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How to Relocate a Feral Cat

How to Relocate a Feral CatMost of the time, the relocation of feral cats is considered a no-no. Friendly cats and kittens can be safely removed, fostered, and adopted into homes. But the feral and semi-feral cats, you want to return them to their original home if at all possible after Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).

In some cases though, especially if there is conflict with the property owners, finding a barn home (or another colony) is the only way to ensure their safety. We’ll discuss how to relocate a feral cat here, though this acclimation process can be applied to semi-feral and friendly community cats that fail indoor life as well.

If you are taking in a displaced cat from a community or feral cat rescue, please follow all acclimation procedures they ask of you. This guide is for those who don’t have a specific protocol for relocating a feral cat.

If you’re looking for a barn cat of your very own, please don’t take free kittens and put them outside. Please adopt from rescues and shelters who offer feral and semi-feral cats as working cats. They are spayed and neutered, vaccinated, AND usually free, in exchange for food, shelter, and care!

Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.  I make a small commission on qualifying sales. See Affiliate Disclosure for details.  Thanks for supporting the kitties!

Relocation is the LAST Resort

Relocating outdoor cats should never be done lightly. It should ONLY be considered in the event of an emergency, such as property owners demanding the cat’s removal, or if their outdoor home is being destroyed by a new road or building construction, etc.

The reason Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) advocates return the cats instead of taking them to farms and sanctuaries is for a few reasons.

One, too many cats, not enough barns, farms, sanctuaries able to take them in.

Two, if you remove all cats from an area, more cats just move in. Usually, these cats will be unfixed of course. Then because the area has so few cats, the reproduction rate of these cats rises.  So relocating does not solve the feral cat population issue. In fact, it makes it worse in some cases!

The third reason that relocating feral cats is avoided is that cats are territorial. Feral cats even more so because they are bonded to their home territory NOT people. This means relocating feral cats often fails. It is very common to have a cat leave his new home and attempt the very, very dangerous journey back to his original territory. Cats are often hurt or killed attempting this.

Another reason relocation often fails is because outdoor cats are NOT solitary creatures and are often tightly bonded to each other. They were born in that area, they grew up with their parents and siblings and other cats in the colony, and they form bonds with the other cats. They should be moved with a few members of their colony, if possible.

I know we all want to take a kitty and bring him to our farms or barns or warehouses and save them from busy roads and the mean, cruel people of the world, but you could be doing more harm than good. Relocating a feral cat could inadvertently cause the poor cat to meet an untimely demise attempting to cross unfamiliar terrain, such as highways and rural areas where coyotes roam, as they try to find their way back home. Cats do MUCH better surviving in their home territory than traveling around unfamiliar areas.

So decide carefully before you relocate that cat you feel sorry for. It works if you take the time to acclimate him to his new home, but it is NEVER, EVER guaranteed.

Gray Tabby Cat in a Humane Trap

Step One: Trapping, Neutering, and Vetting

Unless you are adopting a working cat from a shelter or rescue, you may be trapping the cat to move him to your farm or colony. If that is the case, once you have your feral or not-so-feral cat trapped, you should make sure he is fixed and if he’s sick, get him healthy before moving him to a new location. This should include vaccinations and microchips if possible.

Trapping can be stressful on the kitties, especially if they are feral. Since you already have him captured, it just makes sense to get him fixed and evaluated while under sedation or anesthesia.

Related Post:  The Best Feral Cat Trap

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Step Two: Confinement Period

Wherever the new outdoor home is going to be, you need to have a place to confine the cat. This can be a tack room in your barn, a kitted out gardening shed, or even a pet cage like you would find at the shelters. Ideally, you would have a feral cat den so the cat can hide in it and you can close it up for the safety of you and the cat to clean the cage or move him, if the cat is feral. If you don’t have one (or can’t afford one), you will probably want to cover all or part of the cage to ensure he doesn’t feel exposed. Especially if the kitty is terrified.

The confinement period will mean that you will need a litter box and food dishes. Maybe a cat cave if you are confining them in a tack room or similar. Scared cats love to hide, so provide a covered cage area or cat caves, or even a sideways Rubbermaid tote.

The length of time you have to confine to the cat will depend on his level of socialization. Friendly cats need around two weeks as they more easily bond to you in their new home. Feral cats, however, need around 4 weeks. I tend to err on the side of caution and it is better to confine for a tad longer, than too short a period of time.

Always follow the acclimation process from the rescue you adopt a cat from, however. Every group has similar protocols about confinement and it might vary from my advice here, but you always want to follow their suggestions.

Confinement Period:

Feral Cats – 4 weeks

Friendly Cats – 2 weeks

You do not want to confine the feral cats much longer than this as it can cause him undue stress that can cause health issues.

During the confinement period, you want to get the cat used to you as his new caregiver. Get him used to your voice, pet him if he’s friendly, and bring him yummy food on a schedule you plan to feed him once he is released.

You also want to be sure the kitty can see and smell his new home. If you’re relocating a pair of cats from a colony, please confine them in the same area (together if possible!), so they have company and companionship. Domestic cats may be solitary hunters and independent, but they are social animals more.

Bonding With the New Kitty

You absolutely want to take the time to bond with the new kitty during their confinement period. These is typical bonding exercises for all cats, pets or not.

  1. Make sure to talk to the new kitty during feeding time or any time you interact with the cat.
  2. Feed yummy wet food, treats and stick to a feeding schedule so the cat knows when it is dinner time! Two times a day is optimal.
  3. Play! Play is a huge bonding exercise, though this might not work with some feral cats. A wand toy is ideal as it lets you interact with the kitty without putting your hands in danger of scratches.
  4. Petting and touch, if friendly. You don’t want to stress the cat out too much if he is feral by forcing your touch on him. If he’s not accepting of your touch, don’t push it more than a couple seconds at a time. Plus, you could end up hurt, badly, trying to force a feral cat who is caged (and thus feels trapped) to accept your touch. Petting should only be done with those cats that are open to it. Don’t force it on the feral too much.
  5. Yes, you can bond with ferals.  Just because they don’t come close to you, does not mean they won’t understand you’re good people and they can get food from you, and thus, decide to stick around this strange new home where he has now found himself.

Slowly Release!Orange Tabby Cat Peeking from a Barn Window

After the confinement period is over, you will want to open the confinement areas and allow the cat to come out on his own. Do this as quietly and calmly as possible while the cats are learning to explore the new area. Leave the area open as a kind of ‘safe spot’ for the cat to retreat to if he feels threatened or too scared.


  • Force the cat out of his cage or confinement area.
  • Do not shut the door to the cage or confinement area after the cat has left.
  • Run loud machines or release cats into large activity areas.

Leave the area exactly like it is for the cats to have room to hide in there until all the cats are adjusted to the new home. This can take a few days. If feral, they may avoid you except for feeding, but once the cats aren’t running scared back to their ‘safe spot’ and are found sleeping or relaxing in other areas.

Remember: Only Relocate in Emergencies!

Locating feral and semi-feral cats is not always successful. Simply do the best you can to get the cat used to the area with confinement and a slow-release.

Get the cats used to you as their new caretaker by talking to them, feeding them, and playing or petting them, if possible. Ferals can even start to trust you to an extent, eventually.

Feral cats need love too! Feeding, clean water, shelter, and care should be provided to any animal under your care, which does include barn cats. Even feral barn cats deserve it.

Any questions or if you need advice on acclimating your new barn cat or working cat, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll happily respond!


78 thoughts on “How to Relocate a Feral Cat”

  1. We have a couple of outdoor cats as of right now. I have been thinking about relocating them; they scare my dog. Who is supposed to brave, but not so much? It’s also freezing outside, seeing them trying to find warm shelter is pretty heartbreaking. 

    Going through your post, now I’m wondering about how they will feel if they are separated, not fair to them. 

    You’ve created some great outlines, but we don’t have any one place where they can be released. I will talk to our local animal shelter and see if they can take them. 

    1. in most places, animal shelters will not take in lifelong outdoor or feral cats as they are unadoptable. Those that do take in these cats, often euthanize them. Unless they truly are strays and able to be adopted. Relocation should never be considered lightly as it doesn’t remove outdoor cats from the original territory: more just move in.

      1. Robin Anderson Tarantino

        I could use some advice. We have a “feral ” colony of 10. We have been taking care of them for about 4 1/2 years. We are going to be moving in about a month, we want to take our babies with us. The local spay neuter clinic is trying to help me find carriers. All but 2 of our cats will sit in our laps. Two of them are still shy but will come up to us. We will have a garage where we are moving to. We DO NOT WANT TO ABANDONOUR BABIES. Looking for tips to make th8s easier on all of us. We also have our indoor cats moving with us as well. Any help is appreciated

        1. Hi, Robin,

          I hope it worked out well with the move! I apologize for the late response, I was on hiatus. Thank you so much for taking them with you and I hope you were able to keep them confined for a few weeks prior to releasing them!

          1. Hi, Nigel,

            Actually, feral cats are just like our pet cats, except they aren’t socialized well to humans. Most ‘feral’ cats aren’t actually truly 100% feral if they live around humans, like in neighborhoods or urban areas, they’re just skittish and cautious in order to survive. Now I wouldn’t try to move a truly feral cat to live indoors, that’s inhumane. But most ‘feral’ cats fall between feral and friendly and it’s really just a judgment call on whether they can adjust to pet life or not.

            Cats aren’t supposed to be living wild. So it’s not weird at all.

      2. Hi, Michele here.
        I have been feeding a feral for about 8 months now. He (I think, feels like a he) comes every night now unless it is really cold or snowy. I bought him a cedar home which is all insulated and heated and he has heated dishes inside. He gets wet and dry food (Fromm) which he loves. But, boy is he feral. You accidentally open the door from my house (I can’t see if he is in his house eating from my front door it is to the side) and and he bolts, but comes right back when you back yourself into the house. I can tap on the window and wave at him and he will look at me, but that is it. He does know my voice and I think he realizes I feed him because I have talked to him from a distance of 40 ft. (not kidding he is very scared of us humans). I think I am the only food source he has because the amount of food he eats is big. I know he comes back a couple of times during the night and I have seen him a few times around in the day. He is not the first we have had. There was another one who looked like him and someone tried to relocate him to a barn and that cat bolted and we never saw him in the neighborhood again. I think this new feral came from a barn which is about a mile away so he could have a colony I just don’t know. Yesterday I accidentally opened the door while he was in his house eating and he came flying out, but didn’t tear off like usual. I spoke to him and he sat there for a few seconds before he left around the corner. I went back into the house and sure enough he showed up in about 30 seconds to finish his meal. Over the course of 8 months I have his house where I want it (had to move it in baby steps several times) and taught him to actually use a cat door!! Smart kitty and it was tricky. It’s nice and warm with toys and food, but no matter how cold it is outside he does not sleep there which is why I think he could be with a colony at that barn, but again I just don’t know. I am moving as soon as I find a new house because I purchased a horse and I want it with me not at a boarding facility. Finn, what I call him, will no longer have his feeding station. I am torn if I should move him with me. Trapping him will be easy because as you know with cat doors you can change the setting. He can go in, but I can switch it so he can’t get out. Really need some advice for this little guy. My new home will have at least five acres and a barn. I have five of my own cats and I have a 5500 ft. enclosure (black chain link fence hot wired at the top and nobody gets over it. They have a cat door so they can go in and out whenever they want. I could build something similar only much smaller until, if ever he becomes acclimated, then I could release him. My great fear is he would bolt and never find his way home. That would be heartbreaking.

        1. Hi, Michele,

          Likely the reason he doesn’t sleep inside the heated house is that the food is located in it. Feeding and sleeping need to be kept very separate as food left out will attract other animals and no cat is going to sleep in a place where other animals will be drawn to it. Or at least, no smart cat will. I’d create a Feeding Station AND a Cat Shelter and keep them separated, like one on each side of the house, or something.

          As to relocating, if it’s done right, it can be very successful in 90% of attempts, as long as proper acclimation procedures are followed. I’ve found cats that already trust you will relocate WITH their feeders rather easily as the only thing that changed was the environment, not the human caretaker. So as long as when they’re confined they’re fed and talked to and loved on by their trusted person for 3-4 weeks and then slowly released, it can work out well. Even if moving to a stranger’s barn, it will be about 90% successful. So about 1 in 10 end up either trying to find their way back to their original home or end up at the neighbor’s farm down the street.

          I would just balance the risks. Can you find someone to take over his care where his original home is located? As he doesn’t seem particularly bonded to you personally yet, that would be my first suggestion. If no one can take over his care and feeding, then it’s either leave him to find a new feeder on his own (which may mean traveling a mile or more) OR relocate him with you. I don’t know the full situation or the environment, so only you can decide what would be best for him. But I’d go with the lowest risk of harm to the cat, by either relocating him to a safe area WITH you or finding him a new caretaker in his original home. I don’t usually recommend leaving a cat to fend for himself, even if that’s all he’s ever done. (I just can’t, I’ve seen cats abandoned by their feeders before. Broke my heart.)

          Hope that helps!

  2. Greetings.  We actually have an adopted cat that was considered a feral cat.  I am not sure if they do the same everywhere, but a potion of the tip of the cats ear was clipped off to indicate that he was once feral.  He is as lovable a cat as I have ever known, and we really enjoy having him.  I found your information very interesting in this article.  Especially the part about reproduction rates increasing when you remove feral cats.  Thank you for promoting rescue shelters, adoptions, and spay / neutering.  All of our pets are rescues!  Thank you for providing excellent resources!  

  3. I had no idea it was such a big deal to relocate a feral cat. Obviously, it’ll take some getting used to from the feral cat’s end. It does appear to require a good amount of attention and care to make the cat feel safe in his/her newly found environment. I have to say that this is not an easy task, but these tips will surely go a long way.

  4. Great piece. My mom has a feral that lives in her garage most of the time. My mom is 90 and lives in Northern California. We are moving her down near us in Southern California where I feed feral cats in my back yard – Spot, Samson, Blake, Adam and an occasional Raccoon?. She wants to move her feral, Carlie, when she moves but wants to try and tame her and keep her in one if the bedrooms. I’m not sure this would be possible. I know it’s hard to leave animals behind… any suggestions? Thanks Nancy

    1. Hi! Thanks for the compliment!

      Regarding your mother and the feral cat: taking one with her when she moves might be the best option and I know many people who have done that. It’s hard to trust that someone else will take care of them after your relocate, and we love them, despite some not allowing touch. The cat is obviously bonded to her in some way and prefers her garage, obviously. So I agree that relocating the cat with your mother might be the best for the cat.

      However, if the cat is truly feral and not socialized at all, the older they are the less likely they will adapt enough to be considered ‘tame’. It’s not impossible, but there are reasons why animal rescue and TNR groups don’t tame adult feral cats. It’s because IF they do tame, it can take YEARS, and it’s usually only to the person who socialized him, not to anyone else. And sometimes it can be dangerous as feral cats will attack if cornered or scared. It can also be traumatic for the cat, who may hide and poo and pee behind the dresser because they are just too scared to come out.

      I heard a story just today about an older lady taking in a feral cat to ‘tame’ and had to have a TNR volunteer come trap it from out of the house, where it was hiding behind the washer and dryer for 6 weeks!

      My only issue with people taming feral cats is sometimes it doesn’t work, and then you have a feral cat living inside with a human he is terrified of and hiding from 24/7. That’s pretty traumatic for a cat used to having freedom outdoors and no actual contact with humans. To them, we are predators. So to force one to live indoors with a human the rest of his life doesn’t always result in taming them and results in one terrified cat who is absolutely miserable.

      If it were me, I’d decide if the cat is truly feral or not. If the cat is truly feral (thus wild, and no petting allowed), I would not attempt to tame an older cat. If the cat has shown some sign of socialization, meowing, approaching me, rubbing on objects or the ground in front of me, etc., then I would try to tame them.

      Just give it some time with the cat in a small room, with a cave or hiding spot of some sort where he or she can run to hide. I do recommend using a large animal crate to keep the cat confined in at first, with a litter box and a little cat cave of some sort. This will not allow the cat to hide when your mother approaches. Feed treats and wet food when a human is with the cat only, don’t free-feed. Play with wand toys and laser lights, etc. Use a long object like a back scratcher or something to ‘pet the cat’ without being in danger of getting scratched or bit. Sleep in the same room with the cat. Just keep an eye out for signs of stress, such as hiding 24/7 and the cat has been in the room for weeks, which will include peeing and pooping while in hiding instead of using the litter box. If the cat is over-grooming, terrified, even after a long period of time, it might be more humane to start to let him or her go back outdoors (with a careful transition to being out there).

      Be absolutely certain the cat is rabies vaccinated! A bite from an unvaccinated feral cat is a pain in the butt for the human AND the cat, as it requires the cat to be quarantined for 10 days or euthanized to do rabies testing. So don’t risk that at all.

      Another concern is that feral cats and community cats who want to leave might actually cause property damage to attempt to get back outside. Some have torn up sealant by windows, blinds, sealant on the doors, the actual walls, carpet in from of the door, etc. This reason is why I let my two adopted cats back out into the barns. They were feral kittens, older ones, but they got so used to being outside and LIKED it, that they literally tried to knock the air conditioner out to squeeze through a tiny hole. They loved me and tamed, but they did not love confinement.

      It’s definitely up to you all, as I’m uncertain how feral the cat truly is. An eye should be kept on the cat’s state of mind. He or she might not be completely feral and might actually want to come indoors now (as is evident by the garage living). Maybe he or she is more semi-feral than actually feral and obviously bonded to your mother. So if anyone can tame a feral cat, it would be their caretaker!

      Just try to keep the cat’s wellbeing in mind. Oh, and definitely make sure the cat is fixed. Tomcats can have aggressive tendencies and are already stressed and it would be harder to accomplish. Female cats can be moody and unpredictable, especially after kittens or during heat cycles.

      Good luck!

  5. Dear Rochellle,
    We have 3-12 yr, old feral cats on our property. I had them neutered and inoculated after they were born under our house deck. Two of them are quite tame and enjoy being petted and the remaining one is very shy and won’t some too close. We have a large property where they can roam. We are slated to move to a similar property in the country and are wondering what your advice would be about moving them. Also concerned if our present home is sold to folks who wouldn’t want the cats. Thanking you for any advice you in advance if you can help us!

    1. Hi, Gail!

      With a situation like that, I’d move them with me, if that were me. They’re pretty used to you, especially after all this time, and relocating them with you is probably in their best interest. Especially the two that enjoy contact. It’ll be easier for them to acclimate to their new outdoor home if the people are the same as you’ve already built trust with them. If it were an entire colony of cats, most of whom were feral and couldn’t be pet, I’d say only relocate them in the new owners will not care for them. But this is only three of them and they know you, like you, and trust you.

      I’d definitely still keep them confined at first at the new place before releasing them, but I agree that taking them with you would be the right thing to do.

      Hope that helps! Any other questions, feel free to email me at rochelle@barncatlady.com

      1. Hi Rochelle,

        We have a very similar situation–a family of three garden cats, two are fairly tame and the third is just now warming up to us.

        We are relocating to an area with more wildlife–think occasional bobcats and rattlesnakes instead of the raccoons and opossums they are used to.

        We don’t want to leave them behind, but we also don’t want to introduce them to a significantly more dangerous environment. Any thoughts?

        1. Hi Stacey,

          Thanks for caring for the cats, first of all. And a great question!

          I can only tell you what I would do, based on the limited information you gave me so my suggestions might not be quite the answer you’re looking for based on the cats themselves or the location you are moving to. But here are my thoughts.

          There are only three of them and I’m going to assume they’re fixed because of that. Fixed cats aren’t likely to roam around as much as unfixed cats, so you have that going for you. Though of course, there are exceptions to every rule.

          I’m also going to assume they’re pretty bonded to you (and/or your family) since two of them are fairly tame and the third one is getting there.

          Now, any outdoor home is going to have its own dangers. Outdoor cats that aren’t smart and cautious are not going to survive their first year unless they’re very lucky. It’s sad but true. Now, I wouldn’t want to relocate my cats who are used to limited traffic next to a highway without some sort of way to help prevent them from trying to roam the highway at night or something, so I can definitely see why such a change in environment is concerning. However, I’d much rather move cats from a suburban/urban area to a rural area (which is similar to what I think from your description) than I would be from a rural area to an urban area. Does that make sense?

          Now, cats are almost ALWAYS cautious about new things and new environments. Especially outdoor cats. Cats are also excellent to have around snakes as they’re very quick and are slightly resistant to a snake’s venom. Dogs are 2x as more likely to die of a snake bite than a cat if neither get antivenom. If given treatment (which is, of course, advisable, resistant or not), the cat’s survival rate is increased even more. That’s from an Australian study. Pit viper (such as rattlesnakes) venom also tends to affect dogs more than cats. I am actually not as concerned about the rattlesnakes as I am about the bobcats. And I’m not as concerned with bobcats as I am about coyotes, which occur even in suburban areas. Coyotes kill more cats than bobcats ever will.

          So based on the information you gave me if you have more wildlife, you’re going to have coyotes (assuming you live in the US). I’m uncertain about other countries, of course.

          If it were me, because the cats are fixed and bonded to me, and there are only 3 of them, I would relocate with the cats. There are ways to help protect them from wildlife, such as keeping them in an enclosed large backyard with cat fencing, or bringing them into the garage or a building at night, and clearing away extra vegetation around your property will help reduce snakes coming close to the house. Always feed on a schedule so that there is never leftover food hanging around, day or night. Cat food will attract anything. You can also use repellants around the edges of your property that can keep bobcats and coyotes out of your yard, but those aren’t fool-proof and might affect the cats as well but are worth a try. They aren’t harmful, just tend to discourage things from coming into the yard.

          Coyotes personally are a problem here and I simply keep the cats alive by bringing them inside at night, the ones I can anyway. (I have one true feral and one cat that hates it too much, but both hang out in the hay inside the barn at night, usually.)

          Now, if the cats were completely feral and had no real bonding to you, I’d suggest having someone else take over their care in your current neighborhood as feral cats are much more bonded to their territory than they are to their people. Relocation is very stressful for them, but especially for feral cats. Friendly community cats will feel safer relocating if their people stay the same. It’s also likely to be more successful.

          BUT I don’t know how bonded the cats are to you, where you currently live versus where you’re moving to, or how well you can adapt the new environment to protect the cats, etc. so some of my thoughts on this might be erroneous.

          I’d say use your best judgment. If you are moving to a place with a high-density predator area (like the middle of the woods in Alaska) and you can’t build an outdoor enclosure for them, then it might be better to find someone to care for them at their current territory. But if it’s just a rural area like most rural areas, you can simply adjust a schedule or bring them inside a garage at night, when the predators are most active. (Such as feed them at dusk inside the garage, so you can train them to come in at night.) And yes, coyotes and other predators do show up during the day, but it’s much less common for them to approach human dwellings in the daytime than it is at night.

          I hope that helps!

  6. Hello Rochelle,

    I’m in need of some advice as I am a tad bit ignorant when it comes to cats. I have been feeding about 12 feral cats in my community and recently found 5 new babies. Most have been fixed except for 2 and the new ones. I was recently told management is going to call the city to pick them all up and it breaks my heart because they are all black and very feral. They don’t have a chance! I would like to relocate them, but I keep hearing all the bad things that can happen to them if I do so. Therefore, I am torn and don’t know what to do. I wouldn’t even know where to bring them to be honest. Any suggestions will be much appreciated!

    1. Hi, Monica!

      You’re absolutely right that feral cats should never be brought to a shelter, although unfortunately, property owners can insist they be removed. That sucks.

      Do you have a TNR program being run by the city? If you do, chances are they won’t come to pick them up (especially if they’re ear-tipped when they got fixed) and will try to tell the property manager that they are better off where they are and why. If your city requires Animal Control to remove them at the request of the property owner, then the city might have a barn cat program that they can put the cats in. That said, if the animal shelter refuses because they’re feral cats, they can then hire a ‘pest removal’ company that specializes in raccoons, feral cats, opossums. Some of those are good about humane methods that encourage TNR instead of removal, some of those are bad. The property manager could also just trap the cats herself and take them to animal control too, if they don’t pick up feral cats themselves. You will probably need to find out how your local city shelter/animal control handles feral cats.

      If you don’t have a city-run TNR program, you could try contacting any local TNR groups or community cat rescues in your area to ask for help as they’ll likely have barn cat/working cat programs or can tell what your options are according to the city laws and regulations. Or even just a local humane society or SPCA might have ideas for you locally on how you can get the cats outdoor homes elsewhere (if it become necessary.)

      If you don’t have any of that, you can contact local horse stables, wineries, farms, garden centers, warehouses, and other businesses that often will adopt feral cats as working cats. Be sure to stress the fact they’re fixed (and get the others fixed before relocation as it’s easier to place a fixed cat than an unfixed cat to these places) and rabies vaccinated when contacting them. A lot of horse stables and farms get people dumping unwanted cats and kittens at their barns, which are almost never fixed, and then these places end up with a kitten explosion. This reason is why it’s so hard to find a place to relocate ferals.

      You can check out Alley Cat Allies Feral Friends Network to see what resources you have locally from other feral friends in their network.

      I’ll give this some more thought to see if I can think of anything else you can do or any other place you can contact that might have a better idea. I’m sorry this is happening to your colony. I truly hope it ends well.

      Feel free to email me at Rochelle@barncatlady.com if you have any more questions or concerns. I get my email faster than I get comment notifications. Keeping you and the cats in my thoughts and I’ll let you know if I think of anything else.


  7. Hello Rochelle,
    I recently moved and tried to bring my two outdoor cats with me. They were feral cats (both male, both neutered) but they were very tame to me and my husband. I put them in an enclosed patio in the new place, with the intent to acclimate them, but unfortunately one escaped on the third night, and the other escaped two nights later. I opened up the patio and kept putting out food at their feeding times. The second one returned and ate for two nights, but I haven’t seen him since. I have walked the new neighborhood at dusk and after dark, calling, and I’ve seen a number of feral cats at a church about three blocks away, where I think they’re getting fed, and some other tame cats, but I haven’t seen mine. They are both wearing collars with bells, but they probably won’t approach anyone else. I don’t know what else to do. I realize they may try to make their way back to the old place (about 6 miles through a very busy city), and I asked an old neighbor to keep an eye out and let me know if he sees them. I feel like I utterly failed them. I was very bonded to the black one, who I had trapped as a kitten, about 9 years ago. I don’t even know what to do if I do find them in the neighborhood. Should I try to confine them again? They seemed okay at first, but went to extreme lengths to escape. Thanks for your suggestions.

    1. Hi, Sheila,

      I’m so sorry to hear that they both escaped! Cats are definitely good at escaping. I once had one escape out of a three inch opening of the live trap I was using as I tried to feed him. Cats are masters at escaping and it is definitely not your fault. I’m sorry!

      For my suggestions, as you mentioned, keep checking back at their old home. I would continue scouring the new neighborhood for anyone feeding cats and other cat colonies to see if yours show up. Another suggestion would be to use the Nextdoor App for your new area and see if your neighbors would keep an eye out for them as well. Even if they simply call you, you can come over and either recapture them or retrap them. Possibly see if your town/city has local lost and found Facebook groups where you can post pictures (if you have them) and the neighborhood they were lost in. Contact local animal control and make a lost report, if they take them there. And keep checking.

      The upside to having cats with collars is going to be someone will think they belong to someone if they show up in a new area. They aren’t going to assume it’s a community cat, they’re going to assume they’re lost pets. That means someone might post in those Facebook groups, make notices on Nextdoor apps, or even somehow get them in to a local shelter when someone finds the cats. If you have them microchipped, make sure your information is up-to-date.

      As for whether you should confine them again, it depends on where you find them. If they return to their old neighborhood, you’ll definitely need to confine them again. If they’re found down the street, you likely could just bring them home and feed them yummies and they can orient themselves, especially depending upon how long they were gone before found.

      Outdoor cats, unfortunately, don’t particularly enjoy being confined, even for their own good. I’m so sorry you had that experience and I truly hope you find them!

      Keeping my fingers cross,

      1. Thank you so much, Rochelle! You have confirmed what I was thinking, that I may need to start the confinement period again if I find them. The new neighborhood has tons of outdoor cats, pets mostly, but some ferals that I’m sure someone is feeding, like I mentioned. My cats are used to getting fed by humans and should have no problem finding a food source.
        I have posted with the county, the state Humane Society, and Craigslist. I will try Nextdoor, too. Thank you! I might try some flyers in the new neighborhood, too. And I’ll go back to the old home, and see what I can find. I sort of feel like they might not make it that far. It’s six miles and there are some very busy streets, but it’s mostly suburbs in between.
        Thanks again for your reply!

        1. You’re very welcome! You’d be surprised how far cats can travel to reach ‘home’. Some have been known to travel over a thousand miles to return home, so six is almost nothing. (Though the traveling thousands of miles is pretty rare, but still!) It’s not the most likely case, but it could happen. Usually lost cats stay close to the area they are lost in, at least at first. Especially if they’re freaked out. I hope they turn up.

  8. Thank you so much for your very informative article! A feral cat showed up at my office a few months ago looking very thin so I started feeding him and, in return, he kindly took care of the mice on the property. I also took him to get neutered. Now, however, I have a new boss who hates cats and wants him gone. Although the cat isn’t the friendliest and hisses if you get within two feet of him, I decided to take him home to be an outdoor cat. I thought this might be best since the shelter won’t take him and he’s used to me feeding him, which will hopefully keep him on my property and not trying to make his way back to my office. Since he does know who I am, would that lessen the confinement period? I realize he will still need to get used to the new environment but he already associates me with food and care and I’d hate to keep him locked up longer than necessary. Any advice would be much appreciated!

    1. Hi, Sara!

      I do think that since he knows you, even if he’s not friendly with you, it will help him acclimate better to his new home. Even feral cats bond with their caretakers. Just use your best judgment about when the cat seems comfortable enough with the area and you to be released. it should be at least 2 weeks, but not more than 4 weeks.

      Thanks for taking him home and good luck!

  9. Hi Rochelle,
    I’m on the fence and it’s making me and probably the semi feral cat I have more messed up.
    Here is my situation: I work 5 miles from home. When I started working for this employer it was 2.5 years ago. This is all in a relatively rural area. I wanted to TNR the momma who kept coming to work in the spring to give birth to her kittens of whom I have been able to rescue some and either provide a home or am still seeking rescues and homes. Well many kittens later I finally trapped momma with her last litter. I trapped her on 11/10/20 and she was spayed on 11/11/20. I didn’t want to release her immediately as some do, as I wanted her to be treated as my own cat would and have time to heal. I was going to TNR mom and the kittens, but the kittens are capable of being socialized. A couple of the kittens were with her for a few days in captivity and I finally separated them from her. When the 2 weeks I wanted to hold her were up, I became ill and I also started to have conflict about releasing momma so close to winter with our temps currently 40-50 during the day and 25-30 at night. Momma doesn’t have a colony and I never had to care for her until she showed up pregnant in the Spring and then she would go somewhere. I asked a lot of questions of people who knew more about TNR than I do and still felt confused. So she has been in my unheated outbuilding since the 10th and living in an 2 XL dog crates front to front with soft warm bed, daily food and water. I’m having a very difficult time bringing myself to release her back to her original territory because of winter and after having been in a comfy element free environment with food/water provided. Please please help!

    1. Hi, Janet!

      I replied to your email first, but the short answer I gave is that if she’s alone, it’s cold, and she’s been in your confined area for this long, it might be best to allow her to continue living where she’s at. I probably wouldn’t release a cat to an area where I know she’s the only one, especially if I have a better set up for her.

      For my longer answer, read the email.

      Thanks for saving the kittens and getting mama fixed. You’re a rockstar!

  10. I relocated nine feral cats 2 years ago to a catio I had built at my mom’s house. I relocated them because they were going to be trapped and euthanized. They are all spayed and neutered and get along great. My question is that there is a new feral cat at the same location my feral colony came from. Can I trap her and put her into the feral colony I have? Or would that be a mistake?

    1. Hi, Holly!

      Saving those cats from being euthanized is definitely a worthy reason to relocate them, especially to a catio. Now they’re doubly safe!

      So that question is kind of a hard one. If you’re sure it isn’t like a neighbor’s pet or anything, and you know the property owner (or neighborhood) is going to euthanize any colonies that develop in the area, then I would trap and relocate her to your colony’s new location. Relocation of colony cats just creates a vacuum that new cats will move into, as you’re seeing by finding another one. It’s been a couple of years, but it’s likely this cat isn’t the only one unless the food source is completely gone as well.

      You likely can trap, fix her or him (especially as tomcats do not mingle with colony cats well at ALL), and then slowly introduce them to the other cats in your catio. Even if she originally lived with the other cats, after two years, they likely will not recognize each other. As you have them combined in a catio, I would introduce the new cat slowly as if it were the introduction of a new house cat to the resident house cat. Bring her or him into the catio in a cat or dog crate, ideally, and let them get used to the new cat that way before releasing her into the catio completely.

      That’s likely what I would do, given the information you gave me. Of course, you know the situation best, so use your best judgment. My suggestion might not be ideal if there are other factors.

      Good luck and thanks for saving the cats!

  11. Lauren Alexander

    Hi Rochelle,
    Thank you for this post. I am in a similar situation as others. I have a feral cat (just one all by herself) that kept having kittens in my shed at my rental home. I found her kittens homes and got a local cat group to help me TNR her after she was fixed and vaccinated. It’s been two and a half years now and she is VERY VERY slowly warming up. After all that time, she still won’t let me pet her, but she is ALWAYS around me. She sits with me, meows to me, sleeps in all the homes and places I’ve bought/made for her. Sometimes she follows me around. And we have a very regular morning feeding routine. (I only feed her in the morning b/c I’m in woods with raccoons and opossums who eat the food that’s leftover).

    I am in a city, I just happen to be renting a house that has a couple acres of woods around it (bamboo forest) right in the middle of town. I am finally ready to buy my own house and will be moving exactly a mile away from my rental house. But separated by some of the busiest roads and small highways in town. I believe Mama Beans (her name) is completely dependent on me. When I’m on vacation, I pay someone to come feed her. But since I don’t own this house or property, I won’t be able to come back and feed her daily when someone else is living here. And my landlord is not reliable even though he is around often.

    I am scared to move her that she will try to get home. Or she won’t be able to be trapped. Or that it’s cruel to take her out of these woods and sheds where she’s so safe and there’s no other critters. But I also know she’s really bonded for me and it could be deadly to leave her. I don’t know if I could emotionally do that anyway. The new house has a bunch of small sheds on the property that might work for a cat hut and confinement — as well as a basement that was set up by the previous owners for indoor/outdoor cats with cat doors and everything. So the new house is conducive to bringing her. She just would never be able to come upstairs because my terrier would try to eat her. And I worry about that in the yard, too. It’s a double lot with lots of room — fenced in, but it’s still in the middle of a neighborhood not far from very busy roads.

    Any thoughts or advice? This is literally keeping me up at night!!

    1. Hi, Lauren!

      As Mama Beans is basically by herself with no other cats, is pretty bonded to you personally, AND you aren’t sure you can find someone reliable to continue caring for her, I would relocate her with you to your new home if it were me. I don’t have all the facts, so I can’t say for sure what is the best thing to do, just tell you what I would do based on the information you gave me.

      But based on the information given, if it were me, I would relocate her.

      There are ways to keep cats in your yard with cat fencing (if you have an enclosed back yard you can add it to or build on), so that’s an option at your new home as well.

      Confining her will be very important because you are not moving very far away from her old home. A mile is not very far and cats often can orient themselves from further distances. The basement or sheds can work, although you might wish to start out with a dog/cat crate inside those rooms/sheds because she’ll feel safer is with an enclosed, small space at first. Then gradually allow her to have access to the room or shed, then the whole basement, and finally freedom. With your new residence being so close to the old one, I’d err on the side of caution and keep her confined for 4 weeks as if she were a strange feral cat with no attachment to you.

      As for the roads, I would attempt to build or buy cat fencing to add to the top of my fence to keep the cat in the yard. Another idea is to build or buy an outdoor catio, which will allow her to stay safe outdoors.

      But she may be the type of cat who isn’t inclined to roam around, so you may not necessarily need all that. I am uncertain how close the roads are to your new home, but if they’re close I’d consider adding cat fencing to the fences to ensure she stays in the yard, if at all possible.

      I hope that helps!

  12. I live on 3 acres,all neighbors have 10-20 acres and we are in a conservation area. I have a large barn/outbuilding and since moving to this home 8 years ago, I have had multiple barn cats. Over the past 8 years, we have adopted 9 barn cats from the local Humane Society. Only one cat(Ellie)- who seems visually impaired- has survived more than 5 years. Ellie stays close to home/the barn, is cautious and smart. Fiona disappeared 2 months ago and now Ellie , who likes people and cats, is alone. This month I sequestered 2 “new” barn cats Penelope 7y/o and Rosco 5 months, from the humane society. It’s been 25 days and today I released them. My concern is that the 5 month old Rosco will not eat enough if the bigger/older cat Penelope eats Rosco’s food. Also, Ellie sleeps on a heated pad inside an open- bed trailer where she has an overall good view of the outbuilding interior. While sequestered, heated pads were in the crates for Penelope & Rosco. Where should I place the heated pads now that Penelope & Rosco are free to roam? And I read to be sure food is not out at night as raccoons will eat. Again I worry that Rosco is vulnerable to these other animals/ maybe predators.
    Thank You

    1. Hi, Janet!

      Thanks for adopting new barn cats!

      I would put the new heating pads wherever it’s safe to do so and where the cats themselves like to be, such as a tack or feed room, or similar. If Penelope and Rosco are close to each other, placing them in the same room is a good idea.

      Yes, feeding at night does attract raccoons and other wildlife. If you can supervise the feeding and only leave enough out that the cats eat it immediately, it’s not a problem, but you definitely don’t want to leave any out all night. Raccoons, coyotes, opossums are all attracted by pet food. Opossums usually don’t bother the cats much, but raccoons have been known to attack cats. (Plus coyotes will too, obviously.)

      As for Rosco and Penelope eating, I would try to separate the food dishes and keep to a feeding schedule. That way both are eating at the same time and the dishes are separated. This may or may not be a problem, not all cats will be gluttons and pushing the others out of their food dishes, although sometimes it happens. I just try to make sure to have enough dishes for every cat to have one to avoid conflict over food and ensure everyone is eating plenty. The feeding schedule is so that you don’t have to leave food out all day. (Although you absolutely can if you feed inside the barn and it isn’t attracting rodents or ants, then they both can come over and eat when they want. Just be sure to pick it up at night.)

      I myself free-feed dry food and feed wet food twice a day at scheduled times, so that I see them all at the same time twice a day. It’s easier to ensure they show up for dinner and I can check to see if they’re all okay.

      Rosco might be a little more vulnerable, but all cats are vulnerable to larger animals and predators. It might not be possible, but what I do is try to ensure my cats are inside the barn at night by feeding their last wet food in the evening. By feeding at the same time each evening inside a tack room, you can also lock them in every night. That’s usually what I do to help keep them safe, especially if coyotes are a problem. Raccoons CAN be, but they aren’t always an issue. Of course, there are predators in the day time, but night time is the riskiest time as most predators aren’t brave enough to come around the barns during the day as they would at night.

      Another concern would be depending upon how big Rosco is, large raptors like eagles and owls, which usually get kittens more than full-grown cats, but that might not be much of a concern where you live. 5 months old isn’t usually very large, maybe 5 lbs, so I’d worry about him too. Try to encourage him to hang inside the barn and ensure he’s locked up at least at night.

      I hope that helps! If you have any other questions/concerns, feel free to ask!

  13. Hi Rochelle! I have 2 cats that have taken up residence in my barn for several years now. Although I feed them daily, they’re still a little shy. I’ve been asked to take in 2 indoor/outdoor cats (owner is moving) and am wondering how to introduce them so they stay on the property. The barn is on 10 acres, 1/4 mile the road – no one lives there and the barn is open – there is no way that I can contain them until they learn to coexist. Advice? Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi, Annie,

      I’m sorry but you’ll have to contain them at first when you’re relocating outdoor cats to a new ‘home’. Unless the owner lives right next door, the cats are going to be confused and possibly get lost or try to find their way back to their original home unless confined for a few weeks. That’s not about coexisting with the other cats, that’s just with moving new cats in. Cats have a very good sense of direction and they won’t know it’s supposed to be their home at first. ESPECIALLY if there are already cats in the barn who may attack them and scare them away from the barn. That’s the quickest way to get a cat lost is when they run in fear.

      You can confine them in a large dog crate or even in the house for a while, just so they start getting used to their new area. After a couple of weeks of that, they can slowly start to be given freedom.

      Cat introductions can be made easily when the new cats are confined by letting the resident cats check them out while in the crate or it can wait until they are released from their confinement. It’ll be less confrontational if done while they’re acclimating to their new territory in confinement for the first couple of weeks, but it can easily be done by simply supervising the cats when the new cats are released.

      The first rule is to make sure all the cats are fixed. Tomcats cause a lot of aggression, even from the fixed members of the colony. No one will like the smell of an intact male cat and they will actively attack him and he will likely go out of his way to attack them. It’s MUCH easier to get all cats to get along when everyone is fixed.

      I would separate their feeding areas temporarily so that the new cats could be fed in one area and the resident cats are fed in their usual area and let the cats get used to each other. Supervise to make sure there isn’t fighting. Use treats and possible catnip/silvervine or toys to create a positive association with the new cats and the old cats interacting.

      If you have a cat that just absolutely hates having a particular cat around, it can be difficult. The best you might get is them tolerating each other with a few spats now and again.

      Getting Feliway spray to help reduce stress can be helpful if you spray their bedding, blankets, etc. The spray reduces stress and it actually does help. Not as well as the Feliway Multicat Diffuser, but that won’t really work well in a barn.

      Just keep distracting them from fighting, use positive experiences like treats and wet food and toys whenever they’re being introduced so they don’t have a negative association with the cats, and separate their feeding areas at first. If you do confine in a dog crate at first, I’d let the resident cats explore the dog crate while the cats are confined there. That will get them used to each other’s scents slowly without letting them attack each other.

      I wish I could help with the non-containment, but if you want the cats to stay there when they first arrive, it’s the only way to help ensure the cats don’t disappear or get lost at first. It absolutely has to be done because a lot of the time, just releasing them results in the cat getting lost or trying to go home.

      Even with proper confinement to acclimate a cat to a new territory, it’s only successful 90% of the time to relocate an outdoor cat. Without containment or a bond with the owner/caretaker, it will FAIL most of the time and the cats will go missing. So confining the cats is absolutely necessary if you want to increase the chance they will stay and you might as well use it to help the cats get along too. 🙂

      I hope that helps!

  14. Hi Rochelle,

    I trapped a 12 week old feral about 7 years ago. I kept her in my bedroom for 9 months trying to tame her. She would only come out from under my bed when the room was quiet but loved to be petted. I finally let her make her decision on where to live and opened the window. She chose to be an outdoor only cat.

    She still would meet me when I can home at the front door where I feed her, but only would let me near her there. I tried again a few years later to bring her in the house again and she hated it.

    I moved 2 years ago. The new home owner agreed to keep her and one neighbor also looks out for her.

    Another neighbor has started trapping all the cats in the neighborhood, even peoples pets, and taking them to the shelter. I am tempted to bring her to my new home.

    The problem is, I already have 3 cats here. My 2 indoor/outdoor cats and my moms cat. My mom’s cat already fights with my cats and we have to keep them apart from each other. I could keep my feral in my room for a few months then let her out. But I’m afraid she will not be happy here. That is her home. There she has covered ditches to hide in, here she would have a cemetery across my fence but that’s not the same. 
    My other option would be to get her chipped so if she does end up at the shelter they will contact me. But then I guess I would still be in the same situation I am in now, how to move my very loved semi feral cat. 

    Any advice? 

    1. Hi Susan,

      I’m sorry about your situation. That sucks.

      Here’s my concern The neighbor is already taking time to trap and take the cats to the shelter. What happens when he realizes people’s cats are coming back after going to the shelter because their owner springs them out? He may start dumping the unwanted cats in rural areas or at farms in an effort to get rid of them. Now, maybe he’s doing it because he thinks they need homes and he’s trying to help them, and that’s why he’s taking them to a shelter. But it may be because he wants them gone.

      I would absolutely microchip the cat, even if you decide to take her with you. And that would be what I would choose. I wouldn’t want her dumped somewhere she doesn’t know. And that’s my concern. He might change tactics.

      I would take her with you or if she doesn’t get along with the other cats in the neighborhood, find her a barn home. Or try turning her into an indoor cat and see if she wants to this time? It’s actually easier to do this with outdoor cats when you remove them completely from the area they were living in. It’s much harder to do when you have their outdoor home right outside the door.

      Either way, I’d microchip before the relocation, too. Relocating an outdoor cat isn’t 100% fool proof even with months of indoor living first. Some STILL try to make their way back to their original home. Or she might accidently escape the confinement and get lost before she got used to her new environment.

      But then, if this were me, I would take her with me.

      I hope that helps! Thank you for continuing to care for her, even after you moved!

  15. Hello,
    My neighbors had a feral cat adopt them last year. Before they were able to get the cat spayed she ended up having 6 kittens. The kittens are currently 4 weeks. My neighbors have taken good care of mom and babies in their barn. In the next few weeks we are hoping to adopt 2 of the babies as barn cats for us. I know I will need a large crate to house both of them together for the next few weeks and I plan on waiting for them to get older and bigger before I allow them to have freedom to come and go on their own. Is there anything else I need to do for them? I do plan on spay/neuter, vaccinate and chip them. How old do you think they need to be to have total freedom?

    1. Hi, Stephanie,

      Unfortunately, I don’t recommend adopting kittens for barn cats. Half of all kittens don’t live to see 1 years old. They’re simply prey, not predator. They also aren’t really effective at killing mice until they’re nearly fully grown. Kittens can always be adopted into safe indoor homes, though.

      If you still went with kittens, they’d need to stay protected for 8-10 months, or even a year, before they’re big enough most owls or hawks can’t carry them off. Though some of the larger eagles can kill adult cats, it’s much rarer. That’s not counting the fact opossums kill kittens, raccoons are a danger to full-grown cats, and coyotes, all of which kittens are in more danger from. So they’ll have to be nearly full-grown before I’d allow them total freedom.

      I recommend adopting a pair (or more) of full grown, unsocialized cats that need to be saved from a shelter before they’re euthanized. Or visit the Barn Cat Network to find people looking for barns for feral/outdoor cats.


    We have captured and neutered two male feral cats. Both have adopted us and now sleep inside at night and spend much of their day outdoors. We are moving from the mild climate of the Pacific NW to Arizona. I’m pretty concerned with moving them to a new area so different. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi, Brian,

      I have two very different suggestions!

      1. Acclimation & Hot Weather Care

      After you confine and acclimate them to their new home, I would make sure to continue the tradition of allowing them to come inside at night, but I’m going to take this one step further.

      Depending upon where in Arizona you are moving to, this may differ, but say you move to Phoenix. Phoenix is HOT in the summer. Like hotter than the hinges of hell HOT. There are feral cats who survive there, though. Even in the 110-degree weather of Pheonix. But I would try to ensure the cats stay inside during the summer days when it’s hottest. I’d be leery about allowing them out at night, simply because of predators, even though it’s cooler.

      You will need to find a way to keep them hydrated with cold water that doesn’t get super hot or evaporate. That could be something like a water fountain on your porch or a hose running in a kiddie pool, or something. Shade is important, as well. But you want to avoid small shed-like buildings. Those turn into ovens in the heat and will be ten times hotter in there.

      Cats are also VERY smart about surviving in extreme heat or cold. Cats actually can handle temperatures hotter than humans can, for longer periods of time. Cats ‘evolved’ from desert cats and they retain a lot of those characteristics, such as absorbing water from their food as well as from water. Their bodies even help by their kidney function squeezing everything out of their water intake as possible. That’s why cats have such concentrated urine and why so many cats develop kidney disease and urinary tract infections if they don’t have enough moisture in their diets. Long-term dehydration isn’t great for them of course. They’re made to get a lot of their water from their prey. Not dry food. In fact, cats could theoretically forego drinking water altogether if fed a diet of wet food completely. If the wet food had enough moisture.

      So I would just pay attention to your cats, make sure they have access to cool covered areas with plenty of water in the warmer days. Cat are not like dogs. If they’re hot, they go sleep in the coolest area they can find.

      2. Make them indoor pets!

      Another suggestion I’m going to make is to turn them into indoor cats. I know, radical idea, right? You mention that they sleep inside at night now. But they KNEW their home outside and knew they were right there, even when inside. By taking them and moving across a few states, they are NOT going to know the area.

      It’s actually much easier to turn an outdoor cat into an indoor cat when you take the cat far away from their home territory, I’ve found. By the time they’re comfortable enough in the home to be let outside, they feel like the indoors IS their new home. See what I’m saying? This obviously might not work with some cats, but it’s something to consider. Keep them inside in the new home for a while. Until they act like they desperately want back outside. It could be a few weeks…. or never.

      I hope that helps!

  17. Hi,

    My friend needed to relocate a feral cat that she had been feeding for 4 years due to construction in the area. She trapped the cat and gave to me as I have a barn. I had the cat inside a spare building on my property for 5 days in a cage. The cat was super stressed in the cage so we opened so she could come out and walk around. The cat was able to escape the room through an air conditioner!!! I have been setting a trap with food etc. – had my friend come over to call for her etc. Any ideas how far the cat could be? I was hoping she would be around my house/farm but am not sure if this is correct.

    1. Hi, Sheila,

      I believe I answered your email previously, but in case that wasn’t you, I will reiterate these points here.

      1.) Cats usually stay hidden fairly close at first when in a scary, new area they don’t know. The more scared they are, the more they might not answer anyone calling for them, not even someone they love. They will stay hidden until they feel safe enough to leave their hiding spot. It may be hours, it may be days. So when first lost, the cat is likely to be closer than you think. The more time that has passed, the more distance they can cover in the wrong direction.

      2.) Nighttime is the best time to look for a frightened, displaced cat. For whatever reason, cats feel safer exposing themselves from their hiding spot under the cover of darkness.

      3.) Leave the crate and used litter box outside to help lure her back with her own scent.

      4.) Keep trying to feed her on schedule, call for her, etc. Feral cats will recognize their caretakers voice and assocate it with food, if not safety. Leave some stinky food out – sardines or similar, to try to lure her back. Put all food in the traps and keep checking those traps regularly and often.

      5.) Look for people in the area who feed outdoor cat colonies or barn cats. Ask them to keep an eye out and leave your number if they haven’t seen her yet. Food will lure her towards those areas, where she may end up staying, living down the road from you.

      Hope that helps!

  18. I was in the process of TNRing a feral female when she gave birth to two kittens in my garage. She and her kittens lived indoors with me. Her kittens have since been weaned. Mom has been spayed and is fully vaccinated. It has been 12 weeks since she has been outdoors and with her colony (while she was still nursing her babies, our local TNR program was suspended and I had to find resources to purchase my own spay voucher for her-hence why it’s been so long)… Do I need to confine her to get her used to her colony again? Or can I just release her?

    1. Hi, Shannon,

      If the colony is pretty close to where the cat is right now, then likely no confinement needed. Cats are great with directions, usually, especially outdoor cats. I’ve had a cat confined for months at a time and go back to release them at the barn just down the road after they weaned the kittens and got fixed before. That particular cat then FOUND me a couple of weeks later and refuses to leave my barn. Haha.

      But if say, the colony is all the way across town, then yes, she should be confined there before being released again. They ‘know’ when they’re close to home indoors. They get a bit more confused when it’s an indoor home much further away and after 12 weeks, she’ll think YOUR location is now her home and might try to find her way back as it won’t feel much like home at her old spot after a long period of time. 12 weeks isn’t TOO long though, so maybe. But I wouldn’t feel comfortable releasing her across town without at least a week or two of confinement first.

      If she lives in your neighborhood, just let her go out the door. ^_^

      Hope that helps!

  19. I lived in an apartment complex with a feral cat colony until a month ago. I worked with a local pet charity, and they paid for spaying/neutering all of the feral cats – probably around 20 in total. I caught the last kitty that wasn’t “fixed” right before I had to move and got her spayed. I was feeding any cat that came to my porch, and I also put out winter shelters (also on my porch). There were four cats that came by regularly. Management was hostile to my efforts even though they benefitted enormously by having an entire colony that is now spayed or neutered. They threatened to evict me if I kept feeding the colony, so I just put out food on my apartment porch and not throughout the complex. My concern is that I don’t know if anyone is feeding the kitties now that I had to move, and management may be preventing anyone else from feeding them. Two of the four “regulars” would let me pet them. I have four indoor cats and am watching two of my sister’s cats until she gets into a new apartment. So, there are 6 cats living with me at the present time. But my heart aches for the four regulars, but I don’t know if it would be best to move them to my new neighborhood which is a good ten miles from their current home. I’m not even sure I can catch them, but if I could would it be best to move them since I could still put out food and shelters for them – or would they just end up confused and try to walk back to their current home? They are always on my mind, and I am hoping you will have some suggestions. Thank you for this wonderful website!

    1. Hi, Beatrice!

      Thank you so much for taking care of the kitties and getting them fixed!

      As for the four regulars.

      I do encourage people who are able to take their cat colony to their new home to do so. Cats who relocate WITH their caretakers do SO much better than any other relocations as long as acclimation periods are used.

      This is not always possible of course, as I don’t know if your new home area is safe for them or not, only you can decide that. It’s also not always possible if you move to an area with no yard on a busy street or if you move into a highrise apartment or if the colony is absurdly large. So there are always considerations.

      However, if you can continue to put food and shelters out for them in the new yard or area and you’re able to keep them confined somewhere for a few weeks before releasing them slowly to the wild, the cats would likely do much better with you than being left behind. Especially if they aren’t being fed. I highly recommend taking them with you.

      Because they already trust and rely on you for food, they very rarely try to find their way back home after being confined in their new environment for a few weeks. That IS a concern if say, you move a feral you’ve never bonded with from their home to your house and just release them. But confining them helps to prevent them from trying to find their way back long enough that they feel the NEW territory is their home. Having a trusted feeder relocate WITH them? It’s a HUGE bonus and makes them want to stick around more. Add in moving 4 of them together? That’s probably the best possible circumstances for a successful relocation that you can find.

      Hope that helps! And thanks for the lovely compliment! I just hope I was able to help other community cat caretakers take care of the cats. It’s my whole mission. Helping people help the cats. ^_^

  20. Hi guys, this is a really great post. I feel more informed now and know where to cut my options. I do have some questions if you can offer suggestions though.
    I have a family of 3 in my yard. I have no idea where they came from. Anyways, the city of Garden Grove California has a TNR program so I’m involved and got the trap ready.
    A feral cat mom has been fed and seen since June 15 , but I didn’t see her kittens until July 23. Her two kittens who are roughly 6-7 weeks old or possibly more. I’m taking a guess with many video evidence and experience handling and raising 9 other kittens It is hard to tell as they don’t allow me to be close to them. They are blazing fast, probably fastest kittens we’ve ever seen, ever. the issue here is their
    Fear of me. The entire cat family will wait 15 feet from the door for food but then scram
    once I open the door! If the door was already open and i put the food out they turn their heads
    First then run.
    the Mom still hisses at me even feeding the mom since June 18. I have been feeding them consistently.
    Last night I did make some progress and just sat with the screen door closed in the dim light while they looked at me and ate from 4 feet away.
    I believe the feral mom cat has told them to fear me.

    The problems are that my own mom doesn’t want any of the cats in her house, just little kittens I could socialize in the laundry room but she’s not willing to allow it. if i spend any money on a kennel divider, she said if I can spend money on useless junk I might as well move out and not live here anymore.
    So I told her that if i don’t socialize these kittens that she’s stuck with them and she decided to leave cat food in the yard attracting them. So once you start you have to commit.
    Another problem is that it MIGHT be possible that we move and having undomesticated cats left on the property is a DOOM. If they can be domesticated, my mom is ok with with moving them to our new home if we do move.
    Sorry for the long post, but i didn’t want to miss critical details thanks!

    1. Hi, Danny!

      You’re right that mama cat is teaching the babies to fear you. Kittens will take social cues from their mamas. She has a reason to fear you, so THEY will assume there’s a reason for that and follow her lead.

      To be honest, the best solution would be to get those kittens away from mama. Trap them all, get the mama fixed, and keep the kittens inside and start working one-on-one with them. They are getting a little older so it’s going to take more than a day or two to work. Wet food and treats work wonders though!

      I don’t know how you’ll be able to convince your mother of this though. Perhaps if you have some sort of garage you can use or a shed? I don’t know. Something so you can contain them and FORCE them to accept handling after you gain their trust some with food. I wouldn’t push it a lot on the first day or first time you pet them. Just pet them until they don’t want you to, back off. Do it again a few minutes later, then back off. Do all this when they’re eating. Then work on picking them up and putting them down. Not too much at a time. The point is to teach them they aren’t trapped, they’re not going to be hurt, and you aren’t going to terrorize them.

      But hopefully, you can convince her to allow it! ^_^; Because out there with mama, they are growing up to survive, which means being fearful of new people and things. It’s STILL possible to tame them, but it takes SO much longer to do it that way.

      Thanks for visiting!

  21. Hi Rochelle!

    I’m currently on a holiday about an hour from where I live and I’ve found three stray cats (one female, two male) who seem to be siblings. They’re very sweet and friendly, following me around to be pet and trying to come into the building. One of them is injured and is limping. All three of them seem to be malnourished and dehydrated. It’s extremely hot where I live so I’m concerned with the fact that there isn’t much shelter for them here. They seem to be the only cats here and I believe they may have been abandoned. I’ve been feeding them and giving them water every day since I arrived.

    I am trying to find someone to take them in (I would do it myself if I could, but the rest of my family don’t want to take them in, unfortunately), but I’m not sure if I’ll find someone before I leave (tomorrow), and I’m unlikely to return for at least a month. I don’t know anyone in the area who could keep an eye on them in that time. A shelter isn’t really an option where I live, they’re all extremely overrun.

    I know of a colony closer to where I live where many people bring food and water every day and build shelters for the cats. I already go walking there every day, so if I were to bring them there, I would be able to see them every day to check on them.

    They’re not spayed/neutered so I would need to do that before relocating them, as well as giving them any vaccinations they might need.

    I would love to find an indoor home for these three but in case it’s not possible, would relocation be a solution? And if I do relocate them, would it be okay if someone then adopted them? (Sorry if that was a stupid question, I don’t have any experience with stray animals.)

    Thank you!

    1. Hi, Alia,

      I apologize I haven’t gotten back to you until now.

      If they’re that friendly, it might be best to try to find a foster for them so they can be adopted instead of relocating them to another colony. You could try going on Facebook Groups and look for local rehoming groups that are near your area and ask around to see if anyone is interested in fostering them or if a rescue would take them in. Rehoming groups have a lot of fosters/rescues in there!

      Or you can contact individual rescues via email of any local rescues you know of that deal with cats. But it’s REALLY hard, the rescues are often full too. But with one of them being injured and the fact they’re friendly, you might be able to get some help with that from them.

      I wish I could be of more help!

  22. My husband and I have a serious cat dilemma. Five years ago we adopted a 6 week old kitten after my sister found it by the roadside in another state. She looked for a mama nearby but couldn’t find her. We got her shots and cared for her and kept her indoors (because she was so small and we live in a rural area) until she was 10 months old but then she was allowed to come and go through our pet door. Up until that time she was a bit skittish but still affectionate. But once she discovered the outdoors, she loved it and became quite the hunter. We tried without success to keep a collar on her but always got it off. always slept inside and was somewhat affectionate. She and our dog got along fine but she didn’t like strangers or the visitors (sometimes with dogs) who stayed with us overnight. When she was about 2-3, we found out that our neighbor two houses away had been giving her liver and other tasty treats for a long time and our kitty was hanging out on her covered porch most of the days. I asked her to stop doing so and she did, for a while. When I realized after another year or so that the neighbor had started feeding her again, I offered to let her keep our kitty permanently but she said her husband wouldn’t let her. I told her if she didn’t stop, that was the end of our friendship, and I’m pretty sure she did stop. But our kitty still hangs out her house/yard all day until after we go to bed. Then she comes in and eats our food during the night. I’ve had cats all my life and never mistreated one but I literally don’t have any relationship with this one except for providing food and vet care. During the winter (we live in Maine) she’ll sleep inside on the coldest of nights, sometimes even on our bed. But that’s only because my neighbor’s husband doesn’t want her inside. My neighbor often jokes that “she thinks this is her home” and sends me pics of her sleeping on their porch furniture. I do not find any humor in these things. I feel like my cat (now 5 and very healthy) has been stolen by my neighbor and would like to rehome her but don’t want to take her to a shelter. She’d be a good barn cat but I’ve no idea how to accomplish that. I don’t want to spend another 10+ years feeding and being responsible for the care of an invisible cat. Do you have any suggestions for me? Sorry for the long post.

    1. Hi, Robin,

      Unfortunately, this is one of the results of allowing pet cats to go outside. They go where they want to go. Most cats in my colony are unable to be indoor pets, which is why I continue caring for them outdoors. They don’t have a home they can go to and don’t want to or can’t be adopted. The ones that make great pets, I find homes for. I also have one indoor-only cat and a bunch of fosters. Kittens always get brought indoors.

      I’m a big advocate for keeping your pets indoors and for adopting feral cats as barn cats. Of course, this cat wouldn’t be happy suddenly being locked up now. But I don’t think that finding her a barn home is okay, either, simply because she likes the neighbor. You’d literally be putting her through a lot of terror and stress to relocate her to a barn when outdoor cats have only a 90% chance of successful relocation when ALL steps are followed. Cats do NOT like changing their territories. That means 1 in 10 cats WILL leave their new outdoor home and try to return to their old ones. Some will die attempting it. Some will starve trying to find their way back before they successfully manage it years later. Relocation to a barn is definitely not something to be taken lightly.

      My suggestion for this situation is to simply tempt her to come back by offering her foods and treats she likes. If she likes liver (please cook it though), then feed her liver as a small daily treat. If she normally only eats dry food at your home, start feeding wet food during some of her meals. If she is only being fed once a day, then increase her daily meals to twice or three times a day. Unless she’s prone to obesity, it may simply be she gets hungry sometimes because she isn’t getting as many meals as she likes. If she likes a particular treat, start buying it for her. Try different brands of wet and dry food to find the ones she likes best. Try playing with her with laser lights or building her outdoor furniture where she can sleep safely. Use catnip or silvervine to entice her back into the yard. Most cats ADORE those.

      You basically want to bribe her to make it so that she WANTS to come back home more often.

      Also, make sure there isn’t something around your home that is causing her to want to leave. Stray dogs, unfixed feral cats, raccoons, etc.

      You could try building a catio or add cat fencing to your fence to keep her contained and protected while you rebond with her as well. That way she CAN’T go to the neighbor.

      But that is my suggestion and what I would do in this situation, if this were me.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Thank you for your reply and good advice Rochelle. I have been bribing her with food and special treats, which she likes, but she only comes in late at night when I’m asleep. We literally almost never see her for days, weeks at a time. We only know she eats b/c some of her food is gone in the morning. She is slim (probably b/c she only eats at night) so obesity isn’t a problem. We have added some fencing to our fence but she manages to scale it. The only thing that is around our home that she dislikes is occasional visitors, some of whom bring their dogs. It sounds like she can’t be successfully be rehomed or be made a barn cat. I guess my only choices if I don’t want to continue being responsible for a cat I almost never see is to trap her and make her an indoor cat or take her to a no-kill shelter and hope she finds another owner.

        I will continue to ponder this dilemma and do appreciate your thoughtful suggestions.

        1. Sorry I couldn’t have been of more help! I mean, she COULD be successfully rehomed as a barn cat. It’s just NOT recommended except if it’s necessary to save her life. After all, certain death versus the 10% fail-rate of outdoor cat relocation. Obviously, we relocate them then since MOST of the time, it works if done correctly, and better than euthanasia or being on a property that’s being developed into a parking lot or something.

          Obviously, I don’t know the whole situation, only you do, I can only advise what I would do with the information given and on what I think is best for a cat I don’t know. Hopefully, you can figure out a solution to this problem.

          I’m sorry again!

  23. Hi Rochelle!
    Hope you are well. We have a situation and wanted your advice. We have 3 ferals that we have housed in our garage and outdoor shelters for 7 plus years. Unfortunately we have to move from upstate NY to FL in a few weeks, and really want to trap and relocate the cats with us. However, we have read the harm it can be to relocate them. We are building a screened in porch in the new house to contain the cats for a few weeks after we let them out of large dog carriers we are expecting to have each of them housed in initially for 4 weeks before that. We are struggling with finding another alternative (another cat colony, another barn, etc.) We love them and want what is best for them. My wife has cried every day leading up to this move and I want to ensure we are doing what is best for the cats. There is no option to have them stay at the property we are vacating. Any advice would be appreciated! Sincerely-Jason

    1. Hi, Jason,

      I apologize for my late response, I was on hiatus, sorry!

      This is probably late, but if you are the actual caretaker to the cats, taking the cats that depend on you WITH you when you move is a GREAT idea. Especially if you’re going to supply a screened-in porch for containment and the like, that’s great too!

      The reason we say relocation is the last resort is for cats that are to be relocated to barns with new people AND a new territory. Those aren’t always successful. Cats that are bonded to YOU and their home will usually do okay when they move WITH their humans because they trust you and it is just another reason for them to stick around.

      In fact, I’d rather see cats go with their humans than go to a barn. It’s more successful of a move that way.

      However, I obviously do not have all the information about this situation, so whatever choice you make or made, is not necessarily wrong if you do something other than what I recommend. I can just tell you what I would do based on the little information you gave me.

      I hope everything worked out for you all and I am sorry I am so late!

  24. Hi Rochelle,
    My elderly mother was taking care of a couple of feral cats for a few years. When she went into the hospital she asked me to feed them. She has now passed away and her home had to be sold. The neighbors do not want me to feed them. One yelled at me saying that “ those cats don’t need to eat.” So, I have been driving across town and sneaking them food at night. I don’t think they can find food on their own because they now wait for me. But I’m scared to get caught. What should I do? Trap them and bring them to my yard? At least I can feed them on my porch.
    Thank you

    1. Hi, Diane,

      I apologize for my late response, I was on hiatus.

      So if there are only a couple of cats, I would absolutely move them to your yard. The cats have learned to rely on humans for food and cannot survive off hunting alone. And you definitely don’t want to cause the neighbors to call to have the cats removed or call the cops on you or something.

      I want to thank you for taking care of your mom’s ferals after she passed. Not all family members even take care of beloved PETS of deceased family members, let alone go out of their way for homeless cats your mom cared for. So thank you for taking on these cats. You’re a hero!

  25. Our neighbor had about 15 feral cats that she trapped and spayed & neutered, over time only 6 have remained. We enjoy the cats but I think their purpose of keeping mice away has gotten lacks due to expected feedings. The neighbors have moved and now we are going to move and not sure what will happen to them. The new neighbors tolerate them but not sure they would want them around because they have dogs and not sure the new owners of our home would care for them either. Would I be wrong if I trapped them and moved them with us from Colorado to Virginia. Catch all 6 and put in one large cage and make the 2 day or 3 to Virginia.

    1. Hi, Kurt!

      Cats will hunt whether they’re hungry or not. Trust me, they’re still hunting mice. And the few that don’t will still repel mice simply because the area smells like cat pee!

      As for moving them, if you don’t think they’ll be fed and cared for after you’re gone and they’re used to you, bringing them with you is a fantastic idea! Just be sure to keep them confined for about a month before you release them in the new area.

  26. This is our enigma. Leave a semi-feral cat behind not knowing if he will find food, but KNOWING his current “home” will be destroyed in due time. A momma cat dropped off this kitten years ago at our horse rescue and they have been feeding it since. This cat has been petted at feeding time, but usually keeps his distance. He is also vocal and has hung out under my car, watching as I worked. He is alone, no colony. Sadly, the land was sold to developers and the horse rescue moved last month. A few of us have been going back to feed this cat, but this means we are trespassing, and none of us live nearby. We considered relocating him to the new barn, but just recently a coyote has been spotted in the area. So now I am thinking bringing him to my home, which does have three cats who moved in on their own. I know cats hate, hate relocation, but under the circumstances do we have a choice? What do you think?

    1. Hi, Mark,

      I apologize for the late response. If he’s alone without a caretaker at a place that will soon be under development, I would try to relocate him somewhere else. Whether that is to your home or you attempt to find a different barn, I don’t know, as I don’t know the new locations or people involved. But yes, I would try to get him out of there if it were me.

  27. Three weeks ago we adopted a female Siamese that had been a colony cat. She was trapped, chipped, and neutered, but not released, and ended up being put up for adoption. She was approx. 6-7 months old when removed from the colony in Dec. 2021, and then was fostered for 5 weeks before we got her from a rescue organization. In the foster home, she was friends with the other cats in the household, and would occasionally approach the male human. The female human, who did the nail clipping, washing, etc. was not so well liked! The family would carry her around in a soft fleecy sling, but the cat was still very skittish at the slightest sound (we were told not to ring the door bell, for example).

    We have tried our best to acclimate her to our house, but after reading the article and other responses, I think we could do better. I’d like your take on what we’ve done so far and what we could change for the better. She has been with us for 3 weeks now.

    We do have another cat, but he’s our outdoor one, for keeping rodents at bay. He comes in the house sometimes, and we let him stay until he gets too feisty and attacks my legs! The two have not yet been introduced to each other. New kitty stays hidden behind the bed in her safe room 99% of the time. (We have a camera there so we can monitor her activity.) She comes out at night, and usually also in the daytime to eat one of her two meals/day, and use the litter box. But only when she is alone. She will let me stroke her, if I can reach her in her hiding space.

    The foster family encouraged me to pull her out of hiding at least once a day and carry her in the sling. I can sometimes do this, but often she is hard to reach and then it becomes a scary game of “chase.” She will stay in the sling for maybe an hour, but I feel she is just pretending we are not there, playing possum, or hoping she appears to be invisible as she tucks her head under my arm. Occasionally she will look up at me, and I try not to look back, but it’s hard. After two weeks, we opened her door to give her access to a hallway and the guest bath, where her litter box now sits. I go into her room a few times a day and talk to her. I also play music composed for cats on a smart speaker. She is active all night long, as we can see on the camera. But obviously she is scared of humans.

    Last week we gave her access to another room on “her” side of the house, and she disappeared in there for 24 hours. We could not find her at all and at first worried she was in trouble. She has managed to do this 3 times now — including getting out into the main part of the house (a door mistakenly left open) — and staying hidden for 24 hours – somewhere. The camera in her safe room helps us get her back there again when she triggers the camera notification in the middle of the night to come eat. I leap out of bed to shut a door and get her back in her hall/bath/bedroom safe zone.

    Should we make her hiding places inaccessible and place a dog crate in the room instead, with a blanket over part of it? Should we give her full access to the house and not worry when she hides in an unknown place? Will she improve in some ways after we let outdoor cat visit her through the crate a few times? How can I get her to eat in my presence, rather than me leaving her food out to eat when we’re out of the room? That seems important, from what I read. She seems uninterested in treats, but I have not tried baby food. I read somewhere on the site what was tasty, but I can’t find that now.

    I would like her to have a life that is better than hiding all day. Even if she just hangs out with our other cat, that would be great. My husband and I would appreciate your advice. We have had Siamese in the past, and we love them. This gal is a totally new challenge. Sorry for all the blathering. I tried to keep it this as coherent as possible!

    1. Hi, Kathy,

      I apologize for my very late response. I was on hiatus.

      So, with a cat like this, I would make sure to make sure she cannot hide like that. You DO want to give her a ‘safe place’ like a covered crate or cat cave or whatever, BUT when cats hide 24/7 like that, they aren’t pushing past their anxiety to learn there’s nothing to fear. But at the same time, you do NOT want them in a complete panic!

      So yes, I would keep her in that one room, but limit access to hiding spots. I don’t necessarily think the sling thing is needed, I’ve never needed to use one. But you do want to push her. I’d start slow though. Here’s an example:

      Cat is in a large bedroom with cat furniture and no hiding places behind furniture, but they have a cat house. THat way the cat can ONLY go into the cat house when you come into room. Please, don’t chase. That just causes more fear if you chase. I’d start slow. Sit by her hiding spot and use food and treats, like Churu or Temptation treats, and scratch her head or chin, pet her, talk to her, etc. If you can’t pet her much, you can use a wand toy to get her to play with you. Just tons and TONS of ‘positive’ experiences that she can associate with your presence in her room.

      As long as she is slowly improving with your presence, I’d just keep going at her pace. Once she’s completely comfortable with you and the room and you being around, THEN you can open the door to the rest of house or that area, etc. Just keep the treats, toys, and pets coming and let her feel safe.

      OR I have also used my own bedroom for it. They like sneaking into bed once they realize you’re not bad. It’s helpful because your bedroom smells like you the most.

      You can try Feliway spray or diffusers to help with the stress as well. Just make sure ALL the interactions with the cat are positive for now. I wouldn’t clip nails or do any baths, not that cats need baths usually, but I’d just let her feel safe first.

      Hope that helps!

  28. We have a business with about 14 semi feral cats. In November, we will be closing and retiring. I have plans to bring all 14 to our home which is on a large wooded acreage. we are building a “cat kennel” – part wooden housing, part fenced enclosure to bring these guys, a few at a time, to our home and slowly release them. Hopefully they will consider it their new home. My concern is 4 neutered male cats that are already at our house. Two wont care, but the other two definitely will. I am hoping that by leaving one side of the fenced area uncovered, that the home cats will be able to view the new intruders and over 1-2 months or so, become accustomed to the newcomers enough that they wont try to run them off. Dont expect any friendships here, just concerned about serious aggressive behaviour. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi, Jeanne,

      That actually sounds like a great plan. Always let them get used to each other BEFORE they’re allowed to have unobstructed interaction. This is honestly the best way to get the cats used to each other and I ALWAYS recommend when introducing a new cat to a colony to let the other cats get used to the newcomer in their confinement FIRST. So you’re ahead of the game there.

      Good luck and thank you for relocating them to your home!

  29. Need some advice. My grandfather started caring for a group of 3 kittens about 10 years ago. They are now grown. They were TNR kittens. Two of the cats have grown to trust me. I can pet them but they are still very shy. The other is hit and miss on if I am allowed to touch him. If anyone else is around it’s a definite no. My grandfather passed in 2017 and I have been feeding the cats once a day since his passing. His house has recently been sold and I’m not sure what to do. I feel as if they are semi-feral cats and have definitely bonded to the area and the colony. They currently live in a neighborhood at his house. I believe it’s possible they are eating elsewhere during the day as they are rather healthy looking cats. There are many cats throughout the neighborhood so they maybe sneaking another cats food. I live pretty about 10 miles from them, but have several cats of my own. I’m trying to decide what is best for them. If I could trap them and bring them with me and keep them in my garage or if it is best to let them stay in their home. There are nearby fields where I’m sure they could catch mice which I know they have done. So I know they could hunt for food. I’m just use to them knowing they will be given a daily meal. I’m worried if I move them they will try to return and be killed. So what’s best? Move them with me or let them stay in their comfortable surroundings where they have grown up and never been hurt so I feel like they would likely be safe.

    1. Hi, Kerri,

      As it doesn’t sound like the cats are especially human friendly, I’m going to go off that assumption with my advice, alright?

      If you can find someone who is willing to continue feeding these three kitties, I’d let them stay where they are. While hunting CAN keep a cat alive, cats that have lived their whole lives relying on humans feeding them aren’t going to stay where they aren’t being fed, no matter what nearby hunting may be like. They’ll just roam around to find a new source of food, which may or may not be dangerous, depending upon the roads they cross.

      If you can’t find someone to feed them, they absolutely can be relocated to your home/garage. They just HAVE to be kept confined for 3-4 weeks before they start to be released to roam free. Or you can build on a large catio or install cat fencing to just keep the cats in the yard, whatever works best for your living situation and neighbor situation.

      Hope that helps!

  30. Michelle Hoover

    I likely already know the answer from your post, but would love a response here nonetheless. We’re living on the island of Cyprus where feral cats outnumber the human population. We were staying in a rental house with a big yard closer to restaurants and we were regularly feeding a whole group of feral cats. We became endeared to one who seemed to always just want to curl up in our laps. She’s 1-year-old and has been spayed. She had an eye ulcer from some unknown injury and we nursed her through that for a week. Then, on the day that we were supposed to move to another rental 3km away, she showed up on our back porch crying in pain and seemingly blind. We took her to the vet at once and it looks like she was bitten in the face by a viper here, one of the most dangerous animals on the island. She survived and healed and is staying close to neighbors of that old rental while we’ve had to move to our new rental house. Because we became so involved with her, we thought of trying to move her up here to be closer to us, though she would still have to stay outdoors since officially we’re not allowed to have cats. At our old place, she actually has her full family tree (documented by the neighbors): mom, grandmom, great-grand-mom, and two siblings. I want her to be safe and miss her desperately, but I think moving her away from her family clan is the wrong thing. She would still have to be outdoors where we are and it’s close enough to the old place (3km again) that she very much might just try to return home. There are some busy-ish country roads in between. Both locales are surrounded by farm land with more traffic closer to the restaurants in the center of the villages. This is a rural place but it can get busy due to tourism. So I keep cycling between two thoughts: 1) that I’m being irresponsible for counting on other renters and one caring permanent family to keep her safe and that we could do better, watching after a single cat versus several and 2) that I’m being selfish for trying to move her closer to us out of a sense of not trusting others and simply missing her. Another thing: In a year or two, we’ll probably move back to the states and would bring her home with us to live indoors. She’d likely have a longer, safer life indoors in the states but she might also be miserable. There are two very nice cats at our new place. Not sure she’d get along with them. Overall, Cyprus seems full of such stories. It’s a disaster here honestly. Thanks so much for your thoughts.

    1. Hi, Michelle,

      Wow, that’s a very hard decision! I would say, with her being that friendly, that if you were to immediately adopt her indoors, to take her with you. However, having a temporary stop to live somewhere else outside for a year or two and then the states to live inside, is a much harder choice to make. If it were only a couple of months in that new place, I’d say just pick her up when you’re about to come to the US.

      I guess that you’ll have to decide what’s best for her. If there’s any chance she may not be well taken care of at the old place, I’d take her with you. I know you said you cannot take her inside the new place, but she absolutely 100% will need to be confined for a few weeks before releasing her to her new territory. If you won’t be able to confine her temporarily, it’s best to leave her where she’s at because we absolutely don’t want her to try to make it home if she’s just released. As she’s pretty bonded to you, I’m not too concerned she won’t make the adjustment to the new home with the proper confinement. You are there and she sounds like she’s very close to you. Friendly cats move fairly easily WITH their humans.

      Honestly, with so many cats at the original home and with her being pretty bonded to you, I might decide to relocate her with me, if this were me and I wasn’t certain the new people would take care of her. IF I could ensure she was confined properly. But really, this situation is one of those where there isn’t a ‘best’ answer. Leaving her there would be my recommendation if she were pretty feral. Her friendliness kind of makes this one a judgment call on what you think is best for her.

      Sorry that I couldn’t definitively tell you what the best course of action is! Honestly, we all do the best we can in an effort to help these cats and this situation isn’t as clear-cut ‘right way’ and ‘wrong way’ as some of the situations I’m asked about. Hopefully, my thoughts at least help you make the decision and thank you SO much for trying to do what’s best for the cat, no matter what you decide!

      1. Hi, we have 3 feral cats. The original, Cheeks, is very friendly and loves to rub against us and be petted. She is timid with the others and definitely low man on totem pole. When her very protective brother died, Black Magic moved in after about 6 months. About a year later, Stripes came along. These 2 won’t allow petting but are usually nearby and come near us when we are out. Stripes is the strongest personality, Magic is in between. Each one knows their own bowl and we have been theirs for at least 6 years. Cheeks and Magic are around 10, no idea for Stripes.

        We are moving. a cat loving neighbor has agreed to take them on; we are very lucky because we know they will love them as much as we do. Their house is 3 doors down around a corner. I have no doubt Stripes and Magic will find their way to smelly can food, but if they get there first, Cheeks will likely be bullied away. Our house is very much hers, while the others roam the neighborhood more. We originally thought to lure them to their new house little by little, but am reading to physically move them and limit their movement, etc., as you recommend. I wonder if it would be good to move Cheeks as you recommend so she can adopt a new home, while the others find their way there. The distance between backyards is maybe an acre. I’m absolutely sure Magic and Stripes still hunt, or will find food (several people have their own resident ferals). I just worry so for Cheeks. None of the neighbors see her in their yards, and she’s had no reason to hunt her entire life. She’s very easy to catch, she goes for the trap bait every time. The others will not go for it. Once for neutering was enough. All of our neighborhood ferals are TNR’ed. I want so badly to take Cheeks with us but I know staying where she’s familiar with people and environment is best for her. They do know the new people and their neighbor across the street from their frequent walks.

        So, under the circumstances, how would you transition them to their new providers? Thank you so much! Susan

        1. Hi, Susan,

          I would slowly move the feeding area in that direction towards their new feeding area. Do it at each spot for a couple of days, then move it further towards the new house. Good on you for finding a new feeder! You can easily do this in FRONT of the cats, and they’ll follow along until you set the food down.

          I do recommend you take Cheeks with you, to be honest, IF you can. It sounds like she’s WAY more bonded to YOU than anything else, for one thing. The more ‘submissive’ cats don’t do well entering other cat territories, for another reason. This means she may end up getting chased away and not coming in for food when she wants, nor will she feel safe like she does now. You definitely already have this feeling already as you mentioned it in your comment. Sometimes, our first instinct on what we WANT to do is best. You aren’t even considering taking the other two cats and as they aren’t bonded strongly to you, leaving them with a new feeder IS best for them. But I think Cheeks probably should move with you.

          We normally do recommend relocation as a last resort, but the cats who are bonded to their people relocate with their humans rather easily, actually. It’s also certainly possible that when you move and you confine her indoors that she may not even go back outside.

          This decision of course depends upon your new home situation of course and the location and how close it is to Cheeks current situation. It is certainly possible she could become a pet at this point if she is content with being contained indoors before release and you realize she doesn’t seem to miss being outdoors, but it’s also possible she’ll want that access and you have an indoor-outdoor cat then. Or she’ll go back to completely outdoors after releasing her.

          But if possible, if this were me, I’d take Cheeks with you and have the other two cats stay with the new feeders after moving their feeding area. But if you’re moving from a suburb-type situation to like an inner-city apartment situation, moving with her may not be a good idea.

          Hope that helps!

  31. Hi Susan,

    I agreed to take two semi-feral cats from an elderly man who is moving into a retirement community. They trapped one and I brought it over to my little farmette. I tried to contain him in the barn, but he escaped in the night two nights ago. The second one just arrived in a trap that I bought here. I’m hoping that the first one (who was friends with the second one) may come back if he smells his buddy. Any tips? I really should have read your blog before I brought the first one home. I’m super worried about him and praying that he returns. He was only here for a few hours.

    Thank you

    1. Hi, Kim!

      I’m sorry that happened to you! Mistakes and errors happen though, so don’t beat yourself up too much. You can’t prepare for every contingency in a situation that is new to you and cats are GOOD escape artists!

      First, don’t panic. Even if he had been contained during the full confinement period, they may often ‘disappear’ at first as they explore the area. Sometimes this disappearing act is only for a few hours before they return, sometimes it’s a few days, and sometimes you won’t see them at all until they finally show back up a month later. All cats will do this exploration period, though some will only do it at night and hang around the release point during the day. And some go completely MIA and only sneak back to eat occasionally.

      I am very concerned about it only being a few hours of confinement though. It is nowhere close enough to the time required to help him reorient himself and for you to try to ‘convince’ him he WANTS to stay. With only a few hours, he has no reason to want to stay yet. I’d be less concerned with a week or two into the confinement, sometimes that can be enough time to convince them. But a few hours? Eh.

      That said…. people dump cats at our barn ALL THE TIME. And a lot of times, the cats find their way to me when they were probably dumped off at the first barn on the road. I feed and they don’t feed. And it happens a LOT that the cat sticks around. But I couldn’t tell you how many disappear before I find them. But they don’t ALWAYS disappear, it’s actually very common for them to stick close to their drop-off point and find my feeding areas. So it IS possible the cat will still be there. Even likely!

      The confinement period is to help ‘reorient’ their homing instinct to feel that their NEW area is home, for one thing. It’s also important because it’s during this time you CONVINCE the cat he’ll have a good food source, he’ll be safe, and it’s AWESOME at the new home. It increases the chances of cats sticking around their new territory, but obviously, nothing is guaranteed.

      My advice is as follows:

      1) Keep feeding, especially wet food. Keep food out 24/7 just inside the barn, but leave the barn open (if possible) to allow the cat access. (I don’t NORMALLY recommend 24-hour feeding (raccoons and stuff) but you want the cat to know where the food is right now.) Wet food is highly recommended, most cats enjoy it so much they will leave their original colony for wet food feeders. It will make cats want to stick around a place a LOT more. Though not all cats like wet food, so definitely keep out dry too.

      2) He will be hiding at first close by, usually. They don’t often try to leave immediately, they are WAY too scared for that. Feed and call him (if he’s friendly). Let him have access to his friend. Set a trap to get him confined again if you can! With it only being a couple of hours, that would be my first choice. If he had been confined a week or two and just escaped early, I wouldn’t bother since trapping can be traumatic and can ruin the progress you already made with the cat in the weeks he was confined. But since there hasn’t been any bonding yet with a cat this new, trapping is more important than making him feel safe just yet.

      3) Check all neighbors and anyone in the area that feeds cats and have them keep an eye out for him. Many, MANY times when a cat is ‘accidentally’ released immediately, they can be found down the street eating at a neighbor’s farm. I have seen a cat who was released immediately (feeder didn’t know they needed to confine cats when relocating) actually find his way back 7 months later and it turns out, he had been 3 houses down getting fed and was exploring the area, found his original person! Another lady who adopted 2 barn cats to a gentleman (who didn’t listen and just released them on purpose) had both cats go missing and she found one 2 months later at a nearby property, although the other one is still MIA, unfortunately. But it IS possible to find them again!

      And you just hope for the best. Just continue to talk to anyone in the area that feeds cats and let them know how to contact you if they see him.

      Cats that are confused and lost are going to start heading towards where they think home is, but most times, they will stop moving once they find a stable food source and semi-safety. Sometimes that will be the place they were released at. Sometimes that may be a couple of miles away. There ARE rare instances of cats making it to their original home, though, too.

      I truly hope you find him! (And I really need to write a post about “Ooops! The cat was released too early!” and tips on that.) Thank you for adopting barn cats and I’m very sorry this happened.


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