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Is it time to bring him indoors? What do you think?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Hey guys, I'm new to the forum

I've been living with mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, everything since I'm 3 years old, now I'm 19, so I have a few years experience. I breed reptiles on my own time. Right now we have 3 dogs, 4 cats and 5 lizards (the lizards being mine, as is one of the cats, Venus, who's a diabetic but I got him into remission and I should mention that the only reason we HAVE the cats is because of me, my parents are not very fond of them, though they love them, but I'd rather not get any more into detail about that)..

Anyways, one of our cats is a feral, he was born outdoors 13 years ago in a litter of 3, the mother and 2 other brothers have all passed on. Garfield is this cat's name. We've always taken care of him, he's had his shots, he has a cat house with heat lamps, twice daily food and ample affection day and night (especially at night when I go outside to sit with him, he protects me from the raccoons and skunks LOL). Over this past year I've noticed his jaw has been hanging open occasionally, and he just looks looks like he's aging over all. He moves slower than he used to, though we still find the occasional dead rodent on our stoop, he's not as active or with it as he used to be. He relies mostly on his sense of smell when I give him treats or even food as he has trouble seeing short distances too. He also gets into what are seemingly nightly altercations (even if it's just one paw to the face) with other cats and mammals.. He's been outdoors his entire life, but out winters here go down to -45C sometimes, and we get at the very least a good 3-4 feet of snow. I worry he may get stuck somewhere this winter and not be able to get out during heavy snow fall, or he may not see a car coming due to his poor eye sight, etc.

So my question is, at this point in his life, would it be unfair to him to bring him indoors (since he's had free roam his entire life) or should we maybe bring him in on colder/stormy days and let him go out after the storm type thing, or what? All of our indoor cats are declawed, so if we brought him in, he would have to either live in one room (not really fair) or wear nail caps of sorts, unless there are other options you could offer. I wouldn't want to jeopardize the safety of our current indoor pets however I feel Garfield is at the end of the line and he may not survive this winter, especially with the weird change in climate/weather we've been experiencing lately.

Any help is greatly appreciated, thanks so much!
post #2 of 6
I don't have enough experience to make suggestions about what you should do with Garfield. I do want to comment on what a tough old boy is.
post #3 of 6
So touching. I would definitely get him to a vet. Whatever's happening, it may be something you can do something about.

As to bringing him inside... I really don't know. I know the rule of thumb is that ferals don't adjust to being brought inside if they've lived outside (as ferals) for three years. But he's not truly a feral at this point. He's a pet that's been living outside.

You could try bringing him in and see what happens. If you do decide to do this, he MUST be contained to one room for some period of time. He's got to make that space his territory before you "unleash" the entire house on him.

Declawed and cats with claws live just fine together. The issue is making proper introductions - which if he's going to be confined to one room for some time (as he should be anyway) shouldn't be much of a problem. You would need to keep his claws trimmed.

We live in an RV with 7 feral cats rescues. They are indoor only. It is 38 feet long by 8 feet wide. He could live perfectly happy in one room - with proper stimulation. They key is vertical space, easy access to windows, giving him a lot of attention, making sure he gets some kind of "play" time or pet time. He's older and not as active, so he may not want much play time. He may enjoy lying on a bed set up at window height, watching birds. We put bird feeders on the windows (the kind with suction cups), and it's like "cat TV."

But there are ways to help outdoor kitties learn to use a litter box, and with proper stimulation, becoming an inside-only cat usually isn't a problem. Moving him inside is the same as moving homes - he has to adjust to a new territory, and that's ultimately the question. Will he be happy?

He may settle right in. He may be scared at first and not be into it.

Look up some of White Cat Lover's threads - here and in Cat Care. Her family has quite a few barn cats. Some adjust to being inside - others haven't. As they're getting older, they need medical attention. One of her 16 year-olds just had to have all her teeth removed. She was not happy about having to be inside for recovery. In the end, Nat (White Cat Lover) built an outdoor enclosure for her older barn kitties. They have access to protection from the cold, but are contained outside - so that if there are medical issues, she can keep an eye on them and get them to a vet.

But if he's really a pet living outside, and he's slowing down in his older years.... he may be very happy inside. There's really no way to know without trying.

But if he is still rather feral, I'd have to say he probably wouldn't be happy. But if he's loving pets and a warm bed....

Whatever you decide to do, I still think you need to get him to a vet.
post #4 of 6
BTW - is he neutered? If not, that could be a problem. If he sprays, at this point he's marked territory for so long that even removing the hormones may not stop the behavior.

But I just wanted to add... it is not cruel or unfair to confine him to one room. With proper stimulation, it can work - if he doesn't complain about being inside to begin with.
post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys,

LDG, he is extremely affectionate, and probably more trusting than some of our indoor cats. Whenever we go outside, if he can hear the screen door or the mailbox (treat stash), he's on his way for a good scratch down and a few treats. He's always amazed me in how tame and affectionate feral cats truly can be. In my mind he's an indoor cat living an outdoor life when you put it all together. Sometimes he'll grab my hand and start to gnaw on it but nothing painful and never draws blood, it's more of a warning but I don't flinch so he gives up pretty easily. Come to think of it, Venus does that too.

I would LOVE to keep him in my room but Venus (roughly the same age) has already claimed my room over the years (he stands guard at the doorway and is quite selective in which animals he lets in lol it's actually quite hysterical to watch) so I can't imagine forcing him to share his space all of a sudden, but we do have one other room we could set up for him where he'd have a bay window (back room, parlour). Bird TV sounds nice but the room borders our backyard where our dogs spend some of their time so we can't be attracting birds and squirrels. Maybe I could just set up a tank with one of my geckos back there to keep him company. Even if he doesn't pay attention to it I feel the energy/presence of another creature would benefit him. My other cats LOVE the geckos (good thing I have some solid cages lol)

He is indeed neutered and this was done when he was very young.

Venus needs either some special food or a bunch of tests for whatever it is going on with his bladder (he's had crystals in the past, he's also a diabetic nearing 6 month remission), one of our dogs might have something going on with his GI tract too, so we have a few visits as it is but I'll see when I can bring him in and I'll post again in this thread to let you know what decision we've made I'll be advocating bringing him in the house, we'll see what my parents say

Here's a pic of Garfield by the way. The pics a few years old too so he looks older now, and PS: He was born with a very distinctive cleft lip

post #6 of 6
Oh he is a doll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you decide to bring him in, the room with the bay window sounds like a good place to give it a try. And I love the idea of a Gecko to be pals with him!

Please keep us posted.
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