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Newly Rescued Feral Loves People, Not Cats

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
Some background information: My fiancee and I are dedicated to helping the feral population in our neighborhood - mainly, trying to help the cats that are too pet-like to be left outside as ferals. The first cat, Dusty, we took in last April was a 4-month-old kitten that got inside and was hanging around the stairwell in our apartment building for a few weeks. Even then, he loved to be held, was very vocal, and when we took him inside, he was more interested in my lap than exploring the apartment. After a few months, we tried taking in a black cat that would always come up to us outside and rub against our legs, very sweet cat (who we affectionately call "Kuro" - the Japanese word for black). At the time, Dusty was not neutered yet and attacked the poor thing. We had no choice but to take him back outside, we were having bad relations with our roommate and couldn't explain keeping the cats separate.

We got Dusty fixed, and in December we brought in another stray from our neighborhood, Bobby. The transition for these two was very quick, after keeping them in separate rooms or having one in the cat carrier for just a day or two, there was minimal confrontations and we left them together. Bobby is still a little timid, but he was very outgoing when he was outside and loves being pet. He's come a long way since we took him in, and now that he's also neutered and has his shots, he and Dusty play together and groom each other. We thought our family was complete for now, especially since I still have 3 cats staying with my mom that I haven't been able to transport from Iowa to NY yet.

The weather got very cold, and last night we had our daily visit with Kuro (we usually see him at some point either going to or from work). He was exceptionally affectionate and I noticed a gash on his leg - I checked it before taking him inside, no parasites or pus was visible, it was all scabbed over already, so I figured he was fairly safe for the other cats and we felt too guilty walking away from him yet again. Considering how things went with Bobby and Dusty, we thought it might be easier this time to introduce Kuro. We took him in.

He immediately went back to the hiding spot he had claimed months ago - behind our DVD player in the entertainment center. We kept the other cats locked in our bedroom for the night. Kuro was frightened, understandably so, considering Bobby was starting to spray right before we got him neutered about 2 weeks ago, and the smell was not completely gone yet. After being fed, he was letting us pet him again but still wouldn't come out. We left him alone for the rest of the night to let him get used to his surroundings and come out on his own.

This morning, I went to check on him and after petting him a few times, I reached down to get some food from the dish, not knowing if he had come out to eat, and he crawled out of the cubby on his own. Our other cats were getting anxious being penned up in the smaller room, so I tried to put Kuro in the carrier to switch the cats' rooms. This didn't go well. When Kuro smelled the carrier, he freaked out and hissed and ran back into his cubby. We didn't want to leave the cats in the bedroom all day, so we took Dusty out, since he's more friendly, and brought him into the living room. Keeping him held, we brought him closer and closer to Kuro. About 3 feet away, Kuro started hissing and growling. We knew they weren't ready to be left together in the open. We fought and got Kuro into the carrier and left him on our bed with the other cats out in the open to get him used to being around them.

I -do- know the procedures for introducing cats, but it's difficult with our roommate, so we only have two rooms we can use--and our cats don't like being separated from us.

Since this cat enjoys being around people, albeit still being a little scared in the apartment, does anyone have some suggestions to facilitate the introduction quicker? Was it a bad idea to leave him in the carrier with the other cats open to smell/inspect him? It worked for Bobby but he was never as aggressive towards Dusty as Kuro is.

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated, and I'm sorry this was so long!
post #2 of 2
Are they all neutered at this point? Because to help reduce the territorial aggression, they really need to be.

Putting him in a carrier to let the others get used to his scent helps - but unles the carrier is large enough for both water, food, and litter, I wouldn't leave him in there for more than 15 - 20 minutes at a time.

Also, to remove the scent of cat urine/spray, you really must use an enzyme cleaner if you haven't yet. The smell alone will keep everyone stirred up, and the presence of Kuro may make Dusty spray again even though he was recently neutered (it also takes a month or so for the hormones to cycle out of their systems). If you've used anything but an enzyme cleaner, it may smell OK to human noses, but not to kitty noses. If any of it got on carpeting, it needs to be soaked down to the floorboards, and it may need more than one treatment. We've had great luck with Nok-Out http://www.nokout.com, but the product called Anti-Icky Poo is supposed to be fabulous. It's available at http://www.catfaeries.com.

Also available at Cat Faeries is a product called Feliway - they also carry Flower Essences. You may want to consider purchasing both. Feliway can really help calm down a multi-cat household, especially with a new intro. And adding Multi-cat harmony flower essences to the water may also help.

I would also take a couple of rags and rub Kuro and over with some and rub Dusty all over with some. Put a Dusty-scented towel down under Kuro's food dish, and do the same with Kuro-scented towel under whatever dish Dusty eats out of. Also, after a good play session with Dusty, put treats down for him on a Kuro-scented towel. Likewise for Kuro with Dusty's scent. Keep this up for like a month.

Maybe keep a stash of new toys around, and any time Dusty has positive interaction with Kuro - or maybe initially, it's an issue of being in the same room with him and just ignoring him - give him treats or a new toy.

The idea is to get them to associate good things with each other's scent, and to help Dusty associate fun and play with Kuro's presence. Do your best to make Dusty think it's a total party having Kuro around and vice versa.

Of course, they are going to have to work out the territory issues. Create as much vertical space as you can for the cats - this can really help - either Dusty heads up high because he's alpha, or Kuro heads up high to feel safe. But having multiple choices for getting up somewhere should help.

Keep a can with coins in it handy. Any time Dusty goes for Kuro, rattle it - it will stop an attack - and you should never physically intervene. But don't rattle it just for hissing and batting - they are going to have to work things out. Watch the ears and the tails. Ears back, tails really agitated - or back ridged - or tails puffed - and not because of play - especially in combination with ears back - this is a danger sign. Then it's OK to rattle the can of coins. But if Kuro's just growling as a warning for Dusty to keep away, or if Dusty's just batting Kuro on the head to let him know he's boss, best to leave it be.

I would get Kuro to the vet ASAP, however. Just because you can't see anything doesn't mean there isn't a problem.

Also, I don't know how many litter boxes you have out, but right now I'd have four. Give everyone lots of space and options. And I don't know where or how you feed them, but if you have one bowl of water out and one dish for Dusty and Bobby to free feed from, I'd put down at least one more set of food and water, and I'd put it near Kuro's hiding spot/safe space so he'll feel comfortable enough to eat and drink - same with a litter box (though obviously not right next to food and water).

Hope this helps,

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