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have I made a mistake?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
We have three cats living in our parking lot at work and one of my staffers has been feeding them and is actively seeking homes for them. They are about 6 months old, live in our parking lot and in a vacant lot, and they approach us when we come out with the cat food. However, they're reluctant to allow petting, and run under the bushes if we get too close. They've been fed by someone--either my staffer or the woman who lives in the house nearby--since they were born. They follow us and meow. They roll around in the parking lot when we're nearby. The cat shelter we called for help told us that they're not exhibiting "feral" characteristis, and that they sound very tameable.

I have said I can provide a home for one of the cats, a female. I've arranged to have her spayed and vaccinated later this week, and we intend to trap her as soon as we can. No one has stepped up to offer homes to the other two.

I've been online tonight, reading about strays and ferals, and am suddenly wondering if I've made a terrible mistake offering to take one of these cats. I've got two children, ages 5 and 8, and one tame 1-year-old cat and an 8-year-old dog (who ignores cats). I'm reading that they're "extremely hard" to tame after two months of age, and that while one person may be able to do it, they'll rarely warm up to more than one person. I'm willing to put in some time, but not if it's likely to be a hopeless situation that results in us having to find someplace else for the cat to go.

Any insight?
post #2 of 10
The kittens are not truly feral, only semi-feral, due to the constant interaction they have had with humans since they were very young. My Obi was a semi-feral, and although it took some time to get him socialized, I had no problems. A feral, as described in the info you've probably been reading, means that a kitten has had no positive social interaction with humans. That is not the case with these. They have, from a young age, associated humans with food and other positives. You'll have a bit of work, but it shouldn't be impossible by any means. Getting your new kit home soon is good though. The younger the better. I'm sure you've read lots at this point about how best to socialize him/her, so good luck!
post #3 of 10
The older kittens and older adult ferals are not hard to socialize. People give up on them (usually) because of not understanding feral behavior which is a far cry from domestic cat behavior. I will be happy to help you every step of the way and the quickest way to get to me is via email maryanne@thecatsite.com I have been working with strays and ferals now over twenty years and have many tricks up my sleeve to help them relax quicker and bond with people.
post #4 of 10
What a wonderful thing you are doing! Good luck socalising your baby.
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies already. I had nightmares last night about what I may have gotten my family into.

These cats on the side of our building are in trouble, though, which is why I've stepped up to take one. There is construction project getting underway, which will result in a high stone wall going up between our parking lot and the house where the cats hang out (beneath a deck). We've seen the cats get more skittish this past week since there have been workmen out there pounding. I believe jackhammers are next. Also, it's kitten season. AND, in two weeks, the woman who lives in the house has a roommate moving in who has several cats and two large dogs.

It's looking like the cat we've chosen to adopt will need to be trapped. My co-worker, who has been feeding the cat, has been able to pick up her sister, and has been able to pet this one, but I have not. I tried yesterday to pet this one while she was eating and she just shied away so I didn't pursue it. She kept eating, and seemed comfortable with me sitting two feet away from her.

My plan is to capture her asap, and bring her home and set her up in our spare bathroom with a nightlite. She'll have the cat carrier and cupboard for hideouts. I'll put dirt in with clay in a litterbox and leave her alone for the first day. Then we'll start hanging out with her. I just don't know if she'll be vicious at first. We've never seen any sign of aggression out of these cats, but the trapping experience could change all that.

We've had a family meeting about this and the rule is that nobody will be able to enter the bathroom unless Mommy or Daddy open the door. My 5-year-old is very eager to warm this kitty up, and I know we'll have a battle here. Last year when we got a nervous 7-month-old shelter cat, my youngest was relentless in pursuing her. Good or bad, she had that cat warmed up in less than a day. I've warned the girls that it can't be like that this time, that this kitty will be much more scared. (The cat we adopted last year, Betsy, came from similar circumstances, but had been calmed by a month in the shelter by the time we got her.)

So we'll start with the capture. I've left my cat carrier at the office and my co-worker, who can get closest, is going to try and catch her today. I'm not holding out too much hope here, though. We've also got a shelter volunteer who has traps and has promised to help trap the cats--we're just at her mercy when it comes to actually setting out the traps. It's been a frustrating situation of messages left, tight schedules, trap availability, etc. If I get to the office tomorrow and nothing's been done, I'm planning to call our regular vet and ask to borrow some traps. It's time to move this process along, especially since the jackhammers will likely be out soon.

The shelter also is helping us get the cats fixed. Which is just one more thing to coordinate. So I've gone on my own and made the appointment to get our adoptee fixed and vaccinated. It's a low-cost thing and they were, amazingly, able to get me an appointment this Friday. I know all this may create greater trust issues with this kitty, but I think I'd rather get all the rough stuff done, then move on with socializing her. Of course if any of you with experience here believe this is the wrong approach, please tell me!

Hissy, I will take you up on your kind offer to provide some coaching, and will e-mail you with my personal e-mail address.
post #6 of 10
B/c they're so young, I think the cat will warm up to you eventually, although it may take a while. I'd keep your kids away from the cat, for thier safty. Keep her in a room by herself, if you can. Teacher her that people aren't so bad after all. Go slow. don't force things on her, easier said then done I know. She'll realize that she has a safe place to spend the her days and nights, and playmates too. If you can try to take at least one of her littermates. It may make the transition easier for her. She wouldn't suddenly be ripped away from her siblings. Just an idea. Hope everything works out!!!
post #7 of 10
cats learn bu watching other cats. as soon as she sees how much Betsy loves you it will be a whole lot easier. i'm not saying this wont take a lot of hard work but i think that once you've fallen in love with this cat it will be a whole lot easier than you expect.

you wont regard the time it takes as a chore and will delight in all the progress you make with her.

good luck.
post #8 of 10
hugs being sent love and patience will win out! best of luck!
post #9 of 10
I don't think your making a mistake at all. It does take time and patience but definately possible. 2 of the cats (Sweetie and Blackie) in my signiature are former ferals.

Good Luck!!
post #10 of 10
The ferrals on my property are all "touchable" except one. They range in age from 5 months up to one that I know must be at least 15 yrs old and she seems to not to be able to wait for me to come outside so that she can sit next to me on the porch and stroke her. My sister in law called me about a month ago and asked me if I could please come down to my mammy in laws house because a kitten got inside, saying "they know you and only come to you". For ME, the reason is because no one else really sees these animals as a viable life, simply something to keep down the rodent population. That granny cat was more then likely NEVER petted until I came to town.

I truly believe that with love and time, most of them could make wonderful pets for someone especially the young ones I have here (and they are 5 months old). The little 5 month old I just had spayed, although shy at first, and would run when anyone approached, now comes and plops itself on my lap! I wish I had homes for them. It pains me to think they will spend next winter out in the cold.

I agree with Crazy4Cats, just give it time.
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