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Feral cat with a Temper

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hello all, I'm new to this site and I've been reading through it for the past few weeks. Well I've ended up with a new cat. Moved into a new place and found a feral scavenging through the trash. So I tried to trap him, which he didn't fall for, he would sit outside of the trap and paw the food out or ignore it. Thus I ended up spending alot of time outside sitting on one side of a pile of cat food, with a growling cat 10ft away on the other side of the pile. 8 months later he decided that I wasn't going to eat him, and discovered that being petted was a good thing. So I scooped him up and to his dismay brought him to the vet. Luckily the only thing really wrong with him is an apparent cronic left ear infection.

So he's been here for almost 4 months now, and he's been going in and out the past month. He's settled in pretty well, gets along with the 3 other cats, and has caused our bully cat to rethink her ways. He spends alot of time napping on his back in my room. Although he hasn't gotten used to any of the people who I rent my house with. Infact he's really agressive towards everyone but me. He shows signs of having been someone's pet at somepoint, and I'm also pretty sure he's been abused. Aside from dozens of fight scars/ear marks, he's got an old pretty well healed broken hip (he limps a bit), and 3 kinks in his tail. He also gets really panicky when people pick up anything larger than a pen near him.

Now the problem lately has been when someone other than me enters the same room as him carrying anything he starts up growling. At this point if you dont leave the room he's in he goes into a yowling biting leg raking attack. We've had a few accidents now with people turning on the tv with a remote, and a few seemingly random attacks. One of these attacks required a few stitches. He only does this if you have something in your hands though, otherwise he just keeps his distance. I also can't get him to interact with anyone other than me. So he's been spending part of his days outside, and the rest locked in my room with me.

I've heard this feliway works wonders, and I've got some in the mail now.

Has anyone had a cat with a problem like this? Anyone here deal with mistreated cats? I really need to break him of this before it becomes a habbit. If anyone has ANY idea's I'd really like to hear them. I dont have the money to pay for a cat behavior expert, as his vet bills and his ear infection have been costly. Wow this is alot longer than I'd meant it to be. Thanks for reading and in advance for any ideas anyone has.
post #2 of 17
Originally Posted by acat
Has anyone had a cat with a problem like this? Anyone here deal with mistreated cats? I really need to break him of this before it becomes a habbit.
well you certainly have come to the right place as a lot of our members have had experience with mistreated or stray cats... I personally am not one of them but someone surely will come along with some great advise.

Dealing with a mistreated stray cat is a long process and requires alot of love and patience. So glad you got some feliway - that should help at least a bit.

what a wonderful person you are to be taking on this task - the love of a stray/feral is an amazing thing - although I have not experienced it myself I have learnt alot from the members here.

I wish you all the best of luck and look forward to following your updates I can guarentee that you will have a cheersquad following all your progress

what is his name btw?
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
Yeah this is the best site I've found so far. I'm hoping someone has a great trick for dealing with this. It's been a slow process, but he's a great cat. He just really doesn't like people much.

His name's George. He's a big (18lbs) dark grey shaded tabby with a brownish underbelly, light green eyes. He sorta looks like an old war veteran with all his scars, torn ears, limp, tail, etc. Despite this he's generally pretty happy if a little cautious. He marches around my room with his crooked tail sticking up as straight as he can manage, making "prrrrrtt" sounds. He never meows or purrs though.

Well still looking for ideas, thanks
post #4 of 17
The best advice I can give is keep on being patient, don't come in with big things in your arms, and give him treats when he's behaving as you'd like him to.

While Pengy doesn't attack - well, she does, but it's not with her mouth, just her paws - she still needs to be handled the right way. It took months and lots of guidance from people here (like Hissy) for me to learn how to understand her. You've gotten far more progress than I've gotten with Pengy, who still won't allow me to touch her (but that's coming...).

You've got to learn what he can tolerate, and what he can't. And once you really understand those parameters, you help him expand them. Forcing him to do anything at this point will not create the tight bond, but will make him wary of you. So if you can manage to do things within his framework, he will get more comfortable, and will step outside them...

If Pengy's thread was still up, I'd point you to that, but until I can get it reconstructed, that's the best advice I can give you: remember that you're not running his world, don't dominate him (forcing him is dominant), and gently bring him 'round by allowing him to expand his boundaries by himself.

And THANKS for bringing George in. He sounds like he's a less skittish version of Pengy, and that's a handful at the least.

post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
Noni, I read through your new thread, and I was able to find bits and peices of your old one on google. You've gone a long way with her! I'm sure she will decide out of the blue one of these days that being petted is a good thing. It took George almost 8 months to let me get near him. Then I walked out to feed him one day, and he came running right up to me, so who knows how they think. After that he came around pretty quickly. Now I can pet him, carry him about, and he even tolarates the daily ear cleaning and antibiotics with only a little growling. He's even becoming a lapcat! So there hasn't really been any problems with him and me.

However I just don't know how to get him used to other people. Also most people aren't interested in meeting him more than once, so also makes it harder. My housemates are all tip toeing around him (it is kinda funny when a full grown adult hides from a cat), but he still attacks. I guess I'm just going to wait for the feliway plugin to arrive, and keep him penned in my room untill then.
post #6 of 17
Hi acat,

I would keep this cat outside if it were me. He is giving off signs that he has been abused indoors and he is aggressive because of the fear of history repeating itself. Cats do not forget abuse, and because you do not live alone, you are asking him to take a big risk and trust others. He knows, because you have proven to him that you had him in your grasp and you didn't hurt him that you won't. But these other people haven't proven it.

I have one fella Cyclone that is now back with me, because the people who adopted him finally were also getting attacked by him. He trusts me and no one else, so he hangs out under the house and comes out at night to eat and get some pets.

Make him a safe place outside where he can stay, provide him food, water, companionship (yours) Cat bites and scratches are nothing to take lightly and one of your renters, roomates or friends could end up in the hospital. It is a risk I wouldn't take-
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
Well my feliway plugin arrived today. Hopefully it will help him relax some.

I really don't want to ban him to being outside only cat, he really has bonded with me. It's also really cold here at night, and he likes to come in now. He circles the house looking into all the windows untill he gets let in, and then makes a mad dash for my room. I let him out in the morning and he goes out hunting for his daily tribute, and then at sunset he always shows back up wanting in. I also have to give him his ear meds and clean his ear twice a day, so he needs to be accessible.

Now I doubt very much that he will ever be a people person, and thats fine. If I can just get him down to only hissing and growling at people it would all work out, everyone is perfectly happy to keep their distance and leave him be. Here's hoping the feliway helps.
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
Huh, well I've ended up with an odd temporary solution. George doesn't like the feliway. I plugged it in, and he moved his sleeping spot down to the 1st floor, and only came in to eat. It didn't seem to have any other real effect. So I aired out the 2nd floor, and moved it down to the living room on the first floor. He promptly moved back into my room, and began avoiding the first floor. If he keeps himself upstairs (minus him coming in and out) he won't have to interact with anyone but me. So I guess it does work, just not how I'd expected .
post #9 of 17
I know of one other cat that behaved to feliway in the same way George did.

That was when I managed to gain the trust of a feral kitten and placed it in a kitty box in the dark away from my resident cats despite protests from them. I placed a paper towel that I had sprayed with Feliway to keep the little guy calm.

All I got was growling. I never knew such a little thing could produce such a nasty noise.

I removed the towel. Still growling.
I removed the paper towel. I put the towel back. No growling but purring.

I think that perhaps being feral and back to the wild state, the scent of another cat may be perceived as a threat rather than comfort. I don't know.

Have you tried catnip?
post #10 of 17
what an interesting reaction to it!!

still wishing you good luck
post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 
Well he's still avoiding the first floor, so he hasn't attacked anyone for a few days now. Hopefully he will still avoid the first floor when it runs out in a month-ish. I swear he eye's the plugin when he goes out though, and today he came in from the deck on the 2nd floor. Maybe he does think of it as a threat, or maybe he just doesn't want to relax, but he won't go near it. Perhaps him having being feral has something to do with it, but who knows what he's thinking. It's working though so it's all good!

He's a catnip addict. I have to lock my desk drawer to keep him out of it. When I give him some he gets really wild, runs around pouncing/biting on everything moving or not for 10-15 mins. Milk caps seem to be his favorite victim though. When it wears off he takes a long nap.
post #12 of 17
Poor little dude.... I agree with Hissy though, cats can definetly fight back and maybe this guy would be better as an outdoors cat that you keep a close eye on... I know you said that he doesnt interact very much w/ the other roommates, and they dont really want to hang out with him much due to previous experience, but I think the only way for him to trust your roommates is for one-on-one contact with them. I'm not an expert or anything, but I would think that if you introduced your roommates to George one at a time and had each of them introduce themselves to him just as you did, he would gradually come to trust them also. Seeing as how it took a long time for him to warm up to you, it only stands to reason he would need equal or greater amount of time to warm up to other roommates, expecially if one or all them reminded him of his attacker for any reason... I honestly think this is kinda an ultimatum decision, either your roommates have to participate in acclimizing him to their presence and proving to him they will not hurt him, or he has to be moved outside. Its not fair to anyone to keep a scared, reactive cat with teeth and claws in an enviornment he perceives to be dangerous...
post #13 of 17
Its not fair to anyone to keep a scared, reactive cat with teeth and claws in an enviornment he perceives to be dangerous...
I'm not sure I can agree with that, at least in my and Pengy's situation.

Pengy is still scared, and rather reactive. In the beginning, she was terrified, and panicked at the least thing. She has all her teeth, and her claws. She no doubt at all perceived my house as dangerous, and that I was the nuclear bomb she knew would explode at any moment. Very volatile environment for her, very scary, very dangerous.

Now, 9 months later, while she doesn't interact with me, she no longer perceives the home as dangerous, and only will react to me if I threaten her directly in some way. Some days are better than others, and she'll hang out in the bedroom without hiding. Some days, she'll still flee when she hears me. And recently, she began accepting touches from me...but not always, and not consistently. But her level of comfort is so much more than when she first came inside. And someday, it will be even higher, and she will learn her way to interact successfully with me.

So in some cases, it really does just take time, and lots of learning coupled with treats (positive reinforcement). The behavior isn't necesarily about aggression, it's about protecting of self, and about finding a way to be secure in the new environs. Acat spoke to it in her first post; she said once he realized it was nice being petted, he came for more. He learned, through interaction, that Acat wouldn't turn into the boogey man and become a predator. Pengy hasn't learned that completely yet; some days she gets it, but mostly she doesn't. Yet.

It's time. Patience. Treats. Encouragement. Patience, patience, patience. Of course, that's just my opinion, and your mileage may vary.

post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Nessa
Its not fair to anyone to keep a scared, reactive cat with teeth and claws in an enviornment he perceives to be dangerous...
I'm not forcing him to stay here, he goes out each morning and comes back in each evening on his own accord. So I'm quite sure he likes being here. He's got his issues, but I won't kick him out.

So George has been doing pretty well lately. He only goes downstairs now to get let out in the morning. He's been climbing up and been coming in from the deck on the 2nd floor the past few days too. Subsequently there haven't been any attacks of late. Maybe as time goes by he will show interest in meeting people, though I doubt he will. At the very least he enjoy's attention from me, has food and a warm spot to sleep.
post #15 of 17
I'm sorry! I didn’t mean to imply that you're keeping George hostage against his will; obviously he trusts you and enjoys his current situation. All I meant was really that if your roommates are not being as proactive in assisting George in his fear of the situation, then he is going to continue to perceive that environment as dangerous. Also as Noni stated above, it will take patience and time and plenty of positive reinforcement for him to have a good relationship with others in the house. Again though, this will not happen with out full roommate support. And I guess I should clarify the "it’s not fair to anybody"- it’s not fair specifically to George and the other roommates.

You stated in the first part of the thread – “Now the problem lately has been when someone other than me enters the same room as him carrying anything he starts up growling. At this point if you dont leave the room he's in he goes into a yowling biting leg raking attack. We've had a few accidents now with people turning on the tv with a remote, and a few seemingly random attacks. One of these attacks required a few stitches. He only does this if you have something in your hands though, otherwise he just keeps his distance. I also can't get him to interact with anyone other than meâ€

I don’t know your roommates opinions on the situation, or on cats in general, but I do know that some people REALLY don’t like cats, and being attacked by one is pretty high up on the list of “Worst Things ever Happened to me.†I can relate, b/c I have an immense phobia of large dogs after being attacked by one. Also, one attack required a few stitches – again, not sure on the details, but this person probably had to go to the hospital and probably had to shell out a few bucks for treatment. This is where is comes into being unfair to the roommates.

As for being unfair to George, if any of the above attacks happen again, and with greater frequency then you could be held liable and he may be taken away from you and put down. Let me again state, I don’t know the exact details. But if George ever happened to seriously injure another person in your house, I’m betting the outcome would not be positive.

I didn’t mean to offend in anyway, I commend everyone who has the love and patience to take in an abused animal and bring a wonderful life to them, which is what you’re doing with George. But you also have to weigh the risks. He is not a timid, fearful animal who hides under the bed. He is a mighty hunter who has lived thru human attacks and is willing to go on the offensive when he deems necessary. I hope everything turns out well for you and George, but please remember, a cat can be very dangerous when he wants to fight. He may be small (compared to us ) but dynamite comes in small packages!

I wish you the absolute best of luck with George and hope he is able to show his marvelous side to everyone else in the house one day!!!
post #16 of 17
Thread Starter 
No offense taken. He can be a difficult cat. Luckily everyone that I live with really likes cats. So regardless of what he ends up doing, he's got a safe spot to be. Hopefully he settle's down more as time goes by.
post #17 of 17
I'd say that introducing him to your roonmates one at a time would help. By introducing I mean that people repeat what you did, just being there, not talking or talking softly, giving him food, etc. I've gained the trust_or rather I've gotten closer and can even pet_ some of the ferals we caretake that way. My husband has done it for a longer time so I just imitate his actions around them.
I didn't realize they could act differently to Feliway, I'll keep it in mind.
Best of luck
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