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Depressed semi-feral

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Hello Everybody: We recently adopted two semi-feral females. They were apparently born outdoors last May a few doors down from us. They probably had some contact with people as kittens, as they began asking for food at our door when it got very cold in February. After a few weeks, both let me pet them while they were eating, and they both began purring.

About a month ago, we took #1 (Mouse) to the Toronto Humane Society for their TNR program. She came out and within 3 days developed a serious Upper Respiratory Infection which she passed onto her sister, Bean. Bean was always more nervous, and I could not catch her until she was extremely ill. In the meantime, Bean also delivered kittens, which she abandoned because she was too sick. (The kittens were dead when I found them, very distressing.) Bean has been indoors now for 10 days, and on antibiotics for almost 2 weeks. So Bean has had a very difficult month.

Bean's current problem is that she is extremely depressed. The URI seems to be gone, and she tested negative for FeLV and FIV. I can still pet her and have her purr, and she even rolls on her back for belly rubs. But she looks and acts like she is going to kill herself. She will only leave her bed for food and litter. She grooms herself, but that is her only other activity. If something scares her, she sinks into a deeper depression.

I suppose it's possible that Bean's hormones are still out of whack. However, by the time we brought her in 10 days ago, she seemed relatively cheerful. Really, her mood crashed from the day we brought her inside.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I realize that Bean has only been in captivity for a short time and that the adjustment period can take months, but she really doesn't fit into the feral categories I have been reading about on various websites.

Thanks everyone! I'm new to the forum
post #2 of 14
i bet it's too soon to tell, and her post-spay hormones may indeed be out of whack. the whole experience may have been harder on her than for Mouse, so she will need time to get back on her game.

the fact that she is purring and letting you pet her, etc. seems to say she will come around eventually. just keep her as comfortable as possible, give her her own space, etc. and see what happens!
post #3 of 14
Thank you for taking care of ferals!!!
Give them a LOT OF LOVE. That's what they need.
I wouldn't be surprised if Bean is actually depressed.
I would be depressed if I ended up having my baby die in her condition.
Try to share her sorrow and comfort her by petting and talking. Also, give her space for her to pull through herself.
As long as she is eating, she would be OK.

Keep us updated!
post #4 of 14
It is so kind of you to take in these little stray girls. They sound very charming and sweet.

It's really sad tht Bean is having such a hard time. She is probably recovering from the trauma of giving birth while she was sick, and then losing all of her kittens. She must have been very distressed to abandon them.

Is it possible to discuss her condition with your vet and see if he or she thinks it might indicate that she is still ill in sme way?

If she is allowing you to show her affection and interacting with you by purring and showing affection to you, I'm sure she will pull through this hard time.
post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
Hi Everyone: Thanks for your replies. I do worry that there might be something else wrong with Bean, but she was just at the vet a week ago and I think I want to wait a bit before putting her through that again. Her blood work was good, but I know that there could be other things that wouldn't necessarily show up. And, as you say, she could be depressed about the kittens.

I guess I was just hoping someone would have experience with a feral cat that showed its stress through depression. Hopefully she will improve gradually. I'll let people know how she is doing. Her sister, Mouse, has recovered nicely and is now a lovely little cat. When we finally caught Bean 2 weeks ago, Mouse was so happy she licked her from head to toe and hovered over her like a worried mother. They are both extremely sweet cats without an ounce of aggression.
post #6 of 14
Frodo was a feral - and he was very depressed and stressed from
his rescue from the pound. They got him out before he was
going to be PTS'd but he was a feral when he went there,
and terrified. He was then in someones bathroom for 2 wks,
where he cried his lungs out he was so sad and stressed.

When I got him to my "kitten" room, it was like heaven.
Quiet, sunny large and good hiding spots. I let him
come to on his own, but now he is VERY depressed -
I think he maybe sick abit, but also he wants OUTSIDE
desperately, and I will not let him. I let him roam... the house,
but he still wants to be outside.

He sees the others there, outside and wants to be outside.
I worry that he might be getting in fights etc. if I let him
roam too soon, and/or bother my own outdoor cats...

So he is depressed. I think poor Bean and Mouse have had
a hard time...
post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 
Ah, yes, that's what I was wondering. I haven't read anything about depression as a response to captivity. Everyone talks about how their cats will hide, climb the walls, etc., but not make the saddest face you have ever seen. Bean was definitely the wilder of my two girls, and she would always frantically run away whenever there was any sound outside. And your are right, both Bean and Mouse are desperate to go outside. They can see their cat friends just like Frodo can. Their new home looks right out on their old home. Plus, they didn't really have too tough of a time out-of-doors. I felt so guilty that my taking Mouse to the Humane Society is what started this problem!

Will you ever let Frodo outside again? I know that can be a loaded subject.
post #8 of 14
I would love to let Frodo out, but I am afraid that he
would fight the neighbor cats not to mention my home
kitties - so he has to stay in at my house.

I am working hard and praying that Siamese Rescue
might find room and time to rehab him. They are always
so hard pressed, but if I am very very lucky and
the gods are on my side, we might get him a spot.

He is a snowshoe mix - blue eyes, tabby/lynx points, and patched Siamese/white fur. V nice looking boy... and not really afraid of things, more
just a curious boy, with a tendency to want to dominate other
males. He's fine with the females..

And yes, he's depressed about the not roaming. I know it.
Often cats that were outdoors - they have friendships, and
a social network - and they MISS eachother. I know
Frodo when first rescued cried at night for days on end.

Pietous wails. Then at my house, he had a buddy Cody,
and a kitten Baby. So he had company and he wasn't
in a cage or a tiny windowless room, he had natural light,
sun shine, a window opened outside, with a tree and birds
in the tree to watch... a deck where he sees the other
cats going in/out... he is no dummy that cat!

Now he is adjusted to us, he wants out. And if it
were not so dangerous where I am, I'd let him roam.
And of course, if I was sure he'd come back to us.
He is not yet "bonded" to our home, so ...
post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 
Hi Opilot: There must be lots of tips on this site about when it's OK to let a feral outside again. (Although I know that a lot of people say never!) I'm going to let my girls out in a few weeks. Bean isn't spayed yet, and I think she's probably still weak from her virus. But all they do is beg to go outside. I feel like an ogre for keeping them in. At least Frodo has some company now.

Bean seems a little less depressed in the last 2 days. She leaves her bed now, and she has come up to me when I've called her. She still looks very sad though. It's heartbreaking!
post #10 of 14
My entire crew of 11 cats were born feral. 8 of them live inside permanently, 2 go in and out, and the other remains outside. I have a bit of experience with them.

What Mouse and Bean have working in their favor is each other, particularly with Bean's "depression", if that is what is it. Its probably a combination of losing her babies, getting sick, and moving into a foreign environment causing her to stress out. Some feral born cats adjust immediately, others can take months or even years, if ever, to adjust.

Cats, by their nature are opportunists. They are not trainable like a dog who does things to please their alpha leader. Cats do things for themselves. If you give them an environment where their needs (not your needs) are catered to, they will find the personal value in that and will adjust to that environment.

Set a solid routine with them (cats love routine), give her food that she likes, treats that she likes, play with her if she enjoys it, or leave her alone if she doesn't. Build your bond with Mouse and let Bean build her own bond with Mouse. Bean will come your way when she becomes envious of watching your interaction with Mouse.

If I were to do it all over again, I would not have let my 2 feral born cats back outside, although 1 of them didn't come into my home until he was about 18 months old. I agonize over them when they are outside and I can't see them close to home. There are a lot of dangers out there and I live in a semi-rural area with no traffic. I have to suggest that you give them far greater time than 2 weeks to see if they are adjusting. When I moved my gang from my old home to the current, I kept everyone inside for closer to 2 months before I let the 3 outside again. You want them fully bonded to you before you try anything.

They sound precious, and not really feral at all if you are able to scritch their bellies!
post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks Momofmany for your lengthy reply. I know that 2 weeks is too soon to make a judgment whether a cat will adapt to domestic life. I just hadn't read much advice about a cat that seems lethargic as a response to captivity. I'm trying to let Bean set the pace herself. She has come out of her bed a few more times in the last week, but she still hangs her head and looks as though she is being disciplined. We have never so much as raised our voices with either cat, but it does seem to be a submissive posture. If I see her out of her bed, she acts as though I'm going to punish her and she crouches down and slinks back into her box. At first she was acting submissively to her sister as well, but now she is showing confidence with her. It's hard to describe her as anything other than sad.

I understand the agonies of letting cats outside. I'm not fully decided about what to do yet, and I won't let them out until July at the earliest. Before we brought Mouse and Bean inside, they didn't roam very much. We were always able to call them with the shake of a bowl and they would come running. I know it just takes one wrong move though.
post #12 of 14
Bean sounds more scared than sad. Cats will act submissive sometimes when they feel threatened. What you are experiencing doesn't sound abnormal to me, just Beans personal pace at adjusting. I can't emphasize enough to just leave Bean alone until she decides to come out of her shell. The more you push yourself on her, the more threatened she will be. Even avoid direct eye contact if you can. If you catch her eye, slowly blink at her. This is a cat greeting in a feral colony.
post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thank you for the tips. I knew about the blinking and no direct staring; I've been doing that since I first started caring for the cats in February. But your tip about playing with Mouse and letting Bean get jealous is a very good idea. I tried that last night and it got Bean out of her box and moving towards the action.
post #14 of 14
I hope Bean does better. It is so sad about her kittens.
Hopefully she will come around in time.
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