12.02.2009

#6 Do they make cat tranquilizers for handling ferals? Answer: Yes, but try these ideas first.



I got an email asking if they make cat tranquilizers to get a cat into a carrier. Below are some alternative approaches not involving drugs, but first the info requested about sedation.

Some vets will prescribe a dose of a sedative like Acepromazine to make cats drowsy for easier handling. Most come in pill form that you can crush into a small amount of tasty food or stuff into a "pill pocket" to be gobbled up. In my experience, vets will only do this for a cat that is already a patient. I'll say right off the bat that I personally don't like to use sedatives, but some people do so here's the info.

Sedatives are usually used for traveling to alleviate anxiety on long road trips or airplane flights. Most begin to take effect after about 30 minutes. To get a fractious cat into a carrier the sedative does slow a cat down and make it less coordinated. Sedatives that a vet can send home aren't that strong, so the cat will still try to struggle out of your grasp. The cat could jump off a height and get hurt if you don't plan out your maneuver carefully to a confined area to minimize the jumping around. For people who have trouble handling cats safely, this doesn't make things THAT much easier. You still need to be quick and precise getting a good scruff.

The vet will want the weight of the cat in order to prescribe the right dose for the cat. This is the "Catch 22." If you could get the cat to sit still on a scale, you wouldn't need a tranquilizer. Young cats tend to gain 1 lb per month for the first 6 month as a general rule. 2 Months:2lbs., 3 Months:3lbs., etc.

For aggressive feral cats living indoors, I suggest setting a trap and taking them to the cat in the trap.

Here are a couple things I use for shy semi-feral cats that aren't aggressive. Handling gloves always come in handy to avoid scratches when a frightened cat scrambles to get away.

1. I prefer the path of least resistance with semi-ferals that are calm house cats, but still panic when you go to pick them up to put in a carrier. I train my semi-feral cats to not be afraid to go into a carrier by feeding them daily in a large carrier and/or tossing their favorite treats into a large carrier every day as part of their routine. In time they don't even look over their shoulder to see if you are going to close the door on them. I only close the door a couple times per year, so they quickly go back to not being afraid of the carrier in between vet visits.

2. Describing this next technique in words is tough, but another system that works well for me is to put an open carrier in the bathroom and close all the doors to all the adjoining rooms. I calmly walk toward the cat without scaring it but getting it to move away from me until it has no exit but to go into the bathroom. I've had good results with the cat retreating into the bathroom, and I close the door on it there. (A) Once in the bathroom, the cat often hides in the carrier when you carefully squeeze in to join the cat without letting it escape. (B) If the cat doesn't run to hide in the carrier right away, it usually hides behind the toilet. My bathroom is conveniently laid out so the tub is right next to the toilet with the sink cabinet on the other side. I put the carrier on one side of the toilet with a bath mat over the top covering the escape up to the tub. With a small pillow or towel, I come around the other side by the sink and the cat has no exit but to go into the carrier. I slowly hold the pillow or towel over the opening of the carrier as I carefully close the door using the pillow to fill the escape gap. A bread board can be slid in front of the pillow to keep the cat is as you slowly slide out the board while closing and latching the door. See the picture at the top of the blog for a better idea how this works. If you have to modify this idea, just try to think like a cat and create the path of least resistance for the cat. The cat will go into the place it thinks is the safest bet in the given situation. Make the carrier the best choice for the cat to hide with the path you create.

In other blog entries, I've discussed using a cattery or pen as a transitional space to keep cats coming back into a confined space until they are completely socialized to being picked up. It really helps to have them comfortable eating in a confined space when you need to get your hands on them occaisionally.

Best, Mike

18 comments:

  1. i think this is very good advise.

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  2. i like people who don't harm animals just for the sake of it.

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  3. This was sound advice but little or no help.

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    1. I'm with you after almost losing a finger yesterday

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  4. Anonymous30 May, 2013

    How do I get a collar on a semi-feral cat? I have to install an electronic cat door due to raccoon problems. I need to put a collar with electronic tag on the feral. She's been with me 8+years but goes nuts if I try to pet/touch/pick up and has lethal claws! My other cat is as tame as can be and gets long great w/the feral.

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    1. I'd also love any advice as we also have 2 feral cats who are litter mates. One is super tame & loving & the other won't let us touch him (they are 6 yrs. old). We need to get him to the vet since he has a large rash on his back. I'd love to just give him a tranquilizer but the vet is saying that's the last resort. Trapping him could take forever. Thanks!

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    2. Why would you allow an animal that won't allow you to touch it in your house? I would juice it with sedatives and let it live outside for a while to learn some manners.

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  5. I also have a feral cat that has lived under an abandoned trailer next to my house. She is my domestic cat's "girlfriend." and he has helped raise her since she was very small. Unfortunately, recently, she has an open wound on the back of her ear from a dog attack. I would love it if I could sedate her at my home and get her stitched up to prevent infection. despite my domestic cat's attempts to keep it clean for her, the wound is NOT going to close by itself. I would stitch it up myself if I could. but either way, she needs a tranquilizer to even get her to the vet.

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  6. I'm all for sedation after almost losing a finger trying to put my 9 year old pet feral

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  7. They have to live outside. they stop eating inside!

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  8. I have been trying to get my cat to the vet since 2009. She will not get into that cage even for tuna. The people at the clinic tell me to catcxh her in a pillow dcase, or use leather gloves. Now have you seen what a feral does to a p[illos case with those talons for claws? And I have helped handles animals in my brother's veterinary clinic years ago, so I am not a dunce. Is there any advice when all the vets tell me to bring her in and they may then prescribe a sedative? If I could get her to the clininc I wouldn't need help. Like DUH!

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    1. Anonymous10 June, 2016

      Thank you for your common sense comment. I totally share your sentiments. Great job!

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  9. I successfully used a trap on my indoor feral Maine coon cat. She goes nuts if we attempt to corner her and touch her and does a great job running and hiding the rest of the time. Call your nearby Animal Control office and see if they will lend you a feline trap for free. When I saw it, I said, "She will NEVER go for this...She is too smart!" Well, it worked like a charm, and in only a few hours! Since she is an indoor-only cat, I control her food and water situation. The night before, I took up her food and water and made sure the toilet bowl lids were on. The next morning, I put smelly food and a nice, big bowl of water in the trap, and positioned myself far, far away in another room where I could not see the trap. After about 4 hours, her thirst overcame her fear, and she was safely trapped. To the vet we go!

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  10. All very "cute" advice. How does one get that ONE cat to go into that trap? I am bloodied again even though I wore thick gloves. I managed to get one into the cage and then she escaped. Trying to sterilize them but nearly impossible.

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  11. I agree, and the mean, experienced mama cats are the hardest. In my opinion, if the greater community at large really cared about the feral cat population -- I'm speaking to you, vets -- they would invent a tranquilizing mist, or at least prescribe a heavy sedative to crush into the food based on your best assumption of the cat's weight. Anyone who is experienced feeding and taking care of kitties can guesstimate their weight by looking at them. We shouldn't still have to rely on the archaic method of trapping, and it doesn't work if you only need to capture one or two kitties because the are very social, and they all like to eat then groom then sleep together.

    My best method is to work closely with them from the youngest age possible to acclimate them to me and make them almost domesticated, then simply pick them up and put them in a carrier to take them for spaying/neutering. But the mean mama cat who keeps producing the kittens is a fierce survivor, and thus far, NOTHING has worked with her!

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  12. Better yet, somebody should invent cat birth control that could be crushed and blended into wet cat food, problem solved, cat population under control.

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    1. I agree! Even if it's something I would have to give these feral cats once a month, I would do that.

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  13. We have a cat on our screen patio for several months and can not get her in a carrier. I have tried to catch her and she runs and hides . Wonder how many Benadryl she would need to sedate her so I can pick her up and get her neutered? she is very small.

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