Kalani, A Feral Cat


My husband noticed an orange flash outside his office window.  With further investigation, he discovered an orange tabby crouched under a bush.  The cat flicked his left ear from side to side.  The tip was shriveled.  After a few minutes, the cat stood up on his hind legs and nibbled on the lower leaves.  He looked like he was starving.    

The next day, Steve placed food and water beneath the bush just in case the cat returned.  A few hours later, he did.  He chowed down on food, drank some water and settled in for a nap beneath another bush.  That evening, Steve and I plotted our strategy for catching this feral cat.   

The biggest mistake people make with starving animals is overfeeding.  Giving a starving animal or human too much food too quickly may cause a life-threatening condition called re-feeding syndrome.  To avoid this, I formulated a strict feeding regime for Steve.  For the week, he fed the cat a small amount of food every morning.  By the second week, we increased to twice a day feedings and tried to acclimate the cat to Steve.    

After three weeks of feeding, the cat began to follow Steve at a distance.  We placed a humane trap covered with burlap beneath a bush.  Every feeding we moved the food and water closer to the trap.  In a few days, the cat ate his meals inside the trap.  Now it was time to catch this wild boy.  

The night before we set the trap, Steve skipped the cat’s evening meal.  I wanted to use hunger to motivate him to enter the trap.  The next morning, the cat arrived right on schedule.  At 10 am, Steve observed the little fur ball rubbing on the trap door.  For thirty agonizing seconds, Steve watched in fear that he would spring the door at the wrong time.  Finally, he walked to the back.  In a flash, the trap door crashed down behind him.  We finally secured the little guy.  That night, a large storm passed through Scottsdale.  The parking lot storm drain where he used to sleep flooded.  Raging waters blocked his only exit.  Fortunately, Kalani was safe inside our house.  He was spared a horrible death by drowning. 

I wish I could write that Kalani instantly became a loving member of our family.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.  As a feral cat, it took months for him to trust us enough to sit in our laps.  Now, a year and a half after we first met, he allows us to pick him up and brush his teeth almost every night.  As you can see from his picture, Kalani enjoys his new life as an indoor cat.  He is a wonderful, although shy, addition to our family.  

For anyone interested in feral cats, please see the post “Taming Feral Cats” in the Ask The Vet category of this blog.         

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.