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Operation Save Teh Kittehs!

Written By : John Hawkins
May 6, 2009

A couple of nights ago, I noticed that when I took my dog Patton outside, he was taking a particular interest in a certain part of my house. Then when I heard a “hiss” come out of that area, I knew a feral cat had gotten under there.

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Unfortunately, my next door neighbor has gotten into the bad habit of feeding wild cats over the last year or so, which has made the area I live in Ground Zero for the feral cat population. There are plus sides to it. For example, I don’t have to worry about stepping on any snakes when I take the dog out at night and, of course, Patton loves nothing more than chasing cats. So, it has its pluses.

But, back to my house. The next day, Patton was still fascinated with that certain part of my house every time we walked past it — to the point of whining when he got near it. That struck me as a touch odd given that you’d think a feral cat would be going in and out, not camping there — unless….it was a mother that had kittens.

So, I decided to check and sure enough, there are at least three kittens under there.

Kitten 1

Kitten 2

Along with one hostile, hissing, angry mother feral cat,

Feral Cat

Now, I am NOT a cat guy and I don’t want a cat for Patton to chase all around the house. With that in mind, I called a local “No-Kill” animal shelter to see if they could take the kittens. They weren’t there, but they called me back while I was at dinner and left a message.

They said that people weren’t adopting right now and they had no more room. Even if they did have room, they said they didn’t take kittens younger than 16 weeks. Their suggestion was to call animal control. They told me that animal control wouldn’t go under my house to get the cats, but if they did manage to trap them, they would kill them. She also told me to make sure that the mother isn’t trapped without the kittens, because they would starve to death under my house and cause an enormous stink.

Oh boy!

Now, you may think that advice sounds hard hearted, especially coming from a “No Kill shelter,” but there’s a harsh reality behind it that they have to deal with. This feral cat is not friendly to people and thus, is not adoptable. The kittens can’t be separated from it yet either. Moreover, if I just let them grow until the point they can walk out and leave, I’ve unleashed at least another 3 feral cats on the neighborhood that will also be unadoptable. That might not be as big a deal in the middle of the woods, where they could at least have a shot at hunting for a living, but I don’t think that’s such a great idea in a small town — especially one that is probably overpopulated with feral cats already.

So, I tried searching the web for a solution and while I found a lot of people with this problem, I didn’t find a lot of people who had good ideas to deal with the issue. Beyond “call a no-kill” shelter or “call animal control,” there just wasn’t much out there.

With that in mind, I decided that someone should come up with a better solution that didn’t involve killing potentially savable, adoptable kittens. So, that’s what we’re going to do.

Here’s what needs to happen.

1) I need to get these cats out from under my house.

2) I need to keep them somewhere confined, together, while the mother feeds them. It’s going to need to be outside.

3) I need to figure out when to release the mother and start trying to civilize these kittens so they can be adoptable.

All this needs to be as cheap and simple to do as possible so that it can become a template for people to use when they have this sort of problem — which again, judging by the search I did on the net, seems to be more common than you would think.

So, give me your ideas in the comment section. My ears are open.

PS: Just to let you know, if I do find a no-kill shelter that will come get these animals, I will probably bite on it to save myself the time and expense.

Update #1: I spoke to animal services and they’re going to bring out a trap. So, I should be able to use that to capture the cats. I’m going to run by Home Depot this afternoon and see if they have some handy wire I can use to make an enclosure for them.

Update #2: Shockingly, the animal control guy showed up with a trap almost immediately.

I discussed the situation with him and he told me that until the kittens get up to 2-3 weeks old, I won’t be able to trap them because they’re not moving around enough. He said once they get to that age, they start running around and can be pretty easily trapped with food. But, if I trapped the Mama cat today, the babies would just lie under the house and die unless I could get under there and track them all down — which might be difficult.

So, I’m holding off on the trap for at least two weeks.

PS: The animal control guy also told me a feral cat a few blocks over just tested positive for rabies. Joy.

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