Farm cats

Like most farms there are number of feral cats around our farm. Over the past 5 months of living here we’ve learnt who the regular ones are and which ones just come and go. In particular there is one black and white female cat who has always been a little bit friendlier than the others. We found out the people who lived here before us did feed her a little and as she was showing interest in some company we started feeding her when we saw her nearby.

At first she would run off, only eating the food after we retreated to a safe distance, but quickly she would eat with us next to her, then she would accept being stroked while eating and before long she started to rub her head into your hand first in order to get the food. Now she will actually seek out a fuss as well as food, but it must be on her terms, normally up on the wall where she feels safe. We decided to name her Jess after Postman Pat’s cat.

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We knew from the start that we wanted to try to get the cats neutered so we didn’t end up with more, but before we knew it two of them were looking suspiciously round, our black and white friendly one being one of them.

Then one day she looked a lot slimmer and a few days later we found the kittens! We’ve been pondering what to do with them ever since they were born and we still don’t really know if what we’re doing is right or the best thing to do, but we are trying our best and have consulted vets and professional advice.

We want the kittens to be friendly and social and be able to live inside, but we know that they need to stay with their mum for protection and learning, and of course food.

They are now 4 weeks old and are able to start being weaned onto solid food so last weekend we put them in a pet carrier and brought them inside. We thought the mother would follow but she just stayed where she was and never came to find them.

The kittens were really cautious and nervous to come out and mostly just stayed hidden, with one of them being brave enough to go exploring. They licked a bit of jelly but didn’t eat anything. After an hour we took them back to mum who instantly licked them and settled them in for a feed.

The next day we did the same and they were much quicker to come out and explore, wandering around for about 20 minutes before settling down for a sleep.

Today we brought them in to the living room and the bold black one was straight out exploring. The white one munched away on the food and the blue and other black one were a little more cautious.

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We think we’re doing the right thing as it’s getting them used to us and being inside and being handled just for an hour a day and then they are still being cared for and fed by their mum. Things may change as they go on and get older but there’s no pressure for them to be eating solid food yet so simply giving them the chance to is enough for now.

The only thing I’m worried about is if the mum gets pregnant again as one vet has advised me that they can get pregnant as soon as a month after giving birth, but then another vet has told me not to neuter her until she her milk has dried up.

I haven’t seen any of the tom cats around the farm for a while so I guess if they start showing up suddenly we may have to make a different decision, but the kittens seem fairly strong and healthy and Jess seems to be a good mum. We’ll just have to see what happens. It’s all a bit learning curve, although I have a lot of animal knowledge I’m not very experienced with cats and babies at all.

As for the other cat, we haven’t seen her kittens and don’t know if they are alive or not. She doesn’t come near so will be a little bit harder to catch but do-able. However I think I’m going to leave her for another 4 weeks in case her kittens are out there and alive to give them the best chance.

While I’m not a massive fan of feral cats they do help to keep the mice and rats down, plus thankfully we have only got about 4 or 5 regulars. Let’s just hope speying the females will keep that number down!

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