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Saving Blessing,the feral cat

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hello everyone,

I need lots of help, support, and info from wise cat lovers like yourself.

This is the story of my new, very first cat, Blessing:

Three days ago, my brother was driving to his girlfriend's house and hit a kitten by accident. The mother cat crossed the street first, but the baby kitten missed the timing and my brother didn't see the kitten at all. As soon as he heard a clank by the side of his car, he stopped to check. Fortunately the kitten seemed physically unhurt (no blood or anything), but it was extremely frightened. It hissed and cried when my brother tried to pick him up. The mother cat was nowhere in sight at this point and my brother rushed to the animal hospital. The cat stared at my brother and tried his best to not fall asleep, but the seat warmer was just too enticing for him. He kept inching toward the warmest part of the seat. I don't know how he could've survived the 20F weather.

Nothing was broken, but cat had lame right foot and seemed to be blind on the right eye. When you wave your hand to the right, he does not respond. The vet said the lame foot could be temporary from the shock or it could be permanent. He also had ringworm and he needed to be strictly isolated from my two dogs. It was a tough decision for him. The vet explained that they were going to keep him for the night and call the shelter in the morning if my brother decides not to keep it. If the shelter has a room, then it will be taken there right away, but if they don't have a room for it, it will be euthanized. The tone suggested that the latter choice was likely to happen.... So he bravely forked over about $2000 for treatment fees and took him home for some TLC.

The doctor said he was about 8weeks old. He's a mix between tuxedo cat and probably brown striped cat. We decided to name it Blessing because it's a blessing for us and for him to have found each other.

Now this is the part I need your help with. Any input would be greatly appreciated:

It's been three days since we put Blessing in the bathroom and started to take care of it.(It needs to be isolated from the dogs b/c of ringworm ) I checked many "how to tame a feral kitten" sites, but they don't seem to offer solutions that I seek.

He lets me pet him and doesn't seem to have problem when I pick him up or hold him. He even purrs constantly when I am handling him. One site said that if a kitten purrs on your lap, the battle is half won.... Well, it doesn't seem like that with Blessing.

The first day, I turned the light off and gave him lots of time to himself so he can get used to the new environment. I came in time to time to check up on him and to give him his medications. He looked extremely frightened and looked at me with eyes that seemed to say "I hate you" and "don't eat me" interchangeably.

The second day, I started petting him and he purred everytime. He does flinch when I make any sorts of movements, but he seems to be more comfortable with me. He even climbed on to my lap when I pet him. I thought taming was a cake.

Today things took 180 spin. For one thing, I found him behind a toilet hiding away. When I pulled him out, held him and started petting him, he started purring and everything seemed to be normal again. Then when I put him on the ground, he seemed comfortable at first then all of sudden he started backing away for no reason then he tripped over the water bowl and he started twisting and turning just like a crocodile. I dried him off and petted him. I stroked him and tried to calm him down by talking to it softly, calmly and reassuringly like one site suggested.... Then he seemed to be falling asleep on my lap. Then all of sudden he woke up and started freaking out again and do the crocodile spin. I tried to reassure him, but after his 3rd time freaking out, I just gave up and walked out...

What did I do wrong? Any criticism is appreciated.
One site said to give it plenty of time to itself so it feels comfortable.
Then another site says it's best to expose the cat to human presence as much as possible. What should I do with him? If the latter is the answer, it's pretty hard to be always around him since he needs to be isolated in the bathroom due to his ringworm.

He seems to love me one moment, but hate me just as quickly....*sigh*

I also read somewhere that cats purr when content, but it also purrs when it's sick or feeling nervous. How do I know he's feeling good and not timid?

He doesn't eat much and it almost seems like he doesn't like to eat. He stops eating when he feels alarmed and when I do anything to alarm him (like scratching my nose or hair all of sudden) he stops eating. Wet, dry, cat milk and even human food. He does not take my bribe...

I thought kittens were more playful, but I never see him move. Maybe he does when I am not there, but when I am there, unless I put him on the floor, he doesn't even flinch.

He's not a feisty one, so he won't bite or attack. All he does is occasionally hiss and freak out by doing a crocodile spin. What should I do?

He's my first cat ever and it seems like I have a long road ahead of me...
post #2 of 17
I just love feral kittens (all of mine were born feral)!!

Here's a couple of very basic ideas that you should consider:

Feral cats never tame on your schedule. They tame on theirs. It's only been 3 days with Blessing. The younger the feral kitten, usually the quicker they tame up. At 8 weeks old, he is at the borderline age when he's been fully influenced by his feral mom so will still show some signs for a while. Don't force yourself on him. He will come around when he is ready.

If he was injured, he is going to do what he needs to protect himself, including staying distant from you. Many sick cats simply hide. The fact that he sits in your lap tells me that he has already gone miles with you.

When you go into the room with him, always stay at his level. Sit on the floor and try not to tower over him. Humans at full height are very scary things. Bring a book with you into the room and read out loud to him. It will get him used to your voice.

Feed him at exactly the same time every day. Cats love routine and fall into that routine very quickly. If you are concerned that he isn't eating when you are in the room with him, leave the room. Many feral cats do not like to eat in front of humans. He'll do it once he is fully comfortable.

If he likes canned food, offer him some of it on a spoon and see if he will lick it off. If that works, feed him from your fingers. You want him to relate good things with your hands. This doesn't always work but sometimes it does.

Get a wand toy for him and entice him to play at a distance for a while. Most kittens can't resist a good wand toy and it will get him used to playing interactively with you without him realizing that there is a big scary human on the other end of the toy.

You've just turned his world upside down and he is injured on top of that. Everything you do with him should be to destress him. Take things slow and don't force yourself on him. Once he feels better physically, he will appreciate your presence and respond to it.
post #3 of 17
Blessing is very shy, and he suffers from eye blindness probably. These things make him MORE skittish than usual. Think about it - if suddenly you saw something out of the corner of your eye, wouldn't YOU jump and
be startled/scared?

Here's what I'd do. Just go in the bathroom, sit down with a book and read outloud. Have some tasty treats and toss a few over his way.

Allow HIM to come to YOU. Hard as this is, its the way to teach "trust".
He is a friendly guy, as witnessed by purring etc.

I have a compeltely healthy feral girl, who acted much the same way, and I've had her 4 months in the house now!! She is getting better, but she's sometimes just spooked for no reason I can tell, and wont let me pick her up.

Its getting better though, and one day - she'll be completely tame for picking up etc.

So, try the go slow approach, back off and let kitten come to you. Give it treats to entice, have a string or shoelace handy to play with. Gradually as you play, let the string cross your lap - eventually the goal is kitten plays in your lap and you slowly start petting it... then go back to playing - eventually the kitten "learns" to not be afraid of ANY movement on your part, since movement = play, fun and treats.

Its a VERY slow process! Fortunately the ringworm isolation means that
you don't have to feel bad about isolating the little guy. The next hurdle
will be the dog intros - THAT IMHO may not go so well.

I have one large cat, Diablo. He is fearless, and from a YOUNG age, learned to torment, chase and attack dogs that were "on his turf". I witnessed dogs being litterally "attacked". These dogs were so cowed they NEVER went on "his" sidewalk/lawn again!!

In fact, last night my 17 year old Diablo who is now arthritic etc. stared down my BF's super friendly boisterous Boxer. The boxer began to look at him, and Diablo simply GLARED at the dog. The dog immedatelys stopped his whimpers/noise and went and lay down in a corner of the room! It was amazing. Just one "look" did it! LOL.

Diablo also rules other cats in much the same way - nothing physical, just "looks" that say "I am top cat, do NOT mess with ME".

My other cats unfortunately were scared out of their minds by otherwise gentle and not threatening boxer dog.

Go figure!! So, for now, build the trust as much as you can! Both you and BF need to work with little guy. Then when he is ready, move to larger room.
Let him explore that room while dogs are confined elsewhere in the house.

Let him smell dog's areas - put dogs in kennels and let cat roam, keep doing till dog gets used to cat, and cat to dog. I am no experet so maybe others here who have dogs with cats will be able to assist more with this part of the process.

For the first though, you are doing pretty well. Pat on back!
post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thank you momofmany for the reply. That was very insightful. I will try to bring a book and read it to him and won't touch him unless he comes to me first. It's hard to leave him completely alone because I need to give him both topical and oral medication. I also need to give him bath with special fungal shampoo on Monday and I just hope that I could build some trust with him until then.
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
LOL your story about Diablo was so funny! Maybe he has a spirit of tiger in him, but that's amazing. Blessing gave me the same look the first day I had him. To tell you the truth, I was a little scared too in the beginning. It looked like he was wshing death upon me. LOL

I've only had dogs so I made a mistake of staring back at him. With dogs, you need to win the glare contest in order to earn their respect and trust. You have to show them who's the boss. I think it's completely opposite with cats. I read some posts that you need to lower your head and look away as a sign of submission. If you did that to a dog, that dog will bite you thinking that it was above you!

I am learning so much from Blessing everyday and I will take your great advice and try to lure him out with food and string toys. Thanks for the input!
post #6 of 17
You and your brother are to be commended for doing so much already for this kitten! Many people probably wouldn't even have stopped after hitting a kitten with their car, much less rush the kitten to an animal hospital and spend $2,000 for the kitten's care. That's just so incredibly selfless.

I don't really have any advice to give (and you've already gotten lots of good advice from others). I did want to mention that one of the complicating factors is that some of your interactions with the kitten involve administering medication to him, which I am sure he does not like (particularly the oral medication, no doubt). Somehow I don't think he will appreciate the bath on Monday either! So in his mind, when you approach him he's not sure if you're going to pet him, or medicate him. Thus he remains somewhat wary and guarded in your presence.

But like everyone has said, you just need to proceed very, very slowly with him and let things happen on his timetable. Once he gets over his injuries and the ringworm his behavior will likely improve dramatically. Thanks again to you and your brother and please keep us posted on this kitten's progress!
post #7 of 17
Did the $2,000 vet fee include follow-up visits? The crocodile spin you're describing almost sounds like a neurological problem. Maybe you could have him looked at again. Or maybe you could call the vet and describe his behavior and see what he/she thinks of it?

You could also describe the eating and drinking situation to the vet just to make sure everything is normal in that department.

Otherwise the other posters were able to give you lots of good advice. The ringworm will clear up -- it clears up it healthy cats even without medication. So hang in there. I'm sure Blessing with live up to his name.

And thank you for taking such good care of this little cat. Right now you are his only friend in the world.
post #8 of 17
Originally Posted by BlessingKK View Post
I've only had dogs so I made a mistake of staring back at him. With dogs, you need to win the glare contest in order to earn their respect and trust. You have to show them who's the boss. I think it's completely opposite with cats. I read some posts that you need to lower your head and look away as a sign of submission. If you did that to a dog, that dog will bite you thinking that it was above you!
Forgot about that one! If you make eye contact with them, just slowly blink your eyes at them. This is a sign of greeting with cats and it normally relaxes them. Unless they are absolutely feral, I won't lower my head and look away. With less feral cats, I will slowly blink then divert my eyes.

I have a semi-feral cat that I'm working to socialize right now (Lucky, who is bottom left in my siggie). Last night he was laying on our sofa (yes, he comes inside) and caught me looking at him. His body tensed and I slowly blinked at him. His entire body relaxed and then he fell asleep. It is remarkable what a small thing does to relax them.

(and every cat in my siggie was born feral)
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thank you RobertM for your support. You are too kind. We just did what we thought was the right thing to do. In a way it was selfish because we did not want to live with the guilt for the rest of our lives and no amount of money can replace guilt... :P It was a hard choice to make though.

He is doing A LOT better. I think taking things slow and giving him space really helped him settle in. He actually started to explore the bathroom and started to play with a string today for the first time! I was so happy! Before, he showed no interest in playing at all. All he did was hide out and stay in his bed. I think he's finally recovering from whatever illnesses he had. (he's taking antibiotic for fever) Just like Momofmany said, he's turning around now that he is starting to feel better.

Here's a video of him exploring.

I think he climbed onto my lap the first 2 days because he was on pain killers and it had anti-anxiety effect. I am just happy that he comes near me now.

Thank you for taking an interest in our Blessing and for your comment!

Oh, by the way we are thinking about changing his name to Comet since he came out of nowhere.
post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your reply katie! It was very encouraging. The $2000 unfortunately didn't include follow-up visits. It only includes emergency care, 2 days of hospitalization, x rays, tests that they ran, and his medication. I know.... It's crazy... It doesn't even include vaccination. He was having fever so we're going back in a week for a follow up and vaccination.


Here's a video of him freaking out... I am going to bring this video with me when I come for the follow up. He doesn't spin like that anymore now that he seems more relaxed, but like you said, i still want to get it checked out.

So ringworm is nothing serious? The vet made it sound like it was SARS! lol She said that she needs to repeat the fungal cultures two weeks apart until he has two negative cultures. Everyone's been so helpful so far and it shows through his improvement. Thank you all!
post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 
Momofmany thank you so much! Your input was so helpful!!! He often looked at me with frightening stare and I had no clue what to do. After reading your reply I tried blinking slowly and he did the same thing back and closed his eyes to take a nap! It was amazing how far he came in such a short time.

He stopped freaking out and he licks my fingers when I pet his belly. (He went "belly up" for the first time today. He was so adorable!!!) He doesn't climb onto my lap anymore though. I think he was just drugged back then (he was on pain killers for 2 days) and it had anti-anxiety effect.

So do you have all 12 cats at home or have they been adopted by another family? They are all so cute!
post #12 of 17
Originally Posted by BlessingKK View Post

Here's a video of him freaking out... I am going to bring this video with me when I come for the follow up. He doesn't spin like that anymore now that he seems more relaxed, but like you said, i still want to get it checked out.
I've never witnessed a cat in a seizure but that's what it looked like to me. Particularly when it was over he just laid there for a little bit. That is an outstanding idea to bring the video to the vet when you go back. Let us know what your vet says please!

Way cool about the eye blinking working on him!

The 12 in my siggie live with me. There were a lot more that have found homes, but these were ones that were either unadoptable or we simply fell in love with them. Yes, my house is very full.
post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 
He is doing a lot better. He is steadily gaining weight and looks so much cuter. I think he is recuperating physically. He pounces on a string now instead of running towards it.

He took a step back on Monday after giving him a shower.
For a day he wouldn't come near me, but he had a breakthrough yesterday.
He finally climbed on my lap and asked for attention. Fortunately I have it all on video. He still hides every time I enter the bathroom though... lol


His ringworm on his ears doesn't seem to get better as he is still losing hair around it and it looks redder than before.

Keeping him alive was the best choice ever. I am learning so much from him each day and seeing him progress each day is so rewarding!

I am going to see the vet this coming Thursday, so I will update again then.

Have a great holidays everyone!
post #14 of 17
Originally Posted by BlessingKK View Post
Thank you for the update - we are paying attention!!

I noticed the cute new bed that you got for him. Very nice! When you buy bowls, get either stainless or ceramic. Many cats will get feline acne (black spots on their chin) from plastic bowls. Might as well start them out right!

post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 
I've heard that cats don't like to kiss humans, but not Blessing! He clings onto my chest and "kisses" (sniffs and sticks his tongue out) my chin or lips. Who knew Blessing was a kissing cat? I think I was lucky with Blessing b/c he was only 8 weeks old and he's progressing fast!

The only problem I have right now is, my dogs!!!!
My dogs are 5 year old Jindo breed and they were bred to hunt/guard and sometimes fight. They are very gentle with human and would never bite or disobey human, but I am not too confident when it comes to other animals. I've found many dead rabbits and rats on my porch and I don't think they care for how cute rabbits are... :P

My dogs saw Blessing for the first time and they were so excited that they were shivering. I don't know if they are happy to see new companion or new prey. I am going to assume the latter just to be safe. The weird thing is, Blessing doesn't seem to mind them or be scared of them. So does that mean that my dog's intentions are friendly? or would Blessing too young to identify signs of threat?

Also, when a cat meows and makes squeaky noises while looking for something what does that mean? I am not familiar with cat's body language yet.

p.s: thanks momofmany for all your input! You've been so helpful!
post #16 of 17
Awwwwwww! What a little tuxie cutie baby!!!! Yes, the fact that he stepped up on you and then eventually sat down on you is a very good sign! Means he is not afraid of you and is willing to trust you. Good job!!

I can't answer about the dogs. Better to be safe than sorry!
post #17 of 17
Your enthusiasm is so wonderful! Blessing is not acting feral anymore if he is kissing you and meowing to you. You are doing great.

Is he playing with a toy when me meows and squeeks? My cats do that when they're chasing bugs. It seems to just be excitement. We can't figure it out -- it seems like the bugs would hear them and run for it, but the bugs don't seem to react at all.
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