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Bringing a Feral/Stray Cat Indoors

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

Hi Everyone. So happy to have found this site. I'll try to keep this as short as possible, but I could use some advice. I will preference this with I've always been a dog owner. In fact, I've been begging my husband for a puppy for a few years. Never, ever thought about a cat. Right now we are animal free.


About 6 months ago, we saw this scared cat in the yard and long story short, we've been feeding her twice a day (plus treats!) for 6 months. This little girl now melts my heart. Periodically, she doesn't show for a meal and I worry so much that I've even made my husband take me to the local shelter to see if she's there. I suspect she was a stray or someone left her. She doesn’t seem to have the same behaviors as the other ferals we see in the yard. Keeps to herself and runs away from other cats. This of course, is based on nothing in a feeling. No clue to age.


She’s gone from running away to the other side of the house when we would go outside to feed her, to sitting outside the back door and waiting for her food. I don’t leave the food out, I feed her when I see her. If we’re late getting home, she waits. She still runs away from us, but only a few feet away. She naps after dinner on our patio for hours even if we are sitting there as well. She does not get close enough to touch and has made no attempts to get closer. One day, I wanted to see what she would do if the back door was open and much to my surprise she walked in the house. My husband startled her (not intentionally, he just turned the corner and was surprised to see her). She walked back out the door after that. But, turned around and came right back in. She came in 3-4 feet before she was spooked at us watching her and she left, but she was fully in the house.


So, we’re going to have her spayed next week. And we would like to bring her in the house to live with us. So here’s my questions… some may seem silly, but I want to be sure that we do the right thing for her.


1. I know that it’s the best for her to live indoors, but I’ve read some posts where the cats keep trying to get back outdoors. Is there a way to know how they’ll react/behave or is it just on a cat-by-cat basis?

2. Will all cats eventually forgive the trapping and surgery, or will some hold a grudge? I know it's the right thing to do, but I'm nervous about her trusting us again.

3. We are scheduled to take her to a local shelter for spaying, rabies, etc. Is there a difference (other than cost) between taking her to a shelter as opposed to a private vet? I would be very upset if I thought she wasn’t in good hands and mistreated.

4. When she comes in, is it best to give her a room like a bedroom or something more the size of a bathroom?

5. Is it unusual that she would walk into the house or would all outdoor cats do the same?

6. We are planning on renting a cage from the shelter - will it upset her to smell other cats on the cage?


So many more questions, but any help with the above would be appreciated. I would welcome any other suggestions as well. Thanks in

advance. I've attached of photo for you all to see.


..MP 1.jpg

post #2 of 21

Wow, I'm no expert but that sounds more like an abandoned cat who's been on her own for a while to me.  I don't think a truly feral cat would come into your house.  Bless you for wanting to take her in and good luck. smile.gif

post #3 of 21

Thanks so much for taking such good care, concern of this cat.  (And, does she have a name?)

And the only silly question is the one that is not asked.

1.  It's a cat by cat basis.  Given that she has willingly walked into your home, I think she would feel comfortable living inside.  It is somewhat unusual for a cat to walk into the house, which is why I think she trusts you and she has had some (good) exposure to humans.

2.  For better or worse, cats forget quickly, especially if you don't repeat the behavior/action.  She won't hold a grudge forever after you spay her.  Expect her to hide for a day or two; that's normal.  (And don't force her out.)

3.  No difference except in price.  In fact, I would prefer a local shelter versus private vet because the local shelter probably has more experience handling stray/semi-feral/feral cats than your local private vet.  (I take care of a feral/stray/dumped cat colony and have TNRd around 30 cats in 20 months.  Ten still come around to feed at my dumpster--so they certainly have forgiven me :)

4.  Definitely confine her first to a small place, bathroom is a good place to start.  Friend and I are currently fostering a super friendly, formerly owned cat, who seems most comfortable in a large dog crate.  We're going to place her in the bathroom, and then eventually a bedroom.  Expect her to be afraid, and perhaps regress slighly.  Patience, patience, patience; socialize her according to her schedule.

6.  Not sure why you are planning on renting a cage from the shelter--do you mean a trap?  In any event, depending on how well the shelter disinfects the cage, the smell shouldn't be a problem.  I use the same traps over and over.  How do you plan on getting her into the cage/trap?

post #4 of 21
OH is she ever beautiful thud.gif WHAT A DOLL!!!! I hope this article will help answer some of your questions. AND please don't think that IF she is older than three years it is impossible. It truly is a case by case basis as Ritz says. IF she walked into your house, eekyellow.gif... then she really could be an abandoned cat reverted feral and then your part will be a breeze once she is adjusted to her "safe" room. You won't know right away, she could take many days to settle in and feel safe. Feeling safe and trusting are the most important goals in the beginning. OH I am so excited for you!!!! clap.gifclap.gifclap.gifclap.gif Please keep us updated too. agree.gif
post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thank you for the responses. Initially, we started to call her Miss Puss. At that point, we didn't intend to name her, but it just sort of stuck. So Miss Puss it is. We usually call her Miss P or Pussy Girl... sometimes Snarly 'cause she sometimes snarls at the husband. She seems to respond, so we'll probably keep it.


Sorry, I didn't mean a cage, I meant a trap. We bought a soft carrier to transport her home from surgery.


One additional question - she's very dirty. I mean, I see her grooming, but her white coat is yellow with dirt. She'll already be traumatized and I don't want to add to it, but should she have a bath?


Thanks again. Really appreciate the responses.

post #6 of 21

I agree this is probably an abandoned cat that has been living wild for quite some time. She doesn't look like a true feral, I don't believe a true feral cat would let you photograph her like that, and come into the house.


How do you know she is indeed a she if you cannot get close to her?

She looks more like a tom to me, probably a neutered tom.

But then one of my late girls also looked more like a tom.....


If you can catch her and get her to the vet for a check-up, you will know for sure.

She will not be grateful for being captured and examined. If you can manage it, let people from the shelter handle the cage and have as little to do with her being in the cage as possible. That way she will link the strangers to her being caught and manhandled, and you to her being cared for.

I think she is very likely to try to escape, especially at first. She is no longer used to living in a house, and she no longer trusts humans, and probably with good reason. You will have to win her trust by keeping your distance, never look directly into her eyes, and letting her take the initiative.


What you can do:

look slightly past her (briefly, don't stare) and blink or keep your eyes half closed while doing so, then look away.

This is cat language for: I do not feel threatened by you, and I have no intention to threaten you. I feel comfortable in your presence and want you to feel comfortable in mine. Yawning or sticking your tongue out/licking your lips will strengthen this message.


If she is hiding, go about your business in the same room in a calm, leisurely way, don't pay attention to her, but do talk to her...

If you put her in a spare room at first (recommended), you may lie down on the bed or on the floor and read aloud to her, a sweet story or poetery, something that will make your voice sound loving and gentle. Do not look at her, it is  best to ignore her completely, as if you are reading to yourself. That way, she will sooner muster the courage to come out of hiding. If she comes to sniff at you, don't look at her, ignore her as much as possible, don't look in her direction, but do 'talk cat' to say she is welcome....


It may take a lot of patience, hours and hours of being in the same room and talking/reading to her, to make her feel more comfortable around you, but eventually she will come round. Once she feels safe in her room and around you, it is time to introduce her to the rest of the house.


If you are afraid she might run away, but still want her to be able to go out, you might consider cat-proofing your garden or building a catio....

But let her get used to living indoors first, or she may be living in the garden/catio full time.

post #7 of 21
Originally Posted by Hummys View Post

Thank you for the responses. Initially, we started to call her Miss Puss. At that point, we didn't intend to name her, but it just sort of stuck. So Miss Puss it is. We usually call her Miss P or Pussy Girl... sometimes Snarly 'cause she sometimes snarls at the husband. She seems to respond, so we'll probably keep it.

Sorry, I didn't mean a cage, I meant a trap. We bought a soft carrier to transport her home from surgery.

One additional question - she's very dirty. I mean, I see her grooming, but her white coat is yellow with dirt. She'll already be traumatized and I don't want to add to it, but should she have a bath?

Thanks again. Really appreciate the responses.

I would wait on the bath laughing02.gif She will get to cleaning herself once Miss Puss settles in after her surgery. Yes - good idea on the carrier. The vet will just place her in the new carrier after her surgery. Best of luck vibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gif
post #8 of 21

I am dealing with this exact same problem!


Mine is a male, and he seems more socialized than yours, he's been in my house twice, until I noticed he has worms coming out his rear (tapeworm)...

He's friendly but still hisses, he's nervous and bit me once...


Today I'm planning to keep him inside, in the basement, and tomorrow I am having a mobile vet come give him the shots and deworm him (good luck to him, lol).

Then I'm thinking of letting him roam freely around the house, he seems comfortable doing so.


So I am watching this thread with interest, as I have the same concerns. I've never taken in an adult cat, all my previous cats were babies when I adopted them, so I don't know what to expect. Will he adapt inside? I think he's lived indoors at some point, but who knows how long he's been outside... Will he use a litter box? Will he bite? Is he safe to sleep with, like I did with my previous cats? So many questions that still need to be answered.


And like you, I'm concerned about him being dirty, and it's not like I can give him a bath :)  After the vet is done with him, I'll run a damp cloth all over him, with some pet shampoo on it, hopefully that'll clean him a little.

I also hope he won't hate us for traumatizing him with the vet (or for locking him in the basement for a day), but there is no other way.


Then if he's not neutered (I can't tell for sure), I'll have to get that done too.


It's a difficult journey, but I can't just leave him the way he is. I was planning on getting a kitten, but I guess this cat adopted me :)


Please keep me posted with your progress and tips, I'll be watching this thread with interest..


Good luck !!!

post #9 of 21



I am relplying to the cat you think is feral that you are feeding.  Please see my story about the feral we trapped in July 2011. We took her to the vet as soon as we had her trapped and she did fine through the surgery and healed fast. She was terrified of us at first but it probably depends on what a cat has been through and its personality.  Sox as we call her now allows us to be around her but does not want us to touch her. She does not hiss or growl and is not agressive. We have 4 other indoor kitties as is Sox now and she just tries to avoid them but they get along fine. Sox was very pregnant and ready to drop at any time. Let us know how you are doing with the feral kitty.

post #10 of 21

We had a similar situation with our Moon kitteh. He was a wild born feral who showed up one spring. We've always fed the ferals that passed through, but he was a little different. It took us two years before I was finally able to pet him, and once that happened, things progressed to the point where he waited for his meals by the back door and never left the yard, even sat with us while we were out there. We were able to treat him for fleas, etc. and he was already TNRd. He too also started walking into the house for little looksees. The night he jumped into my lap when I was sitting on the porch was the night he adopted us for good. I had ferrets at the time, so we had some unique problems. But


1. For a while, he did want to go back outside. He had a hunting routine that we needed to break him of and that took patience and time. As things progressed, his stays in the house grew longer and longer, and eventually, he just didn't want to go out anymore. He had established his territory in the our home, and wasn't worried about his outside territory anymore. We did this using feliaway spray, diffusers, and we had multiple litter boxes for the ferrets so he just chose which locations he liked and we swapped the boxes out for bigger ones. Outside cats are territorial, so give them plenty of things to own. We did not do the "small room" thing. We tried, and he was so scared, he just whined and whined and whined. He was pretty much glued to my side until he got used to the house. The kitchen was last because that was the noisy scary room.


2.  Moon had a heavy parasite load, so several unpleasant trips to the vet were in order, and my advice is let the vet do everything, then you are there as the rescuer and they forgive you almost immediately for the indignity.


3.  Our shelters here have really excellent vets who do work for them, so you should be fine. If your worried, ask for the vets credentials as in do they do private practice anywhere else.


4.  A feral cat that has come to trust you will walk into a house. It's a good sign that they are forming a bond with you. We have some ferals that even after 6 years still won't let us get close. My Moon kitteh was 6 years worth of work before he became a happy house cat.


5.  Another cat smell or any other animal smell can be threatening to a wild cat. My advice is to wash the cage thoroughly and then spray a blanket with feliaway about 20 minutes before you put her in there with the blanket.


As for handling her, you want slow, gentle and non threatening. If you are going to pet her or touch her in any way, approach from behind while talking calmly. head on confrontation is threatening and takes a level of trust she may not have yet. Never look them in the eye. Use the slow blink technique and lowering your head is good too. No open hands. Show them your hands fist only. This is called the "fist of friendship" open hands coming at them are threatening.


She will need to be dewormed, which is a pretty quick process and as long as you keep her as an inside cat, she won't get reinfected.


Remember, hissing means frightened, not aggression. The hiss is a warning that they are scared. Be mindful of that, stop whatever it is you are doing, and give the cat some space.


My Moon has been indoor only for exactly 6 months now, but it's been a long 7 years to get him here. Yours might go quicker, or it might not. Every cat is different. Giving them things to own, like scratch posts and multiple litter boxes goes a long way to them claiming territory in your house, and cats need that to feel confident. Also, if she's a real feral, she may be used to scratching on trees, in that case, cardboard or wood scratchers work the best as that's what they are used to. Always feed them somewhere quiet. My Moon would only eat in the bedroom at first. He chose that room as his safe place. Also, true ferals do not like their water near their food, so put the water dish, or multiple water dishes somewhere else. This is just instinctual behavior that carries over. If you work with it not against it, it makes the transition easier. And lastly, let the cat come to you for affection until the bond and trust are fully established. Their world is changing and it can be very confusing for them. Be patient and never try to force a behavior.

post #11 of 21
Hi!! Any news on Miss Puss? Hope everything is going well and you got her to the vet for her surgery. cross.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gifvibes.gif
post #12 of 21
I have a stray I named Manny. I want him in!! I give flea meds,of course feed by door twice daily and he lets me pet and brush! I want him in cuz my other cat Austyn and him get along so well. They rub against each other and just love each other He won't go inside. I've tried throwing g in because I have to b quick to get in and close door before he gets out. I did again last night and he ran out the door before I could close. I got him in twice and he did good but found the cat porch and got back out. He will not walk in. I think he was left and has been wild awhile. But is so sweet. I say I'm his Mama and love him but I'm afraid something will happen outside. I worry so much. How do I get him in? Tried tuna and he still wouldn't come in. I think something happened to him in a house because he lets me pet and love but just fights to not go in. He even attacked my face when I tried the first time. HELP!!!!
post #13 of 21

It took me 2 years to get Shortstack comfortable enough to come in the house forever.  He started off with not coming within 20 feet of us and would run like the devil back into the woods behind our house--I would put food out then watch out the window for him.  I worked every. single. day. trying to get him to trust me.  He was scared of everything, and I mean everything to do with humans, machinery, any noises.  2 years later it paid off, with a gradual trust building.  He is now the fattest (unfortunately--he's on a diet now), happiest, most gentle baby you could want in the house.  Don't give up.  His final turning point was he got his butt whooped one day by apparently another tomcat, and he actually just allowed me to bring him in.  He slept that night between my hubby's legs in his recliner, just exhausted and hurt, face swelled, leg swelling.  Next morning we got him to the vet, abscess treated, neutered, shots, wormed...he came home the next day and has never even asked to go back outside.  He peeks out when we open the door, but if he sees anything moving he runs to the other end of the house to "his" room.  He is a very appreciative kitty to be in out of the weather, heat, cold, and rain, and you can tell he is truly grateful.  This pic is right after he came home from the vet after being neutered and all fixed up. I get this hug every evening now!


post #14 of 21

Keep trying.  I have been feeding a feral for one year.  So far, she now comes in to the house willingly to eat her meals....usually 3 times a day.   make sure the food is fresh b/c she doesn't eat a lot at one time.

She came in today for a long nap since it was raining outside.  I slept with her on my bed and I got up before she did.  Then I fed her and out she went.  She' ll be back once more tonight for a final meal and then out overnight.  I saw her sleeping underneath a car so I guess that is where she goes each night.  I live in a very quiet community; some day, maybe she will come in permanently.  But for now, she gets plenty of good food!

Good luck!

post #15 of 21
Thanks. Short stack is beautiful!!! I just tried feeding him and he was too scared to eat. Went in bushes. He usually eats at once so foods always fresh. He's a big boy!! Needs a diet as well. Lol. A cat comes that really scared him today and w me trying to throw him in the other day he's just real spooked. He let me pet last night but today's a hard day for him. Thanks for giving me some hope. I work with him everyday and have gained so much trust. It just faltered a bit when I tried putting in. Wish me luck. I won't give up. Love too much.
post #16 of 21

@shannonlovespet thank you.  I love my big fatty foo foo so much, he is like a big fat furry ball of sunshine to me.  He is always happy and always wants a hug!

Keep working on it, it will happen!  It just takes a lot of time.  A LOT.  But it is so worth it.

post #17 of 21

I would like to give an update on Sox the former feral cat we trapped on July 7, 2011. My original post is on 8/2/12. Sox has since come way out of her shell and is all over the house and is no longer afraid of my wife and I. She purrs loudly when I talk to her or she is around me. She will flop down on her side when she sees me sometimes to let me know that she trusts me. She still does not want us to touch her.When ever I put my hand or finger near her, she will back up and look concerned so I try not to do that. I wonder if she may have had a bad experience while living as a feral w/ a human. Whenever I get a chance I put my hand on her tail or back when she is not looking and she does not freak out but just scoots out of the way. She has such a sweet personality and loves Ben, our oldest big solid black cat. Sox will get up and walk beside him if she sees him up walking around. She worships the floor he walks on. So sweet. Even though we are unable to hold her now we get pleasure knowing we give her a safe and loving place to live.She was one scared cat when we first got her. To think she was so wild and now trusts us completely. We think she is around 7 or 8 years old now. She was around 2 or 3 when we got her. She even traveled across country, 2600 miles in our car and was so good. We had 5 cats w/ us counting Sox. It really makes me mad to see people say they have to leave or get rid of their pets when the move. It would have to be one hell of an unusual situation before I would do that.

post #18 of 21

There are all kinds of card board scratches for all of the kitties to use so Sox has plent of things to scratch. They are all good to use them also.

I never make Sox uncomfortable as far as making her feel threatened. She will sit on this low table waiting for her wet food and looks at me so intently and I talk to her and she will purr at the same time. Her tail is always up like an antenna so it is obvious she is a happy puss since we trapped her almost 5 years ago. When we first moved into our new home in Dec 2011 out west she would hide under a dresser we have in our master bedroom closet. She left that years ago and hasn't been back. She sleeps so sound sometimes and I will be right near her, watching and she won't even realize I am there she sleeps so sound. We are people that spoil our pets to the max. They do not want or need for anything. We cannot do enough for them. We have had cats since 1986 so we have learned a lot over the years.We are just glad that Sox got to trust us and does not hide from us. She has windows to look out and our security doors have a strong mesh that we keep open when it is not hot. She loves to look out and smell the fresh air. I hope your Moon is doing well. Thank you for your reply. Sorry it is late but I have not been on here in a while.

post #19 of 21

I love the story of Sox, I love happily ever after stories!  I am like you, I love the fact that Shortstack no longer has to hide in the woods afraid, be out in the rain and wind and cold, and can sleep and rest without having to sleep with one eye open.

post #20 of 21

I think you got some good feedback but here's my two cents.


For #3

I opted to take my two feral cats to my vet. I trust my vet. I did so for the reason that I feel it allows local cat rescuers and humane society to help other cats in need. I assume resources are limited for them.

I would say if you know a good vet, can afford the vet, then take it to the vet and leave the resources available to people whom cannot afford it. I like the idea that more cats will be helped.


For #2

I don't think either of my feral cats are holding a grudge against me, they seem to love the heck out of me. Then again they were about 2 months old when I started to feed them so not the same as your situation. I don't think the male cat ever held a grudge, he was sick when I trapped him and seemed to admire me for taking care of him. His sister may have held a grudge for a couple of weeks but the way she climbs all over me I think it is long gone.



I wish you and the cat many happy years together.

post #21 of 21
You all are wonderful for taking care of the start/feral cats. I still can't get Manny in but he will hopefully one day come in. If I ever move I will def get somehow. Even if he attacks me I'll grab. I think he may have been left behind when someone moved. Disgusts me!! Sox sounds so happy. So happy for you! Thanks for everyone's support and advice.
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