Q: Family of Feral Cats in Brooklyn
A friend of mine has a family of 4 kittens and their mother living in her back yard. The mother is extremely protective and aggressive towards people. The kittens appear to be friendly and healthy.
My friend is allergic and can't take the cats in. I would consider fostering, but I already have a (beloved) cat and wouldn't want to take in a family of 5 cats unless I knew that they would be healthy for my cat to be around. I've considered taking the kittens to a vet--but I can't really afford it, and if the kittens tested positive for something I wouldn't know what to do. (Put them back outside? I would feel horrible.) Plus, what to do about the mother cat? Is a cat like this adoptable? Or would it be better to have a spay and release group work with her?
Any advice would be appreciated...
Oct 19, 2009
many ferals can be socialized. however, it takes a lot of time, patience, and knowledge - and even then, i wouldn't ever try adopting them out. if you were to take in the mama cat, plan on keeping her. if you don't plan on keeping her, please have her spayed.
the kittens should be removed from their mother at 6-8 weeks so they grow up w/human interaction once they can eat solid food. talk to your vet or local shelter about any financial assistance that may be available to you. you will want to foster the kittens until they're 10-12 weeks, rehoming before then will result in improperly socialized kittens. a little tip for someone who doesn't have much cash: pick out the two who look the scrawniest and worst off and have them tested for FIV, feline leukemia, and heartworms. if they don't have it, it's highly unlikely the others would. i don't euthanize for FIV, but i would for feline leukemia just to ensure the safety of my cats. if the kittens have any of these, find a foster equipped to take them. for fleas, only use frontline, advantage, or revolution - do not use a cheap store bought brand or you could kill them. they will all need dewormers from your vet, but that's pretty cheap. as you're caring for them you will also want to train them right from wrong. do this by hissing. once they trust you and see you as their mom, your hissing will not scare them, but they will understand you don't like their behavior. let the kittens play and get rough about it, this teaches them how hard they can play w/o hurting each other. only if you have a bully should you interject. keep the kittens in an isolated room until they get settled in and have a clean bill of health. other than that, just make sure they're all fixed before you adopt them out - even if it takes months to do it. you can make agreements w/as many people you want about having them fixed after adoption, but not everyone will follow through. for me, males cost $28 and females cost $42 - you can probably find a similar deal in your area.
if you decide not to personally take them, please find someone who will. on average a female cat will have 4 kittens per litter - times that by each of the female kittens and then each of the female kittens that one has and on and on and on - and that doesn't even include the males going out and starting their own families. check out this link to find help in your area: www.alleycat.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=355
you can also use your local www.craigslist.org or ask your vet or shelter to find fosters.
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Oct 20, 2009
I use to live in New York. There are so many animal rescue groups there that would take the cats in and ensure that they get their shots and tested for any of the common cat diseases. If you are unable to manage or adopt out the kittens call the ASPCA, shelter, or local rescue organization. They will work with the mother cat to see if she can be socialized and adopted. New York has one of the best ASPCA organizations that I have experienced. It will take the burden off of you and your friend. Good luck!
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Oct 20, 2009
a good place to find assistance with getting the kitties fixed:
many areas have programs that will fix ferals for free or at least really cheap. this list is by no means comprehensive, so if you don't see anything useful there, keep asking around.
once the mom is fixed...well, Jillian summed up the possibility of socializing the mom. if you're up to it, great...you're a brave soul, and you're doing a good thing. if not, don't feel too bad about it. when dealing with feral populations, the best way to handle them is generally TNR - Trap, Neuter, Return, with the "return" part being important. you can remove the feral cat from its environment, but when you do, there's a good chance that more ferals will just take it's place. it's called the "vacuum effect", and i'm sure there's plenty more info on the subject at the Alley Cat Allies website. basically, if there are ferals in a given area, it's because the area is, for whatever reason, hospitable to feral cats. remove the ones that are already there, and more will likely turn up. that doesn't necessarily mean that you shouldn't try to socialize the mom. what it does mean, though, is that if you do remove the pre-existing feral, your friend will need to keep a close eye out for newcomers so that they can be TNR'ed as soon as possible to prevent more unwanted litters.
also, if the kittens are too little for more conventional flea treatments, Dawn dish soap is safe and effective at killing fleas. diatomaceous earth is a good safe alternative to flea powder, though it can be hard to find.
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