There are four levels of veterinary care for feral foster cats: home care, carrier-based care, exam-room care, and anesthetized care. The least stressful level should be utilized whenever possible.
- Minor/moderate dental stains – Liquid Oral Care solution mixes with drinking water and over the course of two weeks brightens stained teeth to white. (Available at Petco & PetSmart)
- Sniffling, sneezing, runny eyes – Viralys, a Lysine supplement gel can be mixed with canned food to prevent upper respiratory infections (Available at most veterinarians)
- UTI – Dasuquin powder can be mixed with canned food to prevent urinary tract infections and help treat joint problems (must be ordered through your veterinarian)
For extremely feral cats, which are dangerous to handle, carrier-based care provides a safe intermediary step between home care and anesthesia. It is limited mainly to shots such as rabies, distemper, and antibiotic injections. If an extremely feral cat becomes seriously ill, it can be transported by carrier, with an escort cat, to the vet. Then the owner can use a towel to cover the feral cat’s face while the veterinarian administers the shot. Steroid shots and the long-lasting Convenia antibiotic shot can be helpful.
Exam Room Care
Semi-feral cats can be transported by carrier, and will tolerate a brief exam, a few injections, bloodwork, and even tests like an x-ray or Ultrasound. However, a very gentle, sensitive veterinarian must be used, who is used to working with feral cats.
Complete anesthesia should only be used when absolutely necessary, as there are always risks. For dangerously feral cats it should only be used for initial testing and spay/neuter, or for important medical procedures.
Catching the Feral Cat
The most challenging part of taking a feral foster cat to the veterinarian is catching the cat safely. At Healing Hearts in Nashville, Joy has the catching process down to an art. First she announces which cat she is looking for. Then she takes her broom and flashlight and makes sure that the cat is not hiding in either of the ferals’ favorite hiding places. Once both places have been checked or flushed with the broom, she closes the doors to those two rooms.
Then she grabs her “feral blanket”, a thick fleece blanket, and a squirt bottle of water. Starting at one end of the house, she methodically looks for the cat, using the squirt bottle to prod the cat out of a hiding place. When the cat is out in the open, she tosses the feral blanket over the cat and as quickly as possible grabs the bottom of the blanket, around the feet, pushing the blanket under the cat, until it is fully enclosed. Then she picks up the wrapped cat, carries it to the carrier, and creates an opening in the carrier entrance. The cat escapes into the carrier and as long as the door is closed in time, the chase is over