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First time foster.. VERY confused!!

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
(http://www.thecatsite.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=195628)
Sorry this is kind of long! I am so grateful to each and every one of you who reads through it!

An elderly elderly couple came into Petsmart to surrender their cat while I was there adopting another cat. The rescue had nowhere for the cat to go, so they asked me to foster- I accepted. One of the guys there held her in his lap for a very long time. While she was obviously very uncomfortable and scared, she didn't growl/hiss, scratch or bite.

According to the couple, she was more-or-less stuck to a cactus when they rescued her. (Don't know what age exactly, but she is 8/9 months old now.) She recovered with vet treatment and they kept her, however, their GSD hates cats. So for the past six months she's lived in a cage.

FF>> back to today.. I tried to let her settle in my room without any other people or pets. She pretty much went nuts- literally running around and hissing at invisible nothings. So I put her in the bathroom instead, thinking the wide open space might have been too overwhelming for her? It seemed to calm her down a little bit. She met Pumpkin & didn't like him, but didn't care about him either. What really blows me away and breaks my heart is that this cat pets herself with inanimate objects (rubbing against the cat box, corners, toilet, etc.). (I know all cats do this, but with her it's really extreme - not quite sure how to explain it - and it's the only time she won't growl or hiss.) When she wants and allows me to pet her, she will rub against me, too, like a cat acts when they like/want to be pet.. but she hisses and growls the entire time. Her body language is "man, those scratches feel great!", even rolls over on her back to seemingly invites tummy rub.. but she's talking an entirely different story. She did the same thing when I was feeding her. She'll also give me "lovey eyes".. the slow, closed eye blinking.. but still growling deeply.

Awhile ago I went back in to see if her water/food needed filling or the box needed cleaned. At some point she decided to go after me and got my hand with her teeth pretty good. Pumpkin (Mr. I Love All Cats!) almost kicked her a** when she pulled that. But then she rubbed all over me.. hissing. And now I can't so much as crack the door without her going into attack mode.

Fosters, shelter/rescue workers.. I have no doubt that living cooped up in a cage for so long while a drooling dog circled it has had a major impact on this cat. But you guys who have experience, I'd very much appreciate your wisdom: what is happening here & what do I do? She can't be in the general population right now as she is much too unpredictable and volatile. The inconsistent body language/vocals are bizarre and have me completely stumped! I feel so bad for this girl.. just want to help her & not hand her off if I don't have to.
post #2 of 21
Keeping her in the smaller room is a good idea, I think. Talking a lot to her without trying to touch her might help. Also, be sure she has some small place to hide. Either a carrier, or a small box, some such thing she can get in.
post #3 of 21
Wow! She definitely sounds like she is psychologically and emotionally traumatized. I agree with Mike. Just take it slow with her, give her a hiding place even in that small bathroom. Sit down in there if you can, talk to her, take a book in there and read to her. Let her come to you and interact. You can also try some Feliway so that the space smells "friendly."

We have a cat in our storefront who spent many months in a cage before one of our members "sprung" her. She is soooooo sweet but terrified to come out. And she rubs and rubs and rubs and rubs on everything in her cage at the store -- she has two cages with a passthrough so she can move around. Now she rubs on me, too. All over my face... licked the tip of my nose. I also got her to eat some wet food. But she also bit my finger... and I wasn't doing anything... turned away to talk to another volunteer. She bit (skin not broken), I yelped and she ran into the next cage. Go figure. It's taken a couple of weeks for her to feel secure enough to put her paws on me.

It's going to take a lot of patience and time for Somebunny to come around. But I know you can do it.
post #4 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by AddieBee View Post
Wow! Sit down in there if you can, talk to her, take a book in there and read to her.
That's a trick I do a lot when I pet sit shy animals. It's a great way to give them some company without forcing yourself on them. If she approaches you while you're reading just ignore her and let her check you out all she wants. Keep reading and don't touch and she'll come around faster than if you try to pet her.

I agree with the others. This cat has been through a lot and she sounds very stressed. We have a cat at the shelter right now who did the "lovely eyes" and growled at the same time. Now that she's settled in she's very relaxed and very sweet. I think this kitty you're fostering just needs plenty of time and stability. I'd keep the other pets away from her for quite a while. Just let her see things are going to be calm and stable and that you don't expect much from her. Once she has a routine and a territory you'll be able to see her real personality.
post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 
To each of you, I really appreciate your guidance through the valuable advice, suggestions & experiences you've shared with me! I'll be applying each one diligently & am looking forward to the healing results! Thank you so much! Of course my first foster had to be a challenge , so I'll be back again the next time I get stuck along the way!
post #6 of 21
Everybody's advice is right - just take it slow and steady. This is all about building trust, and the fastest way to do that is to help her understand you want NOTHING from her. In fact, not only do you want nothing from there, you are there to meet her needs. Making her happy is something to deal with later.

1) The most important thing in socializing a feral/scared kitty is to turn off your clock. Every kitty goes at their own pace, and we can't force love on them (no matter how much we want to!)

2) Just remember that the main thing is it is all about building trust. And there are lots of things you can do to help that process.

She needs to be able to make whatever space she's in "hers," because cats are all about territory - and having a "safe" space - a hidey space - is pretty important. The bathroom works, but when possible, a little larger space might be more comfortable for both of you.

Wherever she winds up, spend as much time in the room with her as you can - but doing other stuff and ignoring her. Sew, sing, read out loud, work on a laptop - the idea is mainly to just let her get used to you, used to the new smells, the new sounds, the new environment. And let her take her time to understand you - people - are not a threat. That's the first step. To "teach" her you want absolutely nothing from her.

Cats are by nature curious, so the more you ignore her, the more curious she'll get. And the more you DON'T pet her, the more you DON'T reach out at her, the more trusting she'll become. Tuxedo, because he was so feral, is the only kitty we did it "right" with (that first year). We waited until he headbumped us - and the difference down the road in his interaction with us (and other people) is amazing. The other kitties we forced love on - and they were good with it, they purred, etc. But none of them are as trusting and as loving as Tuxie is now. Don't get me wrong - they love us - but you can just tell the difference.

It also REALLY helps to have a schedule. I cannot impress this upon you enough. Have a schedule for when you change her water, when you fill her food dish, when you scoop the litter, &etc. If she free feeds, I would definitely add an evening meal of wet food. It really helps them "friendly" up to get associating you with food.

Knock on the door gently, tell her you're coming in.

Don't look at her in the eyes - this is a sign of aggression. Look at her forehead, over her head, wherever, but not directly in the eyes.

When you hang out in her room (fine if this has no schedule), sit sideways to her, not facing her. This way you're not threatening. In a bathroom it might be hard - but if she's down on the floor, sit on the floor.

When she's not as scared of you, you can try introducing a wand toy. Again - don't look at her, and be sideways to her. If she doesn't go for it, she's not ready yet. But you can also try baby food on a spoon. Hold it out - again sitting sideways to her. Don't do anything but let her eat off the spoon. This will also help her get comfortable with the idea that you mean "good things."

You can also get a couple of t-shirts REALLY sweaty. Put one under her food dish. Put one in her bed. These will also help her come to associate your smell with good and comfortable things.

The main thing is to move slowly, deliberately, do nothing that seems threatening, give her her space and time, let her get curious about you, get her to associate your scent with things she likes and wants - and no matter how hard it is, don't force yourself on her. When she finally comes over and headbumps you or wants to be petted, your heart will completely melt.

It is SO HARD to not want to scoop them up and love all over them. But you'll find that the more you push, the longer things will take. ...and the more time you spend with her, ignoring her - not wanting anything from her - not even wanting interaction - the faster she'll "jump over" that trust hump.

You may also want to consider a Feliway plug-in for her room.

Such a wonderful thing you're doing!

PLEASE post any questions and updates!

Laurie
post #7 of 21
I can't add anything useful to all this great advice, but I wanted to wish you luck and give you props for taking this poor girl home. The people who brought her in obviously meant well, but you'd think they'd know that confining her in a cage for so long would be damaging. Eesh!
post #8 of 21
...and I don't know if Stefan frequents this forum, but he always has great advice too.

When you're in the room, at cat height, do stuff they do. Yawn, stretch, - even consider lying down and taking a nap (OK, maybe hard in the bathroom!).... but there is NOTHING less threatening than a sleeping human - especally one that yawns and stretches. If she does move out of the bathroom into a larger room (when Moose is ready to move out ), maybe grab a sleeping bag and spend a night or two in the room with her. Or if it is a guest bedroom, just sleep on the bed in "her" room.

Laurie
post #9 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by motoko9 View Post
I can't add anything useful to all this great advice, but I wanted to wish you luck and give you props for taking this poor girl home. The people who brought her in obviously meant well, but you'd think they'd know that confining her in a cage for so long would be damaging. Eesh!
Thank you for the well-wishes! Yeah, it is a "duh" thing, just glad she came to terms & brought her in to the rescue instead of one of the kill shelters. Other than having her live in a cage, Somebunny was taken excellent care of & extremely clean/healthy. The woman was truly heartbroken over the whole mess and acknowledged her mistake more than once.. Wish I would have gotten her information so she could know how happy Somebunny is in the future.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LDG View Post
When you're in the room, at cat height, do stuff they do. Yawn, stretch, - even consider lying down and taking a nap
A lot of what you've been saying I already knew about dogs.. just never attributed these things to felines! Like calming signals (yawning/stretching), not facing them directly, not looking directly into their eyes, etc.. I guess it's universal language for most species - including humans! So interesting!
post #10 of 21
One quick one you might not know.... when (if) you stretch your hand out to her, do it palm down. This is the more non-threatening to kitties. With dogs, I'm sure you already know it's palm up.

Laurie
post #11 of 21
You've gotten such great advice - Laurie is definitely one of our greatest feral resources!

A schedule is a source of comfort for ferals/scared cats. Do everything (food, water, litter - things that would move into her personal space) on a schedule, even on weekends. You already know from your own cats how good they are at telling time!

Music can help calm her frayed nerves. If possible, set up a radio (satellite would be best - no commercials) or CD player with classical music. For some reason, ferals really like harp music; it calms them almost immediately. You can find some cheap CDs of classical music (there seem to always be some kind of compilation in the sale section) if you don't already have some. Give her a night light, too. Bright light can be intimidating - she knows she has the advantage in low light and she'll feel more comfortable.

When you enter, if she is still lunging at you, make a shield for yourself with cardboard. Doesn't have to be fancy. If she does try to attack you, she'll bouce off unharmed and you stay safe too. Gives you the advantage of feeling safer too, because if she senses you are uneasy with her she will be uneasy too and more likely to fight instead of flight when she is scared.

She may or may not actually be feral, but fear brings out the feral tendencies. She's definitely been traumatized, and she is in that fight or flight mode. Hopefully it won't take as long to earn her trust, but it will definitely be just as rewarding when you do!
post #12 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by LDG View Post
...and I don't know if Stefan frequents this forum, but he always has great advice too.
Laurie
Oh, thanks. *blushing*

I saw just now this thread...

My piece of advice here will be what you Laurie already did mentioned: Feliway.
Hers excessive rubbing against everything IS self-using of a natural Feliway. Apparently she needs it, lots of it.
Using a Feliway diffuser will lessen some strain on her.

Slow classical music on low volume, as mentioned by someone, could also help some I think.


In some of the next steps, if you have a friendly resident-cat, (you mentioned a resident, right?). If she can get pal with him. (this will be easier when she does have this Feliway-diffuser). And thus she can also observe the interaction between you and the resident - and learn from this.

I think part of the problem is she was confined so long, so is unsure on the natural behaviour... Helping her with the patterns.

Good luck!
post #13 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by LDG View Post
...and I don't know if Stefan frequents this forum, but he always has great advice too.

When you're in the room, at cat height, do stuff they do. Yawn, stretch, - even consider lying down and taking a nap (OK, maybe hard in the bathroom!).... but there is NOTHING less threatening than a sleeping human - especally one that yawns and stretches. If she does move out of the bathroom into a larger room (when Moose is ready to move out ), maybe grab a sleeping bag and spend a night or two in the room with her. Or if it is a guest bedroom, just sleep on the bed in "her" room.

Laurie
Oooops - didn't make it clear in that post that we got these suggestions from Stefan many years ago.

Laurie
post #14 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by valanhb View Post
The fact that she's playing is a super good sign. And even that she's being bi-polar. To me, it shows that she's fighting within herself. "Do I trust this lady? Yes. NO. Well, maybe she is ok...she played with me. Wait, NO! I don't know her!! But this place is nice and warm and I have room to move around and play..."
..I know this is from her photo thread, but I got such a kick out of it!! After reading that paired with StefanZ's comment.. :
Quote:
Originally Posted by StefanZ View Post
My piece of advice here will be what you Laurie already did mentioned: Feliway.
Hers excessive rubbing against everything IS self-using of a natural Feliway. Apparently she needs it, lots of it.
Using a Feliway diffuser will lessen some strain on her.
..they both fit together so well and have allowed me to understand her even more.

Thanks a lot you guys.. there is no such thing as receiving too much advice & insight!
post #15 of 21
So how're things going?

Laurie
post #16 of 21
Thread Starter 
Well, they are going.

She's been doing pretty great! Her purr motor is always running.. she loves playing with the other kitties. Since she's been showing so much curiosity lately about life outside of the bathroom (including stretching her arms out from under the door as faaaaaaar as possible ), I decided it was a good time for her to move into a bedroom. Because she's prone to panic and not a big fan of having four paws off the floor, I was going to use the pet carrier if she didn't mind it.. and she didn't.. until I started closing the second door.. think kitty tornado in a box! She went psycho before escaping in a flurry of claws that tore me up in the process. Ugh.. really dumb on my part. But she forgave me & a couple of days later I managed to carry her to the bedroom. She didn't come out from under the bed for two days - not to eat, drink or go potty.. she almost looked frozen in place. She's become good buds with Johnboy & others, but they didn't seem to help. Once back in the bathroom she relaxed & went back to being her old self.. followed by 48 hours of stress related diarrhea. So instead of moving her, I'm leaving the bathroom door open so she can come & go at her own pace. (She's even scared of the door being open.)

The rescue has given me full responsibility in finding her a home. Since she's classified as "unadoptable", has no adoption fee, is already spayed and very healthy, I've honestly been considering just adopting her myself. Foster Meowmy FAIL. She's become pretty attached to Johnboy (who has worked wonders with her) & Billy was even playing with her yesterday. If she can't cope with a change of rooms, I'm worried that a complete change in environment would be so detrimental to her progress. The only problem is that she is terrified of my dogs.

Maybe I'm just trying to justify keeping a cute kitty , but I had a feeling our meeting wasn't a coincidence. I hardly travel away from home, let alone drive over thirty minutes away; how both myself & her owners just happened to go to that particular Petsmart when they would have been turned away. I'm coming up with a million reasons to keep her.. and two barking reasons not to.

Oh boy.. this time last year I had two cats. OOPS!
post #17 of 21
I'm SO glad that she's doing great!! She's really captured my heart. Just her whole story and how pretty she is doesn't hurt either.

She may not be feral, but with her trauma/abuse with/by the dog she has so many feral characteristics. One of my (and Laurie's) good friends is a feral super-woman, and she also has worked with some severely abused cats. One of her abuse success stories was a black cat who was literally crucified on Halloween and rescued. Severely abused. But she has said that working with abused cats and ferals is very similar. It's all about working through the trust issues, the difference is that with the abused cats they don't transfer the trust to another person as easily as ferals. Ferals are taught not to trust humans by their cat-mothers and the colony, even if they have no experience with them. Abused cats learn the hard way not to trust. Not sure what that would mean with your two dogs; obviously they can't understand what she's been through and that they need to treat her with velvet paws.

That is also to say that the bathroom is her safe place, and moving her to another room takes away her safe place in her mind. Opening the door when you can supervise and letting her come out on her terms is definitely the right way to go. Is there any way to block off the area from your dogs, at least for the time being?
post #18 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by valanhb View Post

That is also to say that the bathroom is her safe place, and moving her to another room takes away her safe place in her mind. Opening the door when you can supervise and letting her come out on her terms is definitely the right way to go. Is there any way to block off the area from your dogs, at least for the time being?
Great advice. I was going to say the same thing but you beat me to it!

I too have justified keeping a rescue. Best decision I've ever made!
post #19 of 21
We have a cat who was born to a feral mother who has her own room! Our big male is madly in love with her and she thinks he has cooties, so the only place she can be to avoid temper tantrums (she's a torti) is her own room. Her brother spends 85% of his time under our bed.

They are who they are - love them for that. If your only problem is the dogs, keep them out of her space - and that space may or may not expand as she gets more confident.

Just keep up the good work - you definitely fit my definition of an angel!
post #20 of 21
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Laurie
post #21 of 21
Just checking in... Any updates?

Laurie
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