Looking for advice regarding "my" stray cats... (long)

  1. I have a couple of issues going on and I would appreciate your advice and input.

    I have been feeding stray cats in my neighborhood for years. I volunteer for a no-kill cat rescue and placement center and my goal with all of the strays that I feed is to socialize them and get them to the shelter for neutering and eventual adoption. A couple of them were diagnosed with FIV (not surprisingly) and those cats are placed in a special no-kill shelter where the FIV and FeLeuk kitties are allowed to live the remainder of their lives under the supervision of my vet who runs the two shelters. I have done this successfully with nearly 15 cats and it’s something I enjoy very much. I wanted to explain my background a bit so you all know that I am not an irresponsible stray feeder or a “crazy cat lady” who is contributing to the stray cat problem in the US. I also want to add that my neighbors all know what I do and have no problems with it.

    First issue:
    I was bit by one of the strays on Sunday night by “Georgie.” He’s been hanging around for a month or so and has always acted kind of freaky (growling, hissy, etc.). I have always been careful with him because of his weird demeanor. I went out to feed him on Sunday night and he bit me on the foot. I noticed a couple weeks ago that he seemed to be favoring one of his hind feet so I wonder if he stepped on it wrong *or something* and because I was there he bit me. It was 10:00 p.m. and all the urgent care centers were closed so I went to the ER to get on antibiotics right away because it was a puncture wound. The ER doc discussed rabies with me but he told me I have a little time and that I didn’t have to decide to get the rabies prophylaxis that night.

    Since Sunday Georgie has gotten progressively worse and when I saw him last night he looked horrible - he’s very sick. While I was waiting for the county animal control to come out with a live trap my neighbors, who were trying to help, made matters worse by scaring him from the storm drain where he had been hiding out. I seriously doubt that Georgie will ever be back. He’s a very sick cat and he had the daylights scared out of him. I am guessing that he will probably hide somewhere and die.

    At this point, I have decided to go in tomorrow to start the rabies prophylaxis. Chances are that Georgie didn’t have rabies but I can’t take the risk. He probably has a raging infection from a bite or something but, like I said, I have to get the treatment.

    Second issue, and the biggest heart-breaker for me:
    I can’t help but think that I need to give up my stray rescue crusade. But, what’s killing me is that I have two semi-feral strays, Peaches and Dexter, who have been hanging around for years and who have come so far in terms of being socialized. Even though I have never petted either one of them, I am totally attached to them and care about them as if they were my pets. They lay on my front porch all day and I really think they think they live at my house. They are the only two strays that I am currently caring for/feeding, besides Georgie. You may be thinking that if they haven’t been socialized yet that they never will, but I can personally attest to the fact that it can sometimes take that long. I had one cat “Miskers” who took two years to socialize and all it took was one pet on the head and he melted and became one of the most loving and favored cats at the FIV shelter. Miskers wouldn’t let me near him for a couple years and he “accidentally” got close enough to me one morning and so I gave him a pet on the head. That one pet opened the flood gate and he seriously couldn’t get enough attention from me over the weekend while I waiting to get him into the clinic and to the shelter on Monday morning.

    The logical side of me says to live trap Peaches and Dexter, take them to the county animal shelter and have them euthanized, and end my stray cat hobby forever. Michigan winters can be brutal and maybe I would be doing them a humane favor. Trapping them and taking them to the no-kill shelter where I volunteer isn’t an option because they aren’t socialized enough for adoption right now and my vet wouldn’t take them in. Plus, they could spread disease and add to the stray cat overpopulation.

    The emotional side of me refuses to even consider this. Last night I saw Dexter go by the live trap and I quickly went outside to get him away from it. I cried my eyes out last night until I tripped the trap so they couldn’t get caught. The thought of “my boys” being trapped in there and going to the shelter to be put down is absolutely unbearable to me. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. They obviously have shelter somewhere because they’ve been surviving the winters for years. Peaches and Dexter look like housecats – they don’t look like scrappy, skinny, unhealthy strays. They are fed very well (they each get 2-3 cans of wet food per day and they have an unlimited supply of dry food) and they are clean, plump and look terrific.

    Please help. :cry:

    ETA: For those of you who are interested, here is Miskers' bio page for the shelter. THIS is why I do what I do!
  2. Oh no. I feel your love for them so much I can't express what I want to say. I hardly ever see such caring people like you..I feel deeply like this too. I'll write as much as I can for now but it won't be as detailed as I like, I'm having trouble finding words right now. If those cats have survived the winters so far maybe they will again and again until they die of natural causes. I'm having mixed feelings about saving them from it..I don't know. Wish there was a way to neuter/spay them to fix the overpopulation problem and just let them be since they can't be adopted. You can look at it from a broad perspective and make a decision, or you can look at it from a personal one since you have a bond with them. I don't know which one you should choose right now, maybe you could think about them. I feel sorry for Georgie, wish he could have been put to sleep rather than dying sick in the drain:sad:. As for you, I hope you get that bite taken care of and are safe. I'll write more if I can think of something. Please keep us updated!
  3. ^Thanks, kneehighz. You obviously understand my internal struggle. I have talked to my husband and mom about this but I can't get good advice from either of them. My husband is logic driven and the solution comes easy to him - trap them all and be done with it. My mom is the exact opposite and she can't be anything but emotional about it. I tend to be equally logical and emotional about things. Sadly, I just don't think there is going to be a cut and dry solution to this. I am just being selfish about this? Am I only considering how sad this is making me feel?

    I, too, feel horrible for Georgie. I think he probably had a family at one time and that just kills me. I will never understand people who think animals are disposable material objects. I so wish that he would have found my house before he got sick - I probably never would have been bitten and he may have been adoptable. It's too late for him now and I hate the idea of him hiding somewhere and dying.
  4. My gosh, what a dilemma.

    I completely understand where you are coming from. I had a mom and a litter living in my yard a few years ago, all of whom were feral. I slowly trapped them one by one (when they were old enough to be away from mom) and took them to a no-kill shelter. The mom, however, was not able to go to the shelter as she was not social at all (the kittens all came around over time). As the fall progressed and winter approached I caught the mom and had to take her to the pound as I could not stand the thought of her and more litters of kittens trying to survive the cold Canadian winter. I do not know what happened to her but suspect she was put down. As hard as it was to take her to the pound knowing the probable outcome, after really wrestling with the decision, I had to take her in as I could not have her out in the cold.
  5. You are not being selfish! It's hard to decide what's best for the cats.."what's best" becomes relative. I still can't figure out what I would do. Do you know how old they are?
  6. ^Dexter is at least 5 years old and Peaches is at least 3 - that's how long I have been caring for them. They weren't kittens when they first came to my house, either. I guess that says something about how healthy they are because strictly outdoor cats never live that long.
  7. Well knowing the age didn't seem to help much (((hugs))). Keep us posted:sad: And PLEASE let us know that you're not infected or anything.
  8. I've read through your post and I really feel for you, I wouldn't be able to stand the thought of trapping them either if there was a chance they'd be put down.

    I'm not sure I'm understanding it right, but is there a particular reason you can't keep feeding the two that are left? During the time you've been feeding them have you acquired any more or is it just those two?

    If you're worried about them in the cold winter could you maybe put a cat door on a garage or shed so they have some shelter to go to without being in your house?

    I can relate to the feral cat thing. I have two cats, they're mother and daughter. The mother was rescued off the streets after living wild for over a year, and she had kittens in the shelter. Unfortunately due to the amount of cats they had the kittens weren't properly socialised so they were both incredibly nervous when I got them. They're still pretty jumpy now and wary of new people, but once they get to know you they love a bit of attention.

    I hope your bite heals up without any problems! :heart:
  9. The reasons why I now question feeding Peaches and Dexter are 1) because I am afraid this situation could happen again and 2) I was advised by the county animal control that any cat I feed for more than a week becomes my legal responsibility. What if Georgie bites someone else and it is positive for rabies? I also question whether or not I might be indirectly causing them to suffer by keeping them alive, especially during the winter. I think they probably love their lives from March to November or so, but December to February can get really brutal in Michigan.

    I considered the cat door to the garage idea but it would never work because along with stray cats, I also get a lot of possums, skunks and raccoons who eat the dry cat food at night. I'd have more than a couple of cats in my garage and things could get really nasty in there. Plus, I don't think they are socialized enough to go in there on their own. I did buy a small insulated and shingled dog house a couple years ago and one of my strays lived in it for a month during the winter while he waited for an opening at the shelter. I kept him warm in there but putting those disposable had warmers inside under the blankets and he stayed nice and toasty in there. I have that outside at all times but nobody has inhabited it since the first cat.

    Thanks, everyone, for responding. I really appreciate your time.
  10. Oh, yeah, I wanted to tell you all something else that really touched me. Last night, before I tripped the trap, I was sitting on my couch crying. My cat, Powder, jumped up on my lap. She was purring really loud, which is unusual for her, and she kept rubbing her head on my face. She knew I was upset and I really think she was trying to comfort me (that, or she was afraid). It was really sweet and she really made me feel better. Anyone who says that animals don't feel emotion or have souls has rocks in their head.
  11. I'm so sorry to hear about your dilemma. Would it be worth it to humanely trap them and get them fixed/shots? (I know that's the expensive option) Any chance of rehabbing them into house cats? I really know nothing about cats; I'm severely allergic, but have been rehabbing a feral dog for a couple years and we've made great progress.
    Good luck and I hope your health is not in danger with the bite from Georgie.
  12. I don't have any advise to give, unfortunately. I wouldn't want to sway you either way. But I did want to say that I think you are incredible for doing this, you have a really big heart and you have touched alot of lives and even if you were to stop today I think it's amazing that you have been helping these cats for so long.:heart::heart:
  13. I only have time for a quick post so I'll be short-ish...

    You are feeding them and have been for a while, and allow them to "think" they live at your house... so yes they are your cats, and DO live there. The solution as I see it is quite simple -

    Part 1) Trap the 2 cats that you are so attached to and get them spayed/neutered, and vet checked. I would board them at the clinic for 10 days as Rabies would manifest in that time period. Rabies is deadly - don't mess with it.

    Part 2) Stop feeding the strays. Set live traps. Take them to the shelter. If ONE of them has a horrible sickness odds are many of them do. There are SO many very beautiful, healthy, adoptable cats that are killed every day as they can't find homes - why prolong the suffering of sick ferals??.. never mind the MI winter!

    Sorry if this all sounds crass, but it seems obvious to me that this situation is out of control. Please do the right thing, even though it is the hard thing for you to do. You will see that it was the right thing to do in the long run.

    Please update us!
  14. :hrmm:
    If I was a cat collector with 50 cats in or outside of my home the situation could be called out of control but my situation is far from it. Did you read what I wrote in my initial post about my background? I fully understand the seriousness of the feral cat situation. I have successfully rescued 15 or so cats from my neighborhood and of those cats, only two of them aren't fully socialized. All of the rest of them came from homes where people disposed of them as if they were rubbish. HALF of the cats I have rescued have been either neutered, declawed or both. My most recent rescue was declawed on all four feet but wasn't neutered! ALL but one of those cats have been taken into the shelter where they were neutered and then adopted out to loving families who were carefully screened. Only one cat who was FIV positive hasn't been adopted and so he's living the rest of his life at a shelter designated solely for those cats where he has full roam of a fully staffed shelter (actually more like a house) with no cages where he will be well taken care of. I rescued two other FIV positive cats and even they have been adopted! Every time one of my cats is taken in by the shelter I give a nice donation which more than pays for the medical expense of getting them immunized and neutered.

    I hoped for and expected to get different opinions here, which is why I posted, but I don't appreciate your take on the situation because it couldn't be farther from the truth. I am not being reckless or irresponsible. Instead, I am cleaning up after other people who were.
  15. First of all, you are an Angel for doing all that you do for the animals. Absolutely amazing.:heart: You have good things coming to you.

    I have also been one of those people who feed outdoor cats. One house I lived in for about 8 years, there were many many kitties outdoors. I would feed them all the time, they all had names, and everything. At one point, I counted about 14 outdoor cats I was feeding. Another house I lived in I was feeding cats....and a racoon(very cute, he would come up to the doorstep and eat the cat food and my indoor kitty would just stare at him through the window and he would stare back, they were friends, it was priceless.) One day, as I came home, I got out of the car and behind the one of the bushes by the basement window, I saw a cat body. She was just laying there dead. She was one of my "regulars" that I fed. I cried forever on that one. I put a blanket over her little body. Called animal control, and they got her a few days after. As crushed as I was, I realized that this cat knew she had love from me, she died knowing someone cared about her, which is why she decided to die peacefully at my house, as opposed to all of the other homes and places in the neighborhood. And that is something that is so special giving a homeless kitty, love. And that is something that you are obviously doing and have been doing, and cats are aware of everything, including emotions. Throughout the years I have been feeding cats and the occasional raccoon or opposum, I have learned a lot of things to keep them comfortable. I know winter months are rough. What I have always done is shovel paths through the snow, which helps them a lot. I usually keep a small area in the shed or garage open where they can go for shelter. Other times, I would put out large container like objects and put old clothes of mine in there(with my scent) so that they could have a warm comfortable spot to lay. I always put out bowls of fresh water for them. I know what you mean about "legal responsibility." But for years what I always would do if it came down to it, is feed them secretly, in an area not visible to the neighbors, in other words no one but you know that you are taking care of them. So, if someone tried to twist it around and got bit or something, I would say I am not feeding them or taking care of them, I don't even remember the last time I saw them. Kwim? For years also, I always considered just bringing the cat to the vet and getting them checked for illnesses, etc., then once they were clear, I would just think about bringing them into my home, but my situation never really allowed that(too many cats, some very very feral(run away when seeing you, etc.) But this is an idea if your situation allows it.
    I hope I am not rambling. But all in all, I wouldn't and couldn't trap the kitty and send them off to their death sentence, especially a cat who has come to trust and love me. It always was absolutely out of the question and not a possiblity for me. I guess it would be a different situation if the cat was visibly sick and suffering with some type of illness, then I would see that trapping them and sending them in would be more beneficial, because why should the kitty suffer, but once again, this has only crossed my mind if a cat was very sickly and visibly suffering.
    I hate it when people get pets, don't get them spayed/neutered, and lets roam free as outdoor/indoor cats(INCREDIBLY irresponsible), then ultimately decides that these "things" need to go, and lets them out on the streets. And it's these people who turn it around and complain about the pet overpopulation, it makes me sick.
    I am not sure if I included everything I wanted to say, but if it didn't make sense or if you have any questions or need advice as I have much experience with taking care of outdoor cats, please don't hesistate to PM me or something, I would be more than happy to help you out, afterall, you have done an incredible thing over the years and have given such a gift to those who were less fortunate.