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I think I adopted a formerly feral cat... HELP!

post #1 of 117
Thread Starter 

I adopted a 6 year old Calico/Torie from an ad on Craigslist... previous owner described her as loving, lap cat. I never really got to greet her, talked with the owner briefly, then they captured her in the bathroom and put her in a cardboard carrier and into my car. Looking back it seemed a bit rushed. They did choose me over a lady with ferrets who wanted to adopt her. They sent her with food, litter, and her bed, but the bed had been washed, and there weren't any toys or blankets with her scent on them... So I never really got to greet this cat before I had her at home. 

 

What I was told is that the lady's daughter brought the cat home as a feral kitten... thought she may have misused the term, but not so sure now. Roxie (the cat I adopted was 4 paw declawed, and has been an indoor cat. When the daughter moved into an apartment, Mom and Dad inherited her, and they got a dog... the owner told me she got used to the dog and even slept near it. She told me Roxie is affectionate, a little shy with strangers. When I called to get some more information the next day she told me that it took 3 weeks for Roxie to come out from under the sofa when they moved...   

 

I'm sorry this is long but I need to tell someone the whole story so I can get some decent feedback!

 

I put her in a safe room with litter, food, water and her bed, and left her alone for the first day. 

 

We were beginning to make progress, when I made the mistake of hanging a few pictures in other rooms, and I think that scared her.. It was really hot, and I had the door blocked but open just enough to let the sounds of the rest of the apartment come thru and more importantly, some airflow.

She escaped and got under my cedar chest in the bedroom, so I put a litter box and food there tor her, but didn't want to close her in, because my resident cat (7 years old male orange tabby) sleeps with me.

 

The next day I found her under the recliner... finally she landed in the bathroom, where I closed her in, and attempted to create a safe space there to keep her and Brutus apart, I think she should accept me first, before I begin trying to introduce them.

 

She's been here a month now, and won't let me near her! Growls when I feed her, move the empty dish, put treats out for her. NOT trying to touch her, I know she has to come to me. 

 

Installed a Felaway infuser and used spray, on cloth surfaces, towels, floor mat, etc. and on the window perch I put in for her.

 

I put a soft blanket  and her bed in the  bathtub where she has been sleeping... she won't touch her bed. but sleeps on the blanket. She threw up on the blanker and growled & swiped  at me while I cleaned it up.. I refolded the blanket so she wouldn't be sleeping on the dirty part, sprayed it again with Feliway, and now she won't touch it. She's spent the last two days on the counter of my bathroom, where she growls at me when I put on my makeup, brush teeth etc... 

 

I NEED HELP! It gets very frustrating, she'll go a day without growling at me and then starts again. What do I do?  I know this will take a long time, but any suggestions?

 

This forum was recommended by a feral/stray cat site, and between them and this site I've gotten the most useful information, thanks to anyone who actually reads and responds.

post #2 of 117

Thank you for adopting her and for your patience.  Your little cat has had her life turned upside down at least twice now.  I am not surprised she's upset.

 

We have a tortoiseshell who fusses at us no matter what we do.  She was a six months old feral when we caught her and her brother.  Being clueless at the time, we brought them inside.  After six years, Teresa will let us pet her (she actually likes it) but cusses us out the whole time.  It's actually kind of funny.  Chester (in my avatar) allows two-second scritches once or twice a week.  He doesn't comment until he leaves with a huff.

 

Your cat sounds like she's vocal - some cats want you to know how they feel, even if it's by growling.  I would simply ignore her and go about your business.  Don't look at her but you can talk to her softly.  Answer her ("Oh, really?  I hadn't heard that.)  You will learn soon enough what annoys her.  Try to avoid those actions in her presence.

 

You are doing the exact right thing by not pressuring her.  She may be one of those cats who simply doesn't want a lot of human interaction (despite what the previous owner said).  Or she might truly be a lap cat but needs lots more time to feel comfortable about it in her new home.

 

As to introducing her to Brutus, can you set up baby gates or a screen door so they can see one another but not get access?  You might also feed them each a treat on either side of the door.  This will help them associate treats with one another.

post #3 of 117

Ondine is right, you will need time and patience.  Rescuing a cat is tough work, but also so very rewarding.  You are doing all the right things.  Have you tried any flower essences?  You could try rescue remedy and/or Jackson Galaxy's Spirit Essences.  He makes one called Feral Cat Rehab.  I have used it on 4 outside ferals/strays.  Each time after using it for about a week, I have been able to make progress with the cats.  Sometimes the progress is just not running when they see me and other times, it's complete melting and allowing me to pet! 

 

Have you tried sitting in the bathroom and talking quietly to her?  I guess if you she has to spend so much time in the bathroom, it might get a bit cramped.  Have you thought of moving her back to the safe room?  She needs a place to hide that is safe.  In the safe room I use, I put the mattress and box springs up against the wall.  I didn't want the cat getting under the bed.  I also blocked off all other areas, I thought he could get into.  I put a few boxes with blankets and added a small cat tree beside the window.  This allows him to look outside and see what is going on.  I use the feliway plug ins too.  I also recommend Composure.  I have used both the treats and the liquid and find the liquid to work more quickly.  Yet, it is more expensive too. 

 

Gerber stage 1 chicken or turkey baby food is also magic.  Cats love it and it works well with socializing.

 

Thank you for taking the time to rescue this sweet girl!  She will need love, time and patience!

 

I forgot to add that  I used a cheap screen door from Lowes for introductions.  It also allowed my rescue to see what was going on and hear the sounds of the house.  I did not want to remove the door, so I bought a cheap wooden screen door that is larger than the door opening.  I then bought 2 cheap tension rods.  I put the screen door up and kept it closed by using the tension rods.  I will insert a picture to show you how I did it.  The screen door was $20 and the tension rods were about $4 for the two.

post #4 of 117

That's right - I always forget this brilliant way ShadowsRescue came up with for the screen door.  Makes it so easy to get in and out.

post #5 of 117
Thread Starter 

Thank you both for your wonderful comments and suggestions!! I write this as I sit on the bathroom floor, Roxie's favorite new spot is the towels on the back of the toilet... She can't see me but I'm in here with her talking and working quietly, with a dish of tuna on the floor in front of the toilet... she hasn't moved near it.

Over the weekend, I fed her and sat on the floor quietly and after a few minutes she ate with me there! It's one step forward then three back, but we'll get there. Some days are better than others. 

Love the screen door idea, I live in an apartment and can't make permanent changes or take doors off, but that could work with the tension rods.

As to getting her back in her original safe room...made the HUGE mistake of trying to put a towel over her to pick her up, and decided against it. Have had her in the bathroom ever since. Thinking of trying to shut the doors so her only option is to go back in there, but that will have to happen over a weekend so I have lots of time and can keep Brutus closed off too. The last thing I want to do now is frighten her again! She got scared of the water in the sink this morning while I brushed my teeth... she's seen this before, but the water seemed to scare her. She was on the counter, and hopped back into the bathtub. (I wouldn't mind having my bathroom back!) 

How can i encourage her to venture out of the bathroom without drama/frustration/freaking her out?

post #6 of 117

Do you have a cat carrier?  You could start to put her food in the carrier each day.  She will get used to eating in it.  Then when you are ready to move her, put her food in the carrier and shut the door.  I did this when I had to take Marvin to the vet for the 1st time.  He had been living in the house for almost 3 weeks.  I started feeding him in the carrier.  On the morning of the vet visit, I put a small amount of food in the back of the carrier.  Mine was a soft sided carrier that zipped in the front.  Once he was inside, I put a chair pad over the opening while I zipped it shut.  You could then quickly move the cat back to her safe room and immediately let her out.  It shouldn't be too traumatic since it will be so quick.  Just make sure that her safe room is really safe.  You want to block off underneath beds as well as any other really small spaces.  I ended up just putting the mattress and box springs up against the wall.  I then used old sheets, towels and pillows to block off any space I thought he might fit into.  Yet do make sure you have a special safe place to hide.  You could use an box or even a small cat tree that has a hidey box. 

 

I would think she might be happier in a space where she can move around a bit more.  Do you have a window she can look out?  Make sure you keep it closed as you don't want her trying to escape!

 

Keep up the good work.  It will take time and patience.

post #7 of 117
Thread Starter 

This is a great idea... I can put the towels she's been laying on inside. Right now, her favored spot is on the top of the toilet, so she growls and hisses at me every time I have to use it. NOT fun. I believe this will take a while, she's so untrusting of anything or anyone. Have also ordered Spirit Essences Feral remedy, hopefully that in with everything else will calm her down some. I've had scared cats before, but this is the most extreme case I've personally had. Thank you so much for all your help!! Will look forward to keeping in touch. Really glad I found this forum and this site.

post #8 of 117

If you put her food inside, she will have to go inside to eat.  I started by putting the food bowl right inside the door.  Each day I would move it back a few inches until it was all the way to the back.  The day you want to move her, have something really yummy and enticing like tuna, chicken, sardines, etc...  Good luck.  I hope that you can get her moved soon.  It would not be fun using the toilet with a growling hissing kitty behind you!!

post #9 of 117
Thread Starter 

Thought I'd take a chance because my 7 year old Brutus was napping under the covers in my bedroom... I closed off the doors that lead anywhere other than the "safe room" and brought a plate of tuna just to the open door of the bathroom... she was a little freaked and very vocal, but ran into the safe room without me having to touch her or put her in a carrier. Much growling and hissing, but she's in there now with her litter box, bed and the towel she's been laying on for the last couple of days. I sprayed the room down with Feliway and moved the infuser in there. Left the tuna in there for her too! Keeping my fingers crossed. Ordered Spirit Essences Feral and Stress formulas, hope to get them soon! Plan to leave her alone the rest of the day, let her re-settle. Do you think she'll remember having been in this room before?

post #10 of 117

How awesome!!!  She might smell her scent.  Give her time to adjust.  You can also play some soft music for her.  When Marvin is stressed, I pull out my ipod and play the hard music I have on it just for my animals.  It really helps calm him down.  At night if it is raining or storming he is so scared, I definitely play it for him then. 

 

I have also used Composure liquid and treats.  I used to give them to Marvin at bedtime as that was when he was most stressed.  They worked really well on him.  Then I bought the liquid to use for my resident indoor cat, Jake as well as Marvin since they are in the "getting to know you" stage.  It does help take the edge off.  The liquid works more quickly than the treats, but the treats did help him when he was stressed about his new space.

 

So happy she is back in her safe room.  Take it slow.  She will adjust.  At least you have your bathroom back!! 

 

I keep a gate in front of my safe room so that when I go inside, Marvin doesn't escape.  You may not have that problem as she is so frightened now, but sometimes they sit at the door and cry.  I also used a firm chair pad that I keep outside the room so that I can gently push him back if needed.

 

Keep us posted.  You are doing great!

post #11 of 117

Jseltzer, that's a feral cat alright!   Brings back memories of when I first brought Patches in - a tortie calico also.    I trapped her as a feral mom with two 8 week old kittens.   A lady from a local cat rescue had been helping me, loaning me equipment and advice.   She came and nudged Patches out of the trap into the bathroom where I planned to keep her for a while.   Patches let herself be touched and moved out of the trap and ran behind the toilet.   The lady said no problem, she'll be tame in no time!    Ha!  Turns out she was just still drugged from the surgery.     ....  Eight years later, she's still my indoor semi-feral.   And I love her to pieces.   She let's me pet her, pick her up a few inches off the floor, regularly has drooling purring fits.    But she cannot be restrained in any way without turning into a dangerous creature so vet trips mean either a humane trap or a vet in here with special equipment and I think it will be that way the rest of her life.    Still she's a wonderful part of my household and has always been a great "cat's cat" to the other cats as well.    I'd suggest calling the people you adopted Roxie from and asking them some detailed questions about how much success they actually had with her.   Maybe if you are clear to them you are committed to keeping her they will open up and share some info that will help you.   And it sounds like you are doing great so far.    Take it slow, plan on leaving her in her safe room for a few weeks before intro's with your other cat or the rest of the house - this gives you more time to work with her.  

 

Shadowsrescue, love that screen door idea!

post #12 of 117
Thread Starter 

Just a follow up... Roxie has been in her safe room for two days, has been hiding under a blanket covering some moving boxes... comes out to eat and use litter box. Last nite I spent about an hour in the room with her, quietly knitting and listening to "early Jazz" on Pandora... brought in treats and put them near where she was. Didn't come out (not surprised). This morning, when I brought in her food, she'd eaten the treats I left, and was sitting under the rockiing chair. She stayed there, while I was in the room collecting the things I needed for the day, and I think she was on my desk  checking things out during the nite, because my glasses case was on the floor.  Tonite we'll "knit" again.

post #13 of 117
Thread Starter 

Also, I left my knlitting on the chair so she can check it out, maybe even sit on it, (warm and soft)... because I'm sure it smells like me, and I grab her dry food with my hands so it smells of me, too.

post #14 of 117

So glad all is going well.  I think she will be much happy in a room instead of the bathroom!  I bet you are glad to have the bathroom back to yourself!!  You will start to see more and more progress every few days.  Just be patient and give her lots of time.  I used to go into the room and just talk and talk.  I would tell about my day.  Sometimes I would read aloud.  This got Marvin used to my voice and something he looked forward to. 

 

Keep up the great work and keep us posted and her progress.

post #15 of 117
Thread Starter 

The Spirit Essences arrived today! I was so excited to get them started.. I put the Feral remedy in some wet food and put it by the spot she's picked out... (it's a little space with a pillow under a blanket, but she can see out and i can see her) Then I laid on the floor and pretended to sleep, while playing the sound of a cat purring on my phone... I opened my eyes after a while and she was out eating it... went back to her spot. A while later I put some more on a small pile of treats that had been sitting out for a day or two, and later came back and she'd eaten them too. 

I'm also using Stress Stopper, and sprayed some around the room. Last time I was in there to give her some more wet food with the Feral formula, she just watched me, didn't flinch, hasn't growled at me today and I've gotten fairly close to her spot... 

I like the idea of playing the sound of a cat purring, i think it could be calming for her... hopefully she doesn't think there's another cat in the room.?

Spent another hour in the room quietly reading. The look on her face has softened. I don't think it's just my imagination or wishful thinking.

Gonna keep it going and hope for more progress. Have a screen door ordered, that I can attach to the doorway with velcro, should arrive next week.

post #16 of 117
Thread Starter 

Does anyone have experiences with using the Spirit Essences? Last nite she really seemed to be calmer, today, on edge again... don't know what to expect. I'm using the Stress Stopper for Brutus, too , he seems comfortable, although still curious about the cat on the other side of the door. When I use the Stress stopper, he didn't cry while I was in the room with Roxie. 

I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts, experiences with the products, etc.

post #17 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by jseltzer View Post
 

Does anyone have experiences with using the Spirit Essences? Last nite she really seemed to be calmer, today, on edge again... don't know what to expect. I'm using the Stress Stopper for Brutus, too , he seems comfortable, although still curious about the cat on the other side of the door. When I use the Stress stopper, he didn't cry while I was in the room with Roxie. 

I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts, experiences with the products, etc.


I have used quite a few of the Spirit Essences.  They do take awhile to get results.  It usually took at least 2 weeks for me to see consistent progress.  So just give it time.  Also the essences need to be used about 4 x per day.  I use them in combination with feliway plugins and feliway spray. 

 

For cat to cat introductions see this article

http://www.thecatsite.com/a/introducing-cats-to-cats

post #18 of 117
Thread Starter 

Thank you, Shadow! So glad to hear that you've had success. I think because yesterday seemed so much better I was hoping "it's downhill from here"... not yet. I'm using it 4X/day like it says, so I'm spending as much time as I can when I bring a treat in, hoping she'll eat while I'm in there too. Thoughts on the purring cats sound???

post #19 of 117

If the purring sound tends to calm her then keep using it.  It certainly can't hurt her.  Just let her be the guide.  If it seems to agitate or bother her, stop using it.  But if she's fine with it, keep it going!!

 

When I first started socializing my feral, Shadow, it was such a laborous process.  I decided to set one small goal instead of of all of the things I hoped for.  I began by allowing him to be comfortable with my presence.  I used cooked plain chicken.  I would put some in a bowl about 8-10' away from me and then just quietly watch.  He loved the chicken.  After he would eat the chicken in my presence, I then sat on a blanket and worked on him approaching me for the chicken.  He would come within about 2 feet.  Each goal required patience and some goals had to be abandoned for awhile. 

 

Shadow has been with me for 3 years now.  I still work on goals with him!!  I can now pet him, lift him off the ground, sit with him, and the best was when he started to sit in my lap.  He is and will probably always be very skittish.  He lives outside, but used to come inside for short visits.  That all had to stop when I rescued another stray.  The two do not get along.  I still have lofty goals of Shadow some day living in the house in harmony with my other cats.

 

You are doing great and it is so wonderful that you have the patience and love to give.

post #20 of 117
Thread Starter 

Thank you, your encouragement means the world. There are days when I think she'll just live in my office and never come out! She seems calmer, but not interested in my presence... she sleeps on her side. I think that's showing she's relaxed, but I don't know. Sometimes I bring food and she's not interested at all. Are there other things I can use? She's not been interested in toys... again, many thanks.

post #21 of 117

The absolute best thing to try is Gerber stage 1 baby food in Chicken or Turkey.  This is just meat and water with nothing extra.  Cats go crazy for it.  You can let her try some on a plate and then see if she will lick it off the spoon or your fingers.  My cats go crazy for it.  I can hide the worlds most awful tasting pill in it too!!  I used a lot of baby food and cooked chicken when I was socializing Shadow. 

 

It took months and months for him to be interested in toys too.  I found this very true as well when I moved Marvin inside my house.  He would eat, but had no interest in toys.  I had to try so many different types.  I finally hit the nail on the head with a string.  I just made sure to take it with me when I left so he didn't try to eat it.  Today, string is still is favorite.  Now my outside boy, Shadow loves the laser, but Marvin never took to i. 

 

Laying on her side does sound very relaxed. 

post #22 of 117
Thread Starter 

This is going to sound like the dumbest question ever... this morning, I found that during the nite, Roxie had thrown up... all over my office chair where I sit, the rug under it and on my computer... Is there any significance to where she chose to throw up? This morning, she is eating with me in the room, too, I left to go get my glasses, and she was eating, she paused, but went right back to it when I sat down.

post #23 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by jseltzer View Post
 

This is going to sound like the dumbest question ever... this morning, I found that during the nite, Roxie had thrown up... all over my office chair where I sit, the rug under it and on my computer... Is there any significance to where she chose to throw up? This morning, she is eating with me in the room, too, I left to go get my glasses, and she was eating, she paused, but went right back to it when I sat down.


I really have no idea???  That is a good question.  Our indoor only cat, often throws up on my sons bed.  He is my sons cat and sleeps in my sons room.  Did she throw up a hairball or do you think something has made her sick?  Glad she is eating this morning. 

post #24 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by jseltzer View Post

This is going to sound like the dumbest question ever... this morning, I found that during the nite, Roxie had thrown up... all over my office chair where I sit, the rug under it and on my computer... Is there any significance to where she chose to throw up? This morning, she is eating with me in the room, too, I left to go get my glasses, and she was eating, she paused, but went right back to it when I sat down.

laughing02.gif Nope, not a dumb question. wink.gif Chalk it up to being lazy and not wanting to get down from where they are to barf.gif. Depends on the cat, in my experience. Some will try to make it to their litter box to vomit, some to the floor, and other's wherever they may be, which could be your couch, their cat tree, or your bed. ohwell.gif

Wonderful to hear how well your Roxie is now adjusting. Poor thing, the life she had before - and a four-paw declaw. crying.gif Well, she couldn't have found a better home than she has now. In time, you will be rewarded with her complete trust. Eating in your presence - excellent first sign. clap.gifclap.gifclap.gif
post #25 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by ShadowsRescue View Post

  I finally hit the nail on the head with a string.  I just made sure to take it with me when I left so he didn't try to eat it.  Today, string is still is favorite. 

This gave me a giggle. laughing02.gif Because, I found out my Pipsqueak LOVES to chase my dental floss. It cracks me up. Each night, he waits till I am finished brushing my teeth and then he knows the dental floss is coming out. hyper.gif BUT - of course, never, ever do I let him have it nor do I let go of it. I let him catch it and chew for a second. OH, and of course, this is AFTER I have already flossed my teeth, not the other way around. flail.gif

My mother uses a piece of ribbon for her kitty at night. String, ribbons, dental floss, great cat toys, but again, don't leave them out! wink.gif
post #26 of 117
Thread Starter 

Thank you so much! I am trying to be patient, but it's hard when I've not had a cat this fearful before! People keep telling me to take her to the Humane Society, but I know that would be a death sentence! Any other advice you have to offer is most appreciated!

post #27 of 117
Quote:
Originally Posted by jseltzer View Post
 

Thank you so much! I am trying to be patient, but it's hard when I've not had a cat this fearful before! People keep telling me to take her to the Humane Society, but I know that would be a death sentence! Any other advice you have to offer is most appreciated!


Oh, I hope you don't take her to the Humane Society.  It will take time and lots of time.  Marvin took at least 4 weeks to adjust being inside.  He is still is really fearful of alot of noises, strange sounds, my dog, and people who come to the house.  Marvin will have been inside my house now for 5 months the end of October.  I figure it will be another 5-6 months before he is completely adjusted.  I have no idea what he had been through living outside on his own. 

 

Just keep doing what you are doing.  Lots of visits.  Do you have a cat tree where she can look outside?  I have a small one for Marvin that is right at window height.  He can lay on top of hit and it also have 2 other layers.  It is his safe spot.  He is out and about in the house most of the day, but when he gets scared he runs to his room and climbs in the cat tree.  I have a gate with a small pet door that is on the door frame.  This keeps my big dog out, yet allows Marvin to get away if he needs to.  He still stays in his safe room at night as he and my resident cat are still not to the point of being unsupervised.

 

Do you play soft music for her?  I use an old ipod that I downloaded cat harp music from Amazon.  It sounds really cheezy, but the music is quite nice and very soothing.  All of my animals love it.  When my feral, Shadow used to come inside the house for short visits, I always played the harp music and it calmed him right down. 

post #28 of 117
Thread Starter 

I have no plan to take her to the HS... as I said, at this point, she's not adoptable, so it would be a death sentence for her. NOT ACCEPTABLE. Went to the store on my way home and got chicken, turkey and beef baby food... read the labels, no added stuff. Its sitting in front of her right now... no response yet. She did finish her breakfast, and no more puking so far. She's used her box, and drank a lot of water. I"d bought one of those long skinny felt toys on a stick, just looks like a very skinny snake, and tried it with her again last nite putting it gently near her... she growled at me! 

I will continue to work with her... I cannot believe that her previous owners completely lied to me about her being a loving lap cat... I am hoping she's just totally stressed from the sudden change, and has gone back to her feral ways as a defense. I have to continually remind myself that this is a completely new experience, I've never adopted a cat I didn't hold and pet first... really dumb move on my part, I trusted these people; they seemed so concerned for her wellbeing. They wouldn't give her to the first person who arrived, they didn't like her; she had ferrets, and there was something they said they didn't feel right giving Roxie to her.

post #29 of 117

I find that my two vomit on spots that I sit when they are trying to let me know they feel bad.    It's hard to explain, but I really think it's their way of saying "Help!" - the one that does this the most is the cat I tamed as a feral kitten.   In a weird way I think it's actually a good sign that your cat is doing that.    Again she is so lucky she found her way to you!

post #30 of 117
Thread Starter 

OK, Here's another "silly" question, given I'm in completely uncharted waters... Roxie won't have anything to do with me... she's eaten the food I bring, including the baby food I put out last nite. If I get too close she growls or hisses, somtimes she just meows... at night, she's been crawling around on top of my desk and knocking thngs off onto the floor. Found both Spirit Essences bottles on the floor this morning with some papers. Is this a good sign?

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