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questions about socializing

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I posted this in "update on blackberry," but then thought maybe a new thread would be more effective.

Does anyone believe I should be trying to draw Blackberry out? She's 6 days post-op, and I've seen her jump up on the counter (to get in the sink), so I believe she's physically okay. But once she's in that sink, she hardly lifts her head. It's like she's burying herself to avoid us. She doesn't attack when we pet her, but she's definitely tense. I'm not sure whether we should keep doing what we're doing (going in several times a day to pet her), leave her alone more, or try and engage her.


She was out of the sink for a few minutes tonight, so tried to engage her. I played with her with the bead string a little. She chased it with her eyes and batted and bit at it, but then retreated behind the toilet. I petted her, then lured her toward me with a piece of turkey. She came forward a few inches, but that clearly was all she was comfortable doing, so I came to her and fed her the turkey, which she took out of my hand.

I'm afraid if we don't attempt to draw her out, she'll stay in her shell and we'll have a cat that just lives in our sink (or under a bed, once we let her out of the bathroom) for the next 15 years. But I'm also afraid if we move too fast, she'll retreat more or lash out. Any thoughts?
post #2 of 19
Patience, patience, patience You need to take your cues from the cat as to how proceed. Totally new environment for her - smells, sights, textures, creatures - her whole world has changed, so it should be expected that she's unsure and/or afraid. As she adjusts, she'll come out more.

But let her determine the pace. Set specific times for interacting with her, food and play, and when you see she's had enough, give her a couple of treats and then leave her be.

If you haven't read the Pengy thread, I highly recommend it.
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the reminder to be patient, Gargoyle. By the way, how do I get to the Pengy thread? All I've seen is the thread that says the Pengy thread is gone . . .

Blackberry confuses me because she's not doing anything I expected. I know, I know . . . she's a cat! But she sends these mixed messages--ignoring the dark corner of the cupboard in favor of the very-exposed sink. Climbing in my lap last week. But she's also seemed disinterested and sort of depressed and tense.

This morning I went in there, though, and she was on her blanket on the floor, sitting like a loaf of bread. Betsy came in with me (like she often does). Suddenly Blackberry stood up, stretched, and wandered out to touch noses with Betsy. Then Blackberry rubbed against the wall, then came over to where I was sitting cross-legged and she rubbed against my knee. (!) I petted her, she rubbed again, then she went back to Betsy and sort of chirped as she touched noses with her again. This time, Betsy hissed and threw a little punch, so Blackberry went back to her blanket. These two girls haven't had too much sparring so far, but now that Blackberry's up and around a little more, I imagine they'll need to establish some social order.

I see the knee-rubbing as a bit of a breakthrough--it is the first time Blackberry has approached me on her own.

I think she'd had enough, though; she got back in the sink after I gave her some turkey. So dumped some food in her bowl, went out and shut the door.
post #4 of 19
It would be helpful if you posted about her in the same thread, so people can get a clear picture of all she is doing, instead of starting a new thread for each new behavior. That way people with feral cats can see that they basically all act the same way.

Sometimes cat people expect ferals and strays to respond in a similair fashion than a domesticated cat. It won't happen. They are not wired that way. They have had to survive by their cunning and their wits, they have had to fight for food, been terrorized and sometimes abused by bad humans and they forget how to trust.

The best way to earn your cats trust is to ignore Blackberry, never make eye contact with her- if you want her to play "play" is foreign to outside kittes. Mom cats never allow their kittens to play out in the world it's to dangerous. She will literally sit on them to keep them quiet and not attract predators.

Let Blackberry have access to your world on her terms. Don't expect to much, and also expect there will be setbacks. As long as she is healthy just set up a routine she can count on. Food set out at certain times, in the same bowl or plate, litter pan scooped at the same times every day...water in the same place, same bowl. Once she knows you aren't going to surprise her or demand of her to do something she isn't ready to do, she will relax.It takes time and patience, and you have to reset your thinking about her acting like a normal cat. Chances are, she never will-
post #5 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by witch's mom
Thanks for the reminder to be patient, Gargoyle. By the way, how do I get to the Pengy thread? All I've seen is the thread that says the Pengy thread is gone . . .
Much of the Pengy thread was lost in a server crash in Dec 2004. If you've read the "Pengy is gone" thread, it should give some idea how long it's taken Pengy to get to where she is. Some of the old thread can be pulled up via http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&l...ives+under+bed
post #6 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by gargoyle
Patience, patience, patience You need to take your cues from the cat as to how proceed. Totally new environment for her - smells, sights, textures, creatures - her whole world has changed, so it should be expected that she's unsure and/or afraid. As she adjusts, she'll come out more.

But let her determine the pace. Set specific times for interacting with her, food and play, and when you see she's had enough, give her a couple of treats and then leave her be.
It takes a lot of time and patients to get a stray/feral to trust. It took my Sweetie over 6 years to allow us to touch her. After about a year she would take treats from our hands and play with us but it was always on her terms. She is a true feral though.
post #7 of 19
Franklin lived in our rafters for over a year before he decided we were okay and he could trust us-


post #8 of 19
We had a kitten that we got at 6 months old. He stayed behind our headboard in our bedroom for 4 full weeks. Then it took him another full week to venture down 2 levels to our family room. From then on he was a total love bunny. Loved to be held in our arms like a baby, had to sleep on our laps while we watched TV and even when we used the bathroom. After the first 3 weeks, my husband wanted us to return him to the breeder because he was so anti-social. Glad I persuaded him to listen to me and be patient. That kitty was worth the wait.

Just give your baby whatever time it needs to be comfortable with you.
post #9 of 19
It sounds like you have made great progress thus far with Blackberry. Most truly feral cats wouldn't be out in the open like you describe for a very long time (sometimes years). The fact that she has sought interaction with you is a great sign that she will in time come around. Don't force yourself on her, but make every interaction as pleasant as possible.

I got one very shy girl (probably feral at one time) to come around by using my "magic hands" - most cats can't resist when I scratch their heads. She spent her entire time under a dresser until I started giving her big head scratches right before feeding (at the same time everyday). Now she comes running when she sees me.

Have a lot of patience. Some cats come around very quickly and others can take years. Recognize the small victories and rejoice when they happen.
post #10 of 19
Maybe a moderator could merge up all the small Blackberry threads?

But yeah...patience. Someone came in my apartment for five minutes a couple weeks ago and Nano was so freaked out she didn't come out of hiding until the next day. I've had her for three months and it just got to the point where Nano reluctantly lets a second person touch her. This is par for the course when rescuing a semi-feral stray.
post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the feedback. I will continue to just post in this thread. I'm not all that experienced with Internet forums, so I appreciate the advice about posting in one place.

It's the semi-feral aspect of Blackberry that has me continuing to post with all my obsessions about how to best approach (or not approach) this beautiful cat--who is clearly not feral, but clearly not tame. She's in this no-man's land where half the time I feel like I've got a wild animal and half the time I see her as domesticated. I worry that if I apply all the thinking for a feral cat, I'll be missing out on good socializing opportunities. And that if I apply all the techniques for drawing out a domesticated cat, then I'll scare her away. So I've been trying for middle ground.

But Hissy's advice is probably sound: Leave Blackberry alone and get on a schedule for opening that bathroom door.

We've been on a bit of a schedule: Every morning I go in and clean the litter box and fill up her food and water and offer her some turkey from my hand. And every evening, same routine, plus a second visit right before I go to bed, just to pet her and give her some turkey. But there is no schedule throughout the day, we've been in and out, petting her, talking to her. Today, after reading some of the feedback here, we stayed away more. But it was hard, because this morning was the first time SHE approached ME since those first days when she cowered in my lap. And tonight when I went in there, she perked her head up when she saw me, rolled over on her back (in the sink) when I petted her, and started chasing my arm shadow with her paws. So I got out the bead string and she batted that around. When she stopped batting, I put it away, gave her a bite of turkey, and left the room.

Thank you all for your insight. I really, really appreciate it.
post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by witch's mom
But Hissy's advice is probably sound: Leave Blackberry alone and get on a schedule for opening that bathroom door.

We've been on a bit of a schedule: Every morning I go in and clean the litter box and fill up her food and water and offer her some turkey from my hand.
And tonight when I went in there, she perked her head up when she saw me, rolled over on her back (in the sink) when I petted her, and started chasing my arm shadow with her paws. So I got out the bead string and she batted that around. When she stopped batting, I put it away, gave her a bite of turkey, and left the room.
Excellent news!! That's a small victory that should be celebrated (but quietly, and away from Blackberry's room )

And trust me, sweetie, Hissy's advice is ALWAYS sound!!
post #13 of 19
Are you just feeding her turkey? Because if you are, it is not adequate of a diet and it will create in her a finicky appetite. When a stray arrives here and does not want to eat canned food, I boil up a chicken and shred the meat and add broth to it and give it to them, but as soon as I can, I switch to a good quality canned food and pet vitamins (nutridrops) to make up for all the time in the world they spent scrounging for whatever they could find.

One other trick I use is I feed a newcomer on top of a sweaty old tee shirt of mine. I put on an old ratty tee shirt (minus my bra) and go for a long walk to get it really smelly and sweaty. Then I take it off and put it on the floor and place some nice cat treats on it, and place their regular food on it as well. This helps them get used to my smell. I also read to them at least 15 minutes every day at the same time quietly while sitting flat on the floor-


Good luck and as everyone has said, it just takes patience-
post #14 of 19
That is so good to hear It sure does seem like once they know attention and love is waiting for them and left to think about it alone a little awhile they do seem to be so much more open and receptive then if we crowd them and tell them they must love us. Good luck with her, it sounds like your off to a great start and it is only getting better.
post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirque
It sure does seem like once they know attention and love is waiting for them and left to think about it alone a little awhile they do seem to be so much more open and receptive then if we crowd them and tell them they must love us.
Beautifully stated, Cirque
post #16 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hissy
Are you just feeding her turkey?
No, the turkey is just for treats, since she doesn't like the shrimp treats Betsy's wild for, or the little Pounce things that come in a can. Just plain roasted turkey for Blackberry's treats. She gobbles it.

In her bowl, she gets Science Diet kitten food, and she's barrelling through it. I fill the bowl twice a day. She didn't come into this too malnourished; she'd been getting lower-grade canned (Trader Joe's) and dry (Cat Chow) food for at least the last two months before I brought her home. Her fur's looking nice and glossy, and I got a good look at her spay incision today when she rolled over on her back. It looks clean, no swelling. She's been bathing, and the fleas I thought she had seem to have disappeared. (?)

My 5-year-old daughter has been reading to Blackberry--See Jack Run type of books. Should we be limiting her exposure to one person?

Cirque, I love the saying you posted. It reminds me that every relationship can be helped by some "miss you" time!
post #17 of 19
Blackberry should at least be exposed to two people if possible. Unless you just want her bonding to your daughter?
post #18 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hissy
Blackberry should at least be exposed to two people if possible. Unless you just want her bonding to your daughter?
No, we've ALL been in to hang out with her--mostly me, sometimes my daughters, and occasionally my husband. And Betsy the cat. Betsy likes to go in there, and Blackberry rouses up whenever she sees her. Today, especially, Betsy's been eager to go in, and Blackberry's seemed eager to see her. Sinced the cuffing/hissing incident this morning, during tonight's two visits, they'd just sniff each other, burrow in each other's ears, then sit around separately.

Blackberry is far more responsive to me than my daughters. She's still more tense when they're around, although not cowering or combative. Today and tonight, she's been pretty relaxed with me. I did not read to her tonight, but I told her all about how she came to be with us--in a very gentle tone. It felt goofy, but she kept looking at me and squinting in that way that makes cats look happy, so I kept going. That's it for tonight, though--we've had our two visits, and now Betsy and I will head for bed until we visit Blackberry, as scheduled, tomorrow morning.
post #19 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone. I'm going to start a whole new blackberry thread, in which I tell the whole story from start til now. I pulled entries from previous threads, added a lot of history, edited it all together quickly to be one "diary" that I can add to and others can post to (and I hope you will, because your encouragement is tremendously helpful). My initial post will be very long, but I thought this might be a way to have one neat package about the Blackberry project.

So please bear with me as I switch threads one last time.
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