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need help please!!!

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

after having a fluffy feral in my house for 10 months and her slowly - and i mean SLOWLY- coming around- she has regressed and i am wondering what the next best steps are that i should take.
here is the story......
she came to us fixed and with all her shots from a friend of mine who trapped her from her back yard..the winter was already in full swing and we were worried about her and her sibling. unfortunately, she was seperated from her sibling, but we had high hopes for finding her a long term, happy home - i was simply here to foster her and her transition. so, she had free range of our home for the first few weeks (this is back in feb'08) until she peed on our beds numerous times. we then simply made sure that we always closed our doors. she adapted to using the litter just perfectly otherwise (i'm guessing she was marking territory on our beds, or pissed off at us for having her inside). she mostly just slinked around the apt, but learned to come out and make her presence known when we were cooking. if we ever tried to approach her, or even thought about it, or if she ever thought about it, she would back up and run away, looking as if we were going to strangle her. fast forward 8 months and its much of the same. she would eat kibble off of my body if i laid down and placed it on random places, but again, she NEVER let me even attempt to touch her.
well recently, i decided that maybe a bit of a different approach would be know, pick her up and hold her until she relaxed. show her that i won't hurt her and then let her go. i have heard of a few people who try this approach have found that it worked with there cats.
unfortunately, there has also been a lot of change in the house (a new roommate moved in) and a fair amount of stress in general. as she is a very sensitive cat, i'm guessing that she is picking up on it as i then found that she peed on the couch...twice. just for safety, i covered the couch in plastic thinking that a) either it would freak her out and she wouldn't jump up on it and b) that at least the couch is protected. well, she peed on the plastic. three nights in a row. on different sheets of plastic.
i guessed that either she is TOTALLY freaked out or she has a medical condition. i think its the former. i have since placed her in a very large kennel to give her private, safe space and to protect the house from her peeing. i don't want to take her to the vet as i was trying to get some other kind of touch with her before she had to go back to that scary place where she first experienced human hands.
what step should i take?
i'm wondering if she would simply be happier on a farm where she could be a barn cat and have contact with humans only when SHE wanted and she could run freely (well , as freely as possible). i'm stuck here. what should i do to help her be happy?
post #2 of 14
I am certainly no expert, especially with ferals, but I too have a rescued feral and I know that you have to be extremely patient with them. She has been here 2 years and although I can pet her and she loves to rub against me, she does not like to be held or picked up. She also loves her routine, perhaps all of the changes in your cat's life are upsetting to her. My Gracie has used the litter box since I brought her home from the vet, she was trapped and spayed immediately and then I brought her home with me. But when I return from a vacation, I am always sure to find she has not used the litter box, and within a few days everything is back to normal. It sounds to me as if your girl is very scared and reacting to all of the change. I am also not sure if it is a good idea to attempt to put her back outside again after she has lived indoors for almost a year. There are so many others here that can give you much better advice, but try to hang in there with her, most of her actions are out of fear.
post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
thank you for your story and encouragement. i will take it into consideration.
i too think that her actions are out of fear and reaction to change, but part of me just wonders if she would be happier on a farm. geez, how am i supposed to know what she REALLY wants and needs?
post #4 of 14
Welcome to TCS and bless you for taking in a feral!! It does sound like the changes have upset her and she no longer feels secure. You might have to return to keep her confined to a small room until she calms down, and basically treat her like a new introduction until she adjusts. You could try using a Feliway diffuser in the room to help out.
What is the cat situation in your area? If the shelters and rescue groups are overwhelmed, then you could consider trying to find her a reliable barn to live in, and take in another foster. My close friend had to rehome one of her rescues who just wouldn't adjust, and clawed out the eye of one of her own cats - the cat now lives as a mouser at a therapeutic riding center and is much more social and confident now. So, it sometimes is an alright choice, although I hate to think of cats outside because of predators, etc. This therapeutic center has yard dogs who are not allowed to chase cats & the barns are heated in winter for the horses, plus horses and cats socialize.
post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
yeah, as i said, i'm wondering if she would be happier somewhere where she could be outdoors a bit and roam freely.....while still being fed and looked out for of course i will keep her in the kennel for a while in attempt to calm things down and create something consistent. that is my intention anyways. thanks for your support and advice. i'm going to look into the barn option a bit more....its just not safe to release her in the city that is for sure!
post #6 of 14
Definitely stress related. When I added two kittens at home, the two brother cats that I had already started getting in fights with each other every once in a while and we never had that problem before. Both have settled down now but it took a few months. Patience may solve the problem over time or it may not.

Another thing I have noted is that cats love to pee on plastic. My cats almost never pee outside the litter box, but when they do it is usually on a plastic bag or something similar. So the plastic will most likely not be a deterrant at all, at least not if your cats are like mine.

I wish you luck.
post #7 of 14
I have rescued ferals that I took to live with me because they had nowhere to go. Most former ferals do not like to be picked up. Depends on the personality.

I am not as experienced as some, but I would worry about putting her outside after living inside for so long. She will have to rely on instincts that she has not been using by living inside. This could be more stressful.

Change has thrown her off and you are doing the right thing by starting over. Maybe keeping her in a closed bedroom rather than a kennel will help more.

Give her time and some space to call hers and things will settle down again. You did a wonderful thing by giving her a safe warm place to live.

This may give perspective to what you are going through.
post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
i checked out the link you sent and there is lots of good info.
basically, it sounds like i need to be patient. give both the cat and myself more time. i just hate not giving her free room to move around! but it seems like the best option right now.
post #9 of 14
I think sometimes they do much better in a small space. My feral, Gracie, prefers to stay in one room-a sunroom, she will occasionally come into the rest of the house, but is nervous. She is very comfortable in her space-she has everything she needs and lots of windows to look out of. I am hoping that with time she will venture out more, but I know she is happy where she is and that's all that matters to me. Just give your kitty some time.
post #10 of 14
We have one of those, too. Terea is a tortie (need I say more), who was six months old when we caught her and her brother. She is in a room of her own (in our two-bedroom house!). I worry about her being lonely but frankly, I think she's decided out other cats are pests. Only her brother is allowed into her sanctuary. We can tell when someone else has snuck in because Teresa starts screaming. It's actually quite funny.

She WILL play footies with the other cats under the door but basically, she can't be bothered with them. She has an excellent view of the birdfeeders and the street where the neighbor's kids play, so she's content.
post #11 of 14
Oh, Ondine, I am glad I am not the only one who has a cat that prefers to stay in one room. As I said before, it is her choice and I believe she is happy. Much better than the conditions from where she was trapped and rescued. She has furniture to lay on, windows to look out of with bird feeders close by, cat beds and I play harp music for her all day long. She does allow my other cats to go into her room but she has no desire to leave when they do. As long as she is content, so am I. It is just reassuring to know someone else has a kitty who lives this way too.
post #12 of 14
Originally Posted by Skimble View Post
I have rescued ferals that I took to live with me because they had nowhere to go. Most former ferals do not like to be picked up. Depends on the personality.

I am not as experienced as some, but I would worry about putting her outside after living inside for so long. She will have to rely on instincts that she has not been using by living inside. This could be more stressful.

Change has thrown her off and you are doing the right thing by starting over. Maybe keeping her in a closed bedroom rather than a kennel will help more.

Give her time and some space to call hers and things will settle down again. You did a wonderful thing by giving her a safe warm place to live.
I agree with this. Be very careful about putting her back outside after she's been living inside so long.

Many ferals never ever will want to be picked up and that is ok. Some will eventually warm to it - but it must be on their terms. Act like you don't care / aren't interested etc while continuing to feed/care for her. Sometimes that makes cats more interested and certainly it makes them feel less threatened. Also try not to look her directly in the eye - many ferals find that threatening and consider it a sign of aggression. Look toward her and over her head just a bit.

Cats are extremely sressed out by change. Many prefer a relatively small space - like a single room - where they can feel safe. I don't think plastic will deter peeing. Usually peeing in an inappropriate place is a sign of illness or it can be a sign that they dislike the litter box for reasons unknown by humans. My vet recommends 2 or 3 different litter boxes with different kinds of litter and preferably ones never used by a previous cat (cats can tell). Also it needs to be scrupulously clean and preferably cleaned with non-toxic cleaner and hot water every week or two. I dump all the litter and start over every week or two also.

Spoil her rotten with tuna juice, treats, toys, etc. Catnip may help or Feliway spray. Ask your vet about using Rescue Remedy too.
post #13 of 14
I have a few feral mothers that I am left with after rescuing a few litters. I would not recommend putting her back out, especially since the winter (which is already starting out brutal). Feral mother 1 called "Feral" (Frannie)-she is the worst feral we have. She never really came around much for domestication-we've had her over a year. I can handle her-but she growls. If you get too close, she will scratch if she is in a bad mood. But I can handle her, and she is not too bad. Just cranky. If we put her back out, (which we have thought of) she wouldn't have a chance. So she has warmth and shelter and food. She is buddies with the other feral and can tolerate each other. And same thing, recently she started pooping around the room-where she was doing well going into her litter box in her crate on her own. Don't know why the sudden change-but it happened. Same thing with feral mother 2 (angelina)-she was horrible when she came here-climbing the walls, she even bit my leg. But she turned around nicely. But when she gets scared she will have an accident (on the fourth of july she was so terrified-she peed and didn't even get up and move). And recently she started a new habit of pooping on the bed. So feral and angelina are now spending a little more time in their crate until they can be trusted again when I am not around. Not too mention a virus with diarhea amongst a few cats, making their accidents even a bigger problem...So anyway, they just need to retrained. I think in your situation-a new person might be threatening to your cat. Change is difficult for ferals, but they can adapt. She will have to readjust, and just continue to work with her. SOme ferals come around well, some regress back, and some just don't domesticate, however, I feel they are better off inside, away from all the horrible things outside that they encounter. It may help if you put your cat in a crate with a litter box. Every once in a while place her in the crate and let her think if she needs to go to the bathroom and in an appropriate area. Then when she does you can let her back out. GIve her some yummy food so she can have to help break up the stress she may be feeling about the changes going on. If your roomate is willing, see if they can try to feed and talk to the cat every so often, so that the cat can try to be more comfortable with another person around. I have a kitten "Sissy" now about 7 months old. We got her at about 3 months. Her brother was nasty for a day or so and came right around. SIssy on the other hand, still hisses and spits at me! I try to make light of it. She's just as cranky as Feral and keeps her ears down when anyone goes near her. When we got her, she would cry to go back out to her mother. We ended up catching her mother (another feral mama) and she even was reunited with her. We couldn't figure out if her family was here why would she want to go back outside by herself?? So what would make her happy, I don't know-but when I walk away and she plays with her string, you would never know she is the same cat that just hissed and spitted.
post #14 of 14
All of my cats were born feral, and even some of my oldsters (over 10 years old), still respond to change like yours is doing.

First thing to remember about a feral cat: they often bond with 1 and only 1 person. As long as you don't introduce other people to them and leave their daily routine alone, they do great with you.

Understand what makes them respond positively and negatively:

Cats don't like to be towered over. When anyone is with them, get down to their level (e.g. sit on the floor). You've probably noticed that she will bolt anytime that anyone walks past her unexpectedly. Height is domination in cats, and a feral cat doesn't like another "cat" to dominate them. Humans are taller than cats, therefore standing over them scares them.

Cats love routine. Establish as fixed a daily routine as you can with them, including feeding them at the same time each day, changing their water at the same time each day, etc.

Staring at a cat is considered aggressive behavior. Feral cats greet each other thru "eye blinking". If you happen to catch your cats eye, either divert your eyes, or slowly blink at them. When you see them blinking back, you know they have accepted you as one of their own.

To respond to your question about moving her to a barn? I don't recommend it. She's been out of that environment for so long she may no longer have the skills to adapt to it. If you can work on her behaviors in your home to her favor, she'll adjust.
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