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Socializing Ferals -- Please share your story

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Molly is getting a lot better. I'm working on taming Face so that we can work on getting her a forever home at some point in the future, too, but I'd love to hear your stories... For the purpose of encouragement, which right now I do really need.

Molly isn't hiding any more, and that's a major plus. She still doesn't "like" to be petted, but she's allowing it from time to time.
post #2 of 13
This is just a story. I'm not sure if it's helpful or not.

I had a feral mom in the garden, Bonita. Bonita had a litter of three kittens on the roof of a building and brought them down when they were about six weeks old. A neighbor adopted one almost immediately. Then Bonita got pregnant again when the other two were about two months old.

Bonita just couldn't handle being pregnant and having two kittens to care for, so she took the little orange boy and just abandoned the little buff colored girl. I brought the girl inside, but she stayed pretty feral. She stept on my bed but didn't like being picked up or held. She did walk back and forth across my lap, but never laid down or even sat next to me.

I despaired of finding a home for this stand-offish plain beige kitten.

Then Daisy was discovered on Petfinder.com by a teacher's assistant for a third grade teacher in Beverly Hills. Josie was looking for an orange female cat. Well, Daisy wasn't really orange, but was listed that way because my rescue place felt no one would look under buff. Josie came to see Daisy and was ecstatic about her. She found her beautiful and wasn't at all upset that Daisy wouldn't come near her, much less let herself be petted.

Daisy was adopted and Josie and Daisy are delighted with each other. Daisy turned out to be very affectionate. She sleeps with her owners -- right on Papa John's chest, shares exercise video time, make-up for work time and all of Josie's activities with her. She sits in Papa John's lap to watch golf with him. She's a really happy little cat.

It's my "you never know" story.
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thank you for sharing, Katie. That's a good story of how sometimes there is a family and a kitten that are "just right" for one another!
post #4 of 13
In December 2004, I noticed a pretty little black kitty sitting in the sun every day outside my window at work. If she saw me moving through the window, or if I opened the door, she would run under the trailer (I worked in an RV park.) So that's how I realized she was feral.

I bought a cat food bowl, and kitten food (for the calories) and began feeding her. I would at first leave the food by the opening in the trailer and walk away. Then I would sit down, very still, and watch her eat. Then after a while she would eat while I was standing there.

Gradually, she would run to me, and I could pet her. But i usually made her come to me. I would share my yogurt with her, and my turkey sandwiches. Food made her a lot friendlier. LOL. Well, she got pregnant, and I kept feeding her, and I was then able to pick her up and carry her around. She didn't like the inside of the trailer, though.

I finally got the nerve to take her to the vet. I thought for sure that she would fight tooth and nail, but she was perfect. They xrayed her, and didn't need special gloves or anything. That day she came home with me, and plopped in the middle of the kitchen floor. Three weeks later she had 8 kittens!

This all happened from December to the end of April - and today she is nervous of the other cats, but an EXTREMELY sweet kitty to all us humans. She is the sweetest cat ever.
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thank you for sharing, kluchetta. I'm really looking forward to Molly enjoying petting. She'll eat with us sitting there, and can often be found now under the dining-room table, which is much better than how she was doing. It's very encouraging. Thank you.
post #6 of 13
Autumn was feral and was at the shelter I volunteer at, so they had already made some attempts to tame her, however she was still very aggressive towards people.

To begin with I just let her out of her cage and ignored her (keeping an eye on my legs, she has a tendency to bite and scratch) let her do her own thing while I did mine. Eventually she stopped swiping at me, I still couldn't touch her, but it was a start. Then I started paying attention to her, playing with a wand toy, touching her back with a long handled brush etc.

Then one day she hopped up beside me on the chair in there. I just let her sit beside me, didn't touch her and she stayed there for about half an hour. The next time she did it, I tried petting her and she allowed it, for a few strokes before hiding back in her cage. Slowly she allowed a few more, then she would actually come up to me as soon as I came into the room.

I took her home not long after and she just seemed to settle a lot. I wouldn't advise putting your face near her's or touching her tummy, but just by spending time with her she gets calmer each week. She now sleeps on the bed with me and doesn't try biting my toes.

She is definitely food orientated, whatever she is doing that I want her to stop, I take her away from and when she has calmed down and sat down I give her a treat, now she doesn't bother fighting with the boys, apart from the territory spat she has going with Bumper for space on the bed which is also beginning to settle.

http://amby.com/cat_site/feral.html has some great links to articles on how to tame ferals and deal with problems that typically arise with 'tamed' ferals as well as body language to watch out for to know what is working and what makes them scared or aggressive.
post #7 of 13
I have been caring for ferals and doing TNR here in Chicago for nearly two years now. I have two rescued feral kittens right now that are about 4 mos. old. Sassafrass is a female calico, and unlike her brother who was puddy in my hands from the moment I got them home (they were about 7 wks), she was terrified. I kept them confined in my bathroom for about a month, and she hid inside the vanity the whole time. After a few weeks I was able to pet her head briefly, but then she'd turn and swat me. Then after a couple of weeks of that, she decided she wasn't going to let me touch her at all. I started letting them out to mingle with my four cats (ages 17 to 15 mos.), and she started venturing out after a few days. First for brief moments, then the moments got longer, then she started discovering the toys. I think once she realized I wasn't going to bother her, she felt brave enough to stay out of the vanity.

She started coming onto the bed at night following her brother Dreamsicle (which she always does). It was there where she first let me pet her. But she still turned around to swat my hand. Now at 4 mos. old, she has her affectionate moments of the day, when she'll come and rub against my legs and let me pet her, sometimes even pick her up. And she still comes onto the bed at bedtime and gets her pets, so far for the last couple of weeks without any swatting! I continue to let her trust me without forcing any interaction.

I was so worried that I'd never get through to her, but I found that allowing her to come out of hiding at her own pace instead of forcing contact has worked! (I tried the force-holding with the towel wrap a few times when I first got them, but then she was too clever and would make sure I couldn't even reach her to grab her scruff to get her into the towel, so I gave up.) I continue to try to pick her up and hold her for as long as she'll let me when she's in a trusting mood.

Thanks for reading - hope my experience helps!
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thank you for sharing -- it really helps me to realize just how *well* Molly is doing, and which of the cats I most need to look out for (Whisper). She's really doing pretty good. She's letting us pet her now, and I managed to pick her up earlier to put some vanilla on her. She still doesn't like the boys coming near her, but she's getting a lot better with Reagan (who also knows to leave her alone, for the most part -- she's pretty smart!).

I think we're going to have a *lot* of success with her! She's a great little kitty and I think she's shaping up to be pretty affectionate!
post #9 of 13
I have been taming a feral I call her Baby, for about nine months now, I have been able to pet her for a long time, but I still can't pick her up, I think the newborn kitty girl, that I found on the lawn, last may is most likely hers, Her name is Lucky, she was only a few hours old when I found her, she is my snugglebug, I have been trying to convince Baby to come in, she now has another little one, it looks to be about 6 weeks old, I call him(?) paws, he has the cutest little white paws. she won't let me near him. I am getting a little frustrated with her, I would like to get them in before it gets too cold.I have thought of trapping them, but I am not sure she only has the one little one.
post #10 of 13
I tamed a big wild feral male once. It was on a military base and I had been feeding him for a while. He would let me get closer, gradually, and eventually would eat right next to me. I covered my hand and arm with the sleeves of a thick army jacket and reached out to pet him. He would lash out at first, teeth and claws (I was grateful for the thickness of that jacket!). I never flinched, never got angry, just kept speaking to him in a soft and understanding voice, and avoided direct eye contact. We repeated this ritual for weeks, and eventually he stopped attacking, and would come to be petted.

He turned into a loving cat, and would come from then on just for petting, no covers or jacket, just my hand. At some point, he jumped into my lap and would spend hours there as I worked away (I did let him into the office, against all army regulations lol). He became very trusting of me, but still kept his feral instincts and if anyone he didn't know would be near, he would still run away, but with me he was quite tame (although he never liked being picked up).
post #11 of 13
It's been two years this Thanksgiving since we brought Pru inside. She still hides, but we see more of her and she is a total love bug at night, coming to visit us.
We gave a rescue dog a home with us last March and Pru does not trust him. Fergus is a high energy Springer Spaniel that is fascinated by that creature that lives under the sofa. This has slowed down her socialization but not stopped it.
She plays with Sam and Clio and has adjusted to being inside with no problem, never showing an interest in trying to get outside again. Most people are surprised to find out we have three cats, they only see two. Pru learned how to survive on her own and I think she will always be shy with strangers, she is very cautious. But once she does trust someone, she will roll over for belly rubs, head butts, and she loves those ear rubs. She really is a special little girl.
post #12 of 13
Oh my - where would I start? If you look at my siggie, every last one of them was born feral. Generally speaking, the younger that you remove them from their environment, the higher chance of success that you have in socializing them (note I didn't say tame them).

Scarlett, Muddy and Koko were orphaned and bottle fed. We handled them at such a young age that none of them have ever hissed at us.

Stumpy was found as a lone kitten just before he was weaned. We didn't know who his mother was - we didn't even have a pregnant cat on our property that we were aware of. When I found him, he gave me a good hiss and swat and from the time I picked him up and carried him inside the house, he went from a little spitfire to a purr baby.

Spanky was pretty much like Stumpy. He hissed, then purred. Bob Marley did the same.

Pinky was more problematic, as we snatched him up when he was closer to 3 months old. He did the typical feral kitten thing for a few months then warmed up to us.

Eightball (and his OTB brother Tigger) were an odd case. They have a sister Molly that was adopted to a friend. In Tigger's 9 years living with us, he would never let us pick him up without a fight, never let us medicate him, and only snuggled into my lap when he wanted to. He never showed his face to strangers. Eightball, now close to 11 years old, is very much the same way to a lesser degree. They were born in the rafters of my garage and I handled them from when they were about a week old and brought them in my house the moment that they were weaned. They taught me that every cat is different and some will never become the calm lap kitty no matter how much work you do with them.

Oscar is somewhat like Eightball. 4 years later, he is still horribly shy.

Lucky Pierre didn't start coming inside until he was 18 months old and at age 4, he has mellowed a great deal. Since he is one of 2 cats that I allow in and out, he still has a somewhat wild side, but he does allow me to pick him up, brush him, etc. He has yet to find my lap, but he will jump on the sofa while I'm sitting there.
post #13 of 13
I have 4 cats, 2 were feral kittens that were abandoned (or something happened to her) by their mother (a feral cat)at 2 1/2 weeks old. The feral kittens are 4 years old now and are very social. They like people and even little kids. They also do tricks and have given many performances for up to 50+ people at our house. I have props made for them and they really enjoy "show time". I had 3 kittens from that litter. The third died suddenly in his sleep 2 years ago from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy at age 2 years 7 months. The whole family was devestated. He truly brought something special to us every day. He made us laugh every day. He was a true star.
The bigger the audience the more he loved it. I never had cats in my life until these little feral kittens. I didn't think I was a "cat" person, boy they showed me.

We also have another feral who we have had nine months now. She was approximately 5 months old when we got her. She's a gorgeous petite Blue Point Siamese with the most beautiful lavender/blue eyes. We named her Lyric. The site where her colony of 33 cats lived was going to be bulldozed and re-developed. The cats were all trapped, spayed/neuterd etc. and relocated to feral sanctuaries or foster homes.

She was really feral when we got her. She has made great strides however. Now she follows me wherever I go. She'll come and check out visitors when we have them, albeit from around the corner. She'll peek at them. She "helps" me with day to day tasks e.g. Doing the laundry, washing out their bowls, folding clothes, getting food ready. She's right there. She talks to me a lot. I still haven't petted her yet. She sniffs my hands though. Soon I think but I'm going at her pace. She LOVES the other cats. She puts her head on their shoulders, rubs on them, chirps at them. She's like a baby around them. They like her a lot but they don't really know how to nurture her. Hopefully she'll figure out she can get all that from her humans.

That's my experience with ferals. They have truly enriched my life and the kid's lives too.
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