Fostering a Feral Cat Safely


Fostering a feral cat safely means not letting him or her go in your bathroom and hoping somehow you'll get him in a carrier later. Or releasing him into your bedroom then trying to figure out how you'll ever get him out  from under your bed. Remember that your environment is totally unfamiliar to a feral cat and you are perceived as a threat, especially in this strange new territory. You have to give the cat a space where he feels safe and where he can either learn about his new surroundings, if he's interested in doing so, or quietly retreat. That's what the Feral Cat Setup allows you to do. In the rare cases where someone has a good reason for trying to adopt a feral cat, the chances of a successful transition to indoor life are greatly increased by use of the Setup for at least two or three weeks until the cat is visually comfortable, at which time the cage door can be left open for the cat to come and go as he pleases.

1. Materials needed:

  • Cage, at least 36" x 24" x 20"
  • Small cat carrier (the smallest)
  • Small litter pan (the smallest - can use aluminum baking pan)
  • Yardstick
  • Arm extender
  • Cotton sheet
  • Newspaper
  • Food and water dishes
  • Twist tie
  • Small towel

2. The setup (without the cat):

Line the bottom of the cage with newspaper. Place the carrier in one back corner of the cage and then put the litter pan next to it in the other back corner. Make sure the carrier door, when it's open, rests against the side of the cage and doesn't swing open into the middle. Put food dish and water dish inside.

3. Putting the cat inside:

a) Have the vet deliver the cat to you inside the small carrier, or transfer the cat into the carrier from a trap with a rear door. Have the towel already in the carrier.
b) Place the carrier (containing the cat) inside the cage, in the back corner.
c) Close and lock the cage door.
d) Slide the yardstick through the bars of the cage so that it securely bars the carrier door from opening.
e) Open the cage door, but always keep the door between your body and the interior of the cage. This way you can shut it quickly if you need to.
f) Reach in and unlock the carrier door.
g) Close the cage door.
h) Remove the yardstick, then use it to move the carrier door against the side of the cage.
i) Secure the carrier door open by using the twist tie to tie it to the side of the cage.
j) Cover the cage with the cotton sheet to calm the cat.

4. Feeding and cleaning:

The cat's natural tendency will be to run into the carrier whenever you approach. If he gets bold, you might have to try removing the cotton cover from the cage, making a loud sound or gently poking him with the yardstick. Once he's in the carrier, you untie the carrier door from the side of the cage, use the yardstick to close the carrier door and then bar the carrier door shut with the yardstick. You can then open the cage door and do what you have to. Also, you can lock the carrier door and remove the carrier and cat while you clean.

5. Really uncooperative cat:


If the cat just won't go in the carrier, he's gotten pretty comfortable and is unlikely to try to bolt out of the cage. In this case, use the arm extender to reach in and pull out the litter pan, food dish, etc.  BUT REMEMBER: keep the cage door in front of you at all times so you can close it quickly, and keep an eye on him in case he does try to bolt.