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Gotcha! Now What? HELP!

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
So, Sargeant Squirrel (as he has been dubbed, whether permanently or temporarily) was trapped yesterday afternoon. He's 9-12 weeks old and had been living outside; stray or feral, it's hard to say, though I'm leaning towards feral.

He has been to the vet and has been dubbed basically healthy (we are awaiting the results of his FIV/FeLV tests, which should come today, and he was treated for a bad flea infestation and dewormed), and he is currently in a huge dog crate in my bathroom with food, water, and a litterbox. He is being kept separate from Lt. Pants, who is 11mo., neutered, and has no "cat experience" (he was also a feral, though taken in very early and extremely easily socialized.)


The Sarge has been laying in the back of the crate, eyes huge, ears flat, hiding in his litterbox since I put him in there. He watches me (and my girlfriend and the roommate... we only have one bathroom) come and go, eyes never moving from us, scared stiff. I have stroked him once without a fuss from him, and twice I got a hiss.

In the crate, I have set out dry kitten food, water, and chicken-flavored baby food. He will not eat in my presence, but he has been eating the baby food. I have started mixing the dry kitten food with the baby food, and he will eat that, also.

I came out this morning to find that a giant mess had been made of the crate. Food everywhere, water spilled, litter all over the place, and Sargeant Squirrel, still crouched in the litterbox, looking terrified. I cleaned it up (he makes no attempt to escape or even move when I open the crate) and gave him fresh food and water.

Where do I go from here? I have no experience with a cat this utterly terrified of me, and I want to do right by him. I know that I have to go slowly and that this is going to be a process, and I'm prepared to take that on. I just want to make sure that I do it the right way.

I have been reading lots of stuff on the internet, and I would appreciate some personal experience. He's got my heart already (and broken it, the poor terrified thing), and I want him to feel comfortable in my home and family.
post #2 of 10
I captured my two girls Saffron and Sachi when they were kittens and on their way to becoming feral. I avoiding looking them in the eye but they were younger. 5 and 6 weeks. I held them all of the time. I would pet them first and then hold them and then hold them alot. I cooed using a soft voice. I tucked them in my robe and napped with them on my chest. They started purring quickly and now they are so friendly and relaxed. It amazes me because Sachi was scary. I was afraid of her and my hands were shaking because I honestly thought she would bite me.
He will break down pretty quickly. He already lets you close so it will probably be a matter of weeks and not months and months.
post #3 of 10
Kaete, how wonderful of you to rescue the Sergeant!

I'm assuming you don't have a room to which he can be confined? How put out would Lt. Pants be if he weren't allowed in the bedroom for a time? Does he sleep with you? Maybe consider moving the crate into the bedroom? Is there room for it in there? Has Lt. Pants been in the bathroom - how did they react to each other?

I ask all these things, because even though he can hide if he's released into a room, socialization goes a lot more quickly if it's somewhere you spend a lot of time or can spend a lot of time - especially at his level (on the floor), and he's young enough to really benefit from watching you interact with Lt. Pants.

I would definitely not try to pet him. The hissing is actually good - he's at least confident enough to tell you not to touch him.

We've never socialized a kitty using a crate. And when we first started rescuing, we lived in the RV (actually, we just moved back into the RV) so really had NO PLACE to put a crate or to separate rescues/fosters. Fortunately we had the luxury of being able to work primarily from home, so they always had supervision.

But if you think the Sarge needs to stay in the crate (and I would not release him into the apartment in general, only if you've got a room he can be confined to), I would consider relocating the crate into the room you spend the most time in.

Do make sure he's got a hidey place in the crate. A box turned on its side. Even better if the top flap is hanging down.

Is he using the litterbox? They do tend to love to lie in the litterbox. If there's room, I'd put a litter box with nothing in it - maybe on of those small thin fake fleece cat beds in the bottom of it - and put that in the hidey box, and hopefully he'll take to that, and put a litter box with litter in it outside of that, as far away from food and water as possible.

In the meantime, I'd get a t-shirt really good and sweaty and put it under his food dish. This will help him come to associate you with good things.

I'd get a rag or something and rub Lt. Pants all over with it. I'd set that in the crate each morning and evening with some kind of cat treats on it. Maybe some boiled chicken. This will help him associate Lt. Pants smell with good things. In fact - since he's not moving or swiping at you, if you can rub the Sarge all over with a rag, I'd do that and put treats out on it regularly for Lt. Pants, to help with the "good things" scent switch.

CC12's advice about not looking him directly in the eyes is good advice. It is seen as a sign of aggression. Look at him on the forehead or over the top of his head. And while your face is turned toward him, you can close your eyes slowly and open them slowly. The long blink - or "looking" at him with your eyes closed helps build trust.

Wherever the crate winds up, just spend as much time as you can in the room with him. Not right next to the crate - unless it's in the bathroom. Even then, if you can sit on the floor and do stuff, do so. Sit with your side to the crate so he can just watch and get used to you.

Socialization is completely and solely about building trust, and the more time you can spend around him COMPLETELY IGNORING him and doing nothing but being non-threatening, the quicker he'll come around. Read out loud. Sing. Work on a laptop. Fold laundry. Sew, knit, whatever you do! Buy harp music or play soft classical music and play it on CD for him.

Poor baby doesn't know where he is or why, and doesn't know what you want from him. Spend as much time as you can in the same room with him wanting absolutely nothing from him. And if he can see you interacting with Lt. Pants - playing, petting, feeding treats - whatever - so much the better.

Put baby food on a spoon, and slowly reach out your hand, slip the spoon through the crate bars, keep holding the spoon, and leave it there for him. If he doesn't venture out, try again the next day.

If he stops being completely freaked, try dangling a wand toy along the bars of the crate. Interactive play can be a good ice breaker.

But as soon as you think the Lieutenant and the Sergeant will be able to be in a room together without too much stress on either (some hissing and a few tussles are normal, but can be mostly avoided with a few days of the scent swapping of treats, using Feliway around the apartment, and keeping a can of coins handy to rattle if one jumps on the other), I'd let the Sarge out into one of the rooms.

...but I really would stop trying to pet him. He doesn't know pets are good. It took Tuxedo 6 months before he headbumped Gary - but he's the only one we didn't force ourselves on, and he is the MOST loving of all the kitties. He constantly bumps, rubs, rolls around on us. So once you release the Sergeant, other than trying to engage him in play, I'd still spend a lot of time ignoring him, but being in a room where he can watch you and get used to you - and wait for him to come to you. And if he walks over to sniff you, keep ignoring him. Maybe slip your hand out towards him slowly (hand down) - but the less you react to what he does, the faster he'll get that he can trust you.

for what you're doing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

BTW - we love updates, and ask any questions you've got!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your help, CC12 and Laurie

You probably won't believe me when I tell you this, , but a miracle has taken place in my little apartment.

Last night, I absolutely had to clean out the crate again. It was a total disaster. I wanted to see if he was actually using the litterbox, also, to see if he was going to the bathroom at all - in or out of it. This required me to move him, as he was still crouched in it (though his posture had relaxed some.)

I gloved up, put my hands in as slowly and nonthreateningly as I could, and got hold of him, ignoring his little baby hiss. I removed him, intending to place him into the carrier I had handy... but something told me to just sit him in my lap for a second, since I wasn't meeting any resistance.

Well, within 10 seconds, I had the gloves off, and he was nestling into my lap, purring like a motorboat.

.... what?

He spent the better part of an hour laying on me, climbing all over me, head-butting me, face-rubbing me, and generally begging for love. Jess was able to pet him, hold him, and love all over him. So was my male roommate.

Since then, he's like a different cat. He stands in the crate, waiting for someone to open it. He's been meowing nonstop, begging for attention. He's been let out to have free reign of the bathroom. He's eating, both wet and dry, in front of whoever wants to watch (I gave him a small plate of wet when Jess was holding him last night, and since then, he's been an eating machine ) He's climbing all over everything, sniffing, exploring, being extremely vocal and active, and a total diva.

He went from crouching in the back of his crate, in the litterbox, flat-eared, wide-eyed and hissing, scared to DEATH, to being - literally, with no exaggeration whatsoever - the most loving, attention-seeking, vocal kitten I've ever met.

I got the all-clear from the vet on FeLV and FIV today, and so we're planning to do introductions soon.

The only issue we've had is that he peed on a towel I placed over the garbage can (he kept jumping into it ). He also peed on the table at the vet, which I attributed to fear. Otherwise, he has been using the box, as well, and appears pretty well-adjusted. He hasn't been interested in playing with interactive toys yet, but I think that'll happen soon.

Any suggestions about litter training? He seems to have the idea, with just two pee accidents. We never had a single issue with the Lt., so I've never had to deal with it.

He has become a real joy, literally overnight.

Who'd'a thunk it?!

Pictures will be coming soon.
post #5 of 10
Hahah omg how cute! This story brought tears to my eyes. I am so happy hes being a loving little guy!
post #6 of 10
How fantastic!!! This little guy figured out in a hurry that he was safe and he liked the love he was given. I am so happy for all of you.

I am not sure with the litter issues. Whe my orphaned boys were younger I kept small pans of litter everywhere the kittens were for any length of time. If I had them out in the den or any part of the house, I put a litter pan close by and always in the same spot. When I put them back in their kitten room I picked up the pans. Kittens come out and I put the pans back in the same spot. That way there is always a litter box ready. Just use what you have around. Glass baking dish (can be cleaned easily) small plastic storage container, just look for anything temporary. I think being young they wait til the last minute then sometimes forget where or how to get back to the litter box.

I have read that using dryer sheets attracts cats to "potty" on. You can buy something called "Cat Attract" to sprinkle in the litter. It's sold at pet stores with the litter.

What an awesome thing you have done for this baby! He will give back so much more. Hang in there through this kitten age. Sounds like he is going to be a great companion. Hope the upcoming introductions go well. Lots of help on the forum.
post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 
Well.... the introductions didn't exactly go as planned I got a phone call from Jess at work a couple of hours ago: "Carl (his full name is Sergeant Carl F. Squirrel, haha) escaped the bathroom when I went to pee. He and Pants are running all over the house with each other. He licked Pants on the nose."

I went straight home, cos I just had to see it. And there they were. No hissing or growling, but a lot of nose-tapping (or nose-smacking, as the case may be), pretend-stalking, and staring at one another. If one goes off to do his own thing, the other quickly follows, just to watch. They've been meowing at each other and at their humans. Generally just being in the same vicinity as one another... like I said, a little smacking here and there, some jumping (into the air or over each other, not on), some approaching-then-backing-off by both of them, and mostly just some staring.

I think it's going well. Neither is being aggressive; I think they're just sorting out their roles. They've been supervised, and when we can't be around to do that, we're going to separate them until Carl is a little bigger and they're used to one another.

Carl is extremely vocal, while Pants has never really been. We'll see how it goes. So far, so good!
post #8 of 10
I am so glad it happened so quickly. I had a feeling it would. Kittens are so much easier than the adults. My cats took to the kittens very quickly. I am so happy that Sarge and Lt are on their way to being buddies it sound like.
post #9 of 10
How absolutely fantastic! I'm so not surprised to hear the change of events - he was young enough. Lazlo turned into a little purr monster within a day. He was still a little skittish and would bolt if someone coughed or something dropped - but six years later sometimes he still does that!

I'm SO RELIEVED to hear that Lt. Pants is taking this so well! We've always found that boys are more social. We've just never had a problem introducing a new kitty to any of the boys. There is that head bopping, and sometimes the tussle - but initially it's just establishing who's who - and later it's just play.

The Lieutenant has a pal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm just soooooooooooooooooo happy for ALL of you!!!!!!!!!!!!

post #10 of 10
Sounds like you've got a keeper on your hands, Kaete! Cats are very funny creatures, that's for sure
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