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Re-socialized feral cat freaks out; MIA

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
Really need help with his; urgent.
Backstory: A friend ("Trysh") and I have been re-socializing "Buckley", a male cat who was dumped around October 2010. We re-trapped him in January 2011 along with, eventually, three other cats with the goal of placing them into Forever Homes. The cats live in Trysh's top floor, part of which she converted to a cattery.
Buckley did well, gets alont with all the other cats; got a little moody, standoffish in March 2011 because, we think in retrospect, we were trying to pick him up too much too soon. In May/June 2011 we discovered he loves Fish Flakes, and would do anything to eat them, including letting us pet him and brush him. By October he was ready to be adopted into a Forever Home.
On October 15th, adopters came to see him, liked him, wanted to adopt him, Trysh tried putting him into a cat carrier, Buckley FREAKED OUT. He has not been seen or heard from since. He has gone (we presume) behind the crawl spaces and eves in Trysh's house. There are no signs that he has eaten any of the food. Trysh does not believe the house has mice that he could have eaten; it is unknown whether he could have gotten out of the house.
So, some questions:
Why did he freak out so much; why did he lose trust in us so abruptly and, we're afraid, permanently. And suggestions how to get him to come out from hiding? And, how long can a cat go without food and water before he dies. All in all, he has always been a really docile, sweet, albeit moody, cat.
post #2 of 33
First of all, I am so sorry. Your hearts must be absolutely breaking.

The the food/water question. Cats bodies are not designed to use stored energy in the form of body fat. When they begin using fat it can damage their livers. How long this process takes depends upon the cat. Fat cats can begin to experience liver damage in a short period of time - potentially days. Cats that are the proper weight have gone as long as three (or more) weeks, though they may have been eating bugs and such.

So there's no way to know where the access points to crawl spaces are? Are you SURE he's not coming out at night to eat?

You might want to call a pest specialist - someone familiar with removing things like bats or raccoons from attics. They may be able to help figure out whether he could have gotten out given the design of the home. Don't know if they'd have a suggestion for how to get him out if there's no way he could have found a way to the outside. The most difficult "hidden feral cat" case I've seen on TCS was resolved by using the prey drive - a mouse in a cage - but that doesn't sound like a practical solution here.

I've notified a rescuer with far more experience than I have.

post #3 of 33
Thread Starter 
Buckley is of normal, a little above, normal weight. He lived on the streets at least four months before we eventually trapped him and moved into T's cattery.
I'm thinking/hoping he found a food source. There are definitely moles and mice on T's property but she does not think they are getting into the house.
Trysh sleeps where the four/three cats stay, so she would have heard Buckley at night had he come out.
T has worked with cats for 30+ years and never has a cat react like Buckley.
post #4 of 33
Oh no, Cindy, I am so sorry. How very, very upsetting for you and poor Buckley. I have seen this before.... socialized feral's freaking out like that, especially in regards to getting inside a crate . Even some of my kitties, freak terribly when they have to be crated - Perkins in particular.

I agree with Laurie in that I am wondering if he could have possibly gotten outside somehow ? And are you sure he is not coming out to eat at night? Feral's can hide for days after a scare like that, but if he does come back out, it won't take long to regain his trust. All trust is not completely lost. You won't be back to square one. First thing, though, is to find him . Loads of vibes he comes out very, very soon.
post #5 of 33
In the meantime, try heating up wet food so the smell can waft about (I guess there's no way to not feed everyone though, hunh?) and leave the room....
post #6 of 33
Thread Starter 
After 10 days, still no sign/sound from Buckley. We blocked off access to the crawl spaces by any other cat, left food inside the crawl spaces and put baby powder around the area (paw prints). Nothing.
My friend and I have concluded that he has escaped from the house. My friend hates Not Knowing.
Buckley was strictly indoor cat, he saw the front and back yards through windows. I don't know if he would recognize the area well enough to find his way back.
Likewise, until late January 2011, Buckley was part of the feral/stray/community cat colony I take care of, roughly two miles away (through busy roads). Does anyone know the likelihood that Buckley will find his way back to the colony?
post #7 of 33
Your poor friend and you too..... AND Buckley. I am sure this is upsetting all the way around, even for the new adopters who wanted Buckley. My feeling is he did somehow get out of the house. It is possible he could find his way back to that colony . Sometimes these feral cats have a good mile radius or more of roaming in their surrounding territories. Are the other feral cats from that colony still out and about? Because if so, Buckley would be able to "smell" his way back .... Could you start trapping near that feral colony . Either way, you might catch him or trap a cat in need of TNR. My heart goes out to Buckley, you and your friend for this distressing situation.

For Buckley to be found
post #8 of 33
Thread Starter 
My friend lives around two miles from the feral cat colony I take care of (in front of my condo). And yes, around eight of his 'friends' are still in the colony, including "Cindy/Sandy" that he showed up with on the same day. I will certainly look out for Buckley.
I'm sad for Buckley; he'll probably never know real, long term love from humans. He'd been such a loving cat with the right owners.
Funny story: A cat showed up around November of last year. Then a similar cat showed up; I thought until then I was dealing with only one new cat. So I named them Becky and Cindy because I am a twin. Cindy has a white strip across her back, Becky does not.
During a massive TNR effort one night in November 2010, I was not able to trap Becky but was able to trap Cindy. I had to rename Cindy, Sandy.
In January 2011, I trapped Becky and moved her into the cattery to socialize him. Only to have to rename Buckley; she is a he.
post #9 of 33
I have to laugh because I have been there, done that . I thought last year that I was just seeing ONE cat Boo Boo, long-haired black tabby. Then a few weeks later I saw Boo Boo by the feeding shelter and then the TWIN walked up to the feeding shelter (now named Willow). I thought I was seeing double, I couldn't believe it.... So out went the trap again . When the cats are all related like that, it is really hard to know if you are seeing one, two or more cats. I also had a family of all short-haired black cats. Try to tell the difference then ....

More vibes for Buckley ... makes me sad too. I really hope he shows up to your colony as he just might
post #10 of 33
Thread Starter 
IF (big huge IF) he shows up at either my colony or actually returns to where he escaped from, what should we do?
I'm assuming I should release him if I trap him again (I am TNRing this Friday). He is NOT ear tipped but I assume I could recognize him. He was not picked up a lot, but does love to be brushed.
There is another gray/white cat in the colony --the one who turned on the emergency flashers while in my car. But he's ear tipped.
post #11 of 33
First off, good luck today for successful trapping Second, if you trap him again, I would bring him in again if you could because he is adoptable Would those people still want to adopt him if you did?
post #12 of 33
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the advice.
I had to cancel trapping, will do it next Friday.
The people have elected to adopt "Princess Leia" another cat we re-socialized.
Buckley is still MIA. It is becoming increasingly likely that he is out of the house. Sad for him. I comfort myself by knowing/hoping he realized he was loved.
He has been out on the streets during winter before. I hope he has a good memory.
I'll give you an update if we find Buckley.
post #13 of 33
I'm glad one of the foster kitties is getting a home, but I'm so very sorry about Buckley.

he finds his way to the colony.
post #14 of 33
I am so sorry about Buckley. Don't give up on him returning to his old colony. I had to move a feral from one location to another, four miles away. He got out, twice actually, but he made it back. And he had to cross a very busy road.

I will be praying for Buckley's safe and quick return!
post #15 of 33
Thread Starter 
KRZ and everyone, thanks for the optimism. Do you know HOW they find their way back? Smell? I'm hoping he remembers Sandy, they showed up together back in October 2009. Look identical at first glance. I feel more sad for Buckley than myself, although we spent nine months socializing him.
post #16 of 33
I really don't know how they do it. I have heard it has something to do with the moon. In my case, we took the cat to a new location, he had never been there, and he managed to make it back to his original site, one week later.

The second time he made it back in about 5 days. I just decided to bring him home with me, and he has been very happy here.

I am still praying for him!
post #17 of 33
Thread Starter 
The people who were interested in Buckley agreed to adopt Princess Leia. So, at least one cat is now in a warm, dry Forever Home.
post #18 of 33
That is just great news to here that those people adopted another kitty biggthumpup.gif. Still hoping Buckley shows up soon cross.gif and sending load more VIBES for him.
post #19 of 33
Thread Starter 

eekyellow.gifBuckley showed up at the cat colony from which he came!!!!



It took him about two weeks, he had to cross several busy highways, walk/run along busy streets, and through some dense bushes with thorns.  But he made it.  A little thinner in the face, but fur in decent shape.  I had my suspicions when he knew right away what fish flakes were (his favorite when he was being resocialized).  I called the co-foster, Trysh (he lived with her), she came over, we took pictures and compared them to the ones were know are Buckley.  And she said, yup, that's the guy.

He's hyper-aware of the other cats, figuring out his place in the colony; he is at ease eating in front of humans.  I can of course pet him.

We are not going to attempt to socialize him again; he's made the decision that he is more comfortable outside I guess.  Timing sucks; it gets colder from here on out (Washington, DC).  But at least we know he's alive and I'll make sure he gets a little extra food.  Still, I'm kind of sad that he won't know the joys of a Forever Home.  Though that of course is the human perspective. 

I'm fascinated by how he knew where to go back to; Trysh is more interested in knowing how he escaped from the house (cause what can get out, can also get in).

post #20 of 33
woohoo.gif Aw, that's great news!!!!! clap.gifclap.gifclap.gif

Hope your friend is able to figure out how he got out! Again, my recommendation is to call a pest control service.
post #21 of 33
jumping.gifwoohoo.gif MY gosh, it IS just amazing to hear about these feral's finding their way "home". I am really relieved to hear that Buckley is back biggrin.gif. I guess he did make that choice and now he knows, if he changes his mind, about the indoor life and how to go about getting it agree.gif. Well - that is a worry off your mind now hugs.gifhugs.gifhugs.gifbiggthumpup.gif
post #22 of 33
Thread Starter 

Surprising update. 

The remaining cat (Mystique) in our cattery became depressed after the last cat was adopted out.  She is by far the most feral of the cats in our mini-cattery.  You can walk over her and she won't move, but hisses if she accidentally touches you.  We figured she need company, a playmate.

So we decided to retrap Buckley because they were in the cattery together for almost six months.  Amazingly, today (Saturday) I was able to scruff him, place him into the cat carrier, and Trysh took him back to her house, which is where the cattery is.   

Perhaps less amazingly, less than ten hous later, he is once again behind the eaves, maybe on his way back to the colony.  We will not be trapping him again; lesson learned.  The question is:  if he does return on his own accord to the cattery, should be let him be, or take him back to the colony?

MEANWHILE, on Monday, I re-scruffed Precious Boy and moved him to the cattery (separate rooms) to keep Mystique company eventually.   PG joined my colony around a month ago after being abandoned by a man who lives two buildings from where I do.  From day one, he has been inordinately friendly and remains so, freakishless so.  Should I be concerned?  He is still afraid of Trysh, who has years and years of experience with cats; me, only two.  My (twin) sister is coming over to see if he is bonded only to me, or if he can be comfortable in front of other people; Trysh may have startled him earlier.

Precious Boy is around three years old, was neutered October 13.  Today tested negative for FIV/FELK.  Delicate face, normal weight.  He keeps on scent-marking me every time I see him, and occasionally doing x-rated stuff to my arm.  He kneads blankets/rugs, too.  I've never been around a male cat (Ritz is 101% female), so I don't know if this is normal behavior.  Ultimately, we want to adopt him out.  We don't think Mystique will be ready until the spring, if then, to go into a Foreever Home.

Thanks for any advice/insight.

PS:  TNRd another cat today.  Named Peaches so of course it's a male cat....Precious Girl was so friendly I swore she was in heat so I made an emergency appointment to get her spayed.  And had to rename the cat Precious Boy.....

post #23 of 33
SO much news all at once laughing02.gif OH dear about Buckley - again frown.gif....... IF he comes back to the cattery, I would let him stay there agree.gif. If her returns to the colony, I would leave him be from now on UNLESS you can find a home for him where he would live safely indoors in a safe room, of course biggrin.gif. It is such a shame shame.gif because he sounds very sweet and friendly. He might do really well in a home that he can't escape from laughing02.gif He just sounds like he is so frightened and the only thing he knows is the safety of that colony and will return every time you were to bring him back to the cattery. I don't think this means he wants to forever live outside in the colony. I just think he is scared, reasonably so, and naturally wants to escape. If he were to go to a home, a safe room, in a home. I think in time he would totally LOVE to be indoors.

Please forgive me - I am confused laughing02.gif Is PG - Precious Boy.. and the one who if afraid of Trish and is the one marking you. I will assume so. Precious boy biggrin.gif totally bonded to you immediately after that man abandoned him mad.gif...... ARGH - people suck. Anyway - PG might be a one person cat at the moment, but that doesn't mean he will be this way in a new and loving home. I will be curious to hear how your twin (cool cool.gif you have a twin biggrin.gif). He will come around in time with Trish once he trusts her to be the one caring for him. cross.gif As for the marking..... YIKES..... I hope since being neutered and after a few week's he will give that up. I always worry that sometimes this has become a behavioral issue. Let's hope not. As soon as he comes to you and gives the sign that he is going to mark, push him away and distract him with something else. I would totally discourage him from marking you again.

So Peaches - is Precious Boy...... Anyway - woohoo.gif on trapping these kitties and now I hope for forever homes in their not so distant future heartpump.gifheartpump.gif

vibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gif For Buckley to return safely to the colony or return to the cattery. Such a worry, AGAIN rolleyes.gifhugs.gifhugs.gifhugs.gifhugs.gif
post #24 of 33
Thread Starter 

Thanks for responding and your advice about Buckley.  It's a wait and see regarding Buckley-whether he returns to the cattery through the opening he created through his claws, or to the colony.  The decision is really up to him.  Would a safe "room" (large crate) be helpful.  There are plenty of places he can hide, large and small.

Regarding Precious Boy (was named Precious Girl until I learned she was a he):  yes, he is the one afraid of Trysh; and yes, he is marking/mounting me.  Is there a correlation between age of neutering (three years of age) and marking/mounting behavior? Hopefully after all the hormones in his system are gone, he won't be quite so friendly.  He did finally settle down and napped beside me--until the Great Escape took place. 

I crave a cat being so friendly and not so afraid--to a point! Ritz still is very easily startled after two years and quite the independent woman. 

I am starting to recognize the size of mounting, so I will distract him when that occurs:  picking him up and setting him down on the floor, or getting up and walking away; or initiating playing.  Not sure how much he's played in his life.


Mystique was in the same room as Buckley, did not move one iota from her chair, totally non-plussed.  Strange cat.....)


Peaches was the cat I TRNd yesterday; Peaches and PB are two different cats.  Another example of my track record naming male cats with femine names.  Of the 25+ cats I've TNRd since November 2010, around four are female, the rest male.

post #25 of 33
The mounting/marking have nothing to do with the age at neutering. It's the personality of the cat. There are a number of threads asking about this in the Behavior forum, and some people on TCS have cats that do this mounting thing, and they were neutered as kittens. We TNRd Chumley at either age 3 or 4 (no consensus between four vets LOL) - and he's never marked or mounted (though he definitely fathered some kittens before we TNRd him!).

I'd do a search in the behavior forum. I believe most people simply try to redirect the mounting to a pillow or stuffed animal or something? dontknow.gif Let's just hope this behavior stops after the hormones finish cycling out of his system... cross.gif
post #26 of 33
OK thanks.gif for the explanation on the kitties. I have it straight now laughing02.gif PB's marking/mounting don't have anything to do with his age. And I do hope this will not be a habit/behavior issue with him. You will have to wait and see in a few week's once the hormones are completely out of his system. In the meantime, distraction from that behavior is a must do. As Laurie mentioned already - there are some cat's that just have a need to do that mounting and do use a stuffed animal rolleyes.gif We have a couple of male cat's at the shelter who are in a large cage and cannot roam loose in the free cat room because of their mounting behavior. They each have a stuffed animal about the size of another cat that they mount and bite. Will hope to hear that PB will give this behavior up cross.gif

And - I guess you should just figure on ALL male names from now on rofl.gif!!!!! I have done that too, named a few feral's a female name only to find out they were male bluelaugh.gif You can't tell UNLESS they are older and have the big male tomcat jowels agree.gifbiggrin.gif:wavey:
post #27 of 33
Thread Starter 

Thanks Feralvr and Laura.  I'll give my new boyfriend (Precious Boy) a size-appropriate stuffed animal, thanks for the hint about the size.  .

PB is now appropriately friendly towards Trysh; he's become much calmer.  Mounting behavior has decreased; he used my arm as a pillow yesterday while we both dozed.  I'll see how he reacts to a brand new person (my twin sister) this afternoon, which will simulate an adoption appointment.

Interestingly, Buckley has decided for now to stick around; we're not sure where Mystique is.  Trysh assures me there is no way either can get out of the house; she's thinking, maybe she accidentally left a door open. 

Also interestingly:  Buckley is in the same room as PB, in part because it's a more secure room (no escape hatches).  PB has already asserted his dominance, hissing and a paw strike that did not connect.  Buckley backed down immediately.  Buckley has always been somewhat docile. They can co-exist in the same room; while PB and I were dozing on the sofa, Buckley was on the pet bed on the floor directly next to the sofa sleeping.

Buckley and PB are both males, around the same size, and about the same size as Ritz (working on THAT issue).   In the back of my mind is my desire/wish/dream to adopt PB myself.  But I would want Ritz to be the dominant cat; it is only fair.  I'll have to do some research about this issue.    PB is definitely less scared than Ritz is.  Ritz is a little over two years old; PB around three.

post #28 of 33
Caring for ferals is very difficult but you have to remember they are wild animals. They don't know soft couches or pets or toys. They live as wild animals do. It would be like bringing a raccoon into your home. While we understand the wonderful life our kitties live, ferals do not have that concept. And some will always be happiest in their colony.

As for bringing PB in to your home but wanting Ritz to be the dominant because it's fair....animals don't have a sense of fairness, they live as nature dictates. If you attempt to impose your idea of fairness and heirarchy on them, you can create a very tense and unsuccessful socialization. Before brining PB in, YOU have to be OK with the idea that Ritz may not get to be the dominant one and if you aren't, don't bring PB in, period.

Good luck with the colony. It can be stressful and cause much anxiety but you are doing a lot of good, and that is what is important. My sister has managed a colony for about 6-7 years now. When she discovered it there were 30+ cats, she is down to 4. Some have been adoptable, some have just disappeared and some have had to be trapped and euthanized due to medical issues. All have been spayed/neutered and the remaining are 4 adults that she has had for several years, fed them twice a day all that time and yet they still won't let her come within a couple of feet of them. It has been heartbreaking for her at times, it has been difficult at times and it has been truly rewarding at times.

Good luck with all of them.
post #29 of 33
Cindy, if you're thinking of adopting PB, bear in mind that what you want in terms of cat dynamics/hierarchy is simply not something you can control, and if you want to, best just not to adopt another cat. It depends entirely upon their purrsonalities, and our interfering simply makes their adjusting to each other worse. Who's alpha has nothing to do with "fair," and it's just not a healthy mindset in a multicat household. agree.gif

Slow introductions, lots of vertical space, and giving Ritz HEAPS of attention before the new cat are things that make transitions go more smoothly. But in the end, their getting along goes best if we don't interfere with the hierarchy they will work out. In fact, actively discouraging PB from being dominant, if he is naturally being the dominant cat, only reinforces his need (this comes from Amy Shojai, a cat behaviorist) to dominate. agree.gif

You may want to get the book Cat Wrangling Made Easy by Dusty Rainbolt, or Cat vs. Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett. agree.gif
post #30 of 33
yeah.gif Agree!!! agree.gif It would be wonderful if we could just sit down with the cat's and tell them who will be in charge and who will not laughing02.gif They will decide and have to work it out amongst themselves. But having lots of vertical space and plenty of places to hide and call their own will help them feel more secure and happy. I ALSO love both of the book's Laurie suggests. The "Cat Wrangling Made Easy" is actually sitting right here on my end table laughing02.gifbiggthumpup.gif Very good book clap.gifclap.gifclap.gifclap.gif

AND BUCKLEY woohoo.gif YOU mean he is back...... biggrin.gif. I am SO relieved to hear he choose the cattery and didn't forge his way back to the colony. PHEW!!!! sweat.gif I guess he made his decision to stay put clap.gifclap.gifclap.gif
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