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Rescued after 9 years

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hi,

I'm new to this forum, and I think it's great. I hope to be able contribute based on my new experience with a stray.

I'll try to make this quick, while at the same time giving you some background info.

I moved into a new townhouse neighborhood 9 years ago with a new kitten. At the time, one of my new neighbors was involved in a cat rescue organization. There were several stray cats, all spayed/neutered in the neighborhood. They adopted most of them out. Several years after I moved in, she and her husband moved away and asked me if I would take over the duties of feeding the cats. No problem. Over the years, I got to know all of the cats, and they all came, ate quickly, and ran off. Except for one. My nieghbor briefed me on this particular cat (named, "Fluffy"). She was born around the time we moved into our townhouse but she was unable to find a home for her while she was still a kitten. So, she remained a stray. Every day, she came to my door--most of the time, to just sit, or just to see my cat. My cat (Spooky) and Fluffy were becoming good friends. The really liked to just sit there and rub up against the screen door and look at each other. Fluffy was definitely special. She was very social, and had no problem with my 70 pound lab walking right up to her to lick her. Fluffy would even roll on her back and invite my dog to play with her. Fluffy was defintely more trusting of Spooky and my dog than with myself. Over the years, however, and much patience, and she eventually allowed me to get closer to her. Sometimes I would put out food for her and just sit next to her while she ate. Didn't try to pet her--just wanted to let her know I was there--to gain her trust. As you can guess, I got very close to her emotionally. Winter after winter, I would watch her come to my door literally, with chunks of ice clinging to her beautiful long coat. It was heart breaking. If I left the door open and walked away, she would walk inside my house and eat in the foyer--always keeping an eye on the door, ready to run out. I purchased a dog igloo and a special outdoor cat heater, and she slept in there the entire winter. It finally got to the point where she allowed me to pet her last year. Before long, I could sit with her for an hour and just pet her. I knew I could now pick her up and bring her inside for good, however I struggled a little with wondering if I should really take her out of her world. Who was I to take her inside where she couldn't frolic in the grass and catch mice and birds? Was I being selfish by taking her in? I eventually realized that I would have to take her inside. She had been living outside now for 9 years. I'm sure that must be a record for a stray cat. I just knew it wouldn't be long before I found her lying on the side of the road somewhere, and I couldn't have that. So, I did take her in and had my vet ready to check her out and test her, and she got a clean bill of health. That was in December, 2004 (3 months ago).

That takes us to today. As you might guess, Spooky liked Fluffy better when she was outside. Fluffy has the entire spare bedroom to herself (about 10 x 10 feet). I believe I followed all the introduction rules even though Spooky and Fluffy already knew each other--knew their smells, etc. I kept the door closed for about 10 days, then actually installed a screen door in place of the bedroom door for 3 weeks, then took the door off completely. Fluffy stays in that room all day, every day. There is a sofa in the room that she hid under for a few weeks, and it provides a very nice hiding space, however, she no longer hides under it. She stays in the room, sitting on the couch in full view, so it's not like she's scared. She doesn't appear to sleep a lot. For example, it seems whenever I peak in, she is wide awake--sitting up with her eyes wide open. I pop in there a few times a day to pet her, and once and a while I pick her up and bring her into another room, but she always runs back to her room--her safe place. Spooky generally leaves her alone, unless Fluffy does walk to the door, at which time Spooky will hiss at her. Sometimes, Spooky just sits outside Fluffy's room and just stares at her on the couch, but most of the time, Spooky is not even bothering with her.

I don't really think Fluffy is very scared of Spooky, though Spooky has clearly established that this is her territory and has been for 9 years, so how dare you try and move in here. When Spooky does hiss at her, Fluffy will sometimes hop down from the couch and move toward the back of it. Spooky does not have front claws (a decision I regret greatly--I got Spooky before I knew much about cats, and I thought everyone got their cats declawed). Fluffy, of course, has her claws.

So, here is my question: Is it normal for Fluffy to spend 99.999% of her time sitting on the couch in her room like an old lady? I swear, I think if I just got her a pair of knitting needles, she would be just like an old lady. Should I be doing something to get her out of that room and into other parts of the house? Her litter, food and water are in that room. Or, is Fluffy just glad to have a place to rest after 9 years on the run outside? She seems content--she doesn't make sound, doesn't meow. SHe just sits on the couch.

Your thoughts?

Thanks.
post #2 of 15
Hi and welcome, we're glad you're here!

As for Fluffy spending most of her time on the couch... it might be good to get her some exercise. I know that my "old man" Max (he's only 6 and a half years old) likes to spend most of his day on the couch but we like to try to tease him with a feather toy and get him to run around a bit. You might look into that or perhaps moving the food and water bowl so that she'd have to move a bit more - but, like you said, maybe Fluffy's just glad to have a place to rest.
post #3 of 15
There is nothing "normal" about Fluffy so you can expect the unexpected. Sitting passively on a couch and avoiding conflicts? That actually sounds like a favorable result based on the range of what is possible. Stray cats don't play too much once they are rescued so any efforts towards socialization takes a lot of time and patience.

What are your goals for Fluffy? If you wanted her to survive, you have effectively rescued her and she is not resisting your assistance. (You didn't mention any efforts to escape or aggressiveness towards yourself.) So you can mark it up as a success and thanks for giving this girl a quiet place to live out her senior days.

If you want to socialize her, that is going to be a very big project that takes patience...but it is possible. You are under no obligations to socialize Fluffy but if that is your goal then here is how I would start (based on my experiences with Nano):

--talk to her, letting her get used to your voice (some people recommend reading outloud)
--don't try to make direct eye contact, but if so blink and see if you can get her to blink back at you (that is "reaching an understanding" with her on some level)
--if you have a sleeping bag, go into "her room" and take a nap on the floor (with you asleep in her space, she will feel most confident and secure about exploring you on her own terms)
--give her some of your dirty clothes, either putting the feedbowls on top of them or letting her "nest" with them (this is letting her get used to your scent so she begins to recognize you as her caretaker)
--always provide good food, fresh water and a clean litterbox (you already do this, but it is important for her socialization that a routine be established)

Most importantly, be patient and don't expect miracles. In fact, anticipate that Fluffy will make some progress and then seem to regress the next week. She might hide under that couch for a couple of days and then go back to sitting in plain view without rhyme or reason. All you can do is be consistent yourself to give her a stable environment.
post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
pinkdaisy226: The feather toys don't work with Fluffy. She's been used to chasing and catching real mice and birds. I think she laughs at me when I try to get her to chase a feather toy, almost to say, "Puhhleeze, I've had the real thing!". I have thought about moving her food and water, but thought that might be confusing for her. But this lends itself to Nano's reply...

nano: You asked a great question: "What are your goals with Fluffy?". I guess I never actually thought about it like that, but the question is perfectly valid. I suppose many of us assume that we're going to take in a stray and it's going to act exactly how we want it to. But, really, the goal was to take her in and just give her a better life. I think that's easier to do than to expect her to act or adjust in specific ways. She has not tried to escape and is the very opposite of aggressive. She's very laid back and just a flat out nice cat. I can walk into the room at any time and sit on the couch and pet her with no problems. She enjoys it very much--she will roll over and rub against me and lift her head up so that I scratch her neck. She does seem content just sitting there on the couch, so I am very lucky--considering she's been a stray since birth, and she is now 9 years old. Your suggestions are good ones--and I have been following them since I took her in. I suppose I was more wondering if I should do more to "encourage" her to check things out some more--i.e. take her out of the room and put her in another room, or, as pinkdaisy mentioned, perhaps moving her food/water to another place just to get her to other parts of the house.
post #5 of 15
Are you home all day? If not, are you sure she's not making forays into the hall/another room when you're not home? She may be more active then you think...

I'd say, leave her be. Since she got a clean bill of health from the vet, it may be that she's just enjoying her "safe spot". Let her emerge at her own pace (however maddening that may be to you ) When we brought our third cat home from the rescue group, it was a couple of months before she felt comfortable enough leave the upstairs hall without us around. Since Fluffy has been living outside her entire life, she's got to have some big adjustments to get through. She sounds contented and dealing well with the change, so let her be the one to make more changes. Good luck with her
post #6 of 15
so are spooky and fluffy the same age and how has you lab treated fluffy since she's moved in?
post #7 of 15
We fed a cat for two years and finally brought her inside one frigid winter day. We "trapped" her on our porch and took her to the vet. While in the cage and at the vet's she seemed totally different--we had never touched her before and while at the vet's she let us hold her! We took her home, let her out of the cage, she ran into the basement and we didn't see her again for weeks. She used the litterbox and ate what we put out but never when we were around. It has been 18 months and she's still in our basement! In her case she has deverloped friendships with the other cats. We actually have seen her halfway up the basement steps! Is her life better or worse? We don't really know but she has a nice bed, lots of food and she doesn't hide anymore. She's safe.

I have 9 cats and three spend almost 100% of their time in our bedroom (yeah, I'll admit it, I feed them in there and ther's a litterbox for them!), two spend almost 100% of their time in the kitchen/porch, one stays in the basement and the rest (3) roam. None are confined in any way--they just have their territories!
post #8 of 15
I think you need to give her access to the outdoors. It's possible that she may not be interested, and that's fine if it's the case. But she's been removed from the only home she has ever known and this is a stressful experience. She's also never been confined for a long period before, and this is an extremely stressful thing for a feral cat. She at least needs to know that she is not a prison and that her familiar habitat is right there.

Since she lived for 9 years right outside your home, the most humane thing for her is to let her be an indoor-outdoor cat. She should be able to come indoors when she wants to, but she should also not be deprived of the things she knew and loved all her life. Feral cats form incredibly strong bonds with their territory and unless the cat's life is in jeopardy, it is important to honor that bond. It is also important to honor her wild nature, and her preferred way of life. She is not a domestic cat and shouldn't be expected to become one. Being feral is okay - it's just who she is.

BTW, 9 years is actually a pretty normal lifespan for a sterilized feral cat with a regular food source. My friends TNRed their alleys back in the mid-1990's and have a lot of cats in their alleys who are 10-15 years old. The population is slowly starting to decline due to natural attrition, but when my friends take the cats' bodies in for necropsies the results clearly show that they are dying of the same age-related conditions that pet cats die of. The concept of feral cats living "short, miserable lives" largely a myth.

This link has some really good information that should be carefully considered: http://www.wildaboutcats.com/tnr.htm
post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by vegansoprano
I think you need to give her access to the outdoors. It's possible that she may not be interested, and that's fine if it's the case. But she's been removed from the only home she has ever known and this is a stressful experience. She's also never been confined for a long period before, and this is an extremely stressful thing for a feral cat. She at least needs to know that she is not a prison and that her familiar habitat is right there.

Since she lived for 9 years right outside your home, the most humane thing for her is to let her be an indoor-outdoor cat. She should be able to come indoors when she wants to, but she should also not be deprived of the things she knew and loved all her life. Feral cats form incredibly strong bonds with their territory and unless the cat's life is in jeopardy, it is important to honor that bond. It is also important to honor her wild nature, and her preferred way of life. She is not a domestic cat and shouldn't be expected to become one. Being feral is okay - it's just who she is.

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But if she isn't trying to get out and is perfect content laying on then chair all the time, why let her back out? One reason she said she wanted the cat in in the first place is because she is getting older and wants to protect her from being hit by a car. How can it be inhumane if the cat shows no interest in trying to get back out and is perfectly happy? She is obviously not completely feral, anymore at least, if she allows her to come right up and side next to her and pet her. I just don't understand why you think it is inhumane to keep her inside? Does anyone else agree or am I missing something here?
post #10 of 15
I can't speak for vegansoprano, but I will say she has given me some excellent feedback...and just nudged me into new areas of thinking I may not have touched upon in some of my posts. I don't think "inhumane" should be taken so very literally...perhaps "unfamiliar or out-of-context" in your kitty's world?? I tend to agree that a cat from the outdoors needs to be in her "core" surroundings to be happy. Even though she might not appear to be clawing or agressive towards returning to the outdoors, certainly if an indoor/outdoor set-up could be crafted, my gut is agreeing that is best. Extreme stress tends to make cats appear very lethargic in some cases. Very. They are in survival mode. Just a thought and big hugs to you for your questions and caring for her!!
post #11 of 15
Fluffy could very realistically be perfectly content to spend the rest of her life settled in on that sofa and never leave the room. When I hear the emotion in your story, the flip side is that she could be outside, with ice stuck to her coat in the winter and a target for cars. What is worse for her?

Don't expect her to be like a normal house cat that has been raised with human contact their entire lives. The fact that she is sitting out in the open on your sofa and not hiding the entire time tells me that she has accepted the situation to a great degree. At 9 years old and being an outdoor cat all her life, she is clearly a senior citizen. Yes you have imposed yourself into her life but if she is accepting her new environment, why change it if it takes away the hazards of her previous existance?

Watch the quality of her life inside versus what she had outside and make a judgement call from that. There are never definite answers when you are dealing with these situations.
post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Momofmany
...... At 9 years old and being an outdoor cat all her life, she is clearly a senior citizen. ..........
Watch the quality of her life inside versus what she had outside and make a judgement call from that. There are never definite answers when you are dealing with these situations.
Great point, I had not thought of that! --how being anoutdoor cat exponentially ages a cat.
post #13 of 15
A vet gave me the advice once: add 5 years to an outdoor cat's age. Being outdoors all the time does age them faster than those inside and pampered all their lives.
post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 
Sorry for being out for so long. Had a computer crash. Long story, but mostly a happy ending. Could have been worse.

Back to Fluffy: I am home all day (I work from home). Oddly enough, over the past week or so, she has been venturing out of her room. I even found her on my bed, just hanging out 2 days ago. I walked into the room and did a double take. She just looked up at me like, "What're you looking at?". The real problem now seems to be Spooky. She is the same age as Fluffy. Fluffy has no problem with her at all. But Spooky makes it very clear that she does not like Fluffy roaming around. She tolerates Fluffy when she is in her (Fluffy's) room, but not when she steps out. But again, it's wierd, because Fluffy sort of dismisses Spooky--she doesn't hiss back, or anything like that. She almost ignores her.

I think, on the whole, after reading these (and other) posts, she's doing pretty darn good.

I appreciate everyone's feedback. It has really helped.
post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by fluffy18

I think, on the whole, after reading these (and other) posts, she's doing pretty darn good.
.
Sorry about your computer! Bad computer!
I think your gut will prove you right. Fluffy also has some very subtle and finely-honed survival skills which you are probably experiencing. Instead of being friendly, which might give off confrontation vibes if mis-read, she is flying beneath the radar so to speak. By seemingly ignoring Spooky, she's sidestepping any chance of stress to preserve her own energy and proceed "as normal as possible". Wouldn't it be something if in the future you found these two curled up together?
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