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So there's a family of kittens that has been living in my yard for a few months now. I've been feeding them daily and they recognize me, but they won't let me touch them or get too close.

Last week I noticed one of them was not using his front paw at all, lifting it up while he walked. I waited for a few days and it started to swell, so I tricked him into getting into a cage and took him to the vet to check him out. The vet noticed he had a puncture wound leaking pus, which she drained, and cleaned. The vet recommended I give him antibiotics lest the infection come back. I tried putting the antibiotic in his food, even mixing it with smelly things like sardines, but he can smell it and simply opts to eat his siblings food instead. I tried to capture him again to take him to the vet for boarding, so he can get an injectable antibiotic for a few days, but ever since that one time I caught him he's been very wary of me. He does not let me get any closer than 2 meters, and runs away to a neighbor's yard if I try to!

He still comes by to eat, and his paw, though he still doesn't bear weight on it, has not swollen anymore since the first vet visit, and he has started using it a little more for digging.

What are the odds this just clears up on it's own without antibiotics? I'm really struggling to capture him and I'm starting to think that if I keep trying to and failing it's just gonna drive him away!

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    I would consult with the vet about the situation, they treated the injury and would be the best to judge the risks. In general, antibiotics need to be given on a steady schedule according to prescription, or there is the risk of breeding bacteria with resistances making future treatment a lot harder. There are long-term antibiotic injections that last a week or more, usually this is more expensive than regular oral administration, but less expensive than treatment of complications should infection come back.
    – bgse
    Nov 28, 2023 at 13:48
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    I feel morally obligated to advise against feeding stray cats if you don't plan on neutering or adopting them. The females will get pregnant and the kittens will learn to get food from you and before you know it, you feed a whole colony of cats that no-one else wants to take care of. What happens when you want to move away, go on vacation or cannot feed them for medical or financial reasons? The ethical solution is to participate in a neuter-and-release program of a local animal welfare organization that prevents the birth of even more stray cats.
    – Elmy
    Nov 29, 2023 at 6:00
  • @Elmy there are no neuter and release programs or animal welfare organizations in my country, and cats are native to the region, so they don't really pose a problem.
    – BURTUQALY
    Nov 29, 2023 at 13:48
  • @BURTUQALY If you plan on building a close relationship with the cats, maybe adopt them as pets at some point, neutering tends to be a really cheap option in the long run, as it dramatically reduces the amount of fights the males get into or the risks they take while roaming in search for a mate. Over time, this will pay for itself due to reduced vet costs, while also improving the quality of life for the animals and help them get along with each other when they mature. They will still do their pest control duties, in fact females tend to be even more effective when neutered in that regard.
    – bgse
    Nov 29, 2023 at 15:21

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To answer the question, you may have no choice but to trap him (a box trap is less stressful than chasing him) and keep him caged for the duration of treatment. Yes, he's likely to be unhappy about that and to sulk for a while after being released. Do you care more about his friendship or his health?

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