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Hi! New person to cats

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone, I was pleasantly surprised to find a whole forum dedicated to caring for strays and ferals! I'm really touched there's so many kind people out there to look out for kitties Anyway I recently caught 2 feral kittens in my neighbors backyard and I've been trying to give them a good home, its the first time i've ever tried to take care of cats too. I've only had them for a few weeks and already I'm attached to them. Sooo my question was..

Basically one of my kittens was really outgoing and now enjoys sitting on my lap, eating, sleeping whatever. I've kept them in my bathroom initially but once I let them out it's like he doesn't recognize me anymore. If I'm standing or walk towards him he'll run away from me and hide. I realize that it'll take him time to adjust but then I saw this person's post that sounded just like how my kittens are:

http://www.thecatsite.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=157727

(not the first one, but the 3rd one down by Deljo, its kinda like how my cat is acting)

Do you think my kitten will get over his fear one day? Or rather, are there measures I can take to help them get adjusted to the whole house. In the bathroom he is okay but once he roams the house it's like he's almost feral again.
post #2 of 12
Welcome to this forum, and tx for helping these small!


you seems to do very well!

By letting them out you dont mean outside the house, but out into the flat?

I think this is a good example one must do everything stepwise, and be prepared it may take a lot of time.
Although sometimes one gets nicely suprised, and they are practically tame in less then a week.

Im thinking about our homecats. They, and especielly the older more shy, when they see me from a distancen (another room), they sometimes dont seem to recognize me. They look suspicious, waiting for me to say something. First when I say something, they are relieved and proceed.

So it is with many/most cats. They are playing "better safe then sorry".
post #3 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by LSung000 View Post
If I'm standing or walk towards him he'll run away from me and hide.
The first advice I have for folks with feral or semi-feral cats is to never, ever tower over them. Being in a higher place than a cat will intimidate them. Get on their level and let them come to you. If you have to be standing, move very slowly, walk softly and don't make any sudden movements.

Direct eye contact can also be intimidating. If you catch their eye, slowly blink. This is a greeting sign with cats.

Keep a solid routine. Feed them at the same time every day. Cats love routine.
post #4 of 12
Yes, he'll tame down but it will take time. Since it's the action of you walking towards him or standing that scares him, it shows that at that point he sees a potential predator. I have some ferals and unless I am sitting on the couch or laying on my stomach on the floor, they are terrified of me. They won't even come near the food unless I'm seated and ignoring them; when I'm flat on my stomach, they all climb on me, play with my hair, and even will curl up on my back! I find that the more time (very scarce these days) that I sit on the floor watching TV and petting the tame ones, the more curious and accepting the skittish ones become.
post #5 of 12
welcome to the world of cats! Our first experience was cats was with feral ones too.

Do you have a larger room - like a bedroom or a guest room - where the kitties can be confined?

I assume they're pretty young or they probably wouldn't have "come around" so quickly.

The problem here is that cats are territory-oriented - and you've just massively increased the territory, and he/they're not used to it yet. It's really best to keep the territory kind of small - though at this stage a bedroom or something is probably better than a bathroom unless it's huge.

Movement can/will scare them at this point. If you want kitty to come to you, when you see him the best thing to do is keep a pocketful of treats - and when you see him, just sit down sideways to him and start talking in a low, comforting, calm voice. Take some treats out and place them next to you.

Spending time at their level in their presence really helps - ignoring them is even better. Reading out loud, singing, knitting, sewing, folding laundry talking out loud to them or yourself - whatever.

Basically it's just an issue of time - though there are lots of things you can do.

Don't look at them in the eyes - this is a sign of aggression. Look at their foreheads or over their heads. Close your eyes slowly - a good, long, slow blink. "Looking" at them with your eyes closed is a great trust builder.

That's why keeping them confined to a bedroom if you can is really the best place for a while - there's nothing less threatening than a sleeping human.

Also - don't reach out to them, unless you've got babyfood (only meat babyfood, no additives - we use Gerber's) on a spoon or something. And then do it slowly.

To help them come to associate "good" things with you, get a couple of t-shirts really good and sweaty. Put one under their food dish (you are free-feeding dry food?). You can also leave treats for them out on the other.

Keep a schedule REALLY helps - especially if they're confined to one room. I don't mean a schedule for hanging out with them - I mean scooping litter, filling the dry food dish, cleaning the water dish. We give our kitties one meal of wet food every night - if you're doing this, keep it on a schedule. The schedule really helps especially ferals.

If you do confine them to a bedroom or something, it's always a good idea to knock lightly on the door first, open it a crack, and tell them you're coming in - and then go in.

Harp music really helps calm down ferals. If you want to try it, here's a link: http://harpist1.tripod.com/id32.html

The main thing to do is to not move towards them, spend as much time as you can at their level NOT trying to interact with them. If you want to attempt to interact, for now do it with food or an interactive toy. Don't look at them directly in the eyes. IF you're going to reach out at them - which we really don't recommend - do it palm down. It's the opposite of dogs.

Not being a cat person, if you've ever had interaction with dogs, just remember cats are the opposite in just about everything. Palm down, not palm up. Don't look at them in the eyes - you're not trying to dominate them, you're trying to earn their trust. Cats are NOT pack animals - they're territory oriented. They come to love people, the come to love play, and they come to love being loved - but it's not stuff they come pre-programmed with. They'll figure it out with time.

It's really hard at first, because we know how HAPPY they can be - if they would just let it happen! But just turn that around. They'll be so HAPPY if we just let it happen. The less you force, the quicker it works and the stronger the bond is when it happens. If you wait for them to come to you, and you wait for them to give you that first head-bump (I didn't know what a headbump was when I read about it here, but trust me, you'll know it when it happens) before you try to love on them - the less scared they'll be in the future.

We didn't know any of this with our first cats - and they liked being petted (sort of) and they came to love being brushed - and now that the first two are almost 6 years old, they cuddle and love and can be picked up (sort of) - both have slept on the bed with us from the first few weeks.

But the one we did it "right" with - Tuxedo - is the most amazing cat. We were trying to love on our first two right away, and it kind of worked. They responded. But Tuxedo we didn't force anything. Just kind of ignored him - took care of his food and water, etc. This went on for almost 4 months. Gary was crying in frustration. And then Tuxedo walked up to him and head-bumped him. And that was it. His switch had flipped - and he is our biggest love bug, a snuzzler to the utmost. He loves being held and cuddled. You just stand next to him and he starts to purr and knead. So while that four months sucked - basically ignoring a kitty you just want to love all over and you can't understand why he's just so miserable - at four months and two days it was all worth it.

OH - being new to cats, there's something else you need to know. If they roll on their backs, do NOT view it as an invitation to pet their tummies. At least not at first. It could be a play thing they're doing - but for the most part, rolling on their back is a DEFENSIVE position, and they are ready to kick if something (like a hand) comes near them. And those back feet can hurt.

And cats have scent glands in their cheeks - it starts basically where their back teeth are - and they LOVE being stroked on their cheeks. Many on their heads in general, and some also love having their throats stroked. Something to remember when you get to that stage.

Also, you should clip their claws. OK, pain in the butt. But when you get to the point that they trust you being near them, do it one claw at a time and while they're asleep - and have a treat ready for when they wake up. You just push on the toe, the claw pops out - clip and put down treat. It took over a year for most of our gang (before we could just do all the claws on each paw without any fuss), but they learned that we weren't trying to kill them or anything and that it actually didn't hurt. Just make sure you don't click past the "quick" - you can see the dark outline in the claw. Before you start, you may want to get that little jar of stiptic powder just in case, because they bleed like heck. OH - kitty may meow like you're hurting them when you push the claw out or clip, but you aren't.

Cats shed their claw "sheaths" - so don't freak when you see that first thing on the floor that looks like a claw. It is the sheath, and that's supposed to happen.

Also, around 4 months they're going to start to teethe. They will become bitey and want to chew on stuff. Go for a box of bendy straws. Scatter them everywhere and keep them in your pockets if they go for your moving hands or ankles. Blow a short, sharp puff of air into their face (like a hiss mom cat would do to teach them "no"), say "no" so they learn the meaning of the word, and then hand them a bendy straw and walk away. This teaches them that people aren't toys (don't every play with your hands or feet with them - BIG mistake - you don't want them to become biters), that "wrong" behavior doesn't get them attention - and it gives them what is good to chew on.

Kitties and cats LOVE vertical space, so make sure you've got places for them to go "up." We have a house full of cat trees, but that isn't necessary - just more fun for them.

Make sure you do have appropriate stuff for them to scratch on. They may be too young to want to do much of that now - but they'll get there. There are all kinds of posts, mats, pads, cardboard things. We have posts and vertical scratchers (pads and cardboard) - and they use the cat trees. We don't have a problem with the furniture, though if you get there and you do, the behavior forums is the place to go because there are loads of things you can do to promote appropriate scratching. FYI, TCS is an anti-declaw site as it is actually cruel - it should be called de-toeing, because it doesn't just remove the claw, it removes the whole end of the toe from the joint - and cats walk on their toes, not their whole foot. 70% of cats given up to shelters for "behavioral" problems (not using the litter box or biting) are declawed. Just so you know - because most vets won't tell you.

Have fun with your kitties and feel free to post updates or ask more questions! TCS is an awesome place and I'm sure that being new to cats there is a wealth of info available to you here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Laurie
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
First just wanted to say thanks for kind responses, the people here are wonderful!

Quote:
Originally Posted by StefanZ View Post
By letting them out you dont mean outside the house, but out into the flat?
Sorry! I meant let them out of the bathroom to roam the entire house. I don't want my babies out of the house, it's a scary world out there When I found them they were just kind of roaming around a small housing complex, so not alot of traffic or other animals to hurt them but there's a semi-busy street outside my house.

Quote:
Originally Posted by StefanZ View Post
So it is with many/most cats. They are playing "better safe then sorry".
Yeah I know you're right.. I guess it's just frustrating when in one room (the bathroom) he'll sit on my lap and in the other rooms they'll hide from me in a corner.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Momofmany
The first advice I have for folks with feral or semi-feral cats is to never, ever tower over them. Being in a higher place than a cat will intimidate them. Get on their level and let them come to you. If you have to be standing, move very slowly, walk softly and don't make any sudden movements.
Yes I've been trying to adhere to those rules.

Quote:
Originally Posted by catsknowme
Yes, he'll tame down but it will take time. Since it's the action of you walking towards him or standing that scares him, it shows that at that point he sees a potential predator. I have some ferals and unless I am sitting on the couch or laying on my stomach on the floor, they are terrified of me. They won't even come near the food unless I'm seated and ignoring them; when I'm flat on my stomach, they all climb on me, play with my hair, and even will curl up on my back! I find that the more time (very scarce these days) that I sit on the floor watching TV and petting the tame ones, the more curious and accepting the skittish ones become.
I'm assuming your ferals eventually got over it..? I guess thats basically what I'm afraid of, that they'll always be scared. The kittens are so cute, I want them to be happy and relaxed, not scared all the time.
post #7 of 12
Don't worry - they will indeed get used to you & want your affection indoors. 9 of my 10 cats were feral-born. The two who were brought in & hand-raised at 5-6 weeks are just like non-feral cats. The others, who came in at ages up to 10 months, vary by personality. Few of them tolerate outsiders and most have their doubts about my adult son & chief cat-sitter when I have to travel on business, but they are all fiends for attention & petting. One took years, because we had to medicate his eyes every 2 hours for a few days when he first came in, so he had negative associations with getting picked up. However, it did not take him long to come up to me and scream for petting, even when he would not come to sit on laps.
They will come to dote on you (and maybe compete for you, as you will be the Top Cat.)
One of my favorite things is to have 2 or 3 cats sleeping sweetly on my lap, but it did not happen overnight (except with one, but he's a special case.)
post #8 of 12
Welcome to TCS!
post #9 of 12
Hi and welcome
post #10 of 12
Welcome!

Hope you enjoy the forums!
post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thank you everyone for the welcome

Yeah I guess I'm just a bit impatient.. being new to ferals, and well cats in general.

Since the time of my original post though I can see that they are slowly getting used to me and not being afraid. However once in awhile it's still like they just forget who I am. It's okay though, I just pull out the treats and that always jogs their memory

Quote:
One took years, because we had to medicate his eyes every 2 hours for a few days when he first came in, so he had negative associations with getting picked up.
Oh I know just what you mean! I have to put medicine on one of my kittens twice a day for ringworm. It doesn't hurt.. it's just drops of liquid on his fur but he absolutely HATES it. Although I think he's gotten more used to it by now, he's given up running away after a few tries from me cause I just keep following him with the bottle.. sigh. Hope I'll be done with that soon.
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hello again everyone! So one of my kittens, Scruffy, actually enjoys sitting in my lap and letting me pet him. The other one Tom still tends to stay a few feet away from me at all times.

But I'm just wondering, every once inawhile if I'm petting Scruffy in my lap long enough, Tom will walk up to me (which he never does, unless its for food) and start harassing Scruffy, as if he's trying to get him to get away from me. What do you think it means.. Is he trying to save Scruffy from the scary looking human?
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