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New here / new to feral cats

post #1 of 52
Thread Starter 
Hi. I'm new here. I found this looking for feral cat info. Me and my fiance Bernadette just trapped a female because so many people complained about her when we were feeding her we felt it was only a matter of time before someone called animal control.

We've been feeding her two months. She would eat right next to me but I know a lady on our block got scratched by her when she tried to pet her. I also know she's two years old, born outside and had several kittens before they took her in to the vet to be spayed. After that they let her out again.

Here's what I'm curious about...
does she sound like she could be socialized?
Since we caught her she has hid under a dresser in the basement.
She is eating ok (at night) and will come out after I'm down there talking to her for a while. She talks to me a lot and has begun cleaning herself in front of me but just for a minute. Before we trapped her she would touch my thumb thru the screen window when I would put it there. I think, from what I've read, that she's pretty friendly for a feral cat? Does it sound like our chances are good? I don't care if shes a lap cat I just want her to feel happy and get along with our other cats. It would be nice to be able to pick her up for trips to the Vet though. We'll be trying to trap her in a cage soon to have her looked at by the Vet (before she meets our other cats)

Our other 3 cats (2 male/one female) are from shelters but Maggie is the first feral we've dealt with. Actually one of the others was a outdoor kitten but just 4 weeks when we found here so she was like any other kitten. No real trust problems with her.

Do you think Maggie will come to trust us?
What is the likely result of her meeting our other cats?

Thanks in advance.
post #2 of 52
Welcome to the site Jamie and congratulations on taking Maggie into your heart and home! It takes a special person to work with feral cats, and it sounds like you and Bernadette are the right kind of people.

First and foremost, take Maggie to the vet (if you haven't already) and have her tested for all the nasty things that ferals can get - parasites (very likely she has some kind of worms, possibly fleas and ear mites), test her for nasty diseases like FIV, FIP, FeLV - before you introduce her to your resident cats.

From your post, I think Maggie has a good chance of being socialized. She's used to people, she's used to depending on people for food, and most importantly she's already got a relationship with you that is positive (you've fed her, and not pushed her trust limits). She isn't climbing the walls or attacking you, which are both positive signs. Be sure that the area she is in is escape-proof! Even if she is too scared right now, she WILL try to find a way out.

For help with socializing, you are already doing very well! The biggest thing with socializing ferals is to spend time with her, ignoring her. Spend time reading out loud with her (which you are already doing ), but don't approach her. Don't look her in the eyes since ferals take this as an aggressive posture. Let her come to you.

Here is an excellent article written by our own Hissy who rescues ferals: Handling Feral Cats

If you have time to spare, read through Socializing a Feral: The Story of Lucky It is a LONG thread, but I think just about every piece of advice you can get is in that thread, and it is SUCH a success story in the end that it will give you confidence in the trying times you will have with Maggie.
post #3 of 52
Thread Starter 
Hi. thanks for the response. I already read about lucky. I'll look at the other link you gave me though. Maggie has already tried to find an escape but so far I've blocked off the places she's interested in. We'll definately get her looked at before she can meet our other cats. Thanks. Jamie
post #4 of 52
Ditto from me. It will help you that she is already spayed - she will already be a bit calmed down from that. I had luck with socializing 3 older ferals (they were about 2 when I brought them in). One turned into a tummy slut lap kitty, one a bit more shy but she slept on top of me her entire life, and the 3rd allowed pets but not more than that. They all got along very well with my other cats. They took a lot of patience at first, but in the end, the reward of gaining their trust was worth the effort.

You are an angel for doing this!!
post #5 of 52

You've already gotten what advice there is to give, because Lucky's story (and a trip to the vet) are what is required and really say it all.

I would like to add that we're here to help you through the rough times, because there will be those. But the reward is SO WORTH IT!!!! Once you've built up that trust, which can take some time - it is a totally different relationship that with any other pet.

My hubby's kitty, Tuxedo, was so full of piss and vinegar that even when he was a teeny kitten he would arch his little back and hiss & spit at hubby. He would attack his hands while he was putting down food. A little two-pound kitten going for a 190 pound grown man! He terrorized the other cats - hurt one kitten so badly she needed to go to the vet for stitches, and we did not release her back outside, but socialized her and had her adopted out. We were afraid we were going to have to put him down - even though he had no illness - because he was so aggressive. But Gary worked patiently on Tuxedo, every day, outside. Well - "worked on him" simply meant being near him without looking at him directly or trying to interact with him.

It went from Spring to summer to fall - no apparent progress. We built shelter for him outside. It snowed. Gary fed him bowls of warm milk (formulated for cats, because most cats are lactose intolerant) each night in addition to his regular food. It was sooooo cold.

One afternoon Gary took Tuxedo's food out to him. He did his normal routine - attacking Gary, hissing and spitting. Gary sat down on the picnic bench and started crying! He was so frustrated! Just then Tuxedo walked up to him and bumped his foot. Gary could NOT believe it. From then on it was love-city. Well - almost. It took a few more months of bumps, rescuing him from being trapped in a groundhog hole after a terrible snowstorm, slowly working on touching him and picking him up - before we felt he was ready to move indoors.

When he did move inside with us (which is another long story), he did not get along with the other cats. When we brought foster kitties in here, he would try to attack them.

Now? He's the first friend of our recent rescue, Flowerbelle. He can hardly stop purring. He loves being petted and brushed. You ask him "You want dinner?" and he jumps up on the cat tree where we feed him and the whole place almost vibrates with his purr.

All Gary has to do is kneel on the floor and he'll come running - and give him a headbump so big it almost hurts, LOL! It's more like a head bang

He loves it when Gary picks him up and holds him like a baby on his back (he doesn't love it so much when I do it, LOL!) - but for Gary, he goes limp, snuggles in, and revs that purr motor up into high gear. Sometimes he only likes it for a minute or two - but that's more than enough for Gary.

He even gets along with all the other kitties living here. Well - most of the time.

post #6 of 52
Thread Starter 
thanks momofmany & ldg for your replies. I'll check back in here for more info & to post updates in the future days. We've only had Maggie for 5 days now so I don't know that we'll make any great leaps forward foe a little while. Thanks again. Jamie
post #7 of 52
Thread Starter 
Hi again. for anyone who likes cat pictures here's one of my favorites of one of our other cats, Ernie, adopted from a shelter. He didn't really have the police uniform on. I put his face into a picture of my brother who's a policeman using my computer. I thought it was funny. I hope I attached it correctly so it can be seen.

p.s. just killing time while I sit here by Maggie's hiding place
post #8 of 52
To kill time, take a book and start reading out loud to her quietly. Do this a chapter a day and if she comes out, don't even look at her, just ignore her and keep reading. You want to show her that you are in no way a threat to her. As she is hiding, don't peek underneath to see if she is okay-dim your lights in the room and just make it a safe place for her.
post #9 of 52
Thread Starter 
Hi Hissy.
I do talk to Maggie & sing too (quietly)
When she does come out I glance at her but I don't stare & I keep talking.

When we let her in the house we set it up so she would go into the basement so there would be a good separation (the stairs) between her & our other cats so they wouldn't meet until we know she's healthy.

My question about that is:
We have 2 windows down there but they are below ground so you can't see out of them. Light comes in but there's nothing for her to watch.
I put the TV on animal planet at night (when she comes out) without any sound (so she won't hear any growling of barking)

We feel like this is a little cruel but it was that or the garage which doesn't even have a window. Our place is so small there's a good chance she and one of the others would encouter each other if we tried to have her in the bedroom.

Is she ok without window views for a while?
I know they all love windows so we feel bad she can't have that

thanks. Jamie
post #10 of 52
I figure a larger (relataively) basement even without windows for a time is still better than a cage at a shelter, or starving and fighting for food outdoors.

And try classical music, that helps too.
post #11 of 52
Thanks for taking this kitty in! Could you put her into a small room for now? The only problem I find with turning feral cats loose in a large area is that you may end up with an indoor feral! I know someone who did this, and 3 yrs later, the cat will still not allow the person to touch her.

I put my ferals into a small room with only one hiding place - that way, they must at least be in close proximity to me and get used to me faster than they would if they had a large area.
post #12 of 52
Thread Starter 
Hi. I was thinking of maybe putting her in our small bedroom after she sees the Vet (if we can trap her to see the vet in the first place).
Maybe even sleeping in the bedroom with her. Then she would also have a window. Once we know she's healthy I'd be a little less nervous about her slipping out & meeting up with our other cats.

Does anyone know...
if I slept in the same room would she take snoring as growling and be scared?
Would she attack me while I'm sleeping?
If she gets out is she dangerous to the other cats?
I know the diseases are a threat but aggression wise, would she have a "killer" attitude, being feral, or just hiss & raise her paw like our others do when they argue?

We have a one year old kitten (found feral/4-5 weeks old) who I know would run right up to her because she's never been hurt by anything and is fearless. Would Maggie (the new 2 yr. old feral) know that Lucy the kitten is just playing?

thanks. Jamie
post #13 of 52
I'm not sure about the snoring, but I think that sleeping in the same room gives them a chance to check you out when they see you as non-threatening. We slept in the same room as Ophelia from the first night that she came in.

As far as attacking the other cats, I would think it would depend on how scared she is and how much interaction she had with other cats on the outside. If she was part of a colony, then she may find some comfort in another cat being around. If she was a pure loner, then she may see another cat as invading her territory and her instinct would be to drive the other cat away at any cost. Obviously the ideal thing would be to keep them separated until you have a good relationship with Maggie and you can do the proper introductions between the two cats.
post #14 of 52
Agree about cats who are part of a colony. When we adopt out former ferals from colonies, we try to get them homes where there is at least one other cat. Living with a tame cat seems to make them more confident and happier since being around other cats is familiar to them, and even seems to help with continuing taming.
post #15 of 52
Thread Starter 
thanks for the replies.
I was able to trap Maggie last night which suprised me because this is about the 3rd or 4th time she's been trapped this year.
We'll be taking her to our vet, who's very good, to check her out.
I'll put her in the small bedroom when she comes back.
I'll post updates in this subject as we progress.
I probably won't be on the computer as often now if Maggie's upstairs because I was using it to read emails & articles to her while I kept her company. Upstairs I'll have to read books.
thanks, Jamie

P.s. Maggie is a gray tabby
post #16 of 52
Good luck at the Vet!

I think this has already been said, but I'll just share my views on the subject. I think the best thing to do is build your trust with Maggie first, no matter how long this takes - weeks or months. Then I'd introduce her to other cats.

We have four ferals living here, and bring through kittens that need fostering from time to time. It always takes them a while to adjust to the kittens being here. I'm sure they know the kittens are just playing, but they don't care. If they're not in the mood and the kitten "invades" their space - Lazlo ignores them and walks away. Shelly often tries to play with them. Tuxedo (until this latest kitten) thought they were prey and would stalk & attack them, and Spooky would keep her space - and if a kitten invaded it, she would lash out very angrily.

So .... it really depends upon the personality of the cat!

BUT - we started with one feral as a pet we brought inside, Lazlo. Sheldon came in a week later, and QUICKLY learned from Laz what goes on around here. But they were kitties, 10 - 12 weeks old. Six months later, Spooky (same litter as Laz & Shel) came inside with us. She was scared to bits, but seeing Lazlo and Shelly interact with us made it easier for her. Tuxedo came in three - four months after that (again, same litter), and he became at ease inside really easily watching everyone else.

We live in an RV, so it's really small, and only kittens can be kept in a separate room, because the only separate room we have is a bathroom.

Unfortunately, the longest we can keep the larger cats separate is a day or two. We can close off the front of the RV from the back of the RV - but because the spaces are so small and we have so many cats, we don't want to confine them for too long (and they're all indoor only).

Maggie is older, but I think the small bedroom would be perfect. I think sleeping in there is a good idea. Cats only attack when provoked (or when they feel provoked). Sleeping you are defenseless, so it wouldn't do anything to disturbe her. I think it would be a safe time for her to check you out.

I don't think snoring would be confused for hissing - there would be no associated body language with it.

I think if she gets out, she'd look for a place to hide, and the only potential threat would be a kitty approaching her - might get thwapped. They usually get the message and leave the "thwapper" alone! I don't think she would aggressively go after any of your other cats or kitties - it's not her territory.

Keep us posted when you can!

post #17 of 52
Thread Starter 
Hi. Maggie is back from the vet and was fine except for fleas.
They thought she was 4 years old not 2 as some of the neighbors said. That makes me think maybe she wasn't the daughter of a feral cat that was here before I moved in like my nrighbor said. She said she appeared 2 years ago so if shes 4 maybe she's not a born feral but a pet someone lost or "released".

Anyway if I'm writing gibberish just ignore it. I'm posting with virtually no sleep. I slept in the room with Maggie last night. She came out & got in the window & snooped around during the night so that's good but she kept me up all night. Every time I started to fall asleep, I would snore & she would start meowing thinking I was talking I guess.
She also later started meowing by the window loudly (asking to be let out probably)

I think I'll have to make other arrangements for now and then sleep in her room on the weekend. Maybe she'll be a little more at ease and actually sleep a little herself.

She's better off now though, than she was in the basement because she's got a window and sunshine which I'm sure she'll enjoy.

I'll post more in the future here if I have any advances in socializing her.
thanks. Jamie
post #18 of 52
Thread Starter 
Hi. Update on Maggie.
The neighbor confirmed she saw her appear as a kitten 2 years ago so she is a feral but has had exposure to human "feeders" all her life. No major progress so far but she does come out in the dark while I'm in her bedroom after I talk to her for a while. She walks around the room & talks but doesn't get too close. This weekend I may see if can rig up a doorway cover made of lattice so we can have the door open & she can maybe see us with the other cats so she can see they aren't afraid. I'll have to see if I can do it without putting any permanent holes in the wall.

I don't think she's happy inside yet but I bet she feels better. No more fleas, constant food & a little bed in a doghouse that must feel better than sleeping in a hole under a concrete porch which is where I think she used to sleep.

She sometimes won't talk at all but the thing that seems to gurantee a little conversation is when I clean her litter box. I don't know if she thinks I'm using it or what but the "scratching in the sand" sound always starts her talking to me. She also ate a little in my presence this morning which she hasn't done since she's been inside. She kept meowing while eating which was a funny sound like "gnuh, gnuh, gnuh."
post #19 of 52
Little by little. Eating with you there is progress, no matter how small. So is talking to you - if they are really scared they won't make a noise at all.
post #20 of 52
Thread Starter 
Maggie update:

I built her a screened door "cover" to put in front of the bedroom door, covering it completely, so we can have it open & she can see & hear what goes on in the living room. I figured this way she can see us with our other cats and they can meet her too but without direct contact. They all took a peek last night and she was out of hiding for about 3 hours. A little growling from one of our other cats but thats it. No fights. I'm very pleased with how this worked out so I'm adding below how I built it in more detail in case someone else would like one of these. I slept in the room with her last night. She was pretty quiet this time so I was able to sleep. In the morning she came out & stayed out of hiding with me for about 2 hours. She comes closer to me now. I can tell she's "feeling things out" to see what happens if she comes close. I'm not pushing it. I think we're making progress. I just feel bad when I see her wanting to be outside. Even though she was in danger I still took her away from her old home. Hopefully she'll come to like this one enough that she forgets about living outside.

Thanks again for the previous advice & I keep re-reading Lucky's story to remember to be patient.

P.S. Details for building door cover...

I built it using 2 x 2's & something called hardware net from home depot. it's a thick plastic sheeting with holes (1/2 inch) in it... more like a fence than a screen. I made a 7 foot by 3 foot frame & wrapped the net around it vertically, stapeling every 3 inches. The net was 3 feet by 15 feet so it worked perfectly to cover both sides. The cost was about $20 in all & it took maybe 2 hours or so The only problem was figuring out how to keep it covering the door. I had put a piece of board across the center of the frame to make it stronger then after the net was on I added another board outside the net over the center board. I cut another board to size that would wedge between the wall & the board I added outside the net. The "wedge" board sits under the board that sticks out on the center & wedges against the wall across the hall. This holds the "door cover" upright against the doorway.
When I use it I also put my toolbox (heavy) in front of it at the base so she can't push it out. It seems strong however I still dont leave it up unsupervised because a cat could chew thru it given time and intense desire. A quicker way to lock it in place would be to put a heavy desk or table in front of it (our hallway shape doesn't have room for that)
Hope this is helpful to someone.
post #21 of 52
Thread Starter 
Hi again. Maggie is progressing well I think. I've begun sleeping in the room where she is and that seems to be making a difference. I think she's almost more comfortable when I'm with her now than when she's alone. The other day when I came home and was talking to my fiancee in the living room Maggie starting meowing from the bedroom. My fiancee said she hadn't made a sound all day so I guess she was talking to me. She getting curious about me... sniffed my hand and this morning my face. She's out sitting in the window most of the night. She's begun playing with the toys and even a little interactive playing with me. I've petted her using the fishpole toy and she didn't get upset. I could maybe pet her now as she will sometimes sit real close to me with her back facing me but I think I'll hold off for a while. I figure from what I've read here that you CAN rush things but you can't really go TOO slow (ecxcept for trapping them and getting them to the vet).

At any rate I'm very happy to see her play and stay out of her hiding place for hours at a time. I hated seeing her staying in the one spot most of the night and day as she did at first.

Maybe soon she can come out of the bedroom. I still have to see how my other cats relate to her. The two older boys more or less ignore her when I have the "screen" over the bedroom door. Our year old female kitten watches her alot but unfortunately growls & hisses. Lucy is such a dainty kitten you can hardly hear her do it. I picked her up and she was growling and "attacked" my hand. I could hardly feel it. I told her "yeah, you're real scary. I'm sure Maggie, who's been dealing with raccoons, dogs & cars is going to be real afraid of this when you meet!"

Thanks. Jamie
post #22 of 52
It looks like everything is going perfectly. You must be so excited that Maggie is playing and being so much more comfortable with you. Reading this thread is really heartwarming!
post #23 of 52
The screening of the doorway really does make a big difference. Cats are scent driven, and closed doors, cuts off most of the scents for them. Opening the door to go in and out assaults the cats because all these scents come rushing in, and most hide from it (to overwhelming) Keeping the door open and screened (like you did) works in the cat's favor and allows her to get used to the smells and the sounds and the sights that pass by.

We have two removable doors made of framed 2x4's and chicken wire. One sits at the foot of the stairs leading to the second floor, and the other at the head of the stairs. It has really helped the introduction phase of the cats that come through here to go nice and easy.

Good job! She is lucky she has found you.
post #24 of 52
Hi Jamie,
Your story is mimilar to mine; except that the cat we took in was about more than a week of being to the vet to be spayed
and is missing since last Friday. She wasn't friendly at first but her social graces progressed enormously. Graduated to sleeping in our bed_didn't seem to mind snoring_laps..and backs. We didn't push her to anything (came in when she wished, likewise let her out)
I should have kept her when she started showing signs of going in heat.
I wish you the best with Maggie, she's very lucky to have met you.

Here's Bibi le Bèbe (more on him later)
post #25 of 52
Thread Starter 
Hi Zinc.
I hope your lost cat returns and you can take her to the vet. I don't know too much about cats in heat but I suspect she may come back pregnant.

Maggie, as young as she is, had 2 or 3 litters before the people here trapped her and had her spayed. The lady who used to feed her before we moved in told me yesterday that her brother has Maggie's last 3 babies. The previous litters were adopted too. No one wanted to take Maggie in because she was feral. I'd like her to see her last 3 babies sometime. I don't know if she would know they were her babies because it's been 6 months.

again, I hope your lost one comes home.

post #26 of 52
Originally posted by jamie100
Hi again. for anyone who likes cat pictures here's one of my favorites of one of our other cats, Ernie, adopted from a shelter. He didn't really have the police uniform on. I put his face into a picture of my brother who's a policeman using my computer. I thought it was funny. I hope I attached it correctly so it can be seen.

You might like this thread...

post #27 of 52
Thread Starter 
hi Sicycat.
Those were funny.
I liked the clown one the best
post #28 of 52
Jamie - I've been out of town for over a week, and it was so wonderful to catch up on how things are going!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is one lucky kitty. You go girl!
post #29 of 52
Thread Starter 
Maggie update!

She let me pet her this morning... sort of.

I had one of those fishing pole toys that she plays with just a little bit but shes not too afraid of it so I used the stuffed toy on the end of the line to pet her lightly since I could get it close to her.

After a while I turned it around & started petting her with the stick end which was a little firmer.

Then I grabbed this "long" brush I had made before by taping a small hartz cat brush to a back scratcher & petted her with it before she realized I had switched to the larger item. By the time she saw it she was enjoying being petted with it so wasn't too afraid.

She kept giving me this funny look like "i don't know what this is but I think I like it"

We'll see if this can become a routine now. If it does I'm probably not too far from petting her by hand.

I don't think she's ever been petted... maybe just groomed by her mom when she was little.

post #30 of 52
Jamie, I think that's wonderful!!!! You never quite know whether or not you're going to set the relationship back (you know, the old two steps forward one step back) when you introduce something new like that. It took a while for our kids, even after being tame at home with us and being petted by our hands, to get used to the brush. Of course they all love it and beg for it now - but they weren't too sure they liked that prickly looking thing at first. But you got her into the sensation before she saw what caused it - and it worked.

Little by little she's learning that only good things happen to her with you.
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