Monday, October 8, 2012

Moving with outdoor cats: What's the best way to move a cat colony?

Beorn the outdoor cat in his new yard
Beorn relaxing in his new yard.
We recently moved about 60 miles down I-5, from a very industrial part of Portland to a smaller, quieter neighborhood in Salem. For my husband and I, one of the major hurdles to a successful move involved his outdoor cats. We couldn't exactly convince them that the move was necessary, and we weren't sure they would even want to come along. The logistics of the thing seemed a little daunting.

As we were planning, I looked at sites like this one. They all gave me basically the same set of options: I could move them all, or I could convince a neighbor to keep them and allow the cats to live in the neighborhood they'd called home for 10+ years. Honestly, it was a tough call. While I knew that catching these cats and moving them would be difficult, I didn't know if our neighbors (and the new homeowners in the house the cats lurked around) would be willing to care for the cats in the manner to which they had become accustomed. Since they were a bonded group, we couldn't just take along a few cats and leave the others behind, and abandoning them to fend for themselves was simply not an option.

In the end, we decided to risk it and move all of the cats with us.

About 2 weeks before our move, I pulled out the cat traps we owned, and I started baiting those traps with tasty food, two times per day. Beorn and Jasper can be picked up, of course, but feral Franklin cannot and I needed to have him get into that trap when it was time to go. Over time, everyone became accustomed to eating in the traps, and we felt ready to go. Franklin wandered into the set trap on the second attempt, and I had a moment of glee, thinking all would be well.

When we arrived at our new home, all three cats went into their new, cushy outbuilding (photos to come later) with water, food and a cat box. We went in multiple times per day, but we left the cats in there for three days. I wanted the cats to have time to adjust to the new sounds and smells of their environment, and I knew they could look out the window to map out their new turf. On the morning of the third day, they seemed ready to come out.

All three stayed in the yard that first day, sniffing and smelling and coming by for reassuring scratches and slow blinks. Unfortunately, we've not seen Franklin since. Jasper and Beorn have adjusted, and they're doing beautifully in their new surroundings, but our feral boy has just disappeared. It's been several days now, and I fear he's gone for good.

I try to comfort myself that we did the best we could by trying to move him and giving him a comfortable place to live when we had moved. But unfortunately, he didn't see the wisdom in our move and there was no way to make him stay where we'd like him to stay. I hope he changes his mind and comes back to us.