When Community Cats Cannot Go Back
HIYA! SAVANNAH HERE!!!
You may remember that Mom L does some volunteering with a RTF (return to field) program. She is doing it now with our county municipal animal services.
When the county shelter cannot return a community cat (feral) to the location where it was trapped, this presents a dilemma for the cat. Everybody knows that we cats are territorial so moving cat who has only known one specific outdoor territory is a real challenge.
Now you ask “why can’t you simply RTF community cats once they have been trapped, brought to the shelter for spay/neuter, vaccinations, etc.?” Here’s the conundrum. When a member of our community traps one or more community cats and takes them to the county municipal shelter, they fill out a form. On that form they are asked “do you want the cat(s) returned?” and “if returned will you feed them?” If the trapper says “NO” to both those questions, then what does the municipal shelter “do” with said community cat(s)?”
My county animal services has a Working Cats program which ought to be the answer, right? But, what happens when there are no barns, wineries, warehouses and such wanting working cats at the same time the community cats arrive at the shelter and cannot be returned? It’s a problem for lots and lots of public animal shelters across the USA. Many shelters euthanize community cats without even trying to return them or find them a working cat job.
Thankfully, my county shelter doesn’t do that. But then what can Mom L do when she talks with the community member who trapped the cats and he says “don’t bring them back!!”. Re-homing community cats is hard, but Mom L and a friend, Miss Lisa, took on the task.
First task at paw—find someone who is willing to take on three community cats as backyard cats. Miss Lisa knew someone who had a small colony about two miles (3.2 kilometers) from where these three cats were trapped and they agreed to add three more to their small backyard colony of seven cats.
Second task at paw—build an outdoor enclosure that will hold three cats with litter box, food and water dishes. The cats must remain enclosed at least two to four weeks. This helps them start to realize this location is where they will get their food.
Mom L and Miss Lisa had to zip tie two wire cages together to make enough room for three cats to live for two to four weeks. That took them about two hours! You can see the enclosure being assembled in the photos above.
Next they had to cover it to make it den like for the cats. We cats like to find dark places when we are scared. So Mom L places a small cat carrier inside the enclosure so one or more cats could get inside that. Next they placed lots of “pee pads” down and then soft blankets. Finally they covered the enclosure and weighted down the covering so the wind wouldn’t blow it away.
Third task at paw—introduce the cats to their new temporary home. Mom L transported them from the animal shelter in their feral dens.
Needless to say, the cats were very worried and scared. (photo taken through the Plexiglass)
Each cat was transferred to their new enclosure and allowed a few moments to decide what to do and where to go.
We are hoping that these three cats will remain close as they all came from the same location. When they are released the new feeders will do all they can to keep them in the resident colony. But, re-locating community cats is extremely hard. The cats may flee when released and become lost and not find their way back to the yard where they will be fed regularly. Doing this is always a last resort. Mom L tried everything she could do to find another feeder in the area where these cats were originally trapped. But no one wanted them. There were no working cat placements and these cats had been at the shelter for over a month. They needed to have a placement and be allowed to live free.
Keep your paws crossed with hope that these three community cats (all definitely feral and untouchable) will accept their new location. And of course, we hope the resident cat colony members will allow them to join this colony.
Have you ever had experience trying to re-locate community cats? Please let me know in comments. We can always use new ideas.
PAW PATS, SAVANNAH