Feral Kitten Update, 8/18/12

The feral kitten who has been hanging around the house has been caught. We’ve been leaving cat food in the garage for the thing so a) it wouldn’t starve to death, b) it would be lulled into a false sense of complacency and I could capture it by closing the outside door to the garage and then chasing it about until I laid hands on it. Well, b) happened this afternoon, although the thing led me on a merry chase for several minutes, including trying to jam itself into the wheel wells of my car. But eventually I caught the thing, shoved it into our cat carrier, and then walked it down to the Rabbit Room in the basement, which I had prepped for the kitten. The rabbit room (from which the rabbit has recently vacated) will be a fine place for the kitten to stay until such time as we are able to take it to the vet and have its shots given, gonads removed and so on and so forth. It will also allow us (i.e., me) a little time to see if the thing can be domesticated. It’s small enough and young enough that I suspect the answer could be yes.

It should be noted that the kitten was not pleased to be captured; it scratched me up pretty fiercely (see picture to the right) and it was a challenge not to just drop the twisty little thing. I kept hold of it primarily because I knew if I dropped it I would just have to try to capture it again later, and it wasn’t going to make that capture any easier than it was going to make it this time. So I took the scratches. My daughter was very impressed. Immediately afterward I washed, cleaned and disinfected the scratches and am keeping an eye on them to make sure nothing untoward happens to them. they’re not the worst scratches I got from a cat (those I got from Zeus, a couple years back). I think I’ll be fine.

So now I have four cats in the house: three who have the run of the place and seem mostly to be find of me, and one down in a room, who thinks I am the worst creature who ever lived. Well, fine. At the end of it, the cat will be fed, warm and safe, so I’m okay in the short run with it thinking I am a terrible human being. If it lives long enough, maybe it will change its mind.


91 Comments on “Feral Kitten Update, 8/18/12”

  1. We had a similar black kitten turn up on our doorstep. After a similar process it’s now very domestic to the point that it understands its duties as a cat better than the breeder purchased and shelter rescued cats we also have. Friendliest and smartest cat we’ve ever had. (I’m sure not all stories about strays have such a happy ending – but if your new cat is half as awesome as this one, you’ll be exceptionally pleased)

  2. On behalf of feral kittens everywhere, thank you! Our cat was rescued in a similar if not so bloody fashion (and in a more urban setting) and eight years later he seems quite content.

  3. Good work catching the little guy (or girl as the case may be), but now I’m wondering, what happened that caused Zeus to scratch you up?

  4. 6-8 weeks is supposed to be the magic age after which they are hard to socialize. This guy looks a bit older than that…but beautiful. Good luck! We adopted one who had been wandering the streets of Baltimore for over a year, and he became our BEST cat EVER.

  5. I commend you! As a cat lover, and one who shares her home with 3 cats that I took in off the street, I am happy this one may have found a new home. Give it time – once they hit a certain age they’re a little harder to tame, but if you are patient, and it becomes accustomed to regular meals, you should be able to win him over. Those are quite the scratches – being a lifelong cat owner, I’ve more than my share of nasty scars from big scratches, the most recent of which is only just healing up from a cat deciding he needed to be across the room *now* and to heck with my leg … LOL I’ll be hoping for good news – it’s a gorgeous cat, BTW.

  6. It’s starting to sounds like you’re thinking of keeping the little critter if he’ll have you.

    I have a scar from scratches like that on my right arm from trying to get our cat Corbin into the carrier to go to the vet last year when he had an infection. He survived that fine, but sadly, this year he got sick and we had to make the tough decision every pet owner dreads. Luckily, our younger cat, Starbuck, is in good shape.

  7. Strange cat came in through the catflap once. Dog freaked out, so I got him out of the room (the bathroom-he came in through the bathroom window). The cat leaped from the sink up onto the shower curtain rod. He didn’t make it.

    I tried to catch him. I figured if I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, he couldn’t get me. But they’re more flexible than you might imagine. Bite #1.

    Then I got angry, and tried to grab him again. Bite #2.

    He finally exited on his own, as I cowered in the corner and tried to control my weeping so the wife wouldn’t hear. Cue round of antibiotics.

    Alcohol consumption may have been involved.

    Then there was the time I found a flying squirrel in there…

  8. Long years ago we tried to rescue some barn cats. They came home in the trunk of the car (yes, I know, stupid, but we didn’t know any better then) and I had the task of fetching one of them out. When I finally caught the cat, it sank its teeth into the meat of my thumb and started grinding down on me.

    Like you, I knew if I let go, we’d never see the cat again, so I carried it into the house while it gnawed on my thumb.

    These days, I’ve read entirely too much about rabies in wild and feral animals to be sanguine about grabbing an animal whose health is unknown. But I’m alarmist and paranoid, so don’t mind me. Congrats on catching the kitten!

  9. A while back when the snow was six miles deep and the temp
    was a little bit better than sixteen kelvins I was walking uphill
    both ways from buying beer at the convenience store. ‘K?
    I heard a pathetic meow.
    As from a cat that was about to freeze to death.
    So in my soothing voice I said something like “[Godamit tongue
    frozening hurry the [please] up and get here you [wonderful example.]]”

    And I had a cat.
    None of the scratches I got were anything like the deep two on
    Mr. S’s wrist.
    For about the next three days that that nine pound cat ate more
    than I do.
    Two years later it was gone for two days, came back and said two
    things to me.
    1) A really demanding !!!MEOW!!!
    2) And a really demanding organ note that I’d never heard before,
    which meant he wanted wet food.

    My mother told me that cats only use that organ note on one
    She’d heard it before, I never had.


  10. I am sitting next to my formerly feral grey kitten. She and her brother were lured onto our porch by offering them kitten food, instead of the dried bread they were trying to steal from the birds. Eventually, I got them to come just inside our sliding glass door and eat the food in the house. At which point I cleverly, ever-so-sneakily shut the door behind them.

    Brother was ok, but sister went berserk. She raced around the house, bashed headlong into the door, then hid behind a sofa. I grabbed her bare-handed, and she buried her cute little fangs in my hand right up to her gum line. I still held on and stuffed her into her cage.

    Years later, she is annoyingly cute and friendly and appears to have forgotten the chase or the taste of my flesh.

  11. I attempted to capture an unspayed female stray outside of my aunt’s house that was hanging around on the porch and popping out kittens at a terrifying rate. My aunt managed to lock her in a large shed in her back yard and then called me to try to get her into a carrier. I’m not the Cat Whisperer or anything but I am generally pretty good with animals, so I didn’t expect to have too much trouble.

    Kitty had other plans.

    It’s astonishing how powerful and ferocious such a small animal can be when it thinks it’s in the jaws of death. Fortunately I had a large, thick beach towel between me and she or the damage would have been much worse. I managed to get a firm grip around her midsection but she immediately transformed into roiling cloud of fur, teeth and claws and it was not humanly possible to hold on to her without one or both of us getting injured. When I let her go, and I had to let her go, she literally ran up the bare wood walls straight into the rafters of the shed. When she came down and started running into the walls head first in blind terror we decided to let her out.

    My aunt later tried calling the local animal control guy but he proved to be utterly useless at getting anywhere near the cat with his dog catcher pole. As a result, several years and countless kittens later, Meredith (don’t ask, I have no idea) is still a daily visitor to my aunt’s porch. I hear she gives a wide berth to the back yard shed, however.

  12. Kitty is quite adorable. It will likely be far more amenable to human interaction once it realizes that you will feed it and that you come in peace, although it may be a bit skittish for a while.

  13. I have a lovey dovey cat who was feral until he was about nine weeks old. It took a friend a couple of weeks of intense patience to deferalize him. I hope you are successful. Also, tea tree oil seems to take the sting out of cat scratches.

  14. A good way to get unsocialised cats used to people sounds is to play talk radio (or podcasts) where they can hear it. And of course to spend time in the room with the cat — not necessarily interacting, just sitting there. I did that with my then-unsocialised black kitten (older than yours) and this morning he thanked me by puking on the mattress next to my face.

  15. Thanks for the update. You’ve had a tetanus shot before this, right? ( I got one last year, after my cat sank a fang into my palm while we were at the vet. Not the way I’d planned to spend the afternoon.)

  16. Yikes. Pretty nasty scratches. I have scars also from them. If you are going to keep it (sounds like a possibility), you are going to have to be very patient. Toys, yummy food, a warm place to sleep. You could get your daughter involved too. Sometimes kitties respond to a softer voice. Sitting in the basement just hanging out may tempt the kitty to come out and investigate. Glad you have an area for the kitty to get used to the situation. Here’s to a quick integration (blood-free).

  17. If those scratches are all you got, he’ll be domesticated in a couple weeks, tops. As several other commenters have observed, a truly feral cat would have had no reservations about trying his level best to bite a piece of you off.

    In my old neighborhood, we started up our own informal trap/neuter/release program to deal with the feral cats, and quickly learned that even heavy leather gauntlets will get bitten through by a six-pound predator in fear for its life. They went from the trap into a wire rabbit hutch and the whole hutch got taken to the vet, where they’d be sedated from outside the cage. Sufficiently fierce kitties got the whole hutch dragged around with a metal hook.

    Get a feline leukemia test when you take him to the vet; that one’s communicable, and you’ve got three other cats.

  18. Excellent…we’re at ten cats these days (fixed, shots and indoor-outdoor), couldn’t do that if we were in semi-rural New Hampshire though. Seems like there’s always someone with strays or cats they can’t keep looking for a home…always good to hear that a cat has found a safe place where they’ll be loved and cared for.

  19. Our current cat just moved in on her own. She was about 4 years old and had been out on her own for a while, but only after someone went to the trouble of spaying her, so “feral” probably doesn’t apply (unless she was the beneficiary of a catch-spay-release program somewhere). She moved in while we were on vacation via the pet door and ate our other cat’s food. She avoided us at first but within a few days relaxed enough for us to catch her and take her to the vet, who gave shots and pronounced her healthy and spayed but not chipped. We dubbed her Spare Cat and she has been with us since, though our other cat passed earlier this year and she is no longer a spare..

  20. So… uh… is rabies indigenous to Ohio? It isn’t here in Ontario, except in bats. Something to, you know, keep in mind. This cat doesn’t seem rabid, but being scratched by a feral animal in an area where rabies exists in the wild would be a concern for me.

  21. Leather work gloves are your friend.

    At least if you haven’t gotten rabies by now, you’re probably in the clear :)

  22. This is why you prepare yourself for said feral capturing duties by wrapping your arms in towels and then duct tape leather gloves over the top. I’ve had to do this more than once and it’s the SPCA approved way of doing things. One of those statements is absolutely untrue.

  23. AS Robin Williams once said; “that’s why we invented the catapult.” Good luck…..

  24. “Get a feline leukemia test”….and there we go with the next story for the newest Scalzi kitty!

  25. I love the glowy eyes. It’s thinking: “My plan has worked and they have let me into the house! Ha ha! Now I can disembowel them.” Wait, sorry, I’ve been watching the wrong type of movies lately.

  26. “Well, fine. At the end of it, the cat will be fed, warm and safe, so I’m okay in the short run with it thinking I am a terrible human being. If it lives long enough, maybe it will change its mind.”

    No, those are always the cats that live especially long just so that they can go on hating you. Spite keeps them young and healthy, though, so you’ll know you’re doing him some good each time he hisses at you.

  27. Not coming out of that box, eh?

    Not to worry about the gouges. I’ve got one worse than that on my leg and my kittie loves me, yes she does.

  28. For some reason my boy cat thought he would get back at me by putting a large dead Norwegian rat in my winter bedroom slippers. Since it’s summer and I don’t wear them unless it’s cold, it took a day or two before I found it.

    I hope your new cat forgives you before he/she does something similar.

    And I hope to get a new pair of slippers for Christmas.

  29. Great job. Bast will be sure to see you have a special place. We have always loved cats and done whatever we could to help all our 4 footed friends. Looks like you do as well, sir.

  30. Congrats on a successful while escaping relatively unscathed. It’s a good thing that you’re doing and once he (?) gets to know you a bit, he’ll realize that you’re actually a pretty decent human. *nod* I have a bit of experience to relay that might help to speed that realization along.

    I also have 3 cats. Two of them (Harry & Hermy) will be 9 next month and the third (Weezy) is nearly 6 1/2. Four years ago, Weezy (who was the only one with reproductive organs at the time) went out for his nightly prowl and didn’t come home due (I’m assuming) to several days of heavy rain thanks to the seasonal monsoon. After the rain, we searched and searched, to no avail. He was lost. :o(

    Eight months later, my daughter (Rachel) was with a friend at the local shelter looking for the friend’s missing cat and she saw Weezy. Despite looking and acting utterly feral, despite the multiple scars and the dirty fur, she knew it was him and called me right away to come talk to the people at the shelter. They had just gotten him a couple of days previously and had planned to put him down because nobody could handle him or even get close to him. We arranged for them to keep him until we could decide whether we’d be able to take him home again. Rachel spent nearly two weeks visiting Weezy at the shelter after school until he began to accept being touched. Then we had him neutered and took him home, though we waited several weeks to reintroduce him to the other cats.

    My strategy for re-domesticating him (for lack of a better word atm) was simple. I’d go into the room in which he was staying and just sit on the floor. I’d talk to him sometimes, or I would read a book and allow him to stare at me mistrustfully from beneath a dresser. Sometimes I would pet him or just sit close to him. Eventually, he would seek me out and sit close so that he was touching me and one day, he finally climbed into my lap.

    And despite the fact that he was Rachel’s baby before he went missing, as well as the fact that she visited him every day after she found him, he’s now MY baby and I know it’s because I spent all of that time just sitting with him and letting him get used to me. He remembers.

    So good luck calming the savage beast!!

  31. My husband caught my calico kitteh with a bacon cheeseburger (I kid you not). She was starving and had to be about 6 weeks old and took to being a house cat quite well, for the most part. Unfortunately, the cheeseburger didn’t convince her hubs was a friend: I’m the only one she likes. At all. And the looks he gets when we hug or kiss are just…wow. lol

  32. Careful you don’t get cat scratch fever. The first time that I got it I was just ten years old. I got it from some kitty next door. I went and see the Dr. and he gave me the cure.

  33. Since nobody else has brought it up this thread: Humane traps are wonderful, wonderful things and I cannot recommend them enough. One may be able to borrow them from a local animal shelter or non-profit rescue, and they minimize the bloodletting. In a rural/semi-rural area, you might even need them for raccoon-removal and such.

    Whether or not the kitten is sociable (or becomes so) will depend on its personality and just how much time you’re willing to invest. A similar older-than-the-critical-socialization-age, solo, apparently feral young cat we trapped went from “fleeing in mad horror from anything human” to “purring lovebucket” literally overnight; she was successfully homed. Another, possibly even older, young cat from a litter of four would approach ours and stare wistfully in through the patio screen at them; she took a little more grooming, but was also trundled off into a forever-home. Two of her siblings (spayed and released) want nothing to do with humans; the fourth lacks all fear whatsoever. She managed to do significant damage to a vet tech and to this day will walk up to us, stare, and hiss.

    My father has had success taming 100% adult, 100% feral cats… it’s a very lengthy process, and involves a lot of patience and a lot of food.

    TL;DR — Way to go, Mr. Scalzi! The kitten will thank you. Eventually.

  34. I just want to say that you are the third person on my friends list, in as many days, to have rescued a stray kitten in the Midwest. What kind of storms are you having over there?

  35. Been there, done that. I suspect you’re right about it being young enough to be tamed. I went through the process once, finding a feral kitten asleep on my picnic table in the back yard. I picked it up, something the kitten wasn’t at all happy about. Four sets of claws and a mouthful of teeth convinced me of that.

    I began putting out food and eventually the kitten became quite affectionate. It was worth the time invested.

  36. Hereabouts, we use hydrogen peroxide on the scratches (3 per cent solution, watch it fizz) and really only worry about bites, You don’t want to know what’s on those teeth.
    Of the 15 plus cats we’ve had over the years (sorry, lost count), only one (Precious) was ex-feral. I didn’t know how to deal with her properly at the time and didn’t handle her enough, though she was well within the tameable age range (I had some silly idea that if I left her to herself, she’d get comfortable). So though she knew where home was and always came when called, she was never a strokeable cat. Which is the point, really. Of cats. Or one point, anyway.
    Good luck with yours! Please keep us posted.

  37. One day it’s combat with the foam rubber war hammer and the next it’s battle with phosphorescent eyed small black alien; you lead an interesting life…

  38. My ex-feral kitten did indeed come to love me. He would vanish at the sound of any other human, not knowing what would come of it. One thing I did notice was that the difference in our heights was a deterrent. He was much more amenable to not hiding, and eventually coming up to me in those early days if I was prone. Sitting was better than standing, but lying on the floor was the easiest on his psyche. He was a wonderful cat, even if my friends thought he was a figment of my imagination.

  39. So, what did you name the kitten from hell? :) We are currently feeding 2 cats and 3 kittens who have decided to take up residence under our front porch. I can’t bear the thought of them starving to death under there. Eventually, we’ve got to borrow a live trap from the humane society and get them to the no-kill shelter–we can’t adopt them, we’ve got 4 cats and a dog already. They are sooo flippin’ cute though….good luck with hell-kitten.

  40. When I was regularly working at the shelter I made sure I kept my shots up to date and H2O2 was my friend.

    The worst I ever got was from my own little guy. I was holding carrying him against my chest when lightning struck a tree in the neighbors yard – I had deep wounds up my chest & down my back!

    Good luck I hope you can save this boy

  41. People who own or rescue cats should also own those welders gloves that go up to your elbows. You never know when you’ll need them, but you’ll need them in a hurry to handle an injured and angry cat. Those nets you use to hold a kids bath toys also make handy straight jackets for felines. The vet can give shots throught it.

  42. I am glad you have this kitty and s/he will be getting a good life. Feral cat life is hard, especially for the unfixed and unvaxed. It’s still hard even when they’re fixed and vaxed, but at least they aren’t as likely to get sick, and aren’t spending as much of their time and energy on reproductive urges.

    I have also caught my skulking kitty, and s/he is sitting on my porch in a humane trap waiting to go to the TNR clinic tomorrow. Even if this fully adult kitty had a chance of being tamed, we unfortunately can’t provide it. It always makes us sad that we can’t have housecats, but the beloved spouse is outrageously allergic. *I* can’t even touch cats for fear of picking up dander that I might being into the house. Sigh. So we do what we can.

    If your new kitten broke your skin with its teeth as well as with claws, discuss post-rabies exposure treatment with your local health department.

    Ah. If they ask you if you know the animal that bit you, and you say yes, it was a stray cat and you can locate it, they’ll likely put the cat down and examine its brain. If its an owned pet, they’ll usually check for current rabies vaccination and confine for 10 days to watch for symptoms. If you say it was a stray cat and you can not produce it for them, they’ll likely just start post-exposure treatment.

    And in the future, it really does help to have a thick towel or blanket to wrap around an unhandled kitty when you’re going to pick it up.

  43. “At the end of it, the cat will be fed, warm and safe, so I’m okay in the short run with it thinking I am a terrible human being. If it lives long enough, maybe it will change its mind.”

    Hold that thought. It may come in handy for raising a teenager. All three of mine turned out fine and the truce is holding.

    One of my own cats bit me THROUGH the knuckle when I stupidly picked it up after it got woolyragged by a dog. Recovery, after a trip to the ER for heavy-duty disinfection, tetanus booster and intramuscular antibiotics, was uneventful. The cat was fine too.

  44. We have a feral nine-month/1 year old male we humanely trapped at Christmas. He was in such good health that I did the dumb then and opened the trap to see if he was someone’s pet. Mistake. He went nuts in the laundry room–which I did have closed, not that dumb–and I made the mistake of trying to steer him back in the trap and he bit me.
    Which is not good because that meant possible rabies. Cue two weeks in town quarantine, since I couldn’t put him down, and then we had him taken to the vet, tests and shots & neutering. He turned out to be quite healthy for a feral.
    Then he spent two months hiding behind our washing machine. :) We call him Ghost cat, as he’s a silver tabby. His current spot is under the couch in the living room but he comes out during the day. And he’s learned to meow at us if the food is given late. He’s also made friends with our older cats. He’s very sweet, not at all aggressive and when he bit me, he was more “leave me alone! oops, sorry!” Very little growing, hissing or spitting and he’s great with the other cats. He now will take food when I place it near him and eat it while I watch. I can get within a foot of him while he’s in the open and when he runs off, it’s not slinking but more of a cat trot.
    I figure it’s a good two months yet, though, before we can touch him in the open. :) He’s quite happy to be inside, though, and I caught him playing with toys before he noticed I was there and pretended that, horrors, no, he wasn’t playing with toys!
    Good thing his vet check-up isn’t until January. I suspect if I tried to grab him now, we’d undue all the work we’ve done thus far.

  45. “We have a feral nine-month/1 year old male we humanely trapped at Christmas”

    I first read that as “We have a feral nine-month/1 year old human male we trapped at Christmas”.


  46. A) Sorry for your wounds
    B) proud of you for taking in the little thing
    C) kinda hoping to hear a rendition of “cat scratch fever” from you on the Uke now.

  47. I volunteer as a cat “buddy” at a local rescue organization, where my current buddy cat, Margo, is a teenage unwed mother who was, we suspect, feral when she was picked up. I visit her twice a week, attempting to reassure her that people are nice, being petted is good, and there’s no need to be afraid. What I’ve found helps with the socialization process is to smear my arms with Feliway, (either spray or plug-in diffuser gunk) that has a “synthetic analogue of F3 ..feline facial pheromones” thereby establishing my tranquil catness. Margo’s come a long way in the past three months—accepts petting, sometimes solicits it, eats catnip from my palm, loves playing with wand toys, and is somewhat possessive if I pay attention to other cats in the free-roaming room. I’m currently working on “training” Margo to initiate contact rather than just accepting it. So, good luck with your new kitten, and try the Feliway.

  48. Don’t forget the scruffing technique. If you pinch the back of the cat’s neck gently but firmly, it goes limp (or limp-ish) because that’s how mama cats carry them around. It’s not to be used indiscriminately because mama cats use it to discipline their kittens too. Minimize your use of the technique and praise or reward the cat afterward.

    Here’s a good video:

  49. I always thought scratches were a kitty’s way of identifying you as part of their territory. Gonna have to rethink the next kitten’s standards for acceptable behavior.

  50. Cat scratch fever is a real thing, I know because I got it! Watch out for random lymph glands swelling up asymmetrically (ie, unlike both sides of the neck as with a cold or whatnot).

    My kids took in a neighborhood stray last year that promptly had kittens, and I rescued two of them, so yay for rescuing kitties!

  51. Heh. I am familiar with the joys of catching feral kittens, though I was not as successful as you. We ran into it outside a hotel where we were staying. I sat on the ground, laying out pieces of meat in a path leading to me. The kitten came close, and my girlfriend scooped it up, only to find herself holding a VERY unhappy kitten. It bit her hand, and she just instinctively let go; the hindbrain did not consult the forebrain before ordering the hands to open. Only problem was, I was still sitting on the ground at her feet. The kitten was only too happy to use my head as a springboard. Fortunately the scratches were shallow, because I can see myself trying to explain everything to the ER doctor: “You see, she dropped a feral kitten on my head.” I do wish we had managed to catch it, but I hold out hope that someone else was more successful later.

  52. Impressive battle scar. As the mother of five rescued kitties, may I commend you on your bravery and kindness. They are marvelous creatures, aren’t they?

  53. Regarding the scratches, is anyone else reminded of the scene in RIngworld where Speaker to Animals accidentally gashes Louis’ arm and gets a newfound respect for him because he didn’t even flinch?

  54. My first cat was either a stray or an abandoned, dark gray long hair, roughly 8 years old (vet guess). He was taken in by an older lady who had a surfeit of cats. I adopted him from her. When I brought him home, I didn’t see him for three days. (Well, I did see him for an instant on the second night. I cracked open an eyelid around 2 am to see two glowing eyes about 6 inches from my face. They disappeared as soon as I said, “Hello there!”. He was either spooked or annoyed that I wasn’t dead. You choose.) I knew he was there more by the fact that food and water disappeared from the appropriate bowls and I had to clean out the litterbox, all three daily. (I was thankful that he was either already house-trained, or a quick learner.) On the third night, as I lay in bed reading, he jumped up on my bed, lay down on my chest, and began purring. Loudly. It was as if he was saying, “Okay. You’ll do.” He was a very nice cat and enjoyed any laps that presented themselves in my home.

  55. You’re a good man, John. I just saw a cat get hit by a SUV Friday morn, and it was depressing to watch the poor thing leave this earth (I pulled over to see if anything could be done, and when it was obvious that nothing could, I placed the body off the road and in the shade). Reading this sort of helps balance that picture for me. So, thanks.

  56. I read all your posts and sometimes agree, sometimes not, but after reading this I truly come away thinking this is one man with a good heart. So I give you words of advice for the next time you have to capture him. Take a bath towel, throw it over him as he flees, and scoop him up, twoel and all and throw, stuff, cram (you’re a writer – choose your verb). He will shake the towel off once he’s in there. And yo ur arms that have just healed won’t start the healing process over again.
    I used to be an animal health technician, the crazy one who was risked life and limb to retrieve the “worst” cats. I always got my “man” and I’ve lived to talk a bout it. Trust me – it works.

  57. As someone above mentioned, watch out for cat scratch fever. My wife picked up a case of it after we got Snickerdoodle. It was several months before it cropped up, then actually settled in her eye, and she lost vision in that eye for a couple months (scared the bejeebers out both of us before someone figured out what was going on.) 12 years later, Snickerdoodle and wife are fine, but that was one unpleasant winter.

  58. Oh, I know the “if I don’t keep a hold of him now, I’ll never get him again, so I’ll live with the damage” thing! Heck, I sometimes get that from the most intelligent but crankiest of my cats when she needs to go to the vet.

    It’s good to see people who will go a long way to give a stray/feral cat a better life. You, and lots of others here who have been telling their stories. In my experience with ferals past the six weeks or so age, it totally depends on the cat. Some will become domesticated readily, some take a long time, some never seem to get it. Good luck with the kitten!

  59. I had a similar experience with my own cat when trying to stop a fight with another stray. Suddenly realized I had only brought harsh language to a knife fight. I escaped with a 2 inch scar on my forearm that is now a reminder of a truly great cat friend.

  60. At least if you haven’t gotten rabies by now, you’re probably in the clear :)

    This is COMPLETELY WRONG! Rabies symptoms can set in months after the exposure. By then, the virus is in the brain, and you’re horribly doomed.

  61. Step 1: get the animal *tested* for rabies.
    As long as you have no symptoms, don’t worry about it as long as that testing as soon. I might be worried if you’d gotten bitten, but scratches are unlikely to transmit it.

    Also, Leather Gloves are your friends. Maybe you should get some? To go with your new warhammer and all.

  62. We trapped a feral cat and for the first three months he lived under one of our bathroom sinks. I made everyone use that bathroom so he would get used to us. When he started coming out we were able to catch him again & take him to be neutered. At the time I let the vet clip his ear because I didn’t think he would adjust to being around humans. What changed?

    Well, he fell in love with one of our other cats. She visited with him while he was recovering in the bathroom. He gave his heart to her and it still is hers for that matter. He got out of that bathroom and ran straight for her. I decided to see what happened. Over the next many months we wouldn’t see him except when it was time to eat. Then he would watch in bewilderment as the other cats demanded what they knew was rightfully theirs: food and our attention. I called him my nerd cat.

    Nine years later Jazper is still here and still a bit feral. He doesn’t feel comfortable with us going to him or picking him up but he will come to us and grace us with a sit on our laps. The best feeling in the world was the first time he walked over to me several years ago and let me rub his ears. These days he’s almost an old hand at being petted and loves every second of it.

  63. What a pleasure to read so many stories of the changes in the lives of cats and humans that such violent beginnings can engender.

    I’ve had cats all my life, and many of them started life as “barn cats” — a completely different, though similar-sounding group from ferals (my grandfather believed in farming as a vocation, and cats believed he was electric both in his love for the animals that killed pests in his barn and for their warmth of his lap). The smartest cat I’ve ever owned, however, began his life as a true feral.

    By the time he was rescued, he was nearly mature (he didn’t grow much past the time I got him), and he had already suffered such abuse at the hands of mankind that he should never have recovered (he was skinny, had been “rescued” against his will from the alley behind a steak-house, where he had been subsisting on scraps, and had lost the tip of his tail, as well as having suffered two further breaks in said, when he had snuck into the kitchen and gotten his tail caught in machinery (this mis-adventure did not result in his capture — his tail, in fact, broke as it did when workers were trying to release him). In short, he had absolutely no reason to trust humans and every reason to believe that we were the agents of his immanent demise.

    When I adopted him, I took him both because he looked at me — really looked at me — as no cat ever has before or after. I also took him because I was interested in adopting a cat, and the savy person who had finally trapped him refused to give up the much better socialized cat with whom he had bonded, which would have forced their separation.

    For months, Harry (so named because he had given me the hairy-eyeball!) was the pet of my pet. His ability, however, to navigate my apartment (I had sliding, mirrored doors on my closet that he used to monitor my position in my bedroom) remained feral. His bond with the cat I had intended to adopt, however, helped him gain trust as he watched us deepen our bond.

    I will never forget the day that he decided to — quite reluctantly — allow me to touch him. I will also never forget the years that followed as he and his buddy tag-teamed me to keep me and mine well, happy, and deeply loved (not to mention entertained!). The day that he died in my lap easily ranks above the greatest tragedies I have experienced (including, yes, the losses of human family members).

    If you have even a shred of the joy from rescuing your feral that I had from mine, then I believe you will be truly blessed. What I learned from Harry is that some cats have the ability to make people feel as special as cats are always claimed to think themselves. Such is a state of Grace.

  64. Well, done Mr S!
    Neighbor’s cat used to be named Cha-bo (rhymes with neko, Thai-bo, rambo, you get the idea). Well, I thought that was cool ’cause the name lends itself well to hailing the wild one in for Dinner but didn’t realize until much later that Chabo is a popular Japanese name for “a bird”. Maybe it was the name or maybe it was the cat himself but I’m likely to remember that combination well into senescense. I find that such is the power of naming and I wish you luck in your choice!

  65. Just want to pop in with correct rabies information. If you are bitten by a healthy cat or dog, the animal should be confined and observed for ten days. If the animal has no symptoms after ten days, you’re in the clear. So if little Cuisinart bit you, John, just keep doing what you’re doing with an eye on the calendar. If he looks sick at all, call your vet and your doctor. I had rabies post-exposure prophylaxis for a different reason earlier this year, and it’s not that bad. Worst part was taking time out of my day to go to the hospital four times.

  66. Oh, and testing an animal for rabies involves cutting off its head and sending its brain to a central lab for biopsy, so please don’t get little Cuisinart tested for rabies. He didn’t mean any harm!

  67. About 14 years ago there was a little kitten outside my apartment with a badly broken leg. It could not have been a year old. I took it to the vet and agreed to pay to get the leg fixed. Poor things heart stopped while they had it out. I was going to give it away anyway since I am allergic to it. I still feel bad. I remember how scared he was when I took him to the vet.

    I would definitely take him to the bet for shots before you let him net your other cats. You never know if it caught anything. My understanding is that some animal vaccinations are not 100 percent reliable.

  68. Regarding cat bites – be extremely careful with any penetrating cat bite. Surface scratches are not generally a problem but cat bites routinely get infected. I was bit in the back of the leg multiple times by our cat Dante when I foolishly grabbed him when he was irate about another cat on our back deck. Despite cleaning and disinfecting immediately with peroxide, within two days it was red.

    I went into emerg and the doctor took one look and put me on intravenous antibiotics and made me come back every night for five days straight for a similar treatment until the infection was pushed back. According to him, had I waited another day to come in, they probably would have had to admit me. If the antibiotics hadn’t worked it would have been goodby to my right leg.

    Not sure if the doc was exaggerating or not but now I am extremely careful with cat bites…

  69. I can say the doc was not exaggerating. Cat bites can lead to very, very nasty infections. Had a friend and fellow cat lover who put off going to the doctor for a couple of days and almost lost a finger because of it. If cat teeth break the skin, keep a super close eye on it. Go get antibiotics at the first sign of inflammation.

  70. It’s been said a couple times, but I will say it again. Get a pair of welder’s gloves. They are super heavy duty leather and will stop their claws and teeth. That way you can save the cat and your skin. I picked up a baby raccoon in my pair and it tagged the gloves. Didn’t even break the leather.

  71. I had a feral indoor cat who lived a long life hating people. Actually, she was a purebred cat rescued from a kitten mill.

  72. Wow, there’s a lot of rabies misinformation out there. Catherine Shaffer is mostly right; standard protocol for an owned pet which has known rabies vaccination history is 10 days of quarantine to observe for symptoms (no vaccine is 100%).

    Standard protocol for an unvaccinated pet or a stray, no matter how apparently healthy, is usually to euthanize and examine the brain. This will vary by county, but it’s usually the protocol. “Get them tested for rabies?” That IS how you test for rabies; it involves death of the animal. There is a blood test which can show that an animal has had a rabies vaccine, but not one that can show whether an animal currently has rabies. (They’re working on it. It’s a tough disease to diagnose.)

    And it’s almost 100% fatal once you [any you: a human or other pet who has been infected] start to show any symptoms. Time to set in may vary; usually, incubation is 2 to 12 weeks. That means that you have the 10 days of quarantine plus about 4 days for buffer, but sometimes you don’t. Symptoms may show as quickly as 4 days.

    So if you are bitten by an animal that does not have a known vaccination history, even if it *looks* healthy, for the love of FSM get to your local health department and tell them so! The only rational reason to risk the 10 day quarantine is IF the animal involved has proof of vaccination.

    …and if you don’t want to let them examine the brain of the animal that killed you, tell them it was a stray that you cannot produce. And keep it in quarantine for 14 days; set it up carefully so the animal does not have the ability to bite any other people or pets, not while changing food or litter, not through crate bars, not through inattention, not at all. But that should be standard procedure with any animal brought into a house with no known vaccination or health history. For cats, don’t allow it direct contact with pet cats until it’s been tested for FIV and feline leukemia, too.

  73. G: local regulations vary, but cat vaccinated or unvaccinated, no one has ever developed rabies after being bitten by a cat that was observed for ten days with no signs of illness. (There’s info about this on the CDC web page.) In some places the law may require mandatory rabies testing (aka death) of an animal if you are treated by a doctor for a bite from an unvaccinated cat. That’s why I recommended just keeping it in the basement for home quarantine. :-) That’s exactly what I did when our feral kitten Titus nipped me last year. The other thing, though, is that a lot of people request rabies “testing” if an animal bites them, because they’ve heard the rabies series is horrible, which it’s not. It used to be daily shots in the stomach for 28 days or something equally barbaric. Now, it’s done in four visits, you get the shots in the arm, butt, or thigh, and it is totally survivable and almost no big deal, which is why I beg if people are bitten by an animal and you have the option, please just choose the shots. Don’t have the animal killed to spare yourself a few pokes. (There was a story not long ago about a woman who managed to get bit by a meerkat at a zoo, by climbing into the enclosure. Rather than getting the shots, the woman had all of the meerkats killed and tested–punished for her own stupidity. Ugh.)

    Our cat Simba bit a stranger in the neighborhood years ago, and the police came for him. If he hadn’t been vaccinated, it would have been off with the head. (Simba’s a sweet cat, but can get a bit intense with his “love bites,” especially when he’s lost and hungry as he was at the time.) Because we had his rabies certificate, his death sentence was commuted. Simba, however, could not be found for quarantine. We finally got him back on the tenth day of his quarantine, and all that was required was a vet check to confirm he was healthy. Anyway, more rabies discussion than anyone really wanted, but it’s important. I recently learned that rabies is a hideously common cause of human (and child) deaths in India because of the large population of stray dogs and total lack of widespread rabies vaccination. Horrible disease. It sounds like feral kitteh only scratched John, anyway.

  74. Oh, sure, it sounds like the kitty only scratched our illustrious author (although…he hasn’t actually specified).

    Hey, Catherine Shaffer? You seem to think I want everyone to cut off all the unvaccinated animals’ heads. I absolutely don’t want any animals’ heads cut off. What I want, very very much, is for anyone who has been exposed to saliva or bodily fluids of an animal without known vaccination history to get post-rabies-exposure prophylactic treatment. A healthy appearance doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know the animal’s history.

    There is no cure for rabies. Modern medicine can not treat it once it sets in. There have been a couple of amazing, one-in-a-million recoveries, but there is nothing remotely like “Oh hey, I seem to be developing symptoms, why don’t I head to the doc and get some antibiotics?” There just isn’t. This thing will kill you, slowly and painfully and through your own personal brain, if it sets in. And it can, it really can, set in before 10 days have passed.

    Why risk it? If there’s been exposure, go get treated! THAT works.

    There are only a few of these diseases left out there, the ones that will absolutely kill you dead if you get them. One of the wonders of modern medicine is that post-exposure prophylaxis–actually a variant of the rabies vaccine for humans–*works*, and so even if you get exposed you can stop it before it affects you. But if it starts to affect you, you’re screwed right down to the ground.

  75. @G,

    Didn’t know that rabies had no cure. Good to know. Will stop roaming the woods petting random animals.

  76. G: I had the rabies PREP in Feb. and March of this year. I take it very seriously. That said, the information I gave is scientifically correct and it is from the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/exposure/animals/domestic.html

    Here is their advice on potential exposure from domestic cats, dogs, and ferrets:
    Healthy and available for 10 days observation–Persons should not begin vaccination unless animal develops clinical signs of rabies
    rabid or suspected rabid–immediately vaccinate
    Unknown (escaped)–consult public health officials

    I also did not at any time write that I thought you wanted people to cut animals heads off. The health department will not test any old animal you present to them. However, unnecessary testing can happen, though, depending on local regulations, much of it based on an outdated belief that the rabies series is a terrible ordeal, so when people are presented with the choice to test the animal or take the shots, they choose to test the animal.

    G, you write: “What I want, very very much, is for anyone who has been exposed to saliva or bodily fluids of an animal without known vaccination history to get post-rabies-exposure prophylactic treatment. A healthy appearance doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know the animal’s history.”

    Your wishes are not in keeping with science or accepted public health practice, and much as you cannot present any animal you want for rabies testing to your health department, you also have to be cleared to receive the post-exposure series, as the vaccine is scarce and very expensive. That clearance is dependent on the type of exposure and the animal involved, since each animal sheds rabies differently. Did you know that you can’t get rabies from mice and rats? Did you know that rabies PREP is recommended if you wake up to find a bat in the room, even if you haven’t been bitten? I know these things. Stop contradicting me. I am not wrong. I commented here in order to clear up confusion I saw in the thread about rabies, and you are adding more confusion to the mix, so that is kind of frustrating.

  77. I am far too old, fat, and lazy to read through all the comments, so this advice may have already been given. It has been my experience that the best way to catch a cat that doesn’t want to be caught (short of gunfire) is to toss a beach towel over said feline and wrap it up as it is trying to burrow its way out. This lets you immobilize the spitting little ball of fur and claws without hurting anything but its dignity and with a lot less bloodshed on your part than a bare handed snatch.

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