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Many Cat Questions!

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Alright, so I'm a college student and there's this group of stray cats that live on campus. They are somewhat used to people from students giving them food and trying to pet them. They don't like being pet but they let my boyfriend got to hold one. It chilled out in his arms for about a minute before beginning to try to get out. It ended up scratching him, but it was trying to climb up his shirt to get out, so it didn't seem like it was trying to directly attack him but just get grip to wiggle out.

We kind of want to take the cat back to our apartment and try to domesticate it... Here are my concerns that maybe anyone can help with:

Can the cat be domesticated? I want a friendly cat, one that lets you snuggle them and wants to be snugly. They are no longer than a foot from head to tail. And no more than seven inches off the ground, so they're tiny.

Do cats smell? I know cats spray, and pee, and how bad do litter boxes smell? I don't want our place to smell bad.

How hard is it to house train a cat?

What are vet bills like? What type of shots will we need to get for it? How much is getting it fixed? They look healthy well aside from being thin, but I don't think they get the proper nutrition (obviously) since they willingly ate french fries...

Is there anything else I should know? I'm a brand new person to cats, my boyfriend isn't, but I just want second opinions...
post #2 of 11
Thank you for wanting to rescue this kitty!

Cats can be expensive, depending upon their health. I don't want to discourage you, but you do need to be prepared for emergencies to happen, it's part of caring for a pet.

Cats do not smell. All you have to do is provide two litter boxes for one cat and clean them at least once a day. And you MUST have kitty spayed or neutered, or they will spray. The only thing that would cause a smell is if you don't keep the litter boxes clean.

A vet would be able to tell you how old the kitty is - size isn't necessarily and indication of age, just like with people.

Vet charges vary from area to area, but the initial visit and shots is usually several hundred dollars. They must have distemper and rabies shots, and you have to take the cat back for a follow-up distemper shot. Outside kitties usually have fleas and/or ticks and/or internal parasites, and if the vet recommends Revolution, don't do it, tell him you want to use Advantage for the fleas and ticks and Panacur if your kitty has round worm. I assume you want to keep kitty indoors only - then the Advantage would only need to be applied once. They should check for round worm by getting a stool sample and looking at it under a microscope (they can do this in the office, you don't have to wait for kitty to poop).

There is no way to tell what kind of personality a cat is going to have. If you're not prepared to have a skittish kitty, do not adopt one from outdoors. Best to go to a shelter or an adoption day, adopt an older kitty that's personality has already developed and tell one of the volunteers or shelter workers what you're looking for.

However, outdoor kitties can be socialized - it just takes time and patience on your part. Imagine that you're three years old, you don't know what happened to your parents, but you're flown on a plane (which is scary) to China. You don't know whether or not your new family wants to eat you, use you for medical experiments or what. Everything looks different, everything smells different, everything sounds different. You're terrified.

That is the experience of an outdoor kitty brought indoors. It takes some time to earn their trust, and to let them get used to all the new sounds, sights, and smells. They don't know what love is, they don't know what play is, and they don't know what you want from them. They learn - and sometimes quickly, especially if they're used to being around people. We're caring for two feral boys that were over a year old when we brought them in to be neutered - and within a few weeks, even though we didn't adopt them to be pets and we released them back outdoors (it's called trap-neuter-release, and it prevents the cats from further procreation), they come twice a day for the food and pets - they love being brushed, and one of them just crawls up into my lap, and it only took a couple of weeks. But that is unusual - they've obviously been around people a lot OR they were not born feral (or both).

There are lots of things you can do to help them come to trust you once you bring him inside - but there is no schedule on which socialization happens, and you just have to be able to turn off all expectations and let kitty go at his or her own pace.

You can learn to communicate with your kitty, and they definitely understand what you're saying. Whether it's your tone of voice or what - they know. And they learn loving words of approval quickly, and they learn the meaning of the word "no" pretty quickly. But they ARE very independent.

Here are some sayings that are very true:

"Dogs come when called - cats take a message and get back to you."
"Dogs have owners, cats have staff."
"A cat will be your friend, but never your slave."
"There are people who reshape the world by force or argument but the cat just lies there, dozing, and the world quietly reshapes itself to suit his comfort and convenience."
"Cats seem to go on the principle that it never does any harm to ask for what you want." --Joseph Wood Krutch
"The last thing I would accuse a cat of is innocence." --Edward Palley

Cats are all about "me" and that's why we all end up spoiling them so, because a happy, purring, smiling cat warms the heart like nothing else.

...and that is the trick to "teaching" them what is OK and not OK. There is no disciplining a cat - it doesn't work and it just makes them fear you or dislike you. Unlike dogs, they don't necessarily go out of their way to please you. They are all about redirection and positive reinforcement. And we can help with that on this site too.

Hope this helps - and if you decide to go for it, we can help with socialization tips.

BTW - are you in Gainesville? They have a great student run TNR (trap-neuter-release) program, and you should try to contact them to let them know about where these kitties are hanging out just in case they're not already working in that area.

Here's a link to an article on it in the meantime:

post #3 of 11
Cats can bring a lot of joy to you. A cool cat can be warmed up some but it may never be a lap cat.
As a first time owner I would advise getting a cat from a shelter that has been vetted and already given his treatments for fleas and worms. I say this because you have a definite desire for a snuggle muffin.
BUT if you observe the cats and that is what you want then pick out the friendliest one. You can do a practice called Scoop and Cuddle. You scoop up the kitty and cuddle them for short periods of time everyday. Then you try to add a few more seconds at a time.
post #4 of 11
I agree with everything LDG so wont make a long post but just don't get disheartened.

While outdoor kitties may not be immediate snugglers once they trust they can be really great cats. I have a feral I fostered from the shelter across my lap on her back right now licking my elbow as I type.
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
We all sat down and had a "team meeting" and decided to take one of these cats home.

Does anyone have any advice for "kitty proofing" the house?

Also, what type of reactions (asside from "oh " and scared) can I expect from the cat?

How will it know how to use the litter box?

What can I do to make it more comftorable?

I want this cat to feel safe, but in trying to make it feel safe I don't want to end up annoying it. So advice from others who've been here would help...

Also, if kitty doesn't take at all to being inside in a few days we've decided to spade it, let it recover, and put it back where we found it on campus. (Before being inside ruins it's instinticts and ability to survive) Does that sound okay?
post #6 of 11
Awesome that you are trying to help. This link has some great advice written with a bit of humor. It may help with some of the questions.

Laurie has wonderful advice and the experience to back it up. She is a great resource.

I do know it will take much longer than a few days to decide if things will work out being inside vs out. Getting cat spayed or neutered, vet checked, etc should come first. If you can get the cat in a carrier, go to vet before you take it home. It will take a few days to recover, then an undetermined time to adjust. I think you just have to evaluate things as you go and expect nothing.

Good luck. Keep posting updates and everyone will offer help. You are doing the right thing.
post #7 of 11
How how absolutely wonderful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I totally agree with Skimble - the cat should go into a carrier and immediately to a vet. If it has fleas, ticks or ear mites or whatever, those need to be treated. Trying to deal with fleas once they're in your home can be a nightmare.

You can look up low-cost services here: Find a low-cost spay/neuter place, and have the cat fixed, checked out, and treated for anything it's carrying. He/she may need to be at the vet for a day or so, maybe a night.

Don't worry if it freaks in the crate and cries all the way to the vet. This is normal.

When you bring kitty home, please have defined one room that can be closed off for it. Cats are territorial, and a small territory is the easiest way to start. A small space - even a large bathroom works, though a bedroom is better - that they come to feel comfortable in first is definitely the way to go. Having a place for it to hide, where he/she feels safe is important. Under a bed, under a dresser, a box on it's side with the flap hanging down under a table (or under the bed) - that kind of a thing.

To help, you can purchase Feliway first, and spray it around the room - but not near the litter boxes (really best to have two, because outdoor cats especially are not used to peeing where they poop).

Feliway is a synthetic hormone that mimics the "friendly" markers in cats' cheeks. It can be purchased at most pet stores. It helps make the place "smell" more inviting, and it helps relax stressed cats.

You may also want to consider investing in some harp music, if it doesn't bother you. Cats tend to find this VERY calming.

As to the litter boxes - some cats take to the right away, others need help. The best "trick" for outdoor kitties is potting soil (no chemicals, organic). Make a layer of potting soil over the litter - kitty almost always figures that one out. After a few days you should be able to dump the whole thing, clean the box, and just use litter. You can also consider purchasing Cat Attract (the additive, not the litter) and following those instructions instead of immediately trying the soil trick.

I've got lots more suggestions, most of them already in threads here. It's late for me and I've got to run, but I'm sure others will be along with other suggestions and ideas, and I'll post links to some of the other threads with all the socialization tips as well.

One thing? Skimble is SO right. A few days is NOT enough to be able to decide if it's going to work out or not.

Personally, I think you need to be committed to it. Depending upon how old kitty is will likely affect the amount of time it takes for kitty to adjust to living inside. Most other cat sites or organizations don't recommend trying to socialize cats over 10 - 12 weeks old, which really is just crazy. But older than 4 - 6 months, and it can take time. Essentially, you just have to do your best to turn off the clock and your expecations - it'll make it easier on all of you AND kitty. However, if you've got the patience, cats up to three years old can be socialized, though I really wouldn't recommend that project to a college student.

I'm so excited for you - AND kitty!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 
Updates for everyone!

We managed to get the male stray to the vet, and paid for him to get neutered. They took a look at him and aside from a few ticks he appeared to be otherwise okay.

The vet ended up taking Mr.Neutered and put him in their adoption area. He was one of the tamer ones, who'd interacted more with the students so they agreed to find him a good home rather than him going back to school and likely getting put in the pound, or euthanized...

While we were in the adoption ward I fell in love with this sweet little kitten that had been dumped on the side of the highway. Someone was driving at night and saw her trying to cross the street, scooped her up and brought her to the vet. I can't believe someone would dump this sweet little thing on the side of the road, she looks like she's BARELY old enough to be separated from her mom.

Anyways, I should now move my questions to the non-ferals forum. I really hope that little boy finds a good home. He'll be more safe and comftorable at the vet than school, and now they know that there are these strays on campus so hopefully the vet will inform people I don't have contacts for that will help them.

I was at least able to get one neutered and in a safe place!
post #9 of 11
Good for you and for the kitty!! You are young and caring, I am sure there will be more cats and kittens you will be rescueing and giving a much better life.
post #10 of 11
That is SUCH a cat experience! You end up helping one - and adopting another!

This is a really thoughtful and wonderful thing you've done, and you should be beaming from ear to ear.

post #11 of 11
I see this thread is already "old" as the development went beyond the stituation in the first letter.

But yet, some of my additions to the others.

That semiferal kitty in question is apparently a first-rate candidade for adoption.

Letting himself be held a whole minute, and thereafter climbing out, NOT scratching with purpose, although he probably scratches because of climbing out... He IS tame.
My homecat does likewise...

Second, most semiferals and homeless CAN be fostered into homecats, although it may take time and effort. It is of course easier if they are young.
Essentielly, you must know what to do, and have the patience and time to do it... Otherwise, it istnt THAT difficult.
Explanation? You dont take in cats you know are agressive... (most cats can be aggressive just when catched, but I wont write about this here and now).

The common exceptions I know of, are good hearted people taking in a homeless cat, without prior having own cat, or being used to cats.
These people feel they run into problems.

So having had a couple of cats makes it a lot easier to help a homeless cat.
Knowing many of the everyday questions if cats are smelly and so on...

But you Kunskitten have the right attitude. You know you are ignorant, so you do ask questions to knowleable. And you have very much good will.

But normally, my advice would be to as first cat take one you know is a homecat. Perhaps an abandoned homecat, so you are still making a praiseworthy good deed.

I see your solution Kusnkitten was surely the optimal one:
You DID helped that tame homeless cat.

And you did adopted that abandoned kitten - thus probably a homecat.

And last: you apparently found a good vet with heart in the right place, and I hope with good prices too. Stick to this vet, and let his surgery be wellknown.
Such veterinarians must be encouraged and supported.
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