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Taming A Feral Cat

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
About nine days ago, I saw a cat going into my porch. I decided to put cat
food on my porch the next day. The next morning, I saw the food gone. I've
been putting cat food out on my porch since then and the same cat comes back
and eats them. One time, I spotted the cat eating and watched him from my
window, when it saw me, it ran away. I'm thinkin of adopting this cat. In order for me to do this, I must trap it in a cage. I found this article handling Feral Cats

It didn't state anywhere in the article that after I trap it I should take it to the vet for a rabies shot. That what I was thinking of doing right after I trap this feral cuz I wouldn't wanna get rabies. What do you guys think?
post #2 of 17
The instances of cats having rabies is very, very, very low. However, there are other health concerns that should be addressed, including parasites (worms), fleas, distemper, upper resperatory infections, FIV and FeLUK... that should be tested for and treated by a vet prior to introducing this kitty to any resident pets. Also, kitty really should be spayed/neutered as well - it will save you a lot of trouble with possible behavior issues as well as unwanted pregnancies.

Socializing a feral cat can be a long process, and it takes immeasurable patience on your part, but the rewards are also beyond measure. Thank you for caring for this little one, and we will most certainly be here for you every step of the way - to help with tips and tricks, to share in your joy when there is progress, and to commisserate with you and encourage you when there are setbacks.

Moving this to Caring for Strays and Ferals for you.
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
so what do you suggest?
I don't have any other pets at my house, but I'm just scared that this might have rabies. Don't most ferals cats have it?
Should I take it to the vet first and have it sedated so they can give it rabies shot? or should I take it home first and let it get use to me?
post #4 of 17
You are more likely to win the lottery AND get struck by lightening AND eaten by a shark, than to find a feral cat in the USA that has rabies.

The very first thing you need to do when you trap the cat is to take it to the vet to be neutered. Don't even take it out of the trap, simply load the trap (with cat inside) into your car and take him to the vet. The vet will then de-worm, vaccinate, neuter, treat for ear mites, and do anything else to ensure that the cat will be healthy. Then, after being checked and treated by the vet, you can bring him home and begin to integrate him into your household.
post #5 of 17
Actually most feral cats do not have rabies. In most areas of the United States, rabies is at an all time low. The carriers for rabies are the wild critters, bats, raccoons, possums, have more of a chance of becoming infected with rabies than a cat.

However, the first thing to do is to get the cat to the vet and have it tested for all the known diseases that are out there. That was my error in the article, it is such a given for me that the first thing you do with a feral is to take it to the vet, that I approached the article only in the socialization process and not the very critical stage of taking it to the vet as soon as it is trapped. I will be correcting that, and I thank you for pointing it out to me.

Again if you are so concerned about rabies, call your local health official and ask them for the stats on rabies in your area. I have been working with feral cats for over a dozen years now, and the only time I have ever come across rabies was when I was 13 years old and our family cat Smokey got rabies. I still remember my father going outside in his pea coat, heavy gloves and rubber boots with his fishing net and snaring this poor cat. Animal Control arrived soon after to put Smokey out of his misery.

I am not saying that feral cats don't get rabies, just that I have never had that happen, and the instance of rabies in cats is quite low. The rabies scare is one reason so many ferals end up dead, and why right now, the country of Israel is slowly and systematically poisoning all the feral cats it can in a very gruesome act, even though it has been determined that the rabies are brought in by the wild jackals. Rabies scare a lot of people, and sadly, the cats end up suffering for this.
post #6 of 17
I haven't read the article you are referring to but this is what I would do.

After trapping the kitty, I'd take it immediately to the vet for:
--spay/neuter surgery
--combo test (FeLV and FIV test)
--deworming and flea treatment
--rabies shot
--FVRCP-C and FeLV shot

Most ferals absolutely do NOT have rabies. You can search Alley Cat Allies website for research that's been done on the health of feral cats to see actual numbers. According to an article published by Dr. Julie Levy (on Best Friends website), which focused on the state of FLoria, only 4% of rabid animals identified in the state were cats. Your vet could offer you more reassurance.

Depending on where you live, the time you have to commit to the cat, how wild he is, etc., you and the cat might be happier with an arrangement where he has a cozy place to sleep in your back yard and regular food & water.

The transition to indoor kitty might be a stressful one for you both. It might be months before you can touch kitty. Or he might come around quicker. But be realistic in your expectations and commitment.
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
aw man..i don't have a backyard. So a feral cats can't stay indoors? They are only allowed to be outdoor cats?
post #8 of 17
Most feral cats will take to being inside, and can make the transition to indoor cats, it will just take time. You need to re-adjust your clock to the cat's and understand that when it looks like you are going a few steps ahead in progress you will also encounter some drawbacks that make those steps look backwards. Don't expect this cat to be so grateful for a plate of food that he jumps in your lap immediately kneads your leg and purrs himself to sleep. In feral land this just doesn't happen right away. But, in time, once you establish in this cat's mind that you can be trusted, and you don't yell at him, scold him for mishaps or frighten him in any manner, he will bond to you, and that first head bump against your arm or leg, will put a smile on your face and a joy in your heart. Most of these cats have been abused in one way or another in their short time here on earth, for ferals are easy targets for bullies. Start feeding at the same time each day, spend down time with the cat, even if it means just sitting on the floor near wherever it is hiding and reading out loud softly to it. It can happen, it just doesn't occur overnight. I only have two ferals of the 10 here that refuse to come inside. The others have access to both inside and out 24/7 but I live in a fairly safe area.
post #9 of 17
I would definitely encourage you to read through the thread Socializing a Feral: The Story of Lucky . It is a long thread, and will take some time, but it will give you a very good idea of what you can expect to encounter with this cat when you bring him inside. Of course, you could get really lucky and find that this cat was once an inside cat and has just reverted to his feral ways after being abandoned at some point. If that's the case, he could acclimate to being inside again, and learn to trust you, fairly quickly. It all depends on the cat and what he's been through in his time outside. But I can tell you this, most all of us here believe that most ferals can be socialized, no matter what age, with time, patience, understanding and accepting him for what he is and what he will accept, and a whole lot of love.
post #10 of 17
Are you positive this cat is even a feral, or just skittish? We have a cat that's been hanging around outside for weeks now. It would run off whenever we would try and get near him. After 3 weeks of feeding, this cat is now rolling over, purring, etc. How long have you been feeding? Long enough to build some trust? If so, then I would say it's feral. If not, then give it a few weeks to develop the trust. You may be able to move him indoors without any problems.
post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 
valanhb yeah i'll take a look at that.
zonie, it's been more than 3 weeks that i have fed this cat.
I really think it is a feral.

hissy have any of your feral cats ever tried to scratch you on your face while you sleep?
post #12 of 17
No never- why?
post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 
On your article, it just seemed like these cats are very aggressive that you have to hold a cardboard all the time.
post #14 of 17
When cats are scared, they have two responses - hide or attack. Most hide. You have to remember too, Mary Anne has worked with animals with a horrible history of abuse. In those cats' case, they have learned that when a human comes toward them they will be hurt, so they try to get away by whatever means possible.

Think of it from a cat's perspective. We are a LOT bigger than they are, and they aren't sure if we are predators or not. Ferals especially may have had bad experiences with people approaching them. But when we are sleeping, prone, we are closer to their size, we aren't moving, approaching, yelling, etc. We aren't nearly as scary when we are asleep.
post #15 of 17
Ahh- well as Heidi says I work with the ones that people have given up on pretty much. Some of them are so aggressive out of the gate because of the treatment they got while they were loose in the world that the only way they feel they can protect themselves is through aggression. Being launched on by a ticked off cat with claws splayed is not my idea of a good time. The cardboard keeps me safe, and them safe as well because their claws can't grab the slippery surface until they figure out how.

Sadly, the worse case of aggression that I have ever dealt with, was not a feral cat, but a domestic. Just a young one, whose owner contacted me and begged me to take him from her. I told her I would and would return him back to her once his behavior mellowed. She actually drove him here, she lived in Idaho. She brought with her, a computerized litter pan, two cloth cat carriers, a whole trunkful of toys- I kid you not. I opened the carrier upstairs in the cat room, he spit and dove straight for me! I ducked my head and turned a bit (I was kneeling) and he overcompensated and sailed over my head. By the time I stood up, he had launched himself at me again, so I quickly got out of the room. He was puffed up like a little puffball and spitting and actually lunged for me before I got to the door. I was amazed this was a cat this woman had owned from a kitten!

I came downstairs, fixed a pot of tea and started talking to Gladys. She was a very articulate woman, and through the conversation she started telling me some of the horrendous things she had done to this cat! I won't go into it here, but the acts were nothing short of cruelty and she would instigate them for reasons such as "he made the litterbox smell to bad...he wouldn't quit crying....It got to the point that this cat was so on guard with her that if she came anywhere near him, he would lunge at her and try to hurt her. Who could blame him? After all, she terrified the living daylights right out of him! She told of one instance where he kept her pinned into the corner of a room for over an hour pacing back and forth and growling! I wanted to throw her ass out of the house, but I sat there just gathering information and trying to stop from telling her she needed to go play in heavy traffic! Finally before she left, she said she didn't want him back, he was "my problem!"

Well Terror which i renamed immediately, took about 6 months of constant reassurance and TLC before he even calmed down. Then it was about 3 months more before he accepted anyone else in the room but me. Eventually he was rehomed to a young man who loves this cat very much and calls him Clyde. They both are doing well.

Cats are shaped by their genetic traits and their life experiences. They don't have to be ferals to be threatening, but if you treat them the right way, the rewards are immeasurable.
post #16 of 17
Thread Starter 
what did that woman do to that cat? it's ok, i can take it
post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 
hissy, how old were the feral cats when you tried to tame them?
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