Dear Doctor - Helping a Homeless Cat
Q. I am feeding an intact feral cat with whom I have formed a friendship. Recently when I fed him in the morning, I noticed that the skin behind his ears had been ripped open, probably during a fight.
I would really like to take him to a veterinary clinic to get neutered, but I fear that that the experience would cause him to leave and not return. He is very docile for an outdoor cat and seems to get along with a few other outdoor cats who have been spayed or neutered. He lets me pet him and get close to him, but at this point, he will not let me pick him up. He never wants to come inside the house, even during snowstorms. What do you suggest I do?
A. Dear Stanley: This cat has an all-too-familiar story, and one with which I have experience myself. The correct and responsible thing to do is to apprehend this cat, and to have him tested for any diseases he may be harboring — such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or leukemia — and to have him neutered. Neutering will not make him less friendly to you, but it will severely curtail his fighting and thus reduce the injuries he is receiving. It can greatly help in reducing the problem of feline overpopulation, as well.
In the interest of his longevity, it would be a good idea to somehow coax him into your house and to make him a house cat.
Nicholas Dodman, BVMS
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University