Relocating Cats

IndyFeral’s Position on Relocating Cats – Stray & Feral

Relocation is the process of moving a stray or feral cat from its current outdoor home to a new outdoor home. It is a labor intensive process and often has a low success rate. Cats are very territorial and remaining in their current habitat is optimal for their health and safety. On occasion there are circumstances that do warrant relocation.  IndyFeral will not relocate cats without specific approval from the program director.

The following situations may warrant relocation
  • The lives of the cats are being threatened in a way that can not be legally remedied
  • The colony is located on public or private property that will not allow the colony to be maintained
  • Their home or shelter is being destroyed and it is impossible to provide an alternative shelter at their current habitat or migration of the cats within a reasonable distance is not possible.
  • There is no identified caretaker

Stray and feral cats become well adapted to their territory and can live safely and contentedly in alleyways, parking lots, vacant lots, backyards and other locations – urban, suburban and rural. The present home of a feral colony is the best  place for the cats since they likely have been living there for their entire life. It is the only home they know. Colony cats develop very strong bonds with each other, their present territory and caretaker.

Relocation Considerations
  • In some cases, relocated cats will disappear, either being driven off by territorial cats or other animals in the area.
  • Cats following their intense natural instinct to return “home” often become lost or are killed attempting to cross major roads.
  • Cats are killed by hazards/threats they have never encountered before (coyotes, chemicals, open wells, etc.)
  • Sanctuaries (life-long indoor mass homes) are uncommon and most feral cats are not happy living in confinement.
  • Relocating all or most of the cats in a colony can open up a “void” called the vacuum effect. This allows unsterilized cats to move into the area. This starts the cycle all over again if there is shelter or food to attract them. (The food supply could be unsecured trash cans, an unknown feeder or wild rodents.)
  • Feral cats form strong bonds with other cats in their colonies. Separating a cat from her colony members and leaving her alone in a new environment causes stress, depression and loneliness. This increases their desire to return home.
  • The following cats have the lowest chance of relocation success:
    • Cats that are very feral
    • Moving too few cats together from the same colony
    • Cats relocated by themselves
    • Kittens under 6 months relocated without a mother

If it is determined the cats must be relocated, following these  guidelines may increase the chance of success:

Preparation for relocation
  • Find a safe and permanent home site with a caretaker committed to providing life-long feeding, watering, medical care and monitoring of the cats.
  • Identify a room or secure area that is clean, quiet, temperature controlled and protects the cats from the elements as much as possible. Be sure there is adequate air and light available.
  • Other items needed will include a wire dog crate (minimum size of 2 ft x 3 ft.) litter, litter pans, food and water bowls, a small carrier for the cat to hide in and sheets to cover the crate to help reduce the cats stress.
  • Cats should be confined where they can see and smell their new surroundings (especially other cats, the caretaker and the feeding station)
  • Cats must be confined in their crate for a minimum of 2 weeks at the new site to acclimate and identify with its new location and caretaker before release
  • Cats must receive daily care, food, water and litter box cleaning
Confinement Tips (to increase the chance for successful relocation)
  • During the first day or two, the cats may struggle to find a way out (especially at night). They will calm down in a day or two after they realize that they will not be harmed
  • Feed on a regular schedule preferably twice a day (wet and dry)
  • Keep the relocation crate covered with a sheet to reduce stress
  • Rattle the food in a box or bowl each time you feed so the cats associate the sound with food
  • Give the cats treats occasionally
  • Make frequent (minimum twice daily) verbal attempts to bond with the cats
  • If a cat escapes during the confinement period, make sure food and water is left out and that their used litter (for scent) is sprinkled around the area. Cats often hide for a period of time but will stay close. Leave food and water to prevent them from leaving in search of food
  • When the cats are ready for release, continue feeding in the same area and on the same schedule as before.
  • Typically cats will run and hide after initial release
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