge, MA
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Originally Posted by ParallelJJCat View Post
I've decided to call my vet tomorrow and see if we can work out something as far as s/n at a discount.

Do you think I could perhaps transport them down locally and release them in my backyard area? That way I could set up someplace warm for them and provide food. I'm just afraid they'll bolt and never be seen again.
On this I'm going to stick to what I posted up-thread: "Optimally these four should be returned whence they came, although it'll be hard to turn them loose knowing they'll have to fend for themselves in worsening weather. They at least have decent shelter - and perhaps the homeowners would be amenable to keeping them fed."
Although it isn't "home" the way we think of it, those cats know their territory. Your fear of their bolting and never being seen again is justified.
Also, are the kittens weaned or did you see them nursing (or signs of it on the mother?) They'll need a milk substitute to survive, if Mom gets spayed, unless they're at least a couple of months old. And unless they can be safely kept outside in a confined area for this, before transport back to their original territory, it may spell curtains for the rescue project.

Blaliko and Seteria, as well as two feral/stray tomcats I TNR'd, had their sterilizations done for a lower rate by my regular vet clinic. They saw it as a way to encourage animal rescues. So I hope your vet sees it that way too. In my opinion the fee to spay/neuter a pet contains a profit margin while the discounted rate provides the service at or near its actual cost, but of course I could be wrong on that.
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Old 11-02-2014, 04:05 PM
 
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Originally Posted by goyguy View Post
On this I'm going to stick to what I posted up-thread: "Optimally these four should be returned whence they came, although it'll be hard to turn them loose knowing they'll have to fend for themselves in worsening weather. They at least have decent shelter - and perhaps the homeowners would be amenable to keeping them fed."
Although it isn't "home" the way we think of it, those cats know their territory. Your fear of their bolting and never being seen again is justified.
Also, are the kittens weaned or did you see them nursing (or signs of it on the mother?) They'll need a milk substitute to survive, if Mom gets spayed, unless they're at least a couple of months old. And unless they can be safely kept outside in a confined area for this, before transport back to their original territory, it may spell curtains for the rescue project.

Blaliko and Seteria, as well as two feral/stray tomcats I TNR'd, had their sterilizations done for a lower rate by my regular vet clinic. They saw it as a way to encourage animal rescues. So I hope your vet sees it that way too. In my opinion the fee to spay/neuter a pet contains a profit margin while the discounted rate provides the service at or near its actual cost, but of course I could be wrong on that.
There was no way to get close enough to the mom to see if she was lactating, but to my eye they looked old enough to be weaned. They were readily accepting wet food and kibble and looked to be at least 8 weeks. On the other hand, momma was still sticking very close to them, so they may be younger than it appeared. If I livetrap momma and she does turn out to be lactating, I do have a spare room I can them in for a week or maybe two, which should put them past weaning age. Only...if I do that and then transport them back up to where they came from, will that disrupt them too much?

I'm done TNR many times and kept ferals indoors for short periods while they recovered from injuries, but I've never dealt with a situation where their home territory isn't local and I was returning them outside a managed colony.
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Old 11-02-2014, 05:59 PM
 
Location: Cambridge, MA
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If the kittens were observed eating "regular" food then they're old enough to be fully weaned. Someone knowledgeable about such matters once told me that kittens left to their own devices will just keep on nursing until the well runs dry, so to speak. It's habitual behavior they've known since literally Day One so is therefore completely understandable. But shutting down the mom's lactation won't cause harm to their growth or health, given that they're about two months old. When Blaliko was spayed, Seteria persisted in going through the motions of nursing for a couple of days (and there may have been some trace amounts of milk left for her.) However, at the age of two months she was already wolfing down regular food.
You can hardly blame the mother cat for her vigilance in any event. Remember, though, she's already had a kitten taken away. No wonder she "launched herself" that time!
Cats' homing instincts are in place pretty much for life, so I don't see their being away from their accustomed environment for two or even more weeks as being problematic. (Naturally, that's as long as they don't escape!) And, since there may in fact not be a colony of ferals where this family was found you're doing what's necessary to keep one from forming.
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Old 11-02-2014, 07:15 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goyguy View Post
If the kittens were observed eating "regular" food then they're old enough to be fully weaned. Someone knowledgeable about such matters once told me that kittens left to their own devices will just keep on nursing until the well runs dry, so to speak. It's habitual behavior they've known since literally Day One so is therefore completely understandable. But shutting down the mom's lactation won't cause harm to their growth or health, given that they're about two months old. When Blaliko was spayed, Seteria persisted in going through the motions of nursing for a couple of days (and there may have been some trace amounts of milk left for her.) However, at the age of two months she was already wolfing down regular food.
You can hardly blame the mother cat for her vigilance in any event. Remember, though, she's already had a kitten taken away. No wonder she "launched herself" that time!
Cats' homing instincts are in place pretty much for life, so I don't see their being away from their accustomed environment for two or even more weeks as being problematic. (Naturally, that's as long as they don't escape!) And, since there may in fact not be a colony of ferals where this family was found you're doing what's necessary to keep one from forming.
Okay, so my current plan to to speak with my vet tomorrow (this is the vet I used to work for and I used to bring my other TNR ferals to, so I'm sure they'll work something out for me) and take a live trap up on Tuesday and stay overnight. I'll just have to be strong and resist the urge to keep any of them (the littlest gray baby was too cute and so brave when I scruffed her!) I think if I can grab one of the kittens first, I can probably easily get momma into a trap if I use the kitten as bait (I've done that successfully before...just put the kitten in a carrier with the front end set against one end of trap so she has to pass through it to check on baby.)
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