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How a feral cat turned me into a cat lover

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I have always been a dog person. Not only am I allergic to cats, I have never had much interest in them, even though they invariably seem interested in me! Almost three years ago, my kids noticed a mother cat and her kittens playing early in the morning in a far corner of the yard. Every time we'd go out to see them, they would run away. It was clear that the mother was wild and, being concerned for the welfare of her kittens, we began to feed her. With absolutely NO experience with cats and no particular liking for them, I continued to leave food and water out for the mama and her two babies (and the skunks, racoon, possums and crows to boot!) At some point, months later I noticed that the little runty tortoise shell on the porch or lurking around, always watching me. I began to try to win both her and her brother who was all black, over with tasty morsels. The brother was much braver and eventually we could pet him while he ate. The little girl, whom I named Figgy because she reminds me of a black fig, was much more timid and we could never pet her.
A year later, both the mama cat and Figgy ended up with litters. I found myself caring for 9 kittens, 3 wild cats. The most interesting thing happened during this time that changed everything. I believe it was survival instinct, but during this time, Figgy, whom I had never been able to pet, suddenly became very tame, but only to me. She really attached herself to me and would allow me to pet her for short periods of time, even laying down and letting me rub her belly. In the midst of it all, completely unrelated, my marriage broke up. Finding it too much to deal with one day and after having found homes for two of the kittens, I trapped all the kittens and took them to a place that fosters and puts kittens up for adoption. The mother was also taken to a shelter and I decided to spay and keep the brother and sister, now named Tommy and Figgy.
Eventually, Tommy disappeared but Figgy is still here. She now lets me carry her and sleeps in my lap and loves to have her tummy rubbed -- but only by me. My kids can pet her but any time a guest or visitor comes around she disappears.
She remains a mostly outdoor cat, although more and more she has been spending time inside. When she is ready to leave, she sits by the front door. I would love to teach her to use a litterbox, that way she can stay inside during the cold nights. I bought one but I don't even think she knows what it is or that it is for her.
Last night she fell alsleep under my bed. At 2:00 am she got up and I let her out -- it was pretty cold but I figure she must know where to go (I'm glad it's California. It's been pretty frosty in the mornings though.)
This kitty has become such a wonderful companion! She is very sweet and I think she is very smart. When I say her name, she meows every time. She is so affectionate and loving. I am completely smitten and now find myself so interested in other people's cats! And they are so different from my Figgy! I have a whole new world opened up to me all due to this precious feral cat!
post #2 of 13
Isn't it mind-blowing when a shy kitty opens up to you and makes it clear that you have privileges other humans don't. YAY for shy torties! (I have one of them in my life, too) Welcome to TCS. If you have pics, you might find your way over to Fur Pictures and share them. We love pics and would love to "meet" Figgy.
post #3 of 13
What a beautiful story, thank you for sharing this with us! Figgy is such a blessing! How wonderful to meet you and your special little one!
post #4 of 13
awww this is a wonderful story! There is something special about cats I have a beautiful little tortie, too
post #5 of 13
Originally Posted by Knitalife View Post
I am completely smitten and now find myself so interested in other people's cats! And they are so different from my Figgy! I have a whole new world opened up to me all due to this precious feral cat!
I had to smile when I read your story. I've always loved cats, but have a new appreciation of them since I took in my first feral cat. If you look at the pics in my siggie, all of mine came from a similar background as Figgy. It is such a proud moment when they turn that corner and start to trust you. There are cats like Figgy out there, but they are rare and more reason to love.

I'd love to see pics of her. She sounds like a treasure!
post #6 of 13
Welcome. I enjoyed reading your story I'd love to see pictures of Figgy.
post #7 of 13
We had a somewhat similar experience, only hubby HATED cats. Our story is here:

Aren't they amazing? We ended up getting involved in full scale rescue and trap-neuter-release - and we now have six kitties living inside full-time with us, four of them currently or formerly special needs kitties, all of them feral rescues.

Thank you so much for sharing.

BTW - if you want to help her figure out how to use a litterbox, buy organic potting soil and put about a 1" layer over clay (non-clumping) litter. I'd also suggest a really large box at first - more like a rubbermaid container (low-sided) without a top on. The soil trick worked for our ferals that didn't know what a litter box was for, though the first boy we used it for took over 24 hours to decide to use it - and he liked it better as a bed at first. But as Figgy is comfortable in your home, I doubt she'd use it as a bed at all, and if kept inside until she HAD to go, she'd very likely figure it out. But that would mean being kept inside when she probably didn't want to be. But just a suggestion if you want to give it a try.

post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much for all your comments and suggestions. I will go ahead and try the litterbox idea. I think I may have some potting soil in the garage. I live in a very small house -- where is a good place to put a litterbox? Is the bathroom ok?

She spent the night in the house last night in my room and did just fine. It was just so cold outside I think she was glad to be inside. I let her out first thing in the morning and she even seemed a bit reluctant to go. However, I have not seen her all day. I was wondering -- should I be worried about worms and such? She is always cleaning herself, but I've also seen her laying in dirt.

I will try and get some pictures of her taken and posted. What a nice and friendly group you are! As you might have gathered from my name, I am an avid knitter and somehow the idea of being a "cat person" seems to fit quite well with that! Thank you for reading about my adventure into becoming a cat lover!

post #9 of 13
I'm glad you found TCS! Part of the reason I'm still here after 5+ years is that it IS such a nice group of people. Everything hubby and I learned about how to help the ferals (at first) we learned here. Now, a lot of it is from experience from having worked with them for the same amount of time. But this site and the people on it really helped us when we needed it.

As to your question about where to put the litter box, my guess is that because she wouldn't think to go looking for a litterbox (not knowing what one is), I'd put it in the room she spends the most time in and where she's most likely to feel the need to go to the bathroom. If she's sleeping in your bedroom, that's probably a good place to start. She will still most likely be very hesitant to use it - her trained behavior will encourage her to hold it until she can't anymore. So you may want to keep her in your bedroom until she does use it - and then praise her to high heaven and maybe give her some treats. That will help her understand she's doing the right thing - and then she'll know what the litter box is for.

Once she's used it a couple of times, if the bathroom is someplace she wanders in her stays in your home, then I'm sure that'd be just fine. But I'd move it there slowly - a couple of feet at a time, just to make sure she doesn't go on the floor where the litter box was. Most ferals won't do anything like that - the need to "bury" their excrement is a really strong one. But just to help her not be confused.

And she probably does have worms. It's not anything you need to worry about catching. But if she does poop in the box, you can take the sample to the vet. They'll look at it with a microscope, and let you know.

Since she already spends time in the house, I assume fleas aren't a problem? They're generally not in the Winter - but if you're not already using it, Advantage is the best, safest flea treatment there is. Flea collars can actually kill cats. Advantage you can only get from the vet, but it's easy to apply, safe for her and you, and it only requires a monthly treatment.

The problem with worms (most likely round worm or tape worm) is that the medication used only works on the adult worms. So any de-worming meds have to be given twice to account for the lifecycle of the worms. Have you had to medicate her before? It can be not fun. The most effective worming meds are liquid, and though it's been so long now, I don't remember if they need to be given for 7 days or 10 days. Then you have to wait three weeks, and administer it again.

If she's getting all her nutrition from you, if she is catching mice or birds, she may well not be eating them, which means she may very well not have worms. Also, many multi-generational ferals have systems that are able to deal with them - and while they may have some, the "infestation" isn't so bad as to cause any health problems. So I wouldn't worry about it too much unless she does end up using the litter box, and then I would get a sample of her poop to the vet for them to take a look at - and I'm sure you can discuss with the vet what course of action to take, if any.

post #10 of 13
Oh - another quick thought. Do you have a dog? Because they sometimes eat cat feces. That would be the only potential problem with the worms.

Also - just for kitty's health, make sure the potting soil doesn't have fertilizer additives.

post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 
No dog anymore He was my first baby -- a Yorkie/Maltese cross that preceded my human kids and was so sweet and faithful to the end. He died 3 1/2 yrs ago at the age of 14. I'm not glad he's gone, I miss him so very much, but I am glad in the sense that I am certain that there would never have been a Figgy (at least not in my backyard) if Skoshi had lived. One of his favorite pasttimes was keeping cats and any other "trespassers" off our property. He was the self-appointed sentry of our tiny domain -- a huge coward if actually confronted but if a critter ran, he was always up for a good chase.

I will check the potting soil before using -- so far I haven't even needed it. She is such a good girl and spends the night inside then asks to be let out(early) in the morning.

I have a new (just came up this weekend) dilemma facing me: I may have mentioned that our place was small? It is tiny -- 800 sq. feet and my two kids are growing fast. They are 12 (boy) and 8 (girl) and still have to share a room. I have come across a potential opportunity (still waiting to hear) of a place to rent that is $500 a month less than I pay and almost twice as big. The kids could each have their own bedroom and there are many amenities for them. The drawback: absolutely no pets! There is no decision for me to make yet, since there still is not offer. There would be qualifications and paperwork and such, but I am pretty sure I'll qualify.

Well, I just thought I'd share that. There is no road to cross yet.

Laurie, I loved reading your story! Yes, it was in many ways similar to mine! BTW -- how do you post pictures? I am working on getting some of Figgy, but it is hard! Her pupils are always dilated and glow bright green and she moves so fast and my old camera is so slow! I'll see a cute pose and try to capture it -- three or four seconds later, she is twisted around cleaning herself in some awkward position and that is what the camera catches! I'm working on it though!

post #12 of 13
Welcome to the our side!!! Cats are awesome!
post #13 of 13
Oh - what a situation! I'm so sorry you may have to choose between space and kitty. Would she be able to be an outside cat there? If so, you'd actually need to keep her inside for about two weeks, so she knows to "come home" for food - can you talk to the landlord about that?

To post pics, if you don't have a digital camera, you have to scan the pictures in. That said, once the pics are in a digital format in a file that you know what the names are, most of us upload the pictures to a service - one that is free is Once you sign up and start and album, you upload the pics to that site. Then when the pics are in the album on that site, at least there they give you a list of links. One is called the "IMG" Code, and it has the image tags (IMG) but in brackets at the beginning of the link location and the (/IMG) but in brackets at the end of the location. You copy that link with the brackets, paste it in a post here, and when you post the post, the picture will show up.

...and I can't tell you how many "glowing eye" pictures we have of our very evil-looking cats (in those pics!).

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