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Cats/Time to Release?


QUESTION: My question is I trapped a semi feral male cat today to be neutered. The vet said to keep him in cage or inside for seven days. We have been feeding him for past few months so trapping him was fairly easy. I am concerned he will not be too happy being locked up that long. What is your opinion?  We are living in Puerto Rico and he a Tom Cat been in many fights.

Also is it OK to let him out of the cage and into the bigger secured room after he feels better?  Or keep him in the cage. Again seven days in a room or cage will be a long time for a cat used to outside and walking his turf. But if that is safer we will. Some sites say 48 hours max or the cat gets stressed out.
Thanks Lisa

ANSWER: Hi Lisa,

Unfortunately, I think minimizing his angst will be about the best you can do. It's heartbreaking when we see them so afraid, and I released my first feral before having him neutered because I felt so bad! Fortunately, he gave me another chance and actually decided to become a housecat by the end of the ordeal. Try to remember that he'll probably be uncomfortable in the house no matter where he's kept. But they're resilient creatures, and he'll come through it fine.

As for which accommodations would be least stressful, it all depends on how feral he is. If he's absolutely feral, he is really going to appreciate smaller spaces better than larger ones while he recovers indoors, even though he's used to roaming freely. An indoor environment is so strange to them that large areas feel threatening, while small areas feel more like a secure nest. They cannot feel safe until they explore every inch they have access to, which is obviously much easier in a cage than a room. Ferals with window access are also known to spend hours climbing the walls trying to escape through the window. This is all much worse than recuperating in a cage.

If he's just a kitty who lives outside but may have some experience indoors, or he doesn't seem very upset about the whole ordeal, it's ok to allow him some space in the house. If he's engaging in contact with you, he sounds fine to roam around. But be aware - he may spray or leave fleas behind! Most of us keep ferals in easy to clean areas for this reason. And if he's choosing to keep himself pressed to the back of the cage, better to leave him there. He'll be okay for a week or two.

I disagree about the 48 hour limit. I find this is the MOST stressful part, and then cats will start to relax a bit. But you definitely don't want to keep him in any longer than necessary if he's going back out - it can change the dynamics of the colony.

From a personal standpoint, I can say that what has worked best for most of my ferals is a dog crate. If it's a metal one, I drape sheets over most of it for extra privacy. The big plastic pet taxi types provide plenty of privacy as is.

All the best!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks so much Jessica. it's so nerve racking doing this for the first time.  The cat is maybe three years old I think was once someone's cat and abandoned. We have to leave for awhile but I found a neighbor that is in his turf to feed him.  If we could stay I would continue taking care of him.  We have him inside in a big canvas type crate and I placed a smaller box in there for him.  

Thanks for confirming timing for when to release him. Buster (his name) appears ok and calm right now in cage. He got a rabi shot too so must be sore from that.  
Do you think Monday 72 hours and if he is looking fine is too soon to release him. I think 7 days is too long I think the vet was afraid of him scraping himself or mixing up with the other cats, sometimes they have to run and get in tight corners. But I too want him to find his place back ASAP with his colony.  He is a big guy and I want to do the right thing by him he is very sweet. As you can tell I am very attached to his well being.
Again Thanks You have been very helpful!

72 hours post surgery is usually plenty, but I do encourage evaluating his case individually. Kitties this mature who have been using their equipment for a couple of years sometimes need a little extended recovery time. Swelling and bloody discharge can be present for several days if the cat's tissue was very thick. If it looks like everything is nice and dry and tidy (discoloration is normal), I think he should be fine to go back out. We routinely release our neuters after a 24-hour watch period. However, if he's oozing, you'll want to keep him in, if you can. While it's normal for clear or pink-tinted discharge to ooze from the incision sites, that moisture can attract insects outdoors that will infect the site. And I'm just making the assumption here that no sutures that need to be removed were used, but some vets still use those from time to time, so ensure that that isn't a reason the vet wanted him to stay in!


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The areas in which I have gained the most experience are cat health and feral cat management/rescue. I provide supportive care to chronically ill cats, hospice care to terminally ill cats and also am involved in trap-neuter-return efforts. My specialities lie in taming feral cats and in the allopathic treatment of cats with illnesses or special needs. I also have owned Siamese, Himalayans, Abyssinians, Russian Blues, Savannahs, Bengals, Peterbalds, Don Sphynx and Oriental Shorthairs and am well-versed in cat breeds as well as cat behavior and nutrition.


I have 15 years of extensive experience with cats ranging from breeding to medical care. My daily routine consists of caring for cats with diabetes, thyroid disease, kidney failure, feline leukemia, feline AIDS as well as feral cats. I have experience with liver patients, heart patients, feline infectious peritonitis, cancer, recovery from amputation and trauma, congenital deformities and most every disease in between. I have assisted cats giving birth and hand-nursed kittens who were neglected by their mother from 2 days old through weaning.

15 years' hands-on experience. Current nursing student. I've studied the parallels of human and cat anatomy as well as zoonotic disease, so my studies are broadening the depth of my understanding of feline anatomy, physiology and pathology.

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