Last time, you met our cute and relentless mouse terminators – Gray & Abel – and I shared a little about why I fired our exterminator service. Here you’ll read about the best way to acclimate an adopted stray or feral cat so they can be happy, healthy, and not run away as soon as they get home.
I’ve never had pet cats before, but my wife grew up with several that lived strictly indoors. As I researched more and more over several months about their characteristics, nature, and the huge benefit cats can provide in helping to reduce a rodent population around barns or outbuildings, I decided it was time to move out of research mode and into action mode.
After a ton of reading, there were a few things I knew for certain:
- I wanted to maximize the chance of getting mousers. Since stray or feral cats at one time sort of fended for themselves, they seemed a natural fit.
- I wanted cats that would at least tolerate me, if not grow into loving pets, so they’d come around and I could easily administer flea/tick/worm medication and round them up for any trips to the vet. Plus, I want the family to play with and enjoy our new companions.
- I wanted to give a second chance to felines that 99% of households choose not to adopt because they’re less socialized than cuddly lap kittens.
- Multiple cats supposedly hunt better than a single solo cat. It’s also less likely for multiple cats to run off since they have a buddy at home.
- It’s almost mandatory for outside cats to have all their claws intact. It’s mandatory that they be spayed or neutered so I don’t end up with hundreds of cats around in a few years.
I began by contacting our local Humane Society as they have a Barn Cat Program which spays/neuters animals and attempts to find homes for them in various structures. My primary concern given my specific situation is that those animals are so unsocialized I’d never be able to medicate them when the time came. However, they’d still be a wonderful option.
Then I discovered Royal Rescue, which is an excellent organization run by a couple very dedicated and helpful ladies who spend considerable amounts of their time and energy doing exactly what I was seeking:
Royal Rescue for Stray Cats is a non-profit, volunteer based, welfare organization dedicated to the rescue, spaying, and neutering of stray and feral cats. Royal Rescue attempts to capture, rehabilitate, tame, domesticate, and place for adoption, stray and feral cats. A college outreach program recruits campus groups to become on-campus partners to assist in this mission. Royal Rescue works in cooperation with the local humane society.
I spoke with Tamy and Anne and made an appointment to meet some kitties. They introduced me to two that show strong hunting tendencies and at least seem to want to spend time outside, since many indoor cats are scared, or at least hesitant, to head out the door.
After careful consideration, we made a donation for their good works, and brought the cats home.
How to Acclimate an Adopted Outdoor Cat
If your new feline friend spent time as a stray or feral cat, she is likely pretty skittish and needs time to adjust to new people and a new location. Here are some steps you should follow to maximize the chance their transition will go smoothly.
- Confine the cat(s) to a large kennel or carrier that contains bedding, food, clean water, and a litter box.
- Preferably provide the same type of food ate at the shelter. Over time, you can slowly introduce a new brand or type of food.
- Place the food/water as far from the litter box as possible.
- Clean litter box at least twice a day.
- Cover the kennel with a sheet or blanket to give the cats the feeling of being in a safe, enclosed space.
- Leave a light on 24/7 so they can always view their new surroundings.
- Every time you approach the cats, offer them a treat like a small bite of canned chicken or tuna.
- Speak softly and move slowly.
- Pet them as often as possible.
- Slowly introduce other family members one at a time as described above.
- After a couple days, slowly introduce any dogs one at a time. Keep dogs on a leash and provide all animals a treat during their experience.
- Consider using a Cat Pheromone Diffuser that will help calm them in a new environment.
- Around Day 4, open the kennel, but keep the cats confined to a smaller space you want them to call home (e.g. barn, tack room, shed, garage, etc.)
- Provide a couple places where they can feel safe. For example, I cut a hole in a cardboard box and ours tend to run into there when they hear me coming.
- Continue to offer treats, pet them, and spend time in their space.
- Interact through toys and consider providing catnip.
Hopefully after a couple of weeks, they have come to accept their space as “home” and you can begin to give them access to the outdoors without any problems. You should first let them out on a dry morning, as rain can eliminate their scent and hinder their backtracking home. Likewise, you don’t want their first jaunt outside to be near dusk.
At the time this post was published, we’re working on Day 9 of the above routine and they’re still pretty skittish around me. That’s OK and I figure we have about 20 years to get to know each other and hopefully they’ll eventually realize I’m a nice guy.
Question of the Day: Do you have indoor/outdoor cats? What is your interaction like with them?