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indoor feral cats

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I really need your help. I have had cats for 30 years. All have been normal (as normal as cats get). Two years ago, two feral kittens who had been living in my garage decided to move in with me. They came in freely when my door was propped open. I trapped each of them and had them neutered and they have lived with me ever since. They go outside sometimes for 10 minutes, but come right back in.

However, they still won't let me touch them. They get on my bed (with me in it), and they are fine with my other two cats, but if I make a move toward them, they're out of there. This in itself is a bit frustrating, and since I plan to move in a year (1700 miles), it really needs to get better.

Three nights ago, I discovered that one of them had tape worms. I really wanted to take him to the vet, so I boldly reached over and grabbed his leg. I had never done this before (and won't ever again). He hissed for a minute and fought me, then took both front paws and his teeth and attacked my hand. I was bleeding in 20 places and it got infected, etc.

I'm just at my wits end. I will trap him and take him to the vet which I must do by law since he bit me. But I really want our relationship to change. Any ideas?
post #2 of 9
I wish I could give better news to somebody who obviously loves cats and has opened heart and home to the unwanted of this world.

Whilemy experience liesin other areas, I have close friends who have worked with ferals for many years, and in this situation..............thisis as good as itis going to get.
There may have been an outside chance at the very beginning, if your two little vagrants had been young enough, that penning them for weeks while you worked on a socialisation programme might have turned them all the way back to domesticity. However there is a view that even 12 weeks is getting too late in the day for such work.

Please do not blame yourself in any way. The fact that they sleep with you and are relaxed around your home is as much trust as they have in them to offer. Absolutely allthat they can give.

Accept thatyou will need trap and crush cage for vets visit (and moving), and be very proud that you have given so much to cats whose lives would have been so much less if they hadn't chosen to walk through your door.

One word of warning. When you do move, don't let them even glimpse an open window or door for several weeks..............revertion to feral state is only ever a breath away for cats such as these and a new home is going to be very scary for them. I would consider asking your vet for an "in the food" tranquiliser on moving day.

post #3 of 9
I would just offer what I would do in this situation. I would herd both cats (because chances are they both have tapes) into a bathroom. I would step inside, close the door, and using either a heavy towel or blanket, I would carefully capture the cats and place them in a carrier to take to the vets. I would also suggest that while they are at the vets, you have the vet worm them and inspect them instead of you doing it afterward.

They will hiss and growl and make a fuss but if the blanket or towel is used correctly it is a safe way to capture them. Have the carriers already in the bathroom, and spray the inside of the carriers with feliway spray.

Don't make your movements "boldly" make them slow and deliberate and don't stare the cat in the eyes while doing so. It really helps to get down to their level, instead of towering over them, but please be careful and don't get bit or scratched.
post #4 of 9
I second Hissy's advice on the technique to get them to the vets.

For ongoing socialization - your story reminds me of my Tigger and Eightball, now about 8-1/2 years old and feral origin. Both were caught as kittens and did great for about a year then reverted back to feral like behavior (and I have scars to prove it).

You start ever so slow with them. With Tigger for example, he would hop up in bed with the other cats (I just happened to be there). When he was close enough to touch, I would reach out my hand and rest it on him (a paw, a leg, his side) with no attempt to pet him. Once he was comfortable with that (and I'm talking months of doing this), I would rest my hand on his back. Eventually we worked up to stroking his back (after a year or 2).

I also made a point of showing thru example that the other cats in the house could be petted and loved without feeling threatened. If one of the friendly cats are buddies with these 2, make a point of giving them loving in front of these 2. They will eventually figure out that the others are having a good time and perhaps they can do it to.

It took years, but both now sleep on top of me, purr and let me pet them. Tigger still freaks out when I try to pick him up (I have to almost trap him when it's time to take him to the vets), and climbs a wall when a door is close to a room he is in. But considering their original behavioral state, we've made tremendous progress. Eightball progressed more quickly than Tigger (and in fact is sitting on my lap right now).

All of this has to be done on their schedule not yours. If you do something that they don't wish for you to do, stop doing it. Never force yourself on them or you will only grow their fear rather than decrease it. Slow, steady patience and set examples with the other cats and you will work thru this. Be prepared for this to take months if not years to accomplish. If you're committed to them, you can do it!

I feel for you!!!
post #5 of 9
In response to your problem: I have successfully rescued 9 ferals, and only one was a real problem. You might think this is weird, but I have been successful by making the sound a mother cat makes when they come near me. If you notice, a mother cat makes a brrrrr sound to her kittens, and I started doing this when I began socializing them. It seems to work, because they have all gained my trust.
Also, a feral is frightened of fast movements and hands. Start slowly by reaching to pet him from the side or from behind, until he gets used to your hand. I hope you have gotten him vaccinated. I take all of mine to the vet before I even bring them inside.
I was bitten in the leg by one of my cats, and it bled for quite a while, and also became infected. Just be patient and talk softly to him because he's used to fighting for food and shelter, and needs to learn how to cope on the inside.
I've also found that there is an unwritten code among the ferals that causes them to attempt to be top cat. When they learn where they stand in the group, they calm down much faster.
I am still working with an older male that took me 3 years to catch and bring indoors. I never thought I'd be able to get near him. He still flinches when I reach to pet him, but he doesn't run anymore.He has adjusted well to indoor life, and now that he knows his rank with the others, he's more loving to me. He began to sleep in my bed a few weeks ago.
post #6 of 9
As long as these cats are able to stay out of reach, they will never let you touch them.

What I do with all my ferals is to confine them to one small room until they will let me handle them.

Start by bringing in some food and sitting on the floor with the food next to you, so the cat must come close to eat. Offer special treats - like cooked chicken - by hand. Lay your hand flat on the floor, palm up, with the treat in it. Do not attempt to grab or corner them in any way. Just sit and watch them eat and talk soothingly to them. They have to learn that you are no threat to them and will not hurt them.

Eventually touch them lightly while they eat. If they back away, stop. Sit sideways and avert your eyes so you don't look large and threatening.

Taming feral cats can be quite an exercise in patience, but I've tamed them of all ages and it can be done in time.
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
You have all been so helpful. I'll try things slowly, but I won't get my hopes up. At least I won't feel so guilty.
post #8 of 9
I see you've gotten wonderful advice from all quarters. I'll just add a second to what patc says. My group (not me personally, it's not particularly my forte) has tamed former ferals at all ages and from most backgrounds, using a lot of patience, slow progress, and means to safely expand how close the cat will allow the human to get. The right time to push the envelope each step is often, when you are feeding a cat-in-resocialization.
post #9 of 9
You've already gotten great advice from very knowledgeable people. I just wanted to say I think you're wonderful for what you're doing. It is usually slow-going with these animals, but your heart is obviously in the right place and I'm sure with determination you'll be able to do what you need to for their health. Please keep us posted!
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