How can I help this pregnant, feral cat?

Angry feral mother cat and babies

By Michelle Keith, FAN Volunteer —

Q. I found a pregnant cat. I can’t touch her. How can I help this pregnant, feral cat?

A. Unfortunately, we do not foster feral mothers. Why? Containing feral moms —until they have kittens— rarely yields the results we hope for as rescuers.

Confinement can be so incredibly stressful on feline feral mothers-to-be they may miscarry (horrible outcome for both mom and YOU!) or abandon their babies once born. Stress can also cause a variety of other medical issues for the mother.

We recommend spaying ASAP so she can continue to live her life without the stress of raising babies outside in a harsh, unforgiving environment full of predators & other hazards. FAN can help arrange the spay, if you decide to go that route.

Many feral females are not in the best physical condition. Additionally, they don’t have access to proper nutrition to adequately support their own bodies let alone birth healthy kittens. Add stress to the mix and the outcome will likely not be favorable.

Here is a good resource from Carol’s Ferals in Michigan to explain why we advocate the spaying of pregnant females.

We occasionally trap a “chunky” female feral who surprises us and pops out babies before her spay. Thankfully, most have tended to them beautifully. In those cases we do everything we can to provide a quiet, stress-free environment to raise her babies that includes MINIMAL human interaction. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t and we have bottle-feed the babies for their survival. In such instances, sometimes the babies are fine. Other times they are not.

We’ve even had a few mamas go into labor inside traps at the clinic awaiting spay (the immense stress of capture being the suspected trigger).

Bottom line—feral cats are terrified of people. Why force one to live inside for months and be in fear the entire time? Delivering babies and tending to them is stressful enough without confinement. As rescuers we’ve had cases where we tried to do what we felt was best for feral cats regarding medical treatment, and they ended up developing other serious issues (e.g. urinary blockages) —all caused by the stress of capture and close proximity to humans. They had to be euthanized in the long run.

The honest truth? Regarding pregnant ferals, what we perceive to be best is not what mama cat would think is best. Mama wants to be free, not contained. The less time we spend with a feral cat, the better for the well-being of the cat. The big misconception is that we’re helping the pregnant feral and her babies. We’re NOT helping her if we’re forcing her to live in fear in a cage for months so she can have babies she didn’t ask for, only to be doubly terrified for the next six (6) weeks because now she has to protect them —as well as herself— from humans. It’s completely unfair to the mama cat.

Spay her and let her live life free from confinement. Free from the burden of carrying, birthing, and tending to kittens every three (3) months. Free from being chased by unaltered males looking to mate. Free from protecting countless litters of kittens from the hazards around her. Free from worry. Free from stress. Free.

Learn more from Alley Cat Allies: Bringing mothers indoors for extended periods is ‘inhumane and misguided’