When the Time Comes . . How to PTS Semi-Feral Barn Cat?
When first married, my DH and I lived in an inner-city apartment for 2 years. I started feeding two feral cats. They both came to depend on the food. One kitty eventually let me scratch her *occasionally*. The other cat only regarded me as a meal delivery service.
DH and I scrimped & saved and finally bought our little farmette in the country. I trapped both cats and relocated them to the farm. Success! They are now great barn cats. The female and I have a lovely friendship although she is not cuddly in any sense of the word. But I feel privileged to have made her into a friend. The male hates all humans terribly and has never forgiven me for trapping him. He remains wary and only shows up for meals.
My little friend is getting older. I tried making her an indoor cat at one time, but that was not to be. She has a heated bed and a snug little hay barn. Other than to be spayed and have her ear clipped by the feral cat program (prior to my meeting her), she has never seen a vet.
What do I do when the time comes for her to cross? I will not take her to a vet. She can't tolerate being confined for any purpose. And I wouldn't dream of filling her last day with the terror and confusion it would cause.
My best case scenario would be to sit next to her and scratch her chin while she gently fell asleep. Is there any way to make this a reality?
Talk to your vet. There may be a way you could slip her a tranquilizer into her food which would make her calm/drowsy until you could get her to the vet for euthanization. Or maybe your farm vet would come to you to put her down.
My vet was going to give me some kind of sedative/tranq to give her before she showed up.
It didn't happen that way, I was lucky, Sasha went on her own peacefully and with me right at her side. How lucky that was, but I also know it isnt the norm.
Good luck, and good for you to do the planning and thinking about this...such a good owner.
My experience has been the same as LauraKY. When they begin to decline that much they usually hide somewhere impossible to locate, or are too slow one night and are caught by something. However I do think it's likely that your female will "den" in the barn rather than somewhere outside since she's so friendly with you.
When we have had barn cats need to be euthanized before, we have done it two ways. Twice they were friendly but not quite tame, but they denned up in the barn and we were able to have our equine vet euth them while he was out. It was moderately stressful for the cat because they were being handled/restrained, but not like taking them to the vet. A lot of small animal vets will now to house calls to euthanize, so even if your equine vet isn't able/willing, you might still be able to get someone out.
Once we had a feral tom who had eluded every trap. We saw him a lot but no one could get near him and he wouldn't get near any trap (believe me, we tried every one on the market). Smartest damn cat I've ever met. He aged, had several visible tumors and one day lost the full use of one hind leg and partial use of another, and we still couldn't catch him. We had a friend who was an excellent marksman come out and shoot him. It was not the way I would have chosen to euth him, but he died quickly and relatively painlessly. Better than letting him drag himself around until a coyote ate him, IMO. We didn't find any injury other than the gunshot on the carcass and the vet guessed that he had an aggressive cancer, but we didn't have a necropsy done so who knows. He was at least 15 though, so not young.
I want to stress with that last bit that you need a really good marksman to do it painlessly, and there are no guarantees. I am a pretty good shot but I would not be willing to try on a cat. I'm sure I could hit it, I'm just not sure I could kill it quickly. It's not like a horse where you'd be shooting it at close range and a fairly large target area. I'd shoot a horse if I had to (I pray I never do, but I'm confident I could do it humanely) but not a cat. And we really didn't want to do it with that tom, but even while he was paralyzed we tried to sneak up on him, set out humane traps for him, etc. and all we ever caught were a few other barn cats who already had their shots/desexing done and were in good health! It was a last resort, but it is one I was comfortable with in that situation. I doubt it will come to that for your female, though.
I sure hope she doesn't slink away one night. But I guess it is a distinct possibility. I will watch her like a hawk this winter. I'd sure like to give her a good death myself rather than the alternatives.
It hadn't even occurred to me to ask a vet for a sedative to give her *before* I called him to come finish the job. Or if she were truly unconscious I guess I wouldn't mind driving her into the clinic either.
CosMonster, I really appreciate hearing about your experience with the feral tom. I am impressed at the lengths you went to provide the best passing under the circumstances. My husband is a police officer and a fine marksman. He would do what was necessary should an emergency arise. But he also loves "our" feral cats and I would just bet that rather than do that type of job himself, he would ask our neighbor, an expert professional outfitter and hunter, to do the job. Old softy that he is.
Thank you all for helping me process my thoughts for this inevitable experience.
The neighbour and I shared a pretty wild tom cat - he was born at her place, spent a few years here and went back home and lived a few more. I would have thought that Gimpy (he came here wild and with an abscessed paw so i just gave him a descriptive name) would have been the one to slink off somewhere, but last winter, the neighbour's son found him in his favourite sleeping spot, passed peacefully. According to her calculations, he was 13 or so, and just worn out. He was a strange one as he would run if you approached but would wind around your ankles at feeding time, but run the minute you put a hand to the dish and then be the first to try to eat. He would sit on the doorstep, and gaze at the windows, and dash off if you spoke to him. He loved kittens and would happily accept their maulings and the worst he would do was get up and move if the babysitting duty got painful. I still miss him.
The point of the whole soppy ramble is that even fairly wild cats, if comfortable with their surroundings, often pass where they are happiest.
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One of my barn cats came down with an upper respiratory infection a couple of years ago....she was very sick. Luckily, she's always waiting for breakfast, she didn't show and I found her in the hay loft. And, fortunately, I hadn't yet had my hay delivered for the winter, so she was fairly easy to find. She recovered very well, but if I hadn't found her....
"We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." ~Immanuel Kant
We had a friend who was an excellent marksman come out and shoot him. It was not the way I would have chosen to euth him, but he died quickly and relatively painlessly. Better than letting him drag himself around until a coyote ate him, IMO
Yep. We had a feral Tom that we couldn't even catch to get neutered and rabies vaccines. He was friendly enough to let you pet him (some people) but if you tried to pick him up he was not friendly. I could pick him up gingerly and move him to a new spot, but if I tried to "cuddle" him he was gone, or if he suspected we were going to try to "trap" he was mean.
We tried to encourage him to wander away by not feeding him and he basically lived under our deck and killed birds to eat so we eventually just fed him. But he came home with a compound fracture one day and there was no way were were going to try to shove him in a cat crate in that stage. I carefully moved him to a spot in the yard and my dh shot him at close range. Pretty sad, but I think the best ending he could get.
I really hope we are not "befriended" again, though. Very stressful.
Sadly, I've found most feral cats just disappear when it's their time.
Yep. Ours aren't even semi-feral and only one has made it past age six, come to that. Some we've found, a couple we had to have put down (again, ours are tame by and large), most just vanish. The one time I saw our neighbor deal with a sick full-on feral (not one of theirs, just hanging around) he shot it with a .22 rifle. Cat never saw it coming. (Note there was a very real possibility this one had rabies, so no one fooled around with trying to catch it.)
IME, cats do tend to know when it's their time and will will make an effort to go away quietly on their own. Even indoor/outdoor housecats will do this if they can. You should be prepared for her just not showing up one day.
If she will let you pet/handle her, can you find a vet that will make housecalls? Some will do this for a euth, so the animal passes at home. Perhaps even your horse vet will make a farm call for this purpose.
If you can figure a way to get it into her, I suppose you could OD her on something so that she goes to sleep and doesn't wake up, but the problem here is getting the dosage correct so it doesn't just anesthetize her for several hours. It would be difficult to have to do yourself, but she would have a peaceful passing.
We had a feral tuxedo cat that lived on our property since we built here (10 years ago). He was extremely feral and most of the time I only saw his but as he was running away from me. He would come to the barn and eat but we never saw him any other time. Sadly, last year he showed up by the barn and there was definetly something really wrong with him....most likely neurological. We couldn't touch him but he stayed around until he finally died a few days later in my hay. I found it strange that a cat so feral chose to die around the thing he feared......people. My guess is that he wanted to stay near his constant food source. It was very sad to watch but I couldn't catch him We buried him in my cat cemetary and we named him Buddy. We felt it necessary to give him a name even if it was at the end
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Thanks for the thread as it is one we will have to face in the next year or so. She appeared some 6 years ago, sick and ran away before I could capture her. Then she returned, even sicker and I was able to capture her then. We had her desexed and given shots then turned her loose in the barn. After many months we have been able to 'trap her in the carrier' for annual shots, but she is wise to that now.
The good news is she is more accepting of attention since we adopted 3 new barn kitties who are all very human friendly.
Talk to your vet about pros/cons with sedating your outside kitty via food. Our vet noted they will often hide when they feel the meds taking effect. Two possible problems then:
The cat may be in danger from other predators or where they are hiding (such as car engine)
You won't be able to find their hiding place and miss the opportunity
He is more concerned for the cat's health than the missed opportunity.
Good luck with your wild kitty. They do worm their way into your heart even while being physically distant.
"Never do anything that you have to explain twice to the paramedics."
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