Tips For Relocating a Feral Cat
Upon arrival, the cats must be confined for as long as possible; 2 to 4 weeks is ideal. Confinement is essential and critical to successful relocation. Confinement in a large, spacious, enclosure from top to bottom, lets the cats adjust to the environment in safety and accept it as their new home.
• If cats are set free upon arrival, they will attempt to return to their former home and will likely be lost. The cats may try to find a way out the first day or two, but will settle down once they realize they’re safe.
• While the cats are confined, they must have clean water, fresh food, a pet carrier or similar small shelter where they can hide, and clean (scooped) litter once or twice each day.
• Providing appealing canned food during confinement helps cats to accept their new home. The cats can be fed dry food upon release; it’s up to the new caregiver.
• If a cat escapes from the enclosure, the caregiver should set food and water out. This will encourage the cat to stay close. The new caregiver can sprinkle that particular cat’s used litter (specifically feces) around the location. Since cats have a keen sense of smell, this will help lure the cat back.
Once the cats arrive at their new location, it might be necessary to keep some of them caged individually for several days if, for example, they’re still recovering from surgery or they need regular doses of medication.
Most, however, can be housed together in a large enclosed or caged area for two to four weeks while they become familiar with their new environment. They can be released into a closed barn, shed or other large shelter, such as an unused chicken coop or covered dog pen. The idea is to give them enough room to become familiar with their new home without permitting them free access to the outdoors.
Keep in mind that cats can be escape artists, especially when they are stressed. During their acclimation period, make absolutely sure that the cats cannot escape from their enclosure or become injured while trying to do so. Some cats will even try to dig out of an enclosure, so be sure the bottom is secure. In addition, provide smaller shelters within the larger shelter or enclosure to give the cats a safe place to hide while caregivers are feeding and cleaning, and while other humans are in the area.
It’s important for the cats to come to regard this enclosure as their permanent feeding station before they are permitted to roam freely outside. Feed the cats canned food at least once a day, and always at the same time; regular feedings will help them to realize they have a reliable food source. Always have dry food and water available for the cats.
During the cats’ confinement period, the new caregiver must regularly visit the cats to ensure the bonding that is essential for successful relocation. Speaking to the cats, even if they remain hidden, helps them to overcome their fear of humans. After their two-to-four-week confinement period, the cats can be given access to the outdoors. A small opening should be provided so they may come and go whenever they want. After the cats have acclimated to their new surroundings, the enclosure can be removed.