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Socializing Adult Cats

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Has anyone out there successfully socialized an adult feral cat?

I trapped a mother (2 years old) and her baby (4 months) in late November. I brought them both to the vet the very next day to be examined and have the mother spayed.

I am trying very patiently to socialize the mother but it is a very slow process. We trapped the baby early enough that she was fairly easy to socialize. Now she is in whatever room I am in like my little shadow! I fear that we will never be able to socialize mommy and in the process the baby and her have bonded so I can not split them up. I don’t want to make her life stressful. At the same time I think, at least she is not hungry, cold or sick. She doesn't hide much anymore only when there a lot of activity in a room either under the chair or in the bedroom. I have established a routine with her, which I know is important for cats. I have passed every hurdle with her, the only thing left is for her to let me pet her, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. She always keeps her distance. I do however, see changes in her every week. She rolls around under my feet, closes her eyes when I speak to her and looks at me with curiosity. She also plays quite a bit.

Any advice??
post #2 of 13
It can take an extremely long time. Like you mentioned, the odds are so much better when they're younger. And it depends upon the particular cat's personality. But it can be done --- I'm sure there are people on this site who have been successful and hopefully they'll share their stories with you.

The way I see it, you have a few things going for you:

1) You recognize the need for patience, which you've demonstrated and presumably will continue to do so. Cat's don't wear watches or pay attention to timetables.
2) You are seeing positive changes in her behavior every week. This is what you need to hang your hat on --- progress. But be aware that sometimes in situations like this, you might go through a "one step forward, one step backward" routine.
3) She could actually learn a few things from her baby. Cats are very good at teaching each other new things. I suspect that eventually she will become so jealous/curious about your interactions (petting) with her offspring that she will "ask" for similar treatment.

Good luck and thank you for giving these two cats a better chance for a great life!
post #3 of 13
I think you're doing better than you think you are. She does sound comfortable in your home, she's just not ready for that contact. My girl JinJin was a pregnant feral that I trapped nearly 3 years ago. I kept her and her babies in their own room, and after her babies were adopted out at around 14 weeks, I kept Jin in there longer. It wasn't until about the 4 month mark that I could pet her, and I waited until she seemed comfortable coming up to me for treats, etc that I introduced her to the rest of the apartment. Today she's doing great, and is snoozing in a chair next to me. She's still skittish to a degree, and has only borderline accepted two other people (as in she doesn't run and hide when they come). She loves to be pet, and comes to me for that. She has never been on my lap, nor has she ever slept with me. I can accept that.

It sounds like your girl is on the right track. With Jin I used to sit on the floor and toss treats to lure her closer so she got used to being closer. Eventually, over time, she was eating out of my hand. I never forced contact in those early days, and never pet her unless I was invited to do so. Even today I offer her my hand to sniff before I touch her.

Keep going. She's going to "get there".
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the encouragement!

I have started to do more one on one time with her (Alley). I will sit on the floor with her and out a trail of treats leading up to my resting hand. I want to her to know that my hands will not hurt her. She has no problem eating while my hands are there. I usually don't have a very long session as I have to put baby (Rosie) in the bedroom and she is sufficiently spoiled enough that she will not have it for long. How dare there be treats without her! I love her. I love them both and I am so glad that I rescued them! Next I am going to try playing with just her.

I completely realize that I there is a good possibility that I will never have a "lap cat" and I am totally ok with that. I will accept and appreciate anything she has to give! I can't wait for that day!
post #5 of 13
Thank you for rescuing this kitty and her kitten!

I have to agree with the others - sounds to me like you've made a great deal of progress. I KNOW it doesn't feel like it - because you know how happy she COULD be and you just want to love all over her. Socializing older ferals is just that though - turning off the clock. You already have a terrific attitude about it, and that's half the battle.

Being two years old - and who knows what her previous experiences with people are? - that she's happy in your home is great in and of itself. It's also often a process of "two steps forward, one step back" with them. Just do your best to look at it that you've rescued a cat in need, and for now you're there to provide for her physical needs - and ready to provide for her emotional needs if she reaches out. It's all about building trust, and there are things you can do.

Get a t-shirt really good and sweaty, and put it under the food dish. This will help reinforce her association of your scent with good things.

Another really good thing to do is just be in the same room with her - at her level. If you've got a laptop, or you read or sew or knit or whatever, just be in the same room - but sitting on the floor. Let her just watch you.

Interactive play can be good - though it may take a little while for her to figure out play. We found that for ferals, just a long leather bootlace with a knot tied into the end of it makes a great toy. It wiggles like a snake or a mouse tail or something, and it can be hard to resist. If you want to put a little more distance between you and her, tape it to a stick or dowel rod or something (that makes it easier to wiggle good too). Just make sure you don't leave it out anywhere she can get at it or she'll likely try to eat it.

Harp music is very calming for ferals. If you want to put on a CD and play it - even while you're not home - try this: http://harpist1.tripod.com/id32.html (I think they ship to Canada).

You can also try Feliway spray and/or Bach's Flower Essences. She doesn't seem nervous - but they still may help. Both can be purchased here: http://www.catfaeries.com.

Also, when you look at her, don't look her in the eyes. This is interpreted as a sign of aggression. Look at her forehead, or over her head. If you're in the same room with her and she can see you, close your eyes and turn your head in her direction. Cats often communicate trust with humans by a long, slow blink - so "looking" at them with your eyes closed helps promote that sense of trust.

Other things you can do - cats often yawn and love to stretch. If you're in the same room reading a book while sitting on the floor - set the book down, have a yawn (even if fake), close your eyes and have a stretch. And then just pick your book up and start reading again.

Actually, reading out loud or talking to the kitties out loud is great for them. Singing, too. You know the expression, whistle while you work? Sing while you're doing dishes or folding the laundry, or whatever.

I love the treat trail with your hand just sitting there. Do make sure it's palm down. With dogs you stretch your hand out with palm up - it is the opposite with cats. It is less threatening to them. Though apart from the treat trail with your hand down, I'd recommend avoiding reaching out to her at all (except when playing with a wand toy).

If you're sitting there reading or whatever and she does finally walk over to investigate - ignore her completely. Don't look toward her, don't reach toward her - just ignore her presence. This is the least threatening thing, and will make her bolder. The first time she may not get right up to you - but eventually curiousity will get the best of her, and she'll sniff you - and one day, I'm sure she'll headbump you.

Our advice when it comes to - especially older - ferals is to not attempt to pet them at all until you've gotten that first headbump from them.

And remember - cats are contrarians. Apart from sometimes trying to play, everything else you do to help her want your attention (sitting on the floor, etc.) is done in the context of not obviously letting her know you're doing it for her benefit. In a nutshell, the advice is to ignore her completely. Other than your regularly scheduled treat trails or attempts to engage her in play - just completely ignore her. Nothing makes a cat want attention more than being ignored. Of course with ferals it will take longer - but ignoring them and pretending they're not there does speed up that "trust" process. If you're constantly seeking her out and trying to engage in some kind of interaction, it keeps her wary - what does this person want from me? If you limit those attempts at interaction to short play sessions and your treat trails - and otherwise ignore her presence, she'll "get" that you don't want a single thing from her. And that's when you'll wake up in the middle of the night with her sleeping on your bed. Or when you'll be sitting there watching TV, and you'll feel that "bump" on your leg. Just do your best not to jump out of your skin in happiness!

for such a wonderful thing,

post #6 of 13
You are doing an awsome thing for them. I'm sure she is happy in your home with her baby and a safe place to sleep with plenty of food and water. Laurie has plenty of experience and such helpful advice. I have learned many things from this site myself.

I have 4 ferals living with me and 2 others that were orphaned at a week old. One of the orphans is not anywhere near a lapcat....just his personality. Two of my ferals are 2yrs old. One now follows me around everywhere, plays with me and will sleep on the corner of my bed part of the night. I cannot pet her and she is happy. The other 2yr old loves treats and when I work on the laptop, I put a treat out. Each time moving it closer. Now she will pat my hand trying to make it despense more treats. I ran out one time and I guess she thought she could get more that way. She will walk across me and the laptop looking for treats. I just ignore her and don't move. The orphaned boys, now 8 months old and neutered, are helping them feel more trusting. Her baby will do the same for her. It's wonderful for them both that you kept them together as companions for each other. You have everything going for you by having no expectations from her.
post #7 of 13
Seems to me you are making great progress with her. She seems to be coming right along.
My friend who only takes in ferals has had real success with them but it took some time. She has 5 and when you go to her house there is only really one that will stay among people. The others are nowhere to be seen.
I bet she sees how sweet you are to her baby and it can only help. Good job!
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
We definately leave Alley alone for the most part. My attitude is that I want here to come to me when she is ready. I will not force her.

I am overwhelmed by all the responses. Thank-you so much for taking the time to tell me your stories. It is much needed. I am definately going to try some of tips given to me and I will keep updating!!

Looking forward to hearing more!!
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
How do I post some pictures??
post #10 of 13
Originally Posted by 9lives View Post
How do I post some pictures??
i find the easiest way is to get a free image hosting account @ photobucket. then upload your pix there - you can resize there, too - & past the code under the pic that starts w/the [IMG] tag. here's an example:
code [w/added space so that code & not pic will show]:
[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v383/laureen227/2511677685_6226202989.jpg[/ IMG]
pic that above code points to:

post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 
Well, Miss Alley swatted me this morning while I was giving them treats. As usual, I sat on the floor and dished out a few well deserved treats after feeding them. I had my hand sitting on the floor palm down and I saw her looking at it and then she gave me a swat. I was actually kind of shocked so I let out a little scream but I didn't get up, I continued to sit on the floor. I think she knew that what she did was wrong because she backed up and was looking at me with a "oops did I do that" face. She them went into the bedroom window and stayed there.

I guess this is one of those "a few steps back days"!
post #12 of 13
Sounds like it. Guess she didn't like your hand so close to her treats for whatever reason.

Here's a kitty headbump to help you hang in there!

post #13 of 13
I have a five months old kitten and her name is micky. It was easy to socialize her because i got her when it was one month old. I heard my friend saying it was difficult to socialize old cats.

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