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Feral in training attacks my indoor cats

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I have a feral black cat who lived exclusively outdoors for 3 years until this winter when he got sick and surrendered himself to my care. I took him in and have made remarkable progress with his health and in domesticating him during his 6 weeks in the basement. He is sweet as can be and loves sitting in my lap for long periods and will even put up with being flipped over like a baby or thrown over my shoulder.

I have tried letting him up into the living space for brief periods where I have two indoor cats who are both "marshmallows". If either of the the two indoor cats starts to approach him for a closer look, he goes straight into attack mode - right for the neck - no hesitation, hissing or warning call.

I have him upstairs by himself for an hour or two each day while the other two are confined and he is as sweet as can be. I have installed a screen door between the basement and the upstairs so that everybody can see and smell each other. Now that both of the upstairs cats have been attacked by him, they avoid the screen door by about a three-four foot radius.

Any ideas on how to ease his transition into indoor life with my other two? I just know he will be an asset once he overcomes his aggressive tendencies.
post #2 of 15
Read the several suggestions on cat introduction in the stickies above.
It seems that he has made himself top cat in your home. You may have to introduce your indoors to him which unfortunately should have been the other way around.
post #3 of 15
First of all, thank you for rescuing this kitty.

Perhaps a stupid question - but he has been neutered, right?

Three years is a long time for him to have been outside, and it's wonderful he's adapted so well to being inside!

There ARE things you can do to help - but the number one thing is just going to be time.

The cat intro piece Yayi refers to is here: http://www.thecatsite.com/Behavior/4...cing-Cats.html

It's a good piece, but there's lots of other ideas.

1) Do you have an upstairs room in which black feral can be confined with screen door? May make proximity issues easier. ????????????

2) Feliway plug-ins or spray. Feliway mimics the "friendly" markers in cats' cheeks, and it helps promote a calmer environment. Do NOT spray near litter boxes or where they scratch.

3) Bach's Rescue Remedy (Flower Essences) for all the kitties. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't - but when it works, it helps. If it works, it'll help destress existing cats, may help aggression in feral.

4) Rub down all kitties with clean rags (best if washed with no fabric softener). Put existing kitty scented rags next to each other under food dish of feral. Put feral scented rag under food dishes of existing kitties.

4) Swap cat beds between them - get feral scented stuff upstairs in places your kitties associate with comfort and happiness. Get existing kitty scented stuff in places feral is happy.

5) If they all react to catnip, get new catnip toys. Give one to each - let them drool all over them. Give a second one a few days later to feral. Then put them all away for a week, keeping track of which one went to who. Then give each of your kitties one of the catnip toys that was drooled on by your feral, and vice versa. (Don't leave catnip toys out - the cats become desensitized to it, so always put them away for a week or two after the day they were out).

Do all of this for at least a few weeks before you even begin "encounters" between them again.

You can try getting creative with this, but here's the basic jist of introductions. The idea is to get the cats associating each others' smells with things they love, with things that are happy and comfortable. With treats, with play, with brushes, with pets - whatever motivates them. If they all like being brushed, brush feral - then use that brush on your kitties. Etc. Scent is the best way to do this. Give it AT LEAST a few weeks before trying actual interaction again.

After that couple of weeks (or month or whatever), instead of introing them again, you may want to "swap places" for a few hours. Let feral upstairs, take kitties downstairs. Let them explore the other scents. Maybe do this each day for a week or so.

When attempting reintro with actual interaction, I'm not sure. I would consider a large crate or cage for the feral in whatever room the kitties are most comfortable. Maybe for 15 minutes or half an hour. Let them see/smell him (if they even get near) - but the idea is if you do this daily for a while, they have the ability to see him as a non-threat. If there's hissing, give it a break, try again a day or two later, and just keep up with the scent swapping. Get more rags, put treats down on feral scented kitty rags for your existing cats.

The idea is also to reinforce the positives - you want your existing kitties to think having the new cat around is a total party. They get extra treats when he or his scent is near. He gets extra treats when he doesn't hiss at them from his cage or at the screen door.

The idea is also to stop all interaction when he's being aggressive. Lunging at your kitties means he goes back to his room or back downstairs with no attention from you for a while. It's like a "time out" with a young child.

Now - all of that said - they ARE going to have to work out the "cat status" thing, and as Yayi pointed out, it sure looks like he's going to establish his place as alpha. Some fighting is normal - however, having been outside for three years and not "knowing" "polite" cat communication, let's call it, you are going to have to limit the interaction and give more time to this. But at some point, if no one is being actually hurt, you will have to let him establish his dominance (if that's what's happening).

Also - do you have vertical space? In dealing with new intros and cat hierarchies, a REAL help is LOTS of vertical space. Cat trees are great. Don't know what your set up is, but if we owned a house, we would so get creative with it. Check out this stuff: http://www.katwallks.com/ Also consider PMing Skippymjp - he's gotten really creative with rubbermaid containers. I can't figure the right search words to find pics of his great rubbermaid container condos, but I'm sure he'd be happy to share his ideas in that regard. But the more vertical space you have the better. If they're not used to going vertical, get your existing kitties playing on the new vertical spaces so they're totally comfortable running/jumping up. Also, with the ability for the alpha (whoever it's going to be) get up high also helps reduce physical stress of establishing that cat heirarchy.

We just adopted in November a semi-feral kitty that had lived outside for 1 1/2 years or a little more. He wanted to play with our cats - he did this by lunging at them. He was not attacking them. (Though if we were new to this it sure would have looked like he was attacking them). It took about 3 months for him to "learn" that he needs to be less aggressive about it. Our existing gang aren't marshmallows though, so they'd bonk him back, grapple with him and roll by running away. That didn't wind up with what he wanted - continued interaction. So he's learned.

But when you do get to the point you think interaction is worth a go, keep an empty can with coins in it handy. SHAKE IT if he lunges at someone - it startles them out of the "fight" or whatever it is. Do not EVER attempt to break up a fight (or play that looks like a fight) by picking up one of the cats - get them startled out of the grapple first or you may get hurt. Then give him his time out, and reassure your existing kitties.

Hope this helps! Love it if you keep us posted!

Laurie
post #4 of 15
OH! Another scent swapping thing you can do. I don't know how many litter boxes you have, but as you ultimately want the three kitties to live upstairs, have four boxes up there. If you've got one in the basement, add one more now. Scoop out a pee and poop from your existing kitties, and put it in the new litter box in the basement. Leave it there for a day and scoop it up with the rest of the box the next day. Same thing - scoop out a pee and a poop from your feral, and put it in the new box you put upstairs. Leave it for a day and clean it out with the regular scooping the next day. Keep doing this every other day thing. While this isn't a "good thing" association scent-swapping, it helps ALL of them just get used to the "new" cat scents being around them.

Laurie
post #5 of 15
Dan, you can socialize this cat, but domestication will probably not happen, if it does it takes a long time. There is a vast difference in behavior between socialized and domesticated cats. he is exhibiting pure alpha behavior and going for the neck is a mating ritual. I am guessing he has been neutered late in life and could be just responding to the testerone still raging within him. This may pass in time but may be replaced by having an active sprayer in your home. If you believe he is better off alone, then leave him in a room or section of the house and screen it off with a door with pet-proof screening. That's what we do here until we see the posturing and battle signs vanishing, then we open it up a crack and kitty comes out and joins the group.

I would not advise using catnip as in stray cats, this can cause aggression and it sounds like you already have enough of that going on. Just give it time- they do come around, but the use of a screen door between the new and the resident cats helps a great deal.

Good luck- you are welcome to PM me if you need further help.
post #6 of 15
Dan, hissy is our most experienced rescue member, so if you need to, please do take her up on her offer of PMing her. I would ALWAYS take her advice over mine, so skip the catnip!

Laurie
post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 
Answers to several questions:

Coby (the feral) was only neutered about one month ago on his first trip to the vet ever. He also got immunized and treated for Cat Flu and severe ear mite infestations. The vet told me to keep him quarantined for 3 weeks due to the ear mites, so once that time was up - I attempted two brief (disastrous) visits upstairs with the two indoor cats.

Coby does not seem to have a problem with spraying. He has adjusted to having his own litterbox in the basement quite well. Also, on his visits upstairs (while the indoor cats are locked safely away) he has felt very free to use any of their litterboxes - so he has left HIS scent for all to smell.

The indoor cats have known of Coby for the last three years through my patio door. When I would leave the door ajar for them to sniff each other, his reaction was usually growling.

I wanted to add that Coby has had to defend his turf against raccoons and possums who routinely raided his outdoor dishes after sundown. The raccoons sometimes show up in packs of 4-6 and would feel free to try and enter his shelter (he would exit and stay gone until they left). I am thinking that is why he is so aggressive.

Coby has shared cat beds with the indoor cats and vice versa depending on where any one of the beds is needed or ends up. They have all also used mutual brushes. I think they are all pretty familiar with each other's scents.

I like the idea of placing him upstairs in an open cage so that he can be examined by the indoor cats at close range with no consequences. Now that he has been upstairs for an hour or two daily for the last two weeks, he is very eager to make the move upstairs and waits by the screen door continually to be let out.
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks LDG for the interesting article on scent swapping.

I have tried every possible combination of room swapping I can think of. Like some sort of Rubik's Cube - locking one in this room, letting another one out from that room. There's a whole lot of smelling going on. The cat beds are moving around like musical chairs. And with all the investigations - it seems everybody is very set on leaving little messages in each other's litter boxes.

I proceeded ahead with the giant cage idea and borrowed a HUGE dog crate from a neighbor. I have been putting Coby into it for extended periods - today twice for 1-2 hours each time. My senior cat Kevin sits politely several feet away offering calm encouragement. Kinney the kitten races around constantly playing with anything in sight and makes Coby (the feral) nervous with his quick movements. I guess the more we do this, the more desensitized they all will get. Coby now waits almost continually behind the screen door from the basement for another dose of being upstairs - either into the cage or on one of his "free" sessions with the indoor cats locked away.

I can see progress. The gutteral growls are diminishing and baby Kinney was bold enough to hiss at him today through the bars rather than cowering in fear. I guess I will keep doing this until everybody gets bored with it.
post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan32 View Post
I have tried every possible combination of room swapping I can think of. Like some sort of Rubik's Cube - locking one in this room, letting another one out from that room. There's a whole lot of smelling going on. The cat beds are moving around like musical chairs. And with all the investigations - it seems everybody is very set on leaving little messages in each other's litter boxes.
Yeah - had to laugh.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan32 View Post
I proceeded ahead with the giant cage idea and borrowed a HUGE dog crate from a neighbor. I have been putting Coby into it for extended periods - today twice for 1-2 hours each time. My senior cat Kevin sits politely several feet away offering calm encouragement. Kinney the kitten races around constantly playing with anything in sight and makes Coby (the feral) nervous with his quick movements. I guess the more we do this, the more desensitized they all will get.
That is exactly the idea.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan32 View Post
Coby now waits almost continually behind the screen door from the basement for another dose of being upstairs - either into the cage or on one of his "free" sessions with the indoor cats locked away.
Guess he isn't THAT nervous in the cage.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan32 View Post
I can see progress. The gutteral growls are diminishing and baby Kinney was bold enough to hiss at him today through the bars rather than cowering in fear. I guess I will keep doing this until everybody gets bored with it.
And they will. Sounds like things are going really well!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks for the update. Please keep us posted.

Any pictures?

Laurie
post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 
Coby is now out in the cage for extended periods of 2-4 hrs. each, plus two sessions of "totally free" time of around an hour each when the others are locked up. I have also installed a Feliway atomizer onto his cage which has been active for the last several days. He seems like he is making progress, but yesterday as I was transporting him between cage and basement he wiggled out and went right for Kinney again (no harm done, Kinney runs very fast).

Coby has now lunged at Kevin and Kinney more than once and he is not making any friends at this rate. The two indoor boys often avoid him and leave him just sitting alone in the cage (and room) by himself. To counter this, I have been trying to think of little activities we can all do through the bars together - treats are enjoyed by all, but toys present a problem. I don't think that Coby knows much about toys (or friends), so waving things around leaves him quizzical and annoyed, especially if kitten starts jumping around in close range. I have tried calmer toys like loose feathers or ribbons with limited success.

He gets very agitated when either of them circles the cage and assumes the attack role doing the little dance a cat does when it is about to pounce on prey. This to me is not very encouraging. I guess I'm running out of ideas other than to keep up this routine which is now well into the second week. I am wondering at what point to expect results or give up hope.

Attachment 13599
post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan32 View Post
Answers to several questions:

Coby (the feral) was only neutered about one month ago on his first trip to the vet ever.
I'm certainly not an expert on this but I would think that a month might not be enough time for all the hormones to have subisided. If I'm right, and the hormone production isn't totally slowed yet, you may see some decreased aggression as a result.

It's just a guess but I know I'm a slave to hormones from time to time!
post #12 of 15
Honestly, for a kitty that lived outside for three years - it can take a long, long time.

If you think the cage time isn't worth it, perhaps he'll just be your basement kitty.

Our Billy only lived outside for 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 years, but was very people friendly. It's taken him five months to learn how to (mostly) play nice (edited to add: with the other kitties).

Laurie
post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
Update on "feral in training", Coby: It is now week seven of the cage experiments where Coby spends his days in the dog crate in the middle of the living room and his nights behind the screen door to the basement. He is very addicted to the upstairs routine and shows zero interest in returning to his outdoor life. The Feliway atomizer has been on continuously for 30 days mounted to a stick above the cage, so I am sure that Coby is getting a good dose of the stuff if it works.

What's interesting is that during this time, Coby has short free periods where the other two indoor cats are still in the room (no longer locked away). He understands what I want from him and manages to play along and ignore the two indoors for a time, looking up endearingly at me with a "look how good I'm doing" sort of look. But somewhere along the line, he invariably loses control and races unexpectedly after one of the indoor cats in hot pursuit. All I have to do is call his name loudly, he stops, he knows he is bad boy and returns back to the cage.

It's almost like he's a compulsive gambler or something. He knows what I want, he thinks he can do better, but at some point he just loses it and charges.

I have tried group playtime with Coby and Kinney (the kitten), but toys seem to get Coby more agitated, so I have stopped that as a therapy. What's funny is in the mornings when I open the screen door, Coby comes running out from the basement to the cage door with the two "indoors" waiting there next to the cage door for his arrival and often there is some personal contact between them all with no ill effects.

I am wondering how long to continue this routine (or to give up). He has now nipped or chased Kinney about 10-12 times - often initially looking like he wants to play, but then turning into an outright chase. I am running out of ideas.
LL
post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 
I am happy to announce that my (once) feral cat Coby is out on parole after serving 18 weeks in the slammer. I started giving him 5 minute breaks out of the cage about 8 weeks ago where I hovered over him and physically stopped him from attacking, gradually 10 minute breaks, then with my back turned while I did the dishes, eventually went out to the store and came back and nobody was dead, finally several weeks of him being out during the day but put in the basement at night. Earlier this week, I just "forgot" to put him in the cage for the day or the basement at night.. I have used four Feliway atomizer refills.

Once-feral Coby still has a fading desire to chase Kinney the kitten, but it is more of a frolic than an actual chase with an intent to harm. I think poor Coby never had that littermate bonding where he learned how to play. Kinney had something to teach him in that regard (how to act a fool). My indoor boys are still a little untrusting of him, but I suppose that will dissapate in time.

Just to prove that there's hope for three year old feral serial attackers who want to reform. I can see that he wants very much to be part of the pack.

PS. I have found it very interesting watching the litterbox action. I think all three frequented each others litterbox more than their own. Finally, the two indoor boys boldly walked into the cage (with Coby watching) and used the tiny litterbox in there as a show of defiance. They also seem to like eating out of each others bowls.
post #15 of 15
I missed this thread the first time around and just read thru it now. If it only took you 18 weeks to make this much progress with Coby, then my hat is off to you. Some feral cats never really come around entirely, so this is tremendous progress!!

Thank you for not giving up on this boy!!!
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