November 15th, Sunday
Since Rupert is trap savvy and won’t go near the Hava-heart cat trap, we had to change our game plan. We decided to use an old dog crate we had as a pseudo-sideways drop trap. This was placed on the patio close to the door with plants around it and a tarp over it for weather protection. We had to flip the door upside down so that it was facing the right direction so that the trip pin and rope pull could be pulled through the patio door and triggered without him seeing me do it. This is called: The cage trapped him, not me. We will feed him his beloved canned food in the trap for at least a week or as long as it takes for him to get comfortable with it. Initial trap date is set for November 22nd.
November 22nd, Sunday 6:30 AM
Trapping was successful. We moved the dog crate into the garage, covered the entire thing with a tarp (darkness and quiet calms them down), then we left him alone while we had breakfast. After we ate, we went out to assess the situation.
I had all my protective clothing and gear on along with old towels, a water dish that could be attached to the cage, a food dish with kibble, and a small litter box filled with lightly used litter from my resident cat.
I was prepared for a mountain lion. Always be prepared for the worst. You are less likely to get injured that way. I, however, was pleasantly surprised. Rupert actually seemed scared but relaxed. He didn’t growl or hiss, and he let me gently stroke him (gloves on) for a bit while I made the crate comfortable for him. We talked him through everything gently and then covered the crate and left him alone for the rest of the day.
He did not eat at all on trap day. He did not drink or toilet either.
November 23rd, Monday – Day 1 Vet Visit Day
Our appointment was at 11:00 AM, but we wanted to be sure we could transfer him from crate to carrier so that there was time to cancel the appointment should there be complications. The vet was pre-warned of the situation, so we attempted the transfer at 7:30 AM before my husband left for work.
I had already watched many youtube videos on this, so I felt confident we could do it struggle free. I had all my safety gear on as did my husband. We opened the crate and removed the food, water, litter box, and towels, talking Rupert through the process as we went. We then took the carrier, opened the front facing side, and began sliding the carrier in towards him until he had nowhere to go but into it, which he did with a slight nudge on his butt. This is why a large dog crate works best. You need to be able to get the carrier into it.
Make sure you have some absorbent material in the bottom of the carrier and a tarp down in your car. The motion of the car ride is very frightening, and they will pee themselves if they haven’t toileted. Be warned, otherwise you will be cleaning your stinky-assed car for no reason. Remember, less stress not more, so plan for everything.
While you are waiting for your appointment, keep the carrier covered and dark while you are inside preparing the quarantine room. They could be in this room for a few weeks to a year depending how they progress, so make it cat friendly.
THE ROOM – Don’t be an idiot like me. Think like a cat.
We already had a litterbox in there for my resident cat. Do not scrub it out. Your current cat’s scent is most important. A litterbox needs to be seasoned like a cast iron skillet. You will need to make it smell earthy though. I use Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract herbal supplement. If you can’t get it, then peat moss works well. ½ cup sprinkled on top of the litter. You’ll also need a bit of pee, which you can get from your current cat (or ferret in Moon’s case). A tablespoon is sufficient; just break it up on top of the litter. Do not use your pee or dog pee. That’s predator scent not a friendly scent. Cats are very smell oriented. They want to go where other cats go, just like dogs. It’s also a good idea to tape pee pads to the wall behind the litterbox and on the floor under it. Using a box for the first time is awkward even in a big box (an uncovered big box). The pee pads will catch any inadvertent spritzing.
Strategically put the den (cat bed to sleep in) across from the door to the room. They want a strategic view of any and all entry points. They want a lookout spot so they can see things approaching them. So get down on the floor and assess the room like a war-time strategist. Put the litter box on the opposite side of the room from the cat bed. Put the food station near the cat bed, and put the water bowl about 3 feet from the feeding station. Cats are very cross-contamination averse. Water, food, and the potty need to all be away from each other.
Remove anything from the room that you do not want broken. But leave the furniture. Furniture has your smell on it, and it provides shelter. Cover the furniture with old sheets or blankets that you can launder regularly. Cats don’t groom when they are stressed, so they will be stinky for a while.
If you have an area rug and hard floors, remove the rug. I didn’t even though I knew there was bound to be at least one accident. Remove the rug and put a blanket down instead. If you have wall to wall carpet, get a good pee remover. You will need it. I like Fizzion. It really works.
Put in a scratching post. Outdoor cats prefer wood. Get wood. Don’t train them on fabric or carpet scratchers, you’ll be sorry. Ideally, use a scratcher from your resident cat and buy them a new one. Pre-scratched and scented works better. I like these. They really work. And for good measure, throw in a few toys. New toys. A pack of those little mice works well. Also, get a feliway diffuser and some spray. Have that diffuser going the day before and douse the room with spray, furniture and everything. Do not spray the scratch post though.
THE VET VISIT
Went as was expected. There was howling. Wall climbing. General Chaos. Wear your safety gear. You will need it. Rupert weighed in at 13 lbs. He was given rabies and FVRCP vaccinations and was dosed with Revolution flea/worm treatment. I was also sent home with Droncit for tapeworms, but we’ll wait on that since he has enough chemicals in his system at the moment. All free-roaming cats will have parasites: ear mites, fleas, ticks, and worms. Don’t worry though, you won’t get a flea infestation from the few fleas they have on them. You can keep them in the crate for 36 hours if you want, but bringing them in right away won’t make a difference. Just limit your room visits for 36 hours, wear socks, and take them off when you exit and throw them in the wash immediately and you won’t get fleas. However, ticks are disgusting. Revolution won’t kill them, so just keep an eye on your walls and remove curtains. Fat fed ticks fall off and climb the walls, but don’t worry, cats don’t generally have ticks because they groom them off. Rupert had one. I knew it was there and planned to pull it off. If the vet can do this, all the better.
Your vet will know what to do if you properly informed them that it is a feral/stray cat. You probably won’t get bloodwork or a stool sample for this initial visit, but that’s ok.
I put Rupert in the room immediately upon our return and left him alone for 24 hours. You must let them calm down. So resist the urge. 24 Hours. Leave. Them. Alone.
He did not eat at all, nor did he drink or toilet on Day 1.
November 24, Tuesday, Day 2 In The Room.
Rupert peed on the carpet overnight. I’m and idiot and now I have a carpet to clean. So we removed the carpet and put down an old blanket.
He’s hiding behind a chair, near the cat bed. I put fresh canned food in the room, talked to him for about 10 minutes, and then left him alone. I did this routine at 6:00 AM and 4:15 PM. The same times as I would have fed him when he was outside. Keep the routine.
He ate about ½ can of food on day 2. He also used the litterbox in the evening. One decent sized pee ball was retrieved. Note: we have a separate litter scoop for this box so we don’t transfer worm eggs to the resident cat boxes.
Moon kitteh knows his friend is in the room as he can smell him under the door, but he is not showing the slightest bit of concern. This is good.
November 25th, Wednesday – Day 3
Rupert is eating kibble now along with the canned food. He is using the litterbox regularly. No poop yet, but don’t worry, stress and not eating enough will result in many poop free days. This is normal. A cat on a proper meat based diet won’t poop every day.
He’s still behind the chair, sometimes under the cat bed. He’ll get the hang of it eventually. He did let me give him a few bare-handed chin scratches, so that’s a bit of progress.
On a science fiction note: the fat tick fell off and I found it climbing up the wall. After about 10 minutes of being really grossed the fuck out, I dispatched the disgusting fugly thing with pleasure. There is no logical reason for such an awful thing to exist in my opinion. None at all.
November 26th, Thursday, Thanksgiving – Day 4
Rupert found the cat bed. He looks relaxed a bit. He still won’t come out from hiding, but you can give him head scratches while he’s in the cat bed under the chair.
My husband and I are visiting the room a bit more other than the regular feeding times. Five minutes here, ten minutes there. We’ll increase that time as we go. Slow and steady.
November 27th, Friday – Day 5
No monumental changes, though he is using the scratching post.
November 28th, Saturday – Day 6
We have poop. In the litter box too. I’ll be dropping that off at the vet on Monday so we can see exactly what we are dealing with worm-wise. If I don’t have to give him the Droncit, all the better for both of us.
We also left the door open to the room today. We have two wooden baby gates stacked on top of one another, the kind with bars. We had to have them for the ferrets to deter climbing out of gated rooms. Now he can acclimate to the daily sounds of the house, us talking, and Moon can get a better sniff.
No change in behavior. Still on cat bed, still hiding.
November 29th, Sunday – Day 7
No change from yesterday.
Socializing a Feral Cat by Heidi Bickel – Straypetadvocacy.org