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Stray cat bullies!

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 

Last October a momma cat had kittens on our porch, in a half empty bag of charcoal. After a week or two she moved them under the porch. We've been feeding them pretty steadily. She brought the kittens up around the end of November and we've been in touch with our local branch of the Allycat Advocats since then. The momma was very friendly to me when it came time to trap her for spaying and shots etc (rubbing against my leg, letting me pet her, letting me pick her up), so AA decided that they would put her into foster care and later adoptions. But right now there aren't any openings in the foster home, so "Dusty" is living with us on our porch in the meantime (our lease reads that we can't have pets, we really love cats, but couldn't find any other place to live at the time). Her kittens have already been picked up and are living in a foster home and being socialized for adoption already.

Here are some pics if you'd like to look at them. My boyfriend and I are very proud of our little cat farm. We make chubby puffs!
And here is Dusty. She has the brightest golden eyes. We love her very much.
Here is Dusty's catbarn.
We also have a snugglesafe which we microwave to keep her bedding warm for 12hours at a time. Right now she’s sleeping on a pillow with a fleece blanket wrapped around it. We live in
Massachusetts and it's become a necessity every day. I would make a trail of treats from her food dish to the cat bed, and I would leave some treats inside until she got the message that the house is for her to sleep in, and it’s warm.

But here's the reason for the post.

There are two other cats in our neighborhood who come onto our porch and eat her food.

They are big and fat, and while Dusty has a good thick fur coat, she is still half their size and kind of bony. I don’t think she’s more than a year or two old.

They have similar markings to her own coat. One is white with a black beanie and black ears, and the other one is spotted like Dusty only his coat is "washing machine-faded" with white fur. My boyfriend and I call them Meatball and Cheeseball because they are insufferable mooches.

We've been staying outside with Dusty when she eats to make sure she gets every bite. The minute we leave the porch these other cats come up and eat her food. She lets them. She doesn't seem to fight them at all. I've seen Cheeseball hiss at her once.

None of these cats has let us pet them or check them for tags. They're not violent towards us, but they run right away when we see them.

This morning I fed her as usual and recharged her snugglesafe disk which will be warm and cozy until about
6pm when I get home.

Just before we left for work, my boyfriend Mike pointed out to me from the bathroom window that Cheeseball was sleeping in Dusty's bed. We've never noticed this before.

I opened our door to the porch and he sped out of Dusty’s shelter as if he were on fire.

How do I scare them away without scaring her away? Should I scare them away at all?

Are they friends, or litter mates? Is Cheeseball the Papa of her kittens?

She doesn't fight them at all, but she doesn't seem overly friendly to them either.

Can she not fight fight back because she's been spayed? Could she have fought them off when she was a Queen? They only started stealing food after the kittens were gone.

I don't feel like I'm mistreating these other cats. They can eat Dusty's dry food any time. Each of them is about the size of a baked Virginia Ham, and they look well taken care of.

Will Dusty ever sleep there again? I don't want to buy another cat barn for those cats, especially if they have homes and they're just bullying Dusty for free food.
How do I keep Dusty safe? If I become agressive by squirting water at these cats, how can I let Dusty know she's welcome, but not them? Will they take my behavior out on her?
I'm not familiar with stray cat behavior when it comes to multiple cats.
post #2 of 40
First of all, congrats on doing such a great job with Dusty and her kitties!

I hope others here will have better thoughts on this matter. This is really a tough one. If they're pets that are allowed to roam, the problem here is that people who let their cats roam will rarely then keep them inside, which is really the only answer that I can see.

Cats are territorial and have hierarchies, as I'm sure you know. I don't know of any way to keep one cat in a territory and other cats out. Squirting water would be a temporary solution - it would likely keep the other cats away while you're there - which they seem to stay away anyway, so I don't see that accomplishing anything.

We have a policy here - if there's a cat on our property, it gets trapped and taken to a vet to either be spayed or neutered (and vaccinated) or to confirm that it has been spayed or neutered. This could help (if you have the financial resources to do this or if there is a free or low-cost clinic). Intact males can be very aggressive about territory marking, and if Cheeseball is an intact male, if he marks Dusty's bed, it could be a problem getting her to sleep there again.

The only solution that comes to mind is restricting Dusty's territory to your porch - and screening it in. She'd probably be upset -but safe. You'd have to use a certain type of material so that it's difficult for her to "break out."

Sorry I'm not more creative today and can't be of more help - but we've never tried to keep some cats around and other cats away (though as it also turns out, we don't think we've ever had anything but ferals at the feeding station).

I guess you could try putting food out - not on your porch, but somewhere on the path they take to get to your porch.?? Perhaps this would discourage them from continuing to include your porch in their territory.
post #3 of 40
Thread Starter 
I tried leaving dry food out for them at the base of the porch stairs, but they want the food they see her eating, and most of the time it is moist food. It would be a lot easier if my porch were enclosed. We've tried to get her inside, but so far have been unlucky.
That's the only way I know of to remove the bully problem, but if our landlord catches us, Meatball and Cheeseball are going to have some company.
post #4 of 40
Maskie...sounds like they are very well cared for strays if they aren't owned. I agree with LDG that if they appear on your property..they are fair game for a quick trapping and trip to the vet to at least insure they are fixed. Apart from enclosing your porch...I've seen online cat enclosures..not sure if they would work or would be too confining for her..but they are worth looking into.

post #5 of 40
Thread Starter 
That would be great TNR 1! >^.^<

Please send me some links if you can.
If not, I'll meowhoo it later on in the day. . . .
post #6 of 40
Originally Posted by Maskie
That would be great TNR 1! >^.^<

Please send me some links if you can.
If not, I'll meowhoo it later on in the day. . . .
www.meowhoo.com is a great place to look for those enclosures! I hope something like that would work for Dusty, and you're a love for being willing to go to such lengths for her.
post #7 of 40
She doesn't fight them at all, but she doesn't seem overly friendly to them either.
Can she not fight fight back because she's been spayed? Could she have fought them off when she was a Queen?
Dusty isn't fighting back either because there are 2 of them, or because they're much bigger than she is. It could also be that one is the daddy. Being spayed has nothing to do with fighting ability.

Is her bed large enough for multiple cats? If so, leave them be if they are sharing. They're sharing body heat too.
post #8 of 40
Thread Starter 
It's a one cat Barnhome that I picked up at petco. I had no idea when I bought it that this would happen, or I might have gotten a bigger size.

I dropped a line to the Allycat Advocats that this is going on. Maybe this has happened to them somewhere before.
I'm all for getting them trapped spayed and released if they haven't been spayed already, but I don't want to catch poor Dusty by accident.
post #9 of 40
Thread Starter 
Well, she's sleeping in the barn again, so I think its safe to say that Cheeseball didn't mark it. I'm glad things aren't as bad as I thought they might be. I didn't see either of them tonight which makes me think that they might have homes with negligent owners.

I can really only afford to have one stray cat spayed at a time (Dusty's was $60 plus a physical and shots and FIV/Feline leukemia testings brought it to $80 which we paid gladly.) but I'll see what the Alleycat Advocats want to do about these dudes.

Thanks to all of you for your help and I'll make sure to send updates!

post #10 of 40
I'm so glad Dusty's back in her warm bed! That's great news. Please keep us updated! (And I've got to agree - sounds like negligent owners to me too. But at least that means they don't want to sleep there at night, which is a good thing!)

post #11 of 40
I would also like to firstly say congrats on doing such a great job with Dusty and her kitties and bless you for doing all of this

wonderful to hear that Dusty is now sleeping in her bed hopefully those other 2 wont pay her too many more visits.

good luck with it all - and I hope she finds a foster home real soon - what a shame you arent able to take her in... I will be keeping an eye out for updates
post #12 of 40
Thread Starter 
We don't see Meatball around so much anymore. Cheeseball comes around, but Dusty's not taking any guff from him anymore!

Last night at feeding and pettings time she started growling. She's always been weird about you petting her if you get too close to her tail, so I thought I had done something. But no, she was defending her turf because Cheeseball was behind me! Sisters are doin' it for themselves! I'm very proud of her. Maybe him sleeping in her catbed was the last straw. I guess I'm just being a nervous mommy.
post #13 of 40
It's so wonderful that you're taking care of your beautiful sweet puff! I wish you could keep her, you're a great cat mommy!

On the other hand, I hope she finds a good home soon and those big boys get trapped and altered. Don't expect that to stop their bullying though -- they just want what she has.
post #14 of 40
Originally Posted by Maskie
We don't see Meatball around so much anymore. Cheeseball comes around, but Dusty's not taking any guff from him anymore!

Last night at feeding and pettings time she started growling. She's always been weird about you petting her if you get too close to her tail, so I thought I had done something. But no, she was defending her turf because Cheeseball was behind me! Sisters are doin' it for themselves! I'm very proud of her......

What a great update! Sending up vibes you'll find Dusty a loving home soon.
post #15 of 40
Thread Starter 
It's Maskie again! >^o.o^<

with Weird news:

For the last couple of days, and especially this morning, Dusty's been pretty snappy at me.
Last night I came home later than usual and when I went out to feed her she wasn't around. I checked back every ten minutes or so and eventually she showed up. I came out to greet her first, and she hissed at me when I went to pet her. I figured she was cranky because I wasn't home to feed her right away, so I just made with the food and petted her afterwards and that was fine. I'm trying to get her to come inside, so I sprinkled some cat treats just inside the doorway, left the door half open and went about my business. She came in to eat the treats, and went back out again. When I followed her outside to congratulate her, she ran off like I was going to hurt her. A little later she came back, and I petted her and I thought we were okay.

This morning, when I went out to feed her, Dusty tried to attack me.
She didn't, but she hissed and thrashed and swiped at me.I showed her my empty hand in sniffing range, which is what I used to do when she'd hiss at me. I pet her while she ate, but she wouldn't tolerate any pettings besides that. She did the thrash-n-swipe twice. She's never done that before, not even when I first fed her.

She won't go inside, but she's sitting closer and closer to the house now. When I leave to go to work, she sits on the porch railing right outside the living room window. I went out to pet her good bye but she wouldn't let me touch her.

Why is she doing that? Is she playing with me? Last night I saw the stray cats fighting the same way the kittens did. Do strays play like that? I've tried to play with her, in the regular pet-owner way. I bought her catnip bubbles and felt mousies and a feather on a plastic fishing rod. She just runs away from those things. Is Dusty cranky about my services? Am I a bad catservant?Is she trying to draw the line with me about the food in the doorway? Am I not allowed in her territory anymore?

Is this behavior familiar to anybody?

And good news:

Last weekend our friend Tim came over. He was interested in adopting a kitten from our crop of Chubby Puffs but he was told by the Allycat Advocats that they'll only allow him to adopt two kittens at a time. It's probably because he doesn't work at home and one kitten would be sad and scared while Tim's at work, even though Tim works at night and has two roommates who work regular 9-5 hours. Tim really doesn't think he has the space and expenses to care for more than one cat.

He was over last weekend and he's very interested in bringing Dusty home to live with him.
That's why I was trying to coax her to come inside. Tim would like her to be an inside cat.
I used to think because she was so friendly that she came from a home.

Maybe I was wrong and she's really wild after all.
post #16 of 40
wow I dont have any advise I can give you I am afraid. I am so sorry to hear about the latest developments however. Hopefully someone will be able to give some insight to what could have caused this.

i will however say that I dont believe that have been a bad 'catservent' (I love that word btw!!!). I think you are doing an amazing job, and I know that everyone will agree - your doing everything you possibly can to keep her safe and find her a forever home.
with the toys you have purchased - the reason that she runs away from them is probably because she has no idea what they are. Since it seems that she has been a feral/ stray for a very long time then all these toys are probably very alien to her. I wouldnt be discouraged that she isnt interested in them. Many members here say it takes a long time for ferals to interested in them.

My advise would be to just not push her at this time. Take things at her pace. Things were going so well lately and unfortunatly sometimes things go backwards a little and sometimes we have no idea what has caused this backward step... but dont loose confidence in what your doing, with what your achieving.

I wish you luck with Dusty and I hope things get back on track real soon - thanks for the update - I hope your friend Tim will be able to take her home - how wonderful would that be.
post #17 of 40
Thread Starter 
Thank you very much for the support!

I've been reading the other forums a little bit and it could just be Dusty thinks showing me her Cat Fu will assert her independence. Her meals are taken care of, she has a warm bed to sleep in every night. Maybe it’s ruining her street cred. Whatever the case I understand there’s a certain point where pettings are no longer accepted. I know she won’t hurt me or else the feedings will stop.
I love cats and I always want to be friends with cats whenever I meet them. Usually that makes them more aloof. My boyfriend tells me that I try too hard and that turns them off. So maybe that's what's happened between Dusty and me.

I know those toys are completely useless. That kind of play is for housecats. Dusty doesn’t really play at all. She’s not curious about anything that’s new. Once she’s used to her surroundings and doesn’t have to fight to protect territory and food she may relax and play. If I’m lucky I can play with her at Tim’s house.

Tim needs to get a cat carrier and some big thick handyman gloves. Then we just have to pick a date.
post #18 of 40

Is there anyway that you can get her to the vet? It sounds like to me that she has been in a cat fight, and been bit. If the bite gets infected, she will develop an abscess and that can be nasty. Usually this type of reaction to a feral who trusts you is her way of telling you she doesn't feel well. Because she is living outside, she is privy to all sorts of other cats getting in her business, and also getting bit. There is also a possibility that if you have mice, shrews or moles, that one of those bit her while she was hunting. Those bites usually occur on the neck or in the mouth. I would urge you to take her in and make sure she is okay-
post #19 of 40
Thread Starter 
Yikes! My baby!

She showed up a little bit last night and I spent lots of time with her this morning. She seems okay with me petting her now. When I get home tonight I'll check her for bites and notify the Allycat Advocats. . . .
post #20 of 40
hows it all going with Dusty?
post #21 of 40
Thread Starter 
Hmm. . . . I've been closing off the door inbetween the kitchen and the living room to save our heat. Then I open the door from the kitchen onto the porch for her.

Dusty is eating inside now! I'm very proud! The first couple of times were tough, but when I see her, I open the door and she comes right inside to eat! She doesn't spend a lot of time inside. After a meal she'll snoop around for a bit and get skittery after five minutes and run outside again. She's not afraid to come back in when she's hungry, though. Eventually she'll understand that it's warmer and comfier inside and maybe she'll stay the night. This is great because Boston is only going to get colder until April or so. I bribe her with treats and pettings to let her know how happy I am.
post #22 of 40
Maskie, I agree you're doing a super job! I don't know if she was hurt, but sometimes it really is just that you need to take a step back and not take any of it personally. Cats certainly operate on their own schedule.

Re: Tim adopting her. The only thing I'd be concerned with is that everyone in his home be prepared for having a feral kitty. They have very special needs, and though it's great that someone would be there all the time for her, it's important that everyone understand her need for space and time to "learn" how to be an indoor kitty. Although all of our rescues are now indoor-only cats, we have rescued kitties that just aren't happy unless they're indoor/outdoor cats. This is rare, and that opportunity certainly depends upon the place, I believe. But cats are territorial roamers and hunters, and they need proper stimulation and space when they move in with us.

Maybe print out some of the articles on feral behavior, bringing a new cat home, and some of the threads where people socialize ferals for Tim?

My thoughts are with you and Dusty, and I'm sending "good luck" vibes to you all!!!!!!!

post #23 of 40
Thread Starter 
Dusty is a funny cat!

Today I was changing her blanket and I had the door open, so she went inside and waited for me. I could see the gears turning in her head. . .

"Since whenever I go inside I get food. . .. . .I can get food whenever I go inside! I'm a genius!"

What a goof! I *did* end up feeding her, too. . . .hmmm. . . .maybe she's right!

Tim told me he has no misconceptions about how Dusty's going to behave. He doesn't expect her to be chummy with him for a while. He expects to just make sure she's fed and change her box until she feels like coming around. Tim did come by and gave her treats and pettings so she could get used to him. He has two roommates. One of them is a kind of eldely artist lady and another dude he barely sees. I'll make sure to pass the word that they need to be briefed on their new roommate too.
I'll definitely print out those pages and email him the links too.

Thanks again, you guys!
If I have more Feline Adventures, I'll keep you posted! : )
post #24 of 40
so pleased to hear that everything is working out with Dusty - thats such wonderful news!! She really is such a beautiful cat and she deserves to be loved and pampered
post #25 of 40
Thread Starter 
Things were a little rough over the weekend.
I let Dusty in Friday night and we had a great time. She loves her catnip mouse and I even got to use the fishing rod a little bit. There were pettings and headbutts and purrs. I even got to see her fuzzy belly.
She wanted to go outside to do her business, so I let her. Around ten pm I opened the door and in she came.

About an hour later, my boyfriend Mike came home and she got scared and hid under a chair. He wasn't even in the room with me, she just knew she wasn't alone in the house and it was too much for her. She came out from under the chair and started sniffing under the door like the door was connected to her nose, so I let her go. Mike was the first one who discovered Dusty and her kittens and he feels kind of sad that she’s afraid of him.

Saturday and Sunday were all about me trying to get her to eat inside for a second/third time. She was gone for most of the day and I only saw her at night. So there I was, in the wintertime, on my kitchen floor, flat on my belly, petting her as she ate on my threshold with the kitchen door open to the elements.

Yesterday morning Mike told me it was going to be super cold so I should try to bring her in again. She was gone all day like last time. I ran errands, I did laundry. I came home around seven and she wasn't around. I refilled the bowls with dry food and changed the frozen water bowls for fresh. I was changing the snugglesafe when Dusty showed up.

I was so happy! I did my usual, "put some food inside and see if she takes it" routine, and she wouldn't. I tried to bring it in a little closer to the door. She waited outside in clear line of sight, but didn't move like she was ever going to go in to eat.

I decided it would be too cold tonight to play the usual "I accept you have free will" kind of games. I pushed the food dish inside the house past the swing of the door. I found where Dusty was on the porch and picked her up like a little baby. I hadn't done that since she'd been caught for spaying.

She squirmed a little. I took her inside and set her down in front of her food and went to close the door. She ran right out again. I came back out, but she didn't leave the porch. I petted her and soothed her and then picked her up a second time. I took her inside successfully and closed the door with my foot and leaned against it. Then I set her down and made sure the door was sealed from the cold. She went nutty for a little bit, tossed her food around, but then calmed down enough to remember she was hungry. I had my boyfriend go around the back with the snuggle safe to put the disk in the bed for the other stray cats and to close the screen door that I couldn't close with arms full of cat.

Dusty didn't cry, but she did occasionally sniff at the door. She didn't seem to be mad at me. She was really lovey and headbutty. We have a "disposable litter box" which I showed her. I wasn't going to let her out in the middle of the night to make a "download" this time. If she made a mess in the house I'd just clean it up and put it in the box. I put a pillow out for her, but she decided to make her home base the carboard box for our air conditioner under the kitchen table. I put one of her felt blankets over it to make her more comfortable.

I woke up at sixish this morning and fed her. There were no signs of any droppings or puddles. Her blanket was dry and clean. She was a little more insistent about going outside. I'm at work all day. I didn't want to leave her alone in my kitchen for that long if she didn't want to/know how to use the litter box. I didn't want her to hurt herself if she absolutely refused to poop inside. So I let my baby go out into the world. It’s supposed to be just as cold, if not colder tonight. I only hope that she'll be outside my door when I come home. She should be getting the message that she doesn’t get bothered by the other cats inside and it’s warm and comfy and nothing to be afraid of. If she doesn't want to come inside, I'm going to pick her up and bring her inside again! She’ll get the message sooner or later!
post #26 of 40
Thread Starter 
I always leave dry food out for Dusty and the other two(sometimes 3) strays I've seen near my porch. Yesterday when I was about to refill a dish, I noticed there was some dried bird poop on the dish. The dish might be over the roof, so maybe pigeons or local birds or whatever made a download after the cats had finished eating.

No, that's not weird. But this is. . . .
This morning I went out to restock the cats' dry food and I found bird droppings all over one section of the wooden railing spattered like machine gun fire. I'm no forensics specialist, but the poo was the exact color of the cat food. I get the multicolor food like Deli Cat that has different flavors as different colors and shapes.
Can this be true? Are birds eating my cat's food? I sure hope it never happens again, because that was a whole lot of. . . bird weirdness. I may need to get a paint scraper out there.
post #27 of 40
Thread Starter 
I'm very happy as my lanlord has agreed to let me keep Dusty!
He is super duper nervous about the cat smell, though.

Her bed and litter box and food station are in the kitchen, but far enough apart so she's okay about using all three and they're not messy.

Her litter box is very clean. I clean it every night and every morning.

There's still a stinky cat smell (kind of like pee, but not as strong.Still smelly though) from the blanket on her bed.

Its the only thing that's stinky but I'm worried it might be Too Stinky and our landlord will get a whiff and tell us she has to go back outside.

Is there something I can do to clean the air, but not her bedclothes? Should I be cleaning her bedclothes? I know cats provide their own musk to mark their territory. I honestly don't know if she's spraying or not.
post #28 of 40

what wonderful news to hear that your landlord will let you keep Dusty!!! how marvellous!! YAY!! YAY!!

is she still inside? how is that going?

I cant answer your question unfortunatly but I am sure someone will be along shortly that can provide some advise...

what wonderful news
post #29 of 40
Thread Starter 
She was meowing pretty loud last night, so I collared her up and let her outside. She didn't come home last night, but it's been pretty warm outside (mid 30's to 40) lately. I know my little juvenile delinquent will come home when she's hungry. I am very nervous for her and wish she'd come home and stay inside. I don't think I have enough things to keep her busy while she's inside, though.

I have a scratching post, some catnip toys, some plastic milk bottle rings and a rolling toy that jingles. I don't think this is enough to keep her active while we're at work.
post #30 of 40
its probably not that you dont have enough to keep her active while your at work - its probably more that she wants to be outside?

I wish she would just come and stay inside as well, at least she has a collar though..... did you end up cleaning her blanket?

I cant remember if she has been to the vet at all?
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