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Help in gaining the trust of my adopted feral cat

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Around 8 months ago, I took up the challenge in adopting a 2 1/2 year old feral / stray cat (born outdoors, minimal human contact except for feedings outside, its kitten / early cathood involved him being beat up on by other adult cats). I took up this challenge with the full knowledge of the hardships involved in attempting to tame a feral cat into fully trusting human contact. I was just hoping I can come here and get a little bit more advice from people who have had some more experience then me . So Let me sum up how his progress has been going.

During the initial adoption phase, after taking him to the vet for checkups for the typical illnesses, we settled him into our bathroom to get accustomed to the new surroundings of an indoors enviornment and not being outside. The first few days were tough, no eating, no bathroom, basically scared (which is typical). Few days he lightened up and explored teh bathroom thoroughly, ate his food, jumped on top of the cabinets, etc. We would stay in the bathroom with him occasionally not going near him but just talking to him softly, letting him hear our voice. Not to mention we wopuld play soothing classical music outside the bathroom so he would be in a calm mood.

Once we let him outside the bathroom and into the apartment, he was basically just a hiding cat, finding a hiding spot, and only coming out at night to explore when my girlfriend and I were asleep. We would hear him run around at night, as well as knocking a few things over.

3 months after adopting him we were still unable to get close to him, nro was he approaching us but staying as far away from us as possible. We then adopted another cat that was domestic in order to show the feral how we are nice humans who are willign to love him and respect him just as we were to the domestic cat. Sure enough the domestic cat and the feral cat became friends immediatley, and his mood immediatley improved. However, we still can not approach him, or pet him for that matter. The two get along great and are best of friends right now.

It is now around 8 months after taking him into our home. As of now he will come into the room where we are, sit and stare at us for a time, do his own thing, lie down in the room but far away from us. He will eat with us in the same room. However any sudden movements and he will skitter away, hiss at us, and just hide under the bed or in his kitty hut. We have made attempts to pet him, but he tensese up, hisses, and runs away not wanting to be touched or approached. So I'm not sure if were doing the right thing in terms of getting him to trust us..or if it's just a REALLY long and hard process in gaining the trust of a cat that has spent most of his early years in fear mostly of human contact, and used to the outdoors. Occasionally he surprises me though and Ill turn adouna dn he'll be sitting right by me looking at me, but once again if I move he dashes fo ra hiding spot. Not to mention if we happen to run into each other accidentally hissing becomes an issue. Some days he'll hiss some days he wont (its like he's moody).

We also adopted our 2nd domestic cat a week ago and we are introducing him intot he household, the feral as usual is curious of the new cat and we will slowly allow the new cat into the main part of the house allowing him to be with the other 2.

So my question is basically..am I on the right track? Will this feral eventually open up? Or will he be a shy cat for a majority of the time avoiding us, and not allowing us near him. Any advice, opinions, suggestions will be GREAT!
post #2 of 6
I am by NO means someone to give you advise on how to deal with a feral cat indoors, but I thought I would share my experience with two feral cats that I have outdoors.

The two cats are brothers that were born underneath my friends deck - they had other sisters/brothers, but were the only two that ended up staying. I've known them for about 5 years and one of the brothers is still very skittish around me. And I'm the one that can get the closest to him if anyone can! I can only pet him when I'm crouched by his food bowl and they have food. He slowly comes up to me (I make sure not to make eye contact and I just talk very softly to him) and he ends up letting me pet him. (In fact, he'll even purr!) But he's still very skittish at noises or sudden movements from me.

His brother is a lot better - he knows me well and is not nearly as skittish. I haven't tried to pick him up yet, but he'll let me pet his belly.

So here are two brothers, raised in the same environment, but with different outcomes on trusting humans....not sure if this will help any! It sounds like you're doing everything right!
post #3 of 6
Oh, best of luck to you. Our cat Georgia was a former feral, and we were warned that she might behave just like yours for a good long while. Luckily, she came around rather quickly, but we've had her for a year and a half now and she's only recently started climbing into my lap.
Something that worked really well for us was covering up all Georgia's hiding spaces. I can imagine the objections to this, but we soon realized that it was either that or we'd be living with a cat we'd never see! So we covered up the space under the bed and cut out cardboard to block the area under the sofa, etc. Sure, the house looked a little silly, but it forced Georgia to spend time with us-- and before long, we were able to take all the cardboard down.
Another trick-- does your cat like any treats in particular? Georgia is addicted to Kitty Kaviar-- she likes it so much that she was willing to take it from my fingers even before she was willing to sit and be pet. That way, she started to associate being close to me with her favorite treat. You might also get toys that are interactive but that don't require you to be mere inches from your cat-- long sticks with strings attached, etc.
Good luck in this endeavor. It was slow going, but now Georgia's a total love bug!
post #4 of 6
All of my cats were born feral. They have all come around in their own time and to different degrees. Here's some things I've learned over the years:

- Never stare directly at the cat. It is a sign of intimidation to them. If you make eye contact, slowly blink your eyes. This is a sign of greeting in cats.
- Always feed them on a regular schedule. Cats love routine and it's usually the food bond that starts the sense of trust in you.
- If you aren't giving him "meat" (canned) food, add it to the feeding routine. Even a few tablespoons every day at the same time is good for bonding.
- Try to never tower over them. If you are in a room with them, get on their level. Sit on the floor if necessary. They don't like things taller than them.
- Get a tall cat tree - see previous. They like to look down on their world.
- Talk to them often.

Getting a second cat, particularly if it is friendly towards you can be a big plus. If this cat bonds with your feral, and sees it smoozing love from you, the feral will learn a valuable lesson from the interaction. Cats learn more from their own kind than any human.

There's a sticky thread on the Story of Lucky. There are a lot of great tips in that thread about bringing a feral around.
post #5 of 6
One of my cats was dropped off at our farm last year and while we believe she was owned at some point in her life, she was "feral", living on her own for at least a year. We fed her and finally figured out her pattern and borrowed a humane trap. We had nothing against her being a barn cat, but she was getting skinny and it was getting cold. She was trapped, vetted and brought inside in October 2006. The first few weeks we were battling an upper respiratory infection and her just being very skinny. She required meds every 12 hours so we kept her crated so it was easy to catch her to give her the meds. She never hissed, never growled.. she was just scared. After about 2 weeks of that, she would meow a greeting at me whenever she'd see me and she'd rub against my hand and want petting when I medicated her.
After she was better, she was allowed to be loose in the house with the other cats. She reverted back to hiding whenever anyone approached and would hiss if I tried to touch her. I just left her alone, she would see me petting the other cats and she'd always come out for food.
It's been almost 3 months to the day since she was trapped and she will now approach me cautiously. She'll come and sit beside me on the bed while I type and if I reach my hand out slowly from behind her she will allow me to pet her. She runs if I try to pet her head at first though... but after a few minutes of petting her on the back she will turn around and head-butt my hand for a scratch behind the ears. She'll take food from my hand, and is especially fond of salisburry steak! lol.
She's a sweetheart, and she knows we aren't going to hurt her and we let her do everything on her terms.
Good luck with him and thank you for giving him a loving home!
post #6 of 6
You are definitely on the right track. Most people would not even consider a feral cat, much less an older one to take into their home, so bless you!

All twenty of my cats were either feral or abused and abandoned, some were all the above. Just don't expect anything from this cat. No lap sits, no contact. Ignore the cat except to see to its needs. Cats hate to be ignored. If you take the pressure off, the bonding time goes much quicker.

The "Scramble of Fear" is what I call the behavior that my cats exhibit from time to time. They can be sitting on our lap, eating, napping whatever, then a loud noise happens outside and food goes flying, claws come out and all kitties beat feet down the tunnel into the cat enclosure.

I have one old gal, she has been with us now about 8 months. I got her when she over three years old. I call her Dash for a reason- she never stays around. If she is in a room and we walk through it, she is gone. Flea treating her monthly, well let's just say it is quite a challenge. But she is safe and loved and that is what matters.
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