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Feral kitty came so far, but won't go any further

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Hello. I am a cat and dog person, presently with 3 big dogs. They were raised with Cocoa, my Siamese, and Lacey, all black, found in a factory abandoned. She was so small we thought she was a kitten. Turned out she had her second teeth, so my vet placed her at about 6 months. Both Lacey and Cocoa passed in the last few years from cancer at ages 15 and 17. It's just been our 3 doggies, for 2 years till now.

Early spring a cat showed up under my bird feeder. I chased him away assuming he was one of our neighbors many inside/outside cats after the birds. My husband saw him several times after that by the shed, and called me down to look at him. He was very thin and scared. We realized he wasn't one of neighbor's fat cats and needed help. We put some left over chicken and a can of tuna and water by the shed. After we left and came into the house, we watched him gulp it down. That was in April.

I went to the store and bought him canned food, dry food, and treats. Faithfully after work, I took his dinner out and sat it by the shed and called "Here kitty kitty". First, I sat on the ground by the house. He was scared to eat with me in sight, but finally did. Every day I would move a foot closer always sitting down, and talking to him the whole time he ate. He never missed coming to eat. By November I could sit 3 foot away while he ate.

It was cold and raining, so I decided to see if I could get him to eat in our garage. It's a double, connected to our house, no cars, my husbands workshop. I left the garage door open with his food right outside the door. He was nervous when I called to come up but he did and ate. Then every day I moved his food a little more into the garage. At half way in, we got a nasty cold, windy day. Decided to pull the garage door down on top of a paint can. Wasn't sure if he would come in such a small space. He came in a little, than ran out and kept looking at me. Had to move his food closer to the door again to get him in. Finally got him to come half way in with the door almost closed. Inch by inch.

November 20th, was nasty weather. While he was eating my husband closed the garage door. He tried to bolt out but didn't make it. For 2 days he hid in the garage. Wouldn't even eat, but made no attemp to escape, or meow. Just hid. Put a litter box out with dirt and leaves in it. Used it faithfully and finally started eating.

Now it is January and progress has stopped since he came in, other than him finally deciding his soft kitty bed is a nice place to be. The garage is heated. It connects to our family room so he hears us all the time. Plus we are always going in there for firewood and soda and water that are in a refrigerator in there. We have opened the garage doors many times to bring in firewood. He has no desire to leave. In fact, he gets scared when he hears the door open and hides under a tool chest.

He has this 2 foot limit he won't let me pass. Everytime I try to pet him, at 2 feet he shows his teeth with a small hiss. Once, I reached in closer. I got a double swat, but no biting. He is not declawed. Had 2 little holes in my fingers bleeding.

He is young. His teeth are pure white. I figure 1 year. He has gained weight and is looking real good. I'm worried because he needs his shots and to be neutered. I was hoping by now, he would trust me and I could take him to our vet. I hate the thought of a trap and losing all his trust. I don't know if my vet even deals with ferals. I'm so scared he would get hurt or take off if confined by a vet now.

Sorry this is so long. 9 months worth. Advice please.
post #2 of 16
We've got two ferals in the basement for the winter. They behaved a lot like your guest. It took a long time to get close enough to get ahold of one and a lot longer to get the older cat to come inside. I think if they're true ferals you might never be able to get close to them. Their survival instincts are too finely tuned for that.

If you need to get this fella to the vet a pet taxi trap might work. They're described elsewhere on these forums. The trick to keep stress on the cat to a minimum is to put a blanket over it as soon as you get the cat inside.

Check with your vet they might have clinics where they'll sterilize and innoculate the cat. We'll do that with our two visitors before we turn them loose again in the spring. Good luck. Keep us posted.
post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
Will check out the pet taxi trap. I've had many cats, but never a feral. Lacey was, but young enough to adapt. She slept on my husband's pillow with him, but hated to be held. Hid from any strangers. She passed from stomach cancer, tucked inside my sweat shirt. She refused to get in the crate to go to the vet to let her go. Decided it was her call. She passed peacefully inside my shirt with just a small sigh. She did it her way. Thanks for your help.
post #4 of 16
Hang in there with him. The stray cat that has been at my husband's office has finally come inside after 1 year! He has outdoor shelters and has previously come in for a little bit during the day but this week he just cried to come in and has not attempted to go back out. Right now he is in the print room, it is nice and warm and he is using the litter box but we are hoping to move him into a storage room that has a nice window and more room for him to move around. It will be a slow process as he does not let us touch him but no longer hisses.

If you have the time and it seems that you have a great spot for him, just try and give him space and let him come to you on his terms. Bless you for taking care of him and giving him a home. It doesn't sound like he wants to leave, he is just scared.

I don't know about your vet, but my vet will take a feral or stray if they are in a carrier. Just make sure you put a blanket over the carrier and he will feel more secure. He won't hold it against you-he knows he is in a good place with you! Good luck!
post #5 of 16
We have one former feral who, after almost three years inside, will occasionally let us scritch his chin. At vet time, we have to fool him into going into the bathroom, where there is nothing for him to hide behind or under. The first few times, he hissed but I was always able to get him into the carrier. At the vet's, he stays quiet and still and rushes back into the carrier when he's done.

The last time, when he realized he was in the bathroom alone with me, he looked up at me and then turned and went into the carrier on his own. Not happy but I think he finally understood it was going to happen anyway, might as well not make a fuss. I call that progress.

Keep up the good work. Treat him well, avoid too many changes and/or noise and he'll come around. He's warm, safe and has food and a bed. Lots more than some kitties have.
post #6 of 16
Have you tried at all just sitting in the garage and reading out loud from a book? I've heard that does help them get used to you. I tamed a former feral a few years ago, but it was fairly easy - only took about 3 months. But one of the things I did was share food with her. I would first lay it by me and eventually she would take it out of my hand. (Eventually she became pregnant, I took her to the vet, home, she had 8 kittens, and is now a firmly entrenched bed cat!)
post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for your sweet stories and words of encouragement. I was beginning to feel like a failure in gaining his trust. From reading here, he is behaving normal for a feral. He seems very content, like it's HIS garage and I'm in HIS space.

I never tried reading him a book. I usually sit a few feet away and tell him stories about anything and everything. I bought him a toy on a string. He was petrified of it. Turned his head and cringed down like he thought I was going to hurt him with it.

I'll have to talk to my vet about him. I've been with him for 30 years, but he is 50 minutes away. That's a long ride for a scared kitty. How do they get them out of the crate? Gloves? His nails are very sharp. Do they give them anything to calm them? How do they respond to being caged after neutered?
Maybe I could find someone closer that specializes in cats.

One more question, I read somewhere not to use direct eye contact. He always makes direct eye contact with me and doesn't seem scared. Should I avoid that? Thanks for helping.
post #8 of 16
Hello! As a long time (40 yr) cat owner with many "tamings" under the belt I congratulate you. You are doing fine. Please remember the cat moves at HIS pace not yours. It may be a lot longer before the boy relaxes more round you and allows petting.

Some are more tame than others to begin with temperment wise.

I have a colony of 14 ferals that live outside. And 4 former ferals that live with me. Let me share 2 of my ferals stories: Baby and Frodo's story.

Frodo was living outdoors, born outside to a semi feral mom, he got food
and would allow his caretake ONLY to pet him when he didn't "look" at her hand... Then he was trapped along with other outdoor cats and takent to the shelter because he was pooping in the sandbox at the apt. / townhome complex. Well. Long short - he was terrified when I got him. Had been spay/neutered and dupmed in a cage. His caretaker was gone, his familar scents were gone and he was indoors for the first time in his life!

He hid under a bed for 3 months. He hissed when I came near. But he WOULD play with a smiple string attached to a wand. (No bells or anthing just the string tied to the wand....) At 4 months he would come out to eat near me. I began to let him ouside. (He had been babygated into the big room, so he didn't disturb the resident cats.)

At 6 months he came up outside and looked at me and presented his back end for PETTING - and HE PURRED!! Huge break through. Now, I am working on picking him up. My BF can even do that sometimes. Huge huge progress you know!!

He still doesn't like strangers - he hides. however my pet sitter has cared for him now 3 times since March, and he no longer hides from her. He watches her v. interestedly. But she cannot approach and touch - he still hisses at her. I think after a few more pet sitting sessions he is going to allow pets!

Now Baby who was caught at 12 wks age and sent to be tamed by a "tamer" (keep in a cage, wrap in towel and handle often) did NOT tame. She became sweet but was sent from her tamer to someone who scared her. So much so she reverted to feral and they sent her back to me. I could not put her back in the colony she has genetically short legs and a huge fur coat that needs trimming etc. I believed she would be best with me - even if she did hide and was feral so I kept her thinking she'd never tame.

She hid for a couple of months, then would not allow touching (hisses and run away) when she did start emerging from hiding.

Finally, she allowed petting in June/July - 4 months after coming back to my house. She was allowed to roam freely in the house at that time - and since then has begun to visit me and my BF ONLY when we are in bed however or late at night. She will actively allow pets at that time. But she has a bit of "tude". She afraid of everyone else and will hide when she sees or hears them come in...

So it is highly dependent on the cat. Frodo of course won't dream of sleeping with me or getting on the bed and purring and getting petted. But he lets me pick him up and carry him inside and out. Baby won't EVER permit touching to pickup/carry (EVER!). But Baby does come and visit and purr at night... which one is more feral??

I think that you need to visit with the cat and get him used to your voice, engage him in play - get some REALLY good treats (freeze dried chicken for example) and tempt him with tidbits. Sit in garage and eat something like roasted chicken and throw him bits of it... anything to tempt him closer.

Play with a shoestring or simple crinkled ball of paper. Play is difficult for ferals, as they dont ever learn the concept of "play" for "Play's" sake...

Leave stinky pieces of your clothing at his/her feeding dish. A T shirt you workout and sweat in for example - to help him associate you with good things like F.O.O.D.

Should you need to get to a vet - starve him for 24 hrs, and use a COVERED have a heart trap with food trail to the back of the trap. (can only provide basics here, but could write a book on "how to trap" LOL).

I realize that this sounds harsh, but it can be one of the ONLY ways to get a semi feral or feral to a vet. And he does need his worming, fixing and shots.

The vet MAY have experience with ferals. If not - find a vet that DOES work with ferals. They have several techniques and tools to use to work with the feral cat. Sqeeze cages/boxes to help gently imobilize and restrain a feral, plus using injections to help releax or knock out for example. Plus they are all up to date on rabies so they don't worry about getting bitten etc. (though you want to avoid that if you can help it..)
post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 
You sure seem to have a lot of experience with ferals. I thought sure I'd feed him for a couple weeks and he'd be purring and rubbing against my leg, or at least the progress would slowly continue.

Your right, they all have different personalities, and I just have to be patient. I"ll put some of my clothes out there and spend more time with him. I can't bring him in the house. My dogs were great with the cats, but it's been 2 years now. If he were to hiss or claw them, I'm not sure what would happen.

They hear him meow sometimes and know he's there. I let them smell his cat box when I bring it in to clean. My female has met him. Her I trust. He has no fear of dogs. Barking doesn't phase him. I always knock to get them barking before they go out to give the wild life time to get out of their fenced in part of the yard. My males will kill anything wild. In hot pursuit, I just yell NO, and they stop instantly and come to me. I use to sit out with my indoor cats sometimes. The 3 dogs would come running, barking, look at them, smell them, turn around and leave. They knew they were family. I leave the garage door into the house part open when I go out to get something. The males have never tried to go out there and know he's there. They don't even care when he meows. They seem to have accepted him living there. Any experience with dogs and feral cats?

I'll have to start checking for a vet that is comfortable with ferals. How did you find one? Thanks so much for sharing the story of you kitties, and your help.
post #10 of 16
I think you are making great progress, don't get discouraged, sometimes it is one step forward, two steps back when dealing with ferals. I have a former feral that was so wild when I brought her in I was sure it was a huge mistake. She is now the sweetest girl, she LOVES to be petted-never picked up and she loves to be brushed. Within the last few weeks she has gained more confidence when company comes as now they can at least get a glimpse of her.

He is a lucky cat to have found you and with time and patience, it will all work out.

I am not sure about dogs and ferals in general, but it sure sounds like your dogs don't seem to mind his presence and if he were really afraid of them, he would probably never ventured into your yard. Wouldn't it be great for you if one day they would all get along?
post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thank you for your encouraging words. It would sure be sweet if one day the dogs and cat could all be together. I got my dogs as puppies, from the same litter. The cats were 8 and not impressed. One day the puppies accidently ran into my Siamese. He jumped up and bit them both in the side. He ruled.

From that day, my cats ate their food on the floor with the dogs staying a few feet away, staring at the dish but scared to death to touch it. We got a 3rd from that litter and he did the same. That continued for years till my Siamese passed. The dogs by then were 65 to 90 lbs. still scared of that cat who weighed 10 lbs. They would only go lick the plate after he very slowly had walked into another room, enjoying every moment of his control over them. Too funny to watch.
post #12 of 16
Every one of my 5 cats is dominant to the dogs. Well, actually I guess Smudge IS one of the dogs by the way he acts, but the dogs do give wide berth to the cats. The more aggressive (part border collie) dog will sit at the bottom of the stairs and whine for me if Clyde is sitting on the stairs.
post #13 of 16
The direct eye contact is usually a no-no with ferals - to them it's like a challenge. If you find yourself eye to eye with him, blink gently once or twice. That's like a warm smile to them. You are reassuring him you won't hurt him.

I still get goosebumps when my feral, Chester, blinks at me. He knows I'm on his side and is telling me so, even though I can't pet him for more than a nano-second and then only on his chin.
post #14 of 16
It took me 18 months to get Lucky to finally come inside, so you are doing well with the progress you've made in 9 months!

All of my cats were born feral and I've been working with ferals for close to 20 years now. My tips are based on behaviors between cats, which you adopt yourself to as a human.

Height is a form of domination. That's one of the reason why cats like tall cat condos, as they can climb up and look down on others. When you are with him, get down to his level, otherwise you are telling him that you are trying to dominate. Bring a rug or blanket to the garage with you and sit on the floor.

Direct eye contact is also threatening between cats, while eye blinking is a greeting. If you by chance make eye contact, either look away quickly, or do a slow eye blink at him. If he returns the blink, you know you are making progress with him.

Be as regular as you can with your feeding times. Cats respond positively to routine. If you feed wet, feed at the same time each day. Fill the water and dry food bowls at the same time each day. If you visit, do it at the same time each day.

Don't expect him to play. Offer toys and let him decide if he wants to play with them.

He is on his own schedule, not yours. I have an indoor feral born cat that at 12 years, still acts feral. I have others that tamed in a day. Never push yourself on them and let them come to you.
post #15 of 16
No real experience with cats/ferals and dogs - but here's a good link for a lady who taught her dogs (and rescues) not to be aggressive to cats. V. intensive training and you have to be a really good firm trainer. I will try and find it tomorrow and post the link. I have a BIG rottie boxer mix at my BFs,
that I helped find for him. Brutus loooves cats, he grew up w/ one and wants to chase but prob. won't hurt (his stub wags the whole time). He needs to learn fear of cats. Some cats know to stand their ground and NOT run - others run and trigger the chase instincts. Sounds like with your dogs you have ones that chase - so the cat must learn NOT TO RUN. I believe they may leave him alone as you have demonstrated it is NOT allowed to chase this one cat. Eventually it might even hold if the cat goes outside.

But it will take time, and as you know training!!! I'm not great with Bruti - sometimes Bruti doesn't listen, but Bruti is a pretty gentle giant 100 lbs of loving dog (big dog lovers adore him, he looks like a Cane Corso - brindle and white boxer markings, on a Roti body with a Cane style head, LOL) - who really just wants to please. I'm somewhere above him in the pack, being the alpha's female. He thinks his job is to protect me and boy is he ever alert when we go out walking, LOL.

We are working on him learning to leave the cats in the house alone.
Mine have learned to deal with Ms. Jebs the BFs other boxer - she's simply
terrified of the cats, having learned from a cat neighbor that cats are not
to be messed with, LOL. Claws you know! And tude! she absolutely ignores cats in the house and focuses on people. If cats get too near, she slowly
backs away and whines...

But Bruti is in a class by himself, just by virute of his energy and his sheer SIZE. We will have a job ahead of us!
post #16 of 16
Thread Starter 
You are all so helpful! I just went in the garage to get the cat's bowls to fill. He was sitting on his cardboard box under a work bench. I layed on the floor to be lower than him and blinked. Instantly he blinked back. I blinked back and he kept blinking slowly at me, so I did the same. I felt like we were really talking to each other.

He doesn't seem to want to be up high like all my other cats. He's always in a cardboard box, or on top of one, or in his bed, unless we open the garage door. Then he hides under a tool cabinet. There is 1 tool cabinet I put boxes near hoping he would jump up top because he could look out the window then, and sun himself. It's dusty and I keep checking for paw prints, but there is none.

I was happy when I took my female doggie out to meet him, he did not run. Laid in the box and did his little hiss and teeth show when she wanted to sniff him, and held his ground. I knew my girl wouldn't hurt him even if he ran. It's the boys I worry about. My girl has an unreal nose. I hide food on the refrigerator, and the boys walk right past. Her nose goes right up there. Outside, she sniffs and points, then the boys go for the kill. Never her. They are 3/4 Shepherd, with a papered Rotti for a grandma. Would lick to death a stranger coming in the door, but sound so mean no one would. A wild animal running just triggers their basic instinct. 1 shake and it's over. I'm glad they seem fine with him in the garage, but going slow with them meeting.

All your advice is greatly appreciated, as is your sweet stories about your babies. Thanks for all your help. I need it. I am determined to hear this kitty purr. By the way, he has 2 names. Sweetie Pie, till I see teeth. Then it's Grouchy Pants. Have to figure out how to post his pic here. He has no fear of camera flashes.
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