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Pet World: How to find caretakers when you have to leave feral cats behind

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

We have two feral cats that we have been feeding for many years - one since 2012 and one since 2016. They still shy away from us and never enter our home. However, we provide most of their food along with warmth in the winter and a place to stay cool in the summer.

We are no longer able to handle our large house and are planning to move to a smaller one in a senior community. We’re not sure what to do about the cats. If we leave, they’ll have lost a major part of their support and may not survive. If we trap them and take them with us, they will be nothing familiar around them and nothing to prevent them from wandering off and never finding their way back to our new home. We don’t think they would handle a change to being indoors, so they will have to continue to live outside in our new neighborhood.

None of these options seems satisfactory. Can you provide any guidance?

–Jon, Las Vegas, Nevada

Dear Jon,


While some people have moved successfully with feral cats – and I have offered tips on how to do that in the past – most feral cat groups recommend leaving the cats where they are and looking for someone else to feed and take care of them. Relocation is always the last resort so let’s review your other options. The first is to talk to your house’s incoming occupants to see if they would be willing to continue feeding them. I am often surprised at the number of people who agree to take over the care of feral cats upon moving into a new home.

Second, ask your neighbors to see if there is someone willing to feed the cats going forward. You can include pictures of the cats, explain they are fixed (they are right?), and how you have been taking care of them for many years. A transition to a new neighborhood feeder would take a little effort, but most cats who are not being fed in one location quickly adapt to food being offered in another location.

The third solution would be to contact a local feral cat group to see if they have any caretakers working in your neighborhood who could add these two felines to their daily rounds. If so, they will determine a good feeding location and begin transitioning them.

Relocation is always the last resort and doesn’t always work out as you point out. But there are people who have done it successfully. You would need to trap the cats and then keep them in a room in your house so they can orient to their new home base. When you think they have acclimated, let them outside at feeding time. This helps them establish a new home base, so they don’t wander off.


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