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GUIDELINES FOR RELOCATING FERAL CATS INTO BARNS
The cats you have just adopted for your barn have been living elsewhere for quite some time and are very adjusted to their own schedules. It will be necessary to borrow, purchase, or rent a large dog crate or kitty playpen for the comfort of your new friend/s. No more than three kitties, and no less than two kitties should be placed together in a playpen (no kitties should be alone in a pen). It is an absolute MUST that your kitties be caged at all times for NO LESS than 1 month after bringing them into your barn. All of your new kitties should have been/be tested for FeLV (feline leukemia) and FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus), given Distemper and Rabies Vaccination, and spayed or neutered.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED TO PURCHASE:
You will need to purchase a large litter box for each playpen, clumping kitty litter is easiest to keep clean, canned wet and dry food, and food and water bowls for the kitties. Purchase small bed for the cats to "hide out" in and that will fit in each playpen, and a toy or two would be great too. In addition, buying a wand with a feather at one end would be a useful tool to have for taming your kitties, and will help you to better bond with the kitties.
Purchasing a large self-dry food feeder and self-waterer is necessary for use after the kitties have been acclimated and released from their playpens or crates. It is important to provide enough dry food and water for all the cats to free feed throughout the day. Also, making an enclosed bed area using hay or straw (straw will not get moldy) is necessary for creating a comfortable sleeping area for the cats at night or during the day. Leaving at least one large litter box inside the barn away from any high traffic areas or their food is necessary for the kitties to use during bad weather and during the winter months when the ground is frozen.
ACCLIMATING YOUR CATS TO YOUR BARN:
The first week: Feed, water, and change/clean the litter box only 1 time per day, as the kitties are going to be very frightened in their new home set up. You will find that most cats will cower or cringe in the back of the cage, and will avoid you at all costs. Kitty may shake or vibrate a lot, and may do some loud hissing. Usually the kitty will not come out at you. You may notice the pupils of the eyes stay dilated, remain very large. This is because the cats are afraid. Use caution when opening the playpen doors to feed, etc., observe your kitties, and get to know their body language.
The second week: Feed, water, and change/clean litter box twice a day. Begin feeding wet/canned food at night only. Give each cat 1 Tablespoon canned food. Make eye contact and speak quietly and soothingly. Do not try to handle or reach for the cat. You may find that the kitties are more relaxed. They still may quietly hiss at you or try to "take swipes" at you when opening the cage, however. Just use caution and be forewarned.
The third week: Continue same as week two, speaking quietly and soothingly. You should start bringing canned food into barn with you. Tap the opened can with a spoon while calling the cats name, and then feed a very small amount of the canned food while talking to kitty. You may want to begin using the feather wand at this time and gently stroke while talking to each kitty with the feather from outside the cage with the doors closed. As long as the kitty does not appear to being getting more upset, repeat the stroking several times.
The forth week: Same as week three. Many people at this point want to try to touch or pet the kitty, if you do, we suggest wearing gloves, or use a towel to cover your hand while you VERY slowly and quietly reach for the kitty. Do not have your fingers extended, put your hand in like a fist when reaching to pet the kitty. Observe your kittyís body language. You may want to stick to using the feather wand. Go slow and try to pat the side areas, or under the cats chin. Trust me kitty REALLY does not want you petting him/her, but I know at this point you are building a bond and you are curious and want to try, so be careful if you attempt this!
The fifth week: Do all of the above weeks. If your barn does not have an enclosed area that is escape-proof, you will need to keep the cats caged this final week in the playpen.
OPTIONAL: If you have an enclosed escape-proof room for the cats to be released into, it is time to keep the cage door open at all times. Leave food, water, and litter box in the cage BUT do not let kitty out of the barn/stall/area that you have the cage housed. For the next month, you do not want to let the kitty out of the barn/stall/area at all. Continue changing the litter box, food, and water as needed. Some cats come around very quickly, and may be waiting for you when you come in with food.
RELEASING THE CATS INTO THE BARN:
After these 5 weeks are up, the cats should trust you enough now to be allowed outside during the day. A cat-sized pet door that you leave open all day for them to come and go on their own is best. You can purchase or order these at major pet supply stores and most hardware stores. Or leave a door cracked or window just enough to let the cats go in an out, but not so much that a predator might get in.
Because you have trained them with the canned food trick, you should be able to get them to come inside the barn at night to be kept safe. This may take calling their names at night and tapping the canned food, but before you know it, the kitties will sneak in past you to for that small amount of canned food (an irresistible treat). Please be patient and take, or make, the time to keep the kitties safe by trying to get them in at night. If you cannot, at least leave the pet door open so there is access to safety within the barn. I know this seems long and drawn out, but trust use it is worth it. There is nothing more rewarding then building that bond with your new feline friends! Your feral friends will appreciate you!
WHEN ITíS TIME TO RE-VACCINATE:
The first rabies and distemper vaccine is good for 1 year; the second rabies and distemper vaccine will be good for 3 years if you get the kitties re-vaccinated by 9-12 months of the first vaccine date. You will need to purchase, borrow, or rent a Havahart or Tomahawk trap to re-vaccinate your kitties. It is recommended that you start trying to trap a month to several weeks before the cat is due for vaccines. Once trapped most cats become very trap-smart and will avoid the trap for long periods. Some cats will even lie on the trap while trying to retrap them. Do not give up, eventually kitty will get hungry enough to enter the trap again. Traps can usually be purchased at most hardware stores, Home Depot stores, or on-line at http://www.havahart.com .
WHO WILL FEED THE CATS WHILE YOUíRE AWAY?
If you will be going away it is important to have someone lined up to take care of the cats during your absence. Pet Sitters are available. Please, try to plan in advance and introduce the pet sitter to the routine and the catís. It is more important to have the pet sitter come in the evening to keep the routine with the wet food going for the catís safety. As long as you have the large self-waterer and dry food feeder it is okay to limit a pet sitterís visit to just the evenings.
WHAT IF A KITTY GETS HURT OR BECOMES ILL:
Like any other household pet, we expect that you will monitor and watch your barn kitties for any signs of illness or injury. If you notice either, you should get the kitty to a Vet immediately. To transport the sick or injured kitty you will have to get her into a carrier or a trap. You may have developed a close enough bond with the kitty to pick her/him up with a towel. Putting a large bath towel completely over the kitty will help keep him/her calm while trying to handle her to get her into a carrier. Be sure to cover her face with the towel too. Gently place her with the towel into a plastic hard-sided carrier. Bring the cat with any health records provided at the time of adoption to the Vet.