Many feral caregivers are doing their best to rehabilitate and rehome their calmer colony cats

Update May 28, 2017 Petition to save the cats can be found here

There’s a cat advocacy movement taking place among those who care for a feral colony. A good percentage of feral caregivers are doing their best to convert the calmer ferals, the ones they believe could be rehabilitated, to live as indoor-only house cats. Whether you agree with this concept or not, it may be what’s best for the cat. This is the story of reforming ferals in general and the success we’ve had with our cat Peter in particular.

Peter in his forever home April 2017
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

On July 19, 2012, Michael Broad posted an article here titled Percentage of Stray to Feral Cats where he stated

“There are also degrees to which cats have become feral. It is a sliding scale and not black and white as is portrayed in the press. The online newspapers write of the ‘feral cat’ as if it has those words tattooed on his forehead. But what if 30% of cats roaming around the suburbs are still domesticated and should be classified as stray cats. That would put a different complexion on the feral cat problem and how to deal with it.”

Peter with his family July 2014

There will always be a percentage of cats in a feral colony who would never accept a life indoors. Those are the cats who would climb the walls, not learn litterbox etiquette and put the caregiver at risk of personal injury.

Groups on Facebook tell a different story about how a good percentage of these cats, either abandoned by thoughtless owners or born into dangerous life circumstances, are benefitting (and even enjoying) life as an indoor cat. Some of these “reforming ferals” allow human contact. Others do not but are content with a cat companion as well as the joys the indoor life can provide.

Peter still a colony cat September 2014

I have a reformed feral named Peter. I began caring for Peter in June 2014 when he was just a kitten. He was part of a colony of 19 cats, many of whom I’ve found a forever home. Others disappeared, most likely killed by natural predators such as coyotes and chicken hawks.  Peter became an indoor cat late last summer when he became ill from the constant 95-degree heat. He had undergone TNR May 2016.

Peter still with his colony April 2016

When he refused to be recaptured in a standard humane trap I panicked, afraid he’d die before I could bring him indoors. I invested in a drop trap and had him within five minutes using TNR bait casserole (cheese, eggs, and spinach baked into a pie).

Peter began his transition in a small bathroom where he was treated like royalty around the clock. He always had good food, water, a cat bed and even a cat companion in our senior cat Coral. Peter is actually the only cat our old lady has grown fond of.

Peter right after we brought him home in August

Even after we began leaving the bathroom door open, it still took Peter almost two months to venture out of the bathroom. He’d poke his little head around the corner, then he’d retreat to what he felt was his safe place.  Beginning in month three we began to see progress.

Now our former feral is a lap kitty. He knows his name and is very fond of snuggling and exchanging cheek rubs. He has cat friends and spends his days either looking out the window overlooking the bird feeders or receiving ear massages in my lap. It can be done, especially when the cat is accustomed to the caregiver.

Peter April 2017

There’s a situation taking place in Mauldin, South Carolina where a colony of cats has until June 14 to find a new home or they’ll be trapped. This article tells of their dilemma. Out of possibly 17 colony cats, three have found a new home with people willing to take a chance while at the same time saving a life. Because no one knows what the HOA’s definition of “disposed of” really means.

Part of the Mauldin, SC colony who need a new home

It takes an understanding cat lover to go about the task of turning an outdoor feral or community cat into an indoor cat. While these cats may never become as loving as my Peter, they do enjoy the company of a fellow cat, a comfortable bed, toys (you should see Peter with a toy mouse!) and perhaps even a catio to enjoy the outdoors in safety.

Ginger feral in Mauldin is looking for a new home

As for our Peter, it’s been an amazing experience as we’ve watched him learn to trust humans. I’m amazed at how his markings have come in over the past year. As a kitten, he was mostly a white cat with a ginger striped tail. He’s three years old now and totally tame. I can even carry him around the house, which he wouldn’t allow for the first six months.

Have any of you ever taken in a feral? What did you do to make the transition easier? Please share your story in the comment section below. If you can offer one of the Mauldin colony cats a new home, contact Andrea Durham on this Facebook thread.



20 thoughts on “Many feral caregivers are doing their best to rehabilitate and rehome their calmer colony cats”

  1. In my feral world, I would guess that less than 1% of ferals can be socialized to the point of being adopted out.

    There are so many factors such as the age of the cat, how long the cat has been in the wild, or whether the cat was born in the wild, etc. that come into play.

    Please keep in mind, when I speak about ferals, I mean TRUE ferals, the ones who would love to rip your throat out if approached and standard ferals as well. Any others fall short of being ferals to me.

    My socialized and adopted ones have been limited to the semi-ferals and the kittens born to feral mothers. They stand the best chance.
    Some of the standard ferals are capable of descending to semi-ferals if worked with. I have a couple of these with me now, and the rule is always “no touchy”; but, they can live in harmony with others.

    And, ofcourse, I remove and adopt out as many friendly, domesticated strays that enter any one of my colonies. They aren’t equipped to survive there.

    • Peter was born in the wild and I’d been part of the team who cared for him since June 2014. The cats in my colony were slow to trust. One of my TNR’s still doesn’t understand I don’t need to trap him again. He won’t get close to me. Yet one allows me to pet him on top of the picnic table. The three left for TNR are trap shy. Old Mama even escaped a drop trap. They won’t come within 100 feet of a trap even if they go without food for several days. I still have 3 left to TNR in the group.

      What’s really sweet is three of the ferals at work have learned to meow at me. I didn’t know ferals meowed!

      Peter has been a total surprise. He spends a LOT of time in my lap. The ones who remain in the colony are best left there. I don’t think they’d adapt easily to indoor life. They have a sad story. The lady who cared for the original cats died about 9 years ago and all of the cats lived outside around her home about a half block away. Half of them eventually came over to where they live now and the other half went down a side road. I hate to think how many cats would be here if I hadn’t had 6 females and 3 males fixed.

      • So right, Elisa. What a handful you would have been if you weren’t doing TNR.
        I know all about those trap savvy ones. It takes so long and requires so many different tactics. So many times I’ve had to just back off for maybe even 2 months just to have a cooling off period before starting again. One member of our group actually buried her trap with only the snap end sticking out to get a very smart female.
        I’ve just been hired to trap 8 cats deemed “untrappable” and have only gotten 2 in the past 4 weeks. I’m hungry, sleep deprived, and cranky.
        But, like you and so many others, it’s a mission.
        Thank you for all that you’ve done and all that you do.
        Renny is looking good. How is Sealy?

        • Sealy is doing great. He basically ignores me unless food in involved. I went to my favorite store today and stocked up on their grain-free food for the month. Here’s a recent one of him on Laura’s bed with Peter and Henry. He’s like a little old man. When not on the bed napping he’s in his rocking chair.

  2. As I read this, I am sitting next to a dog crate where I have my latest TNK – trap, neuter, keep. I was so glad to read your story as I always believed there were no strict lines of demarcation between ferals, strays, and indoor cats. I beg to differ with the contention of Alley Cat Allies that ferals live as healthy a life as indoor cats and one should not attempt to socialize them.From empirical evidence (I feed 4 colonies — about 60 cats) and my own reading, they do not fare as well and should be given a chance to have an indoor life. Alley Cat Allies’ philosophy discourages people from giving friendly community cats a home. I am retiring this year and I want to commit time and effort to changing hearts and minds about community cats. I would love to know how people rehome them. I live in a transient party of the country and people move and abandon their pets on a reguler basis.The supply is so much greater than the demand.

  3. I have been a caretaker of ferals for 25 plus years. They can be successfully placed in homes with patience and dedication. I also have indoor ferals and a couple have been with me indoors now for 15 years. I have to say their “bathroom” habits and behavior as an indoor is better than my spoiled brats. Leave cages set up always for catching to medicate and do any treatment you need to do.

    • We have one we have to trap once a month in the cage for her flea treatment. It takes 2 weeks for her to forgive us and use the cage as a bed again. About a year after we adopted Renny from the Greenville shelter (had to get permission from the shelter director because he was very feral), I stepped on his tail and he wouldn’t come near me for a week.

      • The pet industry advertises that having a pet = getting unconditional love. The truth is it’s up to us to offer that unconditional love.

        • Renny was discovered too wild for adoption and he had already had his first vaccines when he was brought to the shelter. He was given a second round on intake. THAT’s what kept him from dying of the panleuk outbreak we had when the shelter didn’t tell us all of the kittens had been exposed. He hid the first few months and only came out at night to eat and go to the litter box. Laura had to tame him by wrapping him in a towel and holding him. Now he’s my bed buddy but you can look at him and see that wild side is still inside.

          • In response to the “troll” whose comment was deleted, Renny doesn’t have a tipped ear because he was adopted from the shelter as a kitten and has never, ever stepped foot outside. He was turned in as a feral. You should be happy about that, my dear troll. Only TNR cats are ear-tipped.

            It reads
            “Wow, she keeps breeder-cats for her perpetual exploit-suffering-cats make-a-buck hobby. No tipped ear! I figured as much. Thanks for the 100% absolute proof! We’ll be sure to let all your supporters KNOW that you are not sterilizing your cats! This should go-over REAL well. ROFLMAO!!”

            • And for the record, Renny was neutered in 2012. The vet tech said he was very well blessed before the snip-snip.

                • I’ve got spay/neuter records on all of my cats. I’m not stupid. The last thing I want to listen to is a female cat in heat. It’s almost as bad as troll psychobabble. Hey, I made a new word 🙂

  4. I realized that the feral cats near my horses came to me fairly quickly even when the sight of another human hundreds of feet away would send them running.
    I realized at one point I communicated with them the way I did my rescue horses many who had no trust of humans left This is a short read but there are so man parallels between a feral cat and a wild horse This is a very short read.

  5. I can give one tip. Take about a cup full of dirt, grass or whatever where you know the kitty goes to the bathroom and mix it in with their cat litter. They’ll know that’s where they’re supposed to “go.” We’ve had no trouble with inappropriate elimination using this trick.

    • I started out with Organic potting soil and leaves from outside. Then when I changed out that box I did half of the potting soil and half cat attract litter by Dr.Elsey. This time it’s all cat attract litter and next time we should be able to go straight to regular litter.


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