The Wild Ones: Caring for Feral Cats with Kittens in Foster Homes
by Danielle Cookish
This year, feral cats who are pregnant or nursing kittens have been coming to Dakin in record numbers. This is due, in part, to the incredible work of Dakin’s Kitten Street Team, a volunteer-run program that is helping feral cats by performing TNR (trap, neuter, return).
Feral (wild) cats, also known as community cats, have had little to no social contact with humans. A kitten learns that people are good in the first weeks of life through handling and social contact. If this contact never takes place, the cat will not be social toward humans and will hiss, growl, and run away when approached. Feral cats live outdoors with other cats and do not want to live indoors with people. Feral cats do not meow and will not approach humans to solicit attention.
When a pregnant or nursing feral cat is found, it takes specially trained people to humanely trap her and bring her and her kittens to safety. Kittens born outside have an extremely high rate of mortality and are vulnerable to illnesses like upper respiratory infections, which can be fatal.
Caring for a feral adult cat and her infants in a foster home is a delicate process. To reduce stress and fear as much as possible, Dakin uses a double crate method to safely confine moms and kittens. Two double-doored crates are interlocked at their openings to create an area with food and litter on one side, and a place for resting and nursing on the other, often set up with soft fleece blankets, a carrier to feel safe inside, and even toys.
The setup is completely covered by a lightweight blanket or sheet to prevent the adult cat from feeling exposed and nervous. For cleaning and care, cardboard or thin plastic sliders are often used to confine the cat to one side while litter and food are changed. Foster caregivers also use this brief period of separation to weigh the kittens, track their progress, and examine them for any signs of illness or injury.
The need for foster homes for feral moms with kittens was so high, we completely ran out of double-doored crates. Dakin took to social media and what felt like instantly, our community of animal lovers responded by raising over $1,300. These gifts from 32 generous supporters allowed us to purchase the crates we needed to continue to fill foster homes with vulnerable feral cats and kittens and offer them the safety and protection they so needed.
From humane trapping and foster care to sheltering, veterinary care, and emergency resources, the work is hard, but supporters like you make it possible.