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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.

I am hoping one of these ideas works for you. If you start the transition process now, you will be assured they are being cared for before you leave for your new home. Otherwise, it could be incredibly stressful on you and your family to walk away from these felines knowing they aren’t being cared for.

Let me know what you end up doing.

Dear Cathy,


Regarding the woman who couldn’t adopt a pet because of her age, why didn't you suggest she contact her local government agency regarding age discrimination? A blanket rule based simply on age without considering her current overall health and past history with pets sure sounds like discrimination.

–Howard, Oceanside, New York

Dear Howard,

Thanks for pointing out my oversight. Filing a discrimination report on the organization may be necessary to effect changes there.

Dear Cathy,

I volunteer for a feline rescue organization that requires senior pet owners in their 70's and 80’s to have a younger family member co-sign the adoption agreement acknowledging they will take responsibility for the pet in the event the adopter can no longer care for them. The potential senior adopter should discuss this option with the rescue organization she is working with.

–Rich, Dix Hills, New York

Dear Rich,

While this sounds great in theory, I fear if the agency is not asking everyone to have a co-signer and requiring everyone to plan for their pet’s care should something happen to them, then that is discrimination too. If they want to do that, they should do it for all their adopters. Any one of us can die at any point in our pet’s lives.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)

©2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.




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