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Socializing Former (Semi) Feral (?)

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi All.  I think this forum probably is more appropriate for my questions than the behavior forum.

 

We adopted Cocoa, a female longhaired tortoiseshell cat from a local organization in December.  She's approximately 3-5 years old.  We nearly passed her up because the photo of her on Petfinder made her look angry, but in fact, she's far from it.

 

What we know of her background is the following:

 

She was found in a neighboring town, on the streets, living in a colony I believe late October/early November of 2012.  She was being taken care of by a woman who fed the colony regularly.  There was some abuse from youngsters in the neighborhood.  From there, a gentlemen took over her care (I've met him) because they discovered she was friendly, although prone to hissing, but once you got closer and touched her, she turned into mush, craving the physical attention it seemed.  He was a friend of the rescue organization, and called them about her, and from there, they brought her in for adoption. He had her for about 1 week.

 

She was then vetted, spayed, and fostered from November until we adopted her in December.  I've gotten friendly with one of the women who run the rescue and she told me that our kitty was rather docile, but got lost in the shuffle in her home, needing more personal attention most likely - a home with no more than 1 cat would be better for her than her foster home with many.  We, only had our one resident cat so that was a good situation for her.

 

We suspect, she may have been someone's pet, at some point in her life, mainly because she loves being groomed and I just can't believe a truly feral cat would ever tolerate a comb or brush on it that quickly.  However, I also believe she has been on the streets for quite a long time, long enough to have become shy around people, untrusting to some degree.

 

We did all the right introductions between her and our resident cat, putting her in a safe room for a few weeks until we felt she was ready to come out and that the two of them would get along (that, is going rather well at this point).

 

However, she still spends much of her time alone in the house (not her safe room at least - she has moved out from that area for the most part), removed from our company.  It's a stark contrast to our other cat, who is by our side constantly, if he isn't napping.  She does come out way more for me - she is "my" cat for sure.  When I come home from work, she'll greet me, talk to me, etc.  She does not run off from me the way she does my BF any longer.  But, as much as she loves being pet, she does not solicit it at all.  She's like a flash of lightening at times.  Still skittish.  Getting her to settle and eat meals can be a challenge; it's gotten to a point where I can't have my BF anywhere near her in order for her to eat.  She bolts as soon as she sees him.  She also does that burying thing with her empty bowl - as if she's trying to find a way to save leftover food; she came to us slightly underweight and we've been trying to get her to eat more.  She eats really good, but doesn't seem like she understands "meal time" yet.  

 

There are a lot of other small odd things which I know are related to her living on the streets, having several homes in the past few months, and being recently spayed also.  Potentially, she also went through Hurricane Sandy I realized also.  She has been through a lot in 3-4 months, 

 

But the one thing which I think is causing the most friction here, is the hissing.  My BF, just can not understand why after her being here for nearly 2 months, she has not acclimated to him yet.  He's always been a cat lover and has had many cats in his life and none have been this way to him.  He's taking it kind of hard and no matter how much I explain all the reasons why she might still be doing this; all of which most likely have nothing to do with him specifically, it still hurts him somewhat.  She clearly likes him, enjoys him grooming her, they take naps together at times, loves his scritches, he plays with Da Bird with her, feeds her (that's a challenge for him), cleans her box, etc. He's home during the day when I'm not, so he's really involved with her and from angle, you'd think the hissing would have stopped by now, but it hasn't.

 

So, all of you feral gurus, is there something we're missing here?  Anything else he/we can do to help Cocoa feel more comfortable living here?  Something my BF can do?  Are there ways to help her incorporate more fully into the household at this point?  She really only comes downstairs later in the day, and we'd love to see her interacting more freely.  Or, is it a case of just time will take it's course and we have to patient?  I really feel bad for my BF, he wants to be able to have more fun with her, to not feel like he's upsetting her.  

 

BTW, We did have a Feliway plugged in for a long while, but I can't say that it did or didn't help.  

 

Lastly, I don't think there is anything "wrong" with her at all.  When I think back to the timid, scared cat that arrived at our house 7 weeks ago, the change is remarkable.  I, am thrilled with her progress smile.gif


Edited by sivyaleah - 2/8/13 at 6:14pm
post #2 of 7

Awww what a wonderful person you are giving a safe forever home to this wandering kitty!   My gut says the issue with your bf is pretty simple - odds are she was abused in the past by man or someone who looks like your BF.    One thing that might help would be for him to come in wearing very different types of clothes and shoes a few times, just to see if it is just his shoes or jacket that reminds her.    I hope your BF can be patient, maybe bond with her through playtime and eventually she'll know he's safe it'll just take time.    When I rescued my indoor feral and her kittens they were all terrified of people wearing coats, shoes, or hats for a long time.

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

HI Bast.  Thanks for that suggestion.  The thought she had been abused by a male figure ad actually had occurred to me some time ago and I asked him weeks ago not to wear his shoes in the house - which, he had a habit of doing.  He doesn't wear hats around the house, nor jackets.  Just wears typical guy clothing, jeans, and this time of year a flannel shirt, long sleeved t-shirt or similar.  He does have facial hair, I imagine this might play into it if she was abused by someone who had a beard, etc. but I can't expect him to shave those off to test that out.

 

I've also mentioned he should walk more "normal" around him.  He has such trepidation with her now, fearing that he's going to set off her bolt instinct, that to me it seems he's too cautious and not being confident around her.  This might possibly be sending a wrong message to her, as if he's creeping up on her, instead of approaching in friendship.

 

I've also suggested that he just let her be for a while, let her initiate all contact with him.  He did pull back substantially from what he was doing at the beginning when we took her home - and it worked.  Back then, she wouldn't come out for him no how.  Now, what she will do for example, is jump up on "her" bed, and then allow him to pet her, groom her.  Once he's gotten her relaxed, he's able to pick her up.  But, still is unable to approach her for the most part, if she's just out and about the house.  I think it's gotten much better since he's taken more of a role in caring for her and can only improve, but that it will take more time for her to trust him.  I mean, it isn't like her and I are best pals yet either.  It's just that I'm not hung up on when she needs her space, I understand her better and she did bond with me.  She is the first pet I've had where I actually made the decision to adopt her because I was the one that wanted her.  I feel very protective towards her so maybe on her level of feline understanding, knows that and this is the reason why her and I have meshed better. She is more prone to socialize with the family when I am home for sure.  Right now, it's the weekend morning and since we woke up she's been downstairs, hanging out, because I'm here most likely.  She and him are having a good day so far, she hasn't run off from him a couple of times he approached her for pets, so yay for that lol.

 

What I do see, is a happy cat. And that is very important.  And her and Casper have managed to come to an understanding with each other.  Although not best friends, they now do kissy noses to greet each other and have little play sessions. It's very cute in the morning when they both greet me when I get out of bed, and race each other down the stairs.  Casper is much older and slower, so she gets on his nerves at times lol. But he hasn't hissed, growled or pawed her in weeks now, so all is good.

 

I run into the foster mom frequently because she runs adoptions at one of the local pet stores and when I tell her all the new things Cocoa is doing she's amazed.  She said she always knew that she had it in her, she just needed a home where she could shine.  She is a little clown at times, really has an amusing personality.  My BF really is smitten with her, just frustrated.


Edited by sivyaleah - 2/9/13 at 5:40am
post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 

Ok, I have no idea why he's complaining lol,

 

I just went upstairs to tell him something and he was napping on the bed, with Cocoa sleeping next to him, all stretched out, completely relaxed; Casper on the floor bundled up near the bed in a little ball (he's been having some difficulty getting on the bed lately due to early arthritis symptoms).

 

I would have taken a photo of the three of them, but he had no pants on laughing02.gif

 

He woke up, and I told him that only a cat that felt comfortable and liked him would relax that close to him as much as she was at that moment.

post #5 of 7
Gary is the same way. agree.gif Feral animals LOVE him. He is a "wild animal" magnet. But when they move from outside to inside, they often end up gravitating to me.

The ONLY difference between us? He wants them to like him. He wants them to want pets. He wants them to .... let him know they like him. And I let them be. Outside, as ferals, he doesn't have those expectations. He KNOWS that if he ignores them, they'll come seek him out. Yet he never remembers to at least act like he doesn't care. laughing02.gif Just remind your BF to act like he could care less.

Ever had friends over? And the cat(s) always seem to gravitate to the person that doesn't like cats? I suspect it's whatever that is. laughing02.gif

...you should have taken the picture, not to show us, just to show him. biggrin.gif
post #6 of 7

I haven't had anywhere near the experience that ldg and others have had, but I've had some..and the best, most rewarding "gifts" I've had from cats have been from the few where we saw, over more than 1-2 years, a continual "unwrapping" of the self by the cat.
Frankie<RB> when we first took her in, was head shy, scared of feet, men and loud voices - it took about a year, and the lights going off, for her to march up the bed to demand snuggles from my husband.
Danny - our most recent rescue - after a year and a half has gone from "don't touch my feet, don't touch my tail, don't  touch my spine near the base of the tail, don't touch my tummy" to yesterday - scritch base of tail, he rolls over, stretches, shows his tummy and waits for a tummy rub that made him squeek (!).

You both are doing everything right, she sounds like a lovely girl who has landed in just the right, patient and loving home, for her.

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thank you again, Laurie and to you too Pat.  We are very lucky to have her, that is for sure.  She is a delight and a wonderful addition to our home.

 

Yes Laurie, Gary and my BF, Tom, sound very much alike.  Also, I also remember growing up, my father really didn't like animals at all, but every dog he met adored him.  Poor guy!

 

BTW, he did say I should have taken the photo, when I told him.  Just reiterated never post such a thing online bigwink.gif  

 

I do believe he would be much better off if he would let her come to him.  Or, be more nonchalant about his interaction with her.  I've noticed when he is in a more relaxed state, she tends to stick around longer.  Like when he got up this morning, he wasn't thinking "Oh, let me go love on the kitty!!!"; he went to get coffee, chatted with me, whatever and she didn't run off back upstairs which is more typical after I would feed her and he comes downstairs.  

 

Since he wasn't making her the center of attention, I suppose she felt more relaxed to just do her cat stuff - which was to hang out on the radiator (covered of course) and watch everyone plow their sidewalks.  It's good to be a cat with no responsibilities, isn't it?

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