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Hissing better than hiding?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Well as many of you told me, there is progress and setback in getting a semi-feral to like you.
The first time Brady came out from under the bed and rubbed his head on my hand, let me pet him, and even PLAYED with me, I thought things would be easy from here on in.

Not sure what spooked him, but now when I go to feed him he will not come out from under the bed, and if I toss treats at him while he is under the bed he hisses at me. In a way I am grateful, since he is communicating. Also I like the idea of him hissing rather than just backing away. Hissing is a signal that the dogs will understand later when Brady has the run of the house.

I am thinking maybe because I had put the cat carrier in the room (open) he did not like that? I just wanted him to get used to it so I could (maybe) get him to the vet soon. Also he pooed next to the litter box-that was a first. Hm. I cleaned up the mess and changed the litter, this AM things were back to normal litterwise, but Bradyboy still hisses if my hand gets within about 1 foot of him.

He did tear up a little toy that resembles a bird, so he plays at night.

So, is it a good sign that he is hissing?
post #2 of 13
Hissing is never good imo. Yes, he is communicating but he may be telling you he is under stress, discomfort, pain and I would feel uncomfortable knowing that my cat is suffering.
Is he eating? Regular toilet? Drinking enough water? Not limping? Not lethargic?
If Brady is not showing signs of illness, it is better to wait what he will do next. I would not encourage hissing at all.
post #3 of 13
The carrier could be setting him on edge if he has bad experiences with it. My girls always get nervous when the carrier comes out because they associate it with the vet. Puppy is actually attached to his carrier because he associates it with coming home with us, so he gets upset if it is out of sight.
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
He is eating and pooing like a champ.
I do not think that he is limping--at least when I see him walking, which is rare. He usually tries to stay under the bed but when he does come out he seems ok. He is drinking, he gets fresh water 2x a day. I do not know what is normal but it seems normal based on what I know our dogs drink.

I am guessing he did not like the carrier. It has not been that long since I trapped him in the have-a-heart and he did not like that AT ALL.

No I am not encouraging the hissing--it seems that if I can get the treat close enough to him he forgets that he was angry or scared and eats it. Or shaking the treat pouch/rattling the food bowl work too. I guess I was thinking that a cat hissing is like a dog growling. They are saying 'bug off' and as soon as you stop whatever was making them growl there are no hard feelings.
post #5 of 13
I agree with the above posters, Brady is probably stressed b/c of the presence of the carrier. I'd remove it from the room. since you need to take him to the vet, I hope there's someone on the board that can suggest a helpful way of catching him. I know for ferals we've had to catch, we usually double-team them...someone grabs the scruff and tries to hold them still on the ground while the other wraps their body in a blanket/towel so they can't stick all four legs out or scratch us and we put them in a carrier that way.
post #6 of 13
Has the carrier been cleaned since the last time he was in it? A different smell could be bad or good in this situation (bad b/c cats often get stressed by new smells, good if he had associated the old smell of the carrier with being caught). I guess you could also try bringing the carrier into the room and disguising it with blankets and towels so it looks more like a little cave or a box and let him see that his food is in there. Then just sit back and read a book in the room and eventually, he should go in there.

Def. don't push a feral cat that's growling/hissing, it's their warning, treat it like one. Would you approach a growling stray dog?
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
I think I might have garbled things. The short version of the long story is this:

Aug 11: I pick up Brady in cat carrier from fosters, take him home. He had been affectionate and had met me and dogs there. The next day he gets outside and I spend three weeks trying to gain his confidence by feeding him evenings on our deck (I am out there near him while he eats).

Aug 31: Brady stops coming to the deck to eat and moves his territory to abandoned area in neighbor's back yard. I get have-a-heart trap and successfully trap him on Sept 12.

Sept 12: Brady is in spare bedroom, gets food and water, Feliway, music and I do my best not to disturb him. Cat carrier is not in the room. Brady makes no noise whatsoever, he hides behind computer monitor or under bed.

Sept 22: Since there is zero progress and I realize that Brady has no way of associating my presence with the food I try different approach, which is to set the food bowl down in front of him wherever he is. When he finishes I hand him a few treats at a time. This is a roaring success. He comes out from under bed, rubs his head on my hand and plays with me so I draw conclusion that he does not think I am Satan. Since I am concerned about what he might have picked up while he was outside I try to get him used to the carrier and put it in the room.

So I do not know if it is the carrier, or how I smell, or just a normal setback. Since he pooed next to the litter box I assumed that this was all connected. The litter box has a hood on it. Gotta think of the dogs here, they regard the cat litter box as their own stash of treats, so getting Brady to accept the hood is very important before he and his litter box get moved out of the spare bedroom. Fortunately he did not mind the hood when I put it on the litter box, but I am guessing that in his cat mind, when he saw the cat carrier, it triggered a "carrier"="enclosed space"="trap"="hood-on-litter-box"="danger" connection. We are back on track with the litter box, meaning he is doing his business in there again. It could also have been him pigging out on the treats after tearing into the treat pouch the night before. Just the same, I took the carrier out of there immediately.

Sorry for the ramble!

As for whether I would approach a growling stray dog, the answer is that it depends on the situation and the growl. This is because I can understand the nuances of dog language but not cat language. But I am working on the cat language.
post #8 of 13
In that case, try to get back into your routine that had roaring succes, without the cat carrier in the room. You're right about him being scared of enclosed areas when you brought it into the room. Ferals stay alive in the wild by learning quick.

If you can get him to the point where you can pet him again, you might want to try the towel trap I mentioned above, unless someone knows of a better solution. We tend to use that on ferals that are friendly enough to let us pet them but not to put in a carrier, so we trap them that way and usually let the HS assess whether they should be spayed/neutered & ear clipped and then released, or if there's a chance they can be socialized. So I guess the point of that ramble is that I don't know how long the feral stays angry after being trapped that way, but I do know it's a method that has never resulted in them or us being hurt.

As for the hissing, I just know from experience with our rescued stray, that if she's hissing and you don't stop what you're doing, she'll either run or swipe at you. Luckily for us (and our other cat) she has no front claws (no wonder she's angry, she had to survive outside with no claws!), but occasionally the growling/hissing at our other cat does turn into a full roll attack from her until she can get out of the situation she's not happy with.
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks, yes he is a smart boy, no doubt about that.

The towel trap sounds good. I asked the vet techs whre I go what they thought and they said to drop him into a pillowcase and then put him into the carrier. Either way I am not looking forward to it. It will scare him and set us back, but I figure it is important to get him vetted. If it means coaxing him out from under the bed with treats again for a week or so then that is what I will do.

He only hisses when my hand gets "too close" to him. My problem is that he seems to keep changing his opinion of "too close" about every 15 seconds. Oh well. Maybe I have to be a jerk and give him less food in the bowl so he will be more appreciative of the treats. Nothing wrong with this boy's appetite. And he is VERY food-motivated.
post #10 of 13
Well it sounds like you're doing a great job with him, ferals are just always so difficult. It is likely that he'll keep changing his comfort zone (or non-hissing zone) for awhile longer. Did his foster parents take him to the vet? Is his eye sight/hearing ok? I know sometimes if cats have poor eye sight, they'll act like this b/c they won't realize how close you are.

I think as long as you just keep doing what you're doing you'll be fine, set backs like the hissing will happen, and that will slow progress, but it'll make you appreciate the good times more.

Also, beware of the pillowcase method, as they can definitely still bite and scratch you through the pillowcase (it's also a good way to destroy one). But if the towel method fails, it might be your only option.
post #11 of 13
There will be new progress and there is no possibility to tell if it will come fast or slow but I am sure it will come. We took care of two feral cat families during a period of our life that is the worst possible for them. We are renovating. During the three and a half month we have had them, they have had to adapt to a lot of changes and still is, but there is no other option. For every little change there is huge setbacks but I have noticed that they are slowly adapting faster after every change. I had one of the kittens purring in my hand when we had to leave for a short vacation and when we were back it took six weeks before I could touch her again. The progress came sudden. So sudden I first thought she was ill when she didn't move away from me but she appear to just have done some thinking. A couple of weeks ago they had a cat-garden so that they could go out and last weekend we had to close of a the bigger part of the hous. Now it is contractors coming everyday and a lot of sound from machines and such. The kittens was back to normal in one day and the mothers are slowly coming around again after three days with new hiding places and strange voices in the house.
Since the kittens has been very ill they have had a lot of treatments but we have a very good vet and almost all treatment has been done home in their safe invironment. The acute treatment they had when they were to young to protest but of course this didn't make them trustfull. We have managed to give them antibiotics, flea-treatment and de-worming without setting the socialization process back thanks to fantasy, effort and a good vet. If Brady appears to be helathy there is no need to stress him to the vet as long as he is in a safe environment. Give it time and time and more time and don't take the set-backs to serious as long as they don't last for more then a few days.
post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hi Malena, nice to see you and thanks for the advice about giving him plenty of candy (treats). Don't know why I did not think of it myself, since I have used a smorgasbord of them to train the DOGs, so why not cats. Maybe because our last cat did not like them..At any rate my hat is off to you for being able to help cats even though you are doing work on your house.

Anyway, thanks for your words of advice. I doubt that he is blind, after all he survived on his own outdoors for quite a while. Also I see his eyes moving in response to objects such as jingly balls, so I am pretty sure he can see. And we have plenty of old pillowcases so he can trash as many as he wants. I hadn't thought abut getting bitten though. Maybe I should give this some more thought. His foster mom had been able to pick him up and put his in the cat carrier easily so I do not want to give up hope that it might work.

The hissing is new...before he would just cower, that's why I was trying to get more opinions.
post #13 of 13
I don't think he's blind, but it's always good to get their eyes checked, I've seen several cats at the shelter that have reduced vision, but I don't know very much about the subject.
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