now what to do with the feral cats?

This is an update of the threadI posted a few weeks ago about a family of four kittens and their mother I discovered in our hedge.

So basically we fed the family on and off for a few weeks, until three days ago when we left the front door to the house open and the mother and two of the kittens came inside. We quickly shut the door behind them, and viola, we had our new cats!

We set them up with food, water, bed, litter box, etc, but the rest was not that easy. First of all, the other two kittens are still out there somewhere, and the three of them inside our house are constantly standing by the windows/doors, meowing to be let out.

Second, the two kittens inside the house will not let us touch them at all. They run and hide from us, and even hiss. I should mention that they are probably about three months old and other than us leaving them food outside earlier, have not had any contact with people.

The mother is a bit of an enigma. When they were outside, she was defensive to the point of being aggressive with intense hissing and spitting. But inside she is almost friendly, and has let me scratch her ears and even pick her up for a few seconds. But her first reaction is still defensive.

It has only been a couple of days, but we are a bit frustrated that we are getting the negatives of pet ownership without any of the positives. I have two young daughters (5 and 8) and they are afraid of the cats because of their behavior. If I knew that it would get better I would try to stick it out, but don’t know whether trying to tame these ferals is a lost cause.

I should add that we never really wanted to keep the mother or to have more than two of them.The idea was to trap, fix and release the mother somewhere far away, but that would mean forcibly separating her from her kittens, with no guarantees that we would even end up with nice tame kittens. So we are thinking of just opening the front door and letting them all back out into the wild.

But before we do that, do you have any advice or uplifting examples to share?

PS I forgot to mention that mother still nurses the kittens a couple of times a day. Is that normal for 3-month old kittens? From what I read kittens are normally weaned at about 2 months… If they still need to nurse that makes me worry even more about the kittens that are still out there.

We have fostered all kinds of cats & kittens. Kittens can be weaned very early but if mom is still around, they’ll try to nurse. So the ones outside don’t need to be nursed, but if they were inside, they’d probably try.

And we’ve had lots of feral kittens that started off hissing & spitting at us, who eventually became loving pets, so my vote is hang in there.

First and foremost, get them to the vet and get them spayed/neutered.If they get out you may be unable to get them back, so do this while you can.

Get the outside kittens in if at all possible. You don’t need to keep them forever, but what you have done to them is horrific. If you can’t catch them then get the mother spayed immediately and as soon as she’s healed get her out there to care for them.

The inside kittens will adjust, and you will know that they are fed and watered.

OP are you leaving food for the outdoor kittens? If so, then they should be fine-they do not need to nurse at this stage. Also if mom is that friendly, she may be adoptable. You didn’t say where you were located. Is there a cat rescue group near you? They will get mom (& any kittens you don’t want) spayed & adopted. Plus they have traps to catch the ones still outside.

Perhaps keep the two indoor kittens in while letting the mother out so she can take care of the outdoor kittens. Maybe you can use the mother to find the two outdoor kittens. They need food and warmth urgently. How long can kittens survive without a mother to keep them fed, warm and safe?


Get a live trap and leave it near where you think they last nested.

And I second S&N, because they can breed at 4 months of age. They don’t care if their partners are also their littermates or mother.

I agree with everyone, get 'em to the vet and fixed as soon as possible. If you get your hands on the remaining kittens that would be nice too. I have fostered a few ferals and it is alot of work gaining their trust. Good luck.

Since your girls are so young, I think you’d be better off taking these ones to a rescue & getting 2 other cats or kittens who are tame. Little girls like to hold kittens a Lot & so do all their friends. Ferals don’t like that.

I agree with this. You should put your daughters’ interests above the stray cats’.

Why? in 8 years the cats will be loyal and loving whereas the daughters… :smiley:

With time the kittens can be turned into decent pets, but probably not before your daughters have decided they’re nasty beasts and get turned off cats. There is a very good chance that even if they don’t act hateful they will grow up to be skittish non-lap cats. Get them, their outdoor siblings, and mom to a shelter and take home a couple of domestic kittens.

thanks everyone. This is some very good advice.

It will be hard to say goodbye to them, but it is clear that the strays have to go.

And as it turns out, my daughters just informed me that they would rather have a dog :smack:

You do have to save the other two kittens who are still on their own.

I have to agree with a poster above that it was quite horrific to leave the other two kittens outside on their own. Not because they need to suckle, not that they absolutely won’t be able to survive (they may or may not), but at that age cats are still exploring and learning about the world, under the mum’s watchful eye, and most importantly, the mum teaches them things that will better their chances of survival.

I am very glad you decided to put the rest of the family outside again. In the event you had another change of heart, please, *please *do your best to get the other two kittens inside.

It is often (but not always) possible to tame feral cats to some degree but it takes patience and will happen at their own pace and on their own terms. (And plenty of ‘ignoring’ them/ coexisting independently in the same space while they come round).

Good idea to spay them all, if possible, even if they aren’t inside.

Good luck!

Did you put the cats back outside or send them to a shelter?

And your girls are only asking for a dog, because of their negative experience with hissy cats. You can still bring them back from the dark side :wink:

I don’t think it’s fair to criticize the OP. The mother cat & 2 of her kittens, whom they’d been feeding, entered the family home & they shut the door in order to help them. They did not “leave the other two kittens outside” & it feels wrong to ridicule someone who was attempting to help an animal. JMO

+1 “Horrific” sort of carries an intended evil meaning which doesn’t really apply. Which is not to say it didn’t suck for the kittens, but it’s not like there was a known guaranty of injury.

To reply to **Enola **and Inigo:
I did not ridicule the OP at any point. No idea why you would say that.
Yes, horrific is a harsh word, but that was my spontaneous reaction when the OP said:
**We quickly shut the door behind them, and viola, we had our new cats! **
So, it doesn’t seem to me that their motive was helping the cats, but more to procure the pets their kids were asking for. If they had quickly shut the door behind the whole family, I would be trying to come up with suggestions on how to make the new cohabitation work. As it stood, it was more important to point out that their action was wrong. (Is that what you mean by ‘criticize’? OK, I criticized).
I believe other posters expressed similar sentiments, including the use of the word ‘horrific’.

You think that shutting the door was horrific, you should see what we did to the cats after that. Bwuhahaha! :eek:

But seriously, we did want to get all of them, but they kept coming in and out. In the end we just kept in the ones that we could. In hindsight, it did worry us that the others were still out there, which is one of the reasons we decided to let them go.

I honestly don’t know whether the whole thing was foolish, ill-advised, etc. Yes, we wanted kittens for the kids, and we did feel that they might have a better life with us than in the wild. But perhaps that is a wrong assumption?

My perfect plan would have been to catch all 5 of them. Get the mom fixed immediately, get all of them checked out by a vet and vaccinated, release the mother and keep two kittens for ourselves and give two to another family.

But for someone who is relatively new at this, it proved to be a lot more difficult, in particular the likely logistics of getting all 5 into cages to bring them to the vet. And we had called around to several shelters and cat organisations, and none of them were at all interested in ferals. All we got was the offer to lend us a trap. I am pretty disappointed with the lack of support to be honest.

Anyway, I am happy to say that the family is reunited. We let the cats out yesterday, and I saw all 5 of them together by the hedge this morning. So there’s that at least. I guess we will continue to feed them, and may try to make up a sheltered place for them in our garden shed for the winter. They actually seem to want to reenter the house, so we are having to be careful to keep them outside. I haven’t ruled out trying to catch the mother at some point in the future to get her fixed. Let’s see.

What was wrong with the cat door idea? Then they can go in and out without being stressed. If it worked for Isaac Newton…

Good, thanks for doing this. Please eventually TNR all of them.

With enough food and comfort, they may become a lot less scared. Cats will quickly pick up on what’s meal time so feeding the mother/them at regular times may make her appearance more reliable.