Reply to Frog re Barn Cats and caring for Ferals

Hi Frog. I have now been ‘owned’ by 3 ferals. I’ve been actively working with ferals since 2005. In an industrial area not too far from where I live are colonies of ferals. When I was still able (and working) I would Trap/Neuter-Spay/Release. We worked in teams staking out for hours, either drop traps or drop square cages. The ferals were fed once a day. We could clean bowls, change water and put fresh food into the custom shelters I personally built for them. One could not touch these kitties. After their spa day at the vet they would be returned with one ear tip clipped off, so we could differentiate between those who still required their spa day. These kitties lived a precarious life, a constant fight for survival.

Both Fluffy and Birdie are/were true ferals. I’ve taken in strays and there is a vast difference between them. It takes a long time to socialise a feral. Some may never be fully socialised. However that being said when a medical problem prohibits the feral from being returned then socialisation is the only alternative to being euthanized. And since I don’t support the latter I do the former.

Please visit http://www.tinykittens.com/ to see what is possible with ferals. The myths surrounding ferals are completely debunked. Tiny kittens has both a VIP live stream on their website as well as 2 YTube live streams. Currently there are 5 ex or work in progress ferals from the ‘Happy Forest’ in care due to medical issues. Shelly and her team of volunteers including vet techs and a vet on the Non-Profit board are doing amazing work! There is a lot of info there for all those wishing to change the misconception that abound around ferals. Thor and Nyla’s transformation is just a miracle as was Grandpa Mason and so many others I could not possibly list here.

Thor is totally blind and Nyla is his ‘seeing eye’ cat, having one eye. You can find the two on the facebook page of their now forever home: https://www.facebook.com/Thorla.Pet/

Thor and his seeing eye cat Nyla.

Barn cats/ferals are generally more sheltered than other ferals and they keep the rodent population under control. And barn cats like high perches. Unless you find a medical problem after trap/neuter-spay/release I would suggest leaving them where they are.

Ferals require a safe room for a long time. And they generally can never ever again be allowed outside, unless it is on a leash. The instinct to roam i.e. the ‘Force’ is strong within them. I would sit with them for hours, quietly chatting away while they would hide in their yurts/tents/under the bed, behind the curtains – whichever secure spot was appropriate for them at that moment. Then slowly drag stick-feather toys etc. across the floor. Also the cat-nipped stuffed kickers are generally a hit. A feral allowing touch is a moment of wonder! Hours of patient play-start and then full play mode pays dividends. Learn to read the kitty. He/she will tell you when to back off etc.

My one feral took 3 months before I could let him out of the safe room into the ‘safe’ house area. Another 3 months before I would let him outside on a leash and then another few months before I would let him outside without the leash. The first time without the leash he disappeared for a day, but came home – he had most definitely shredded his feral card. I had trapped him because of his shredded cancerous ears. The ears were removed, but there was no guarantee re the cancer. I could not let him go back. So Cam (Chaos and Mayhem) became a part of my family. He took a tiny piece out of my son’s ear one night… But that is a story for another day. Cam was with us for just over six years when he crossed the Rainbow Bridge after the cancer returned and further surgery was not possible as his quality of life would have been too low. He was snow white with eyes like the sea and he hated other cats! So him and my domestic ex-strays walked circles around each other, with intermittent whappies.

Hope this helps. Big hug for caring – love makes the world go round.

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  1. Elm. My Mother had cats and two of them were barn cats . A Mother and a son who she would feed . We lived in a small town in Greencastle , Pennsylvania. She would feed them and at some point they were let into out home. The barn behind our house as some homes still had barns and my grandfather let my husbands uncle keep his horse there . So when my Mother passed away I was living in California and I ask her cousin if she would want her 4 cats , and she said she would take them . She knew catching Mama and Hobbie would be difficult so she set a trap for them in the basement and finally caught them. She took all 4 cats to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she lived and she had a dog . Well I never thought they would adjust to her home but they did and she had them for quite a few years after she took them . So just thought I would share my story about my Mother’s barn cats that my cousin had till they passed away.

    1. Your mum and cousin are kindred spirits! Barn kitties are so special; bundles of fluff in the hay and on the rafters. That was a long journey for kitties. If only they could grow old along with us. Their short lives leaves a void that is never quite filled. That said each kitty is special and has its own nest in my heart.

      I grew up on a farm. We had nine dogs, 24 barn cats, a jackal and a crow as house pets. Jackal was found as a pup in a haystack with mum nowhere to be seen. My mom also had a fondness for snakes… During the mid 90s I qualified as a Safari Guide Leader and part of the studies were snake handling. Lots of fun it was, but physically very demanding. My nursing experience came in handy and I received 100% for 1st Aid and medical assist, but dismally failed my 4×4 practical driving. So I told the instructor I would keep the driver alive. LoL

      If all goes well I will follow my son abroad later this year. It will be almost a 20hr flight for my kitties. Not looking forward to moving to the other side of the world. Getting too long toothed and stiff boned for gallivanting like this. But what can one do? South Africa is falling apart.

      Take care and thank you so much for sharing. Big hug.

      1. Elm where are you and your son moving to? Hope your cats will make the trip ok as I am sure they will. Thank you for replying back to me . Marie

        1. Right into the eye of the storm, namely Wuhan. Uuugghhh. Only for two years. I may decide to stay until he has finished his stint there and when he then does settle permanently outside of China I will follow him. I have no love for that country.

          1. Elm thanks for letting me know but I would not move to China and hope that you and your son will be alright living there. Marie


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