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What is our responsibility toward abandoned animals?

 
pollinator
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Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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We have a cat. It's adopted us. It's a very nice cat. Loves people. Would love to come into the house. It cannot come into our house. The dogs would kill it and the husband and daughter are allergic to cats. It's fine outside. We made it a little house next to the door and we feed it. It's a really great hunter and all in all we do enjoy having this cat around. She was pregnant. It was pretty obvious she was pregnant. She finally had her kittens. I posted a pic online of her with her kittens and got an immediate, "You need to be responsible and fix that cat" reply. I'm not going to say I stabbed someone, but I felt like it. We have 7 cats now as she had 6 kittens. We brought none of them to our house. Fixing 7 cats would cost a fortune. What are we supposed to do with all these bloody cats? We've buried so many stray cats. They get into the yard and the dogs.... Well I fence the dogs in and that's all I can really do to keep things safe. City people abandon stuff here a lot. It's a good location for abandonment as the property next to us has no house, just a barn.

Anyway, What is my responsibility here? We want to be responsible but yeah, all the above.
 
steward
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I think it depends. Sounds like the kittens are newborns and they are much too young to be spayed/neutered right now. I think getting the momma cat spayed is the right thing to do and I don't think one cat will be too costly. I believe one good option for the kittens is to start advertising now that you'll have free kittens when they have been weaned. Word of mouth, a sign by the driveway, the internets, all good options that I think will yield homes for the kittens. Someone may take two or more. I imagine other rural folks in your part of the country may like to have a mouser around. If they were my kittens, I'd try to give them away, with recipients giving me a verbal promise/oath to spay/neuter the kitten(s) they adopt. If some kittens go unadopted and you can't afford to have them fixed, there are pop-up free or low-cost spay and neuter clinics and can be found on the internet.
 
master steward
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If you decide to keep her then as James said, "getting the momma cat spayed is the right thing to do".

You might explain in the post that the mother adopted your family so you would really love finding them good homes.

When I wanted to find a kitten several years ago there were none to be found anywhere. I check the animal shelters, newspaper ads, etc.
 
gardener
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I hate people who dump cats. Hate them, hate them, hate them.

We had two maybe 6 month old cats dumped when I was a teenager. Middle of no where, -25C. We know they were dumped, because from the road, we could see where someone had literally thrown them into the snow when they saw our house lights. We lived more than a km down the road from the nearest other house.  Predictably, though we tried feeding them and providing shelter they lasted less than a week and then either froze to death, or were eaten by the fisher that was living nearby. There were other cats dumped over the years, but those ones really stuck with me, no chance at all... I HATE people who dump cats.

That being said - depending on your area, there may be some free/low cost spay clinics for strays. Might require you to give her up, and worse, catch her, but may be an option. Usually it helps to post "this cat showed up pregnant, she's very pretty and friendly, and has had kittens - please take them, (free, or maybe $20-$50 to cover the cost of spay for the cat (and state that the money will be used for a spay)". If there's a nearby city, advertising there might work better, I have a friend who recently spent more than $200 for a kitten!. My parent's cat was from a city person who moved to the country, and decided to neuter all the barn cat males, and leave the females intact, as the neuter was cheaper than the spay. I guess they didn't realize that cats roam... An inexpensive spay (or rehome) might be better than having your kids watch your dogs "play" with kittens :( My local animal shelter has a barn cat program, where for little to no money, they will give you a spayed or neutered unadoptable/unfriendly cat to live in your barn, if you agree to provide shelter water and food.
 
Posts: 113
Location: Idaho
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I agree with the previous responses. Our old property always had stray and abandoned cats showing up. Some were females that had kittens under our shed. We trapped the kittens when they were mostly weaned (some were clearly starving so it was probably earlier than ideal for weaning) and adopted them out, which didn't take long. All of our cats for the last 30 years have been strays or kittens from these litters. The two we have now are males that had been trapped by animal control, neutered, one ear clipped, and set back into the wilds of the suburbs (i.e. our property or nearby) by animal control. It took almost two years to tame them but they have turned out to be two of the most affectionate cats we've ever had.

Our course of action in your type of situation has been to trap the mom when the time is right and either give her to a shelter (she will probably be euthanized if she isn't social), or have her spayed and keep her around. Adopt out the kittens and let their new owners take responsibility for neutering/spaying. They may not, which is a risk, but you can't control everything. Or you could give the litter of kittens to a shelter and they can then handle the adoption and neutering process.

I guess the answer to your question about responsibility is that it's a personal decision, but there are options that won't cost you much.
 
elle sagenev
pollinator
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There are a few options for spaying. My in laws have a lot of stray cats and they did go through the process of fixing them all. The caveat there being that all the cats they had were feral and they had to trap them in a live trap. Our cat was obviously a house cat. She will come right to you and allow you to pick her up. They will only spay them at reduced cost/free if they are feral. We will have to pay full price to get her fixed. We are willing to do it for her but 6 kittens is getting out of hand. We discussed finding out the sex of the kittens and only fixing the females, etc. Nothing really decided on that.

Mama cat had had the kittens in her little house next to the door but I guess she felt uncomfortable with the dogs being right there and she moved them. We have no idea where she's gone. We've even set up surveillance to see where she goes but we haven't found the kittens. They might be dead but we do hope not. Mama cat does still come to the door daily to be fed and petted.

I wouldn't mind offering kittens up for adoption. We'll see what happens there.




Our worst stray story was that of a dog. This dog was abandoned next to the property next to us with a Starbucks cup. This dog laid in the spot he was left almost 24/7. He would not let anyone get close to him. He would not accept food. We left food and he never once ate it. Animal control tried to catch him but couldn't. We all watched as this dog starved to death. It was horrible.
 
master pollinator
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Call around to vets. You may get a great price.  Also, animal shelters may be able to connect you.  Try retired vets.  You would be shocked to learn how cheaply professionals will work in the right situation.  I once encountered a situation where a oral surgeon extracted 4 impacted Wisdom teeth for 800....under anesthetic.  
 
pollinator
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If you want to keep the kittens you need to spay them, otherwise put them out for adoption, we have had three litters abandoned in our barn (by the mother not by people), we kept one from the first litter, and one from the second, re homing the other two from the second. the third litter our renter didn't find in time and they were to weak to save, one made it two weeks and I thought he was going to make it and then he just died.
Right now we're looking for a new cat as our little girl was run over a couple of weeks ago. but as we have two dogs it has to be a kitten so it won't be scared of them, instead it will be very well washed and always slightly soggy!
 
pollinator
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I grew up in this rural area about five miles out of town and people would alway be dropping off cats out there. They all formed up into these huge wild packs. You'd be out walking across the back field and be like "oh there's a cat" and then like "oh there's another cat" then you zoom out and realize there's like 20 cats just staring at you and they could probably take you down if they tried. My friend Ben called them cat pow-wows.

About a half mile away lived this old farmer lady everybody called "the goat lady". When she died her city-kid nephew inherited the place and started feeding the wild cats. More and more of them kept coming, so he was like dumping out 40lb sacks of cat food every day. At some point shortly before things came to a head I was driving by and from far away it looked like the roof of the goat lady's house was shimmering like a mirage. As I got closer I realized there were cats completely covering the roof... I started to try to count them and got to like 15 before I realized they were far too many to count. 2 weeks later, my mom called and told me that someone had called animal control on the nephew and over the next week or so animal control trapped and hauled away 180 cats.

What's crazy is that there were also huge packs of coyotes out there and somehow they got along ok. It was pretty rural back in those days though.

 
gardener
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Thanks for taking care of her in the first place! It's unfortunate that the people who dumped her hadn't considered spaying her. What did they think would happen...I will never ever understand dumping animals. People can be so mean and heartless. But anyway...if you don't want more kittens, then she's gonna need a spay. 

I think that as humans we have a collective responsibility to the animals we have domesticated. At the same time, I think it's ok to only do what you are able. It's hard to draw that line. When you read comments from people who don't know the whole story, try to remind yourself that you are doing what you can and that is enough.

As everyone else has said, when you reach your animal capacity, I think your only responsibility becomes to call animal control, or a shelter, or if you want to care for them until you can find homes. Living abroad in a country severely lacking in animal shelters and animal welfare laws, I feel that if you live in a place with ample shelters, there is no reason that dumped animals shouldn't find their way to one. 

Anyone living in a popular dumping place, it might be a good idea to start a relationship with your local animal control officer or a shelter near you. They might provide crates and food for catching future dogs and cats, then all you have to do is close the door and call them to pick up. It's hard to pass individual animals off to a shelter, but I think the possibility of euthanasia is far kinder than suffering a wild life and death. And saves the suffering of their potential offspring. 

From an ecological perspective, cats and dogs are invasive species. If left unchecked, they can potentially mess with the populations of local wildlife. So I believe we have a community level responsibility to control and care for domesticated animals. When you reach your individual limit, that's what animal control and shelters are there for. 
 
pollinator
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I would say you have no responsibility towards animals you didn't choose to bring into your home in the first place. Once the animal is accustomed to/dependent on a certain level of care on your part, it kinda feels crappy to take that away. But the fact of the matter is that cats are capable enough of caring for themselves to survive and multiply without human intervention; but they're certainly not adverse to taking advantage of a free source of care/shelter/affection. This cat was able to survive on her own, and it's more than likely that her parents did the same. She didn't originally need your care. If you want to have her spayed and distribute the kittens somehow, that's fine. But it's really not your responsibility, as they are really wild animals. If a raccoon decided to live under your porch, would you make sure to put special treats for it in the garbage can? Would you feel guilty for not bringing it into your home, or wonder about getting it spayed and re-homing its offspring? Our human sentiments don't change the animal's nature, unless it's a truly domesticated animal that can't survive in the wild because it's been selectively bred to be inferior to its wild ancestors for human convenience/entertainment. Like chihuahas. Chihuahas are humans' responsibility because humans must intervene for them to survive and reproduce. They are the responsibility of the breeders/owners, and not their random neighbor down the street.
This being said, I am very much proactive myself in caring for feral and injured wild animals. I have buckets of tadpoles rescued from a pool liner when the owner was just going to dump them along with the liner, and my cat was a feral kitten that was orphaned or abandoned. So please don't think I'm heartless and flame me. I love animals a lot. I just respect their ability to survive on their own. I also respect my own needs and putting them before fear of guilt/being judged by others.
 
John F Dean
master pollinator
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My previous post was an attempt to respond to the immediate issue.  My wife and I are cat people.  And, frankly, we will support other strays as well, including an occasional human.  Everyone's  financial situation differs.  At this point, we have the luxury of being comfortable but a long way from rich.  

We too get strays from time to time.  I suspect we have a reputation in the area for being a soft touch. We keep a bowl of food for the out door cats.  If a feral cat wants to partake,  that is fine as long as they have good manners.  If a cat adopts us, there is a price to be paid, and we make a trip to the vet.  Normally, this means they hang around for a month or so.  In the end, I suppose it costs us an extra 100 to 200 a year on the average.

I have had only had one case involving kittens.  A momma cat and her litter showed up under our back deck during a several day rain storm. We supplied them with warm milk and food.  Of course, my wife and I discussed the potential trip to the vet.  One morning there was bright sunshine.  We stepped outside. The cats were gone. Momma left a payment of 4 dead mice on the back steps. We felt she over paid.

My personal mission is to provide the strays with the needed shots to give them a chance in life, and to neuter them so they don't add to the problem.  That said, I make few contributions to churches and other NPOs.  I like to know were my money is going.
 
pollinator
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There's a phrase about "free" things ... "Free Kittens aren't the same as Free Beer".

Beer you get to drink ... and that's that (other than some marginal liver stress and some brain cells lost).  A Free Kitten is anything but free as the "free" kitten comes with a lifetime of food costs, vet bills, scratched couches, etc.  

Its wrong of a person to parachute in and tell you that you MUST do something more or you are a bad person.  You've done a good thing by looking after this cat - and you are probably getting some benefits too.  But the question isn't really about the one cat and a littler of kittens, its about stewardship of your land.  Cats can be a much more effective rodent control than other means - and if you've got a good mouser then it might make sense to keep the line going and cull later on.  If you don't have a rodent issue then the cats are just a menace to birds and you (really "we" as the top of the predator pyramid) should consider neuter/spaying or even euthanizing the cat & kittens as part of your stewardship.
 
elle sagenev
pollinator
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Thanks ya'll. I guess I have a bad attitude. People are always trying to pass their problems off on us. I'm judged a lot because we do kill things and yet those same people are the first to offer me all their roosters and mean animals. I just don't want other people's problems. I do a lot of my own stupid things I don't need other people's stupid things.

Not the cats fault though. We will see what we can do to get the whole puddle of them fixed. Bah!



So I don't know anything about cats. What age can they get fixed at?
 
pollinator
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elle sagenev wrote:



So I don't know anything about cats. What age can they get fixed at?



8 weeks
 
pollinator
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I live in BC, in Canada, that is exactly the response you would get here as the feeling is they should go to a rescue who will vet them and screen adopters. Those seeking "free" are far less likely to value them enough to do vaccinations and altering; or heaven forbid want to use them as "bait".

I don't know what the situation is where you live, but here EVERY community has a cat and/or feral rescue group; often they will spay Mum for free if kittens are surrendered to the rescue. This ensures diseases like FIV etc., are stopped along with reproduction of unplanned kittens.
 
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