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Too Much Too Soon For My Feral?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Hi, Anyone who's read my previous post knows that I've had my feral cat "Lexi" for a couple of months now in my office. I've read that I should spend as much time as possible with her, to the point of her regarding me as a fixture, and I have. My problem is that I'm starting to go a little stir crazy myself having spent so much time in there. Yet, I feel guilty when I'm outside of the room and she's all alone. I have a screen door (to which I added another layer of heavy-duty pet screening to) which perfectly fits the doorway to the office where Lexi is. I was wondering what you all thought about me keeping the wooden door open and just having the screen door for that room? I have 2 other cats, and at this point I'm sure everyone's aware of each others presence, but I don't know know how anyone will react face-to-face. I'd hate to stress Lexi out even more, not to mention our TV room is on the other side of the office door, and we practically live in that room, so noise level is kind of high. This is my first experience with a feral cat so I'm kind of lost on this one. Also, will I ever be able to vacuum that room?! Thanks to you all for being so supportive and guiding me through this!
post #2 of 20
Excellent move. Just before doing it, make sure she isn't going to run out?
Also, put some cloth with the other cats scents on it in the room so she can sniff them...

Then you can do the door thing, which I think is great. Cats learn by observation.
post #3 of 20
Screen doors are fabulous for allowing cats to safely meet as part of the introduction process. I agree, too, that cats do learn by observation so allowing her to watch your positive interactions with your other cats will be a good thing.

Don't stop spending time with her alone, though. Make a schedule and stick to it. She will appreciate a regular schedule. That instills a sense of normalcy to her, and from that, trust.
post #4 of 20
Actually the cats are very aware of each other. The feral will trust the cats before she trusts you. As you interact with your other cats, the feral will see the order of things. It will help her to watch you with your other cats. It's a slow process but very rewarding.

So I say 'open the door'......... I would keep her a spot in the office however that she can get to since that has become her safe place.

She will slowly venture out and explore and will watch you.

Good luck
post #5 of 20
jcribbs wrote:The feral will trust the cats before she trusts you.
Our feral/stray Pru starts purring and stretching towards the other two cats whenever they come near. She is not afraid of them at all, they on the other hand are very wary of her. They've made it past the hissing stage, now they are sniffing each other and don't run away.

I used the screen door trick, it's a great technique, the screen door is off now, Pru has a wicker dome basket in that room she likes and feels safe in, the other two come in and use the litter box in there and wander back out.

A slow introduction with the screen door has made for a nice introduction for every one. Pru is getting more comfortable every day, although she still has days where she is withdrawn or very nervous, then I don't see much of her.

One day Lex will come out of the room and hide under something and you will be able to go in there and sweep.

I became aware of how loud I had the TV, Pru is very sensitive to noises, and I find that I lower the volume down when she comes into that room and not only is she happier, so am I.
post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 
Well, I put the screen door up to Lexi's room a couple of days ago (I still keep the wooden door shut if I'm sleeping or at work, but otherwise it's there). Lexi has decided that she has no interest in anything outside of her crate. With the screen up, she will either completely stay in her bed, or if she's sitting in the crate, hide her head behind her bed so she can't see outside of the room. I took advantage when she was changing positions last night and had no choice but to look towards the door - I picked up my other cat and held him up so she could clearly see him and then put him back on the floor. Lexi looked at him for all of 5 seconds, then turned around to hide her face. She didn't appear frightened of him, it seemed more like she could care less. I've purposely kept the TV and noise in the rest of the house to a minimum. I thought cats were curious? I'm perplexed. Part of me still wonders if maybe I should wait until she's fully acclimated to me before I expose her to more stimulation, but on the other hand, I don't want to deprive of stimulation either. Is her reaction "normal"? I don't know what it means.
post #7 of 20
Most of the feral cats that I've brought into my home first bond with the other cats and then me. I would leave the wood door open to start the adjustment with the other cats.

Lexi may still be intimidated by the other cats and is therefore hiding from them. When a feral cat arrives in a new colony, fitting in doesn't always happen overnight. They are probably more in tune to territorial boundaries than most cats and often stay apart from the others until they feel accepted.

The timeframe for socializing ferals varies so much from cat to cat. I've had some walk in and within a week be somewhat normal. I've had others that never fully adjusted (after years and years). Take it slow, keep a routine, and things will follow their own course.

As for sights/sounds/smells in the house? Opening the wood door will expose Lexi to all (which is a good thing). Don't overly minimize the noise - she needs to hear what a normal working house sounds like.
post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 
Good news! Today as I was at my PC while in the office with Lexi, I heard her get up. The side/back of my chair faces her crate, so all that I could hear was her in her litterbox. This time it was quick, like she was just passing through it. I gave her a minute, turned to look and sure enough, she was standing on the table on which her crate rests, looking out the screen door. I look out the door and see that Lexi is intently (yet nervously) looking at my other girl, Little Peas, who is looking/staring right back at from atop her carpeted castle. Now I'm thinking, "okay, this really isn't the side of the door that I want to be on ," so in an effort to calm myself down, I begin speaking softly to all those involved. Little Peas wouldn't blink an eye, however Lexi would turn her head and divert her eyes from time to time. Lexi the jumps onto the ottoman that I have pushed up to the table, which brings her another foot closer to the door, and lays down on it for about a minute, facing the door. Little peas eyes are getting blacker and she still refuses to blink, yet thankfully, she remains on her castle. Lexi then jumps to the floor and runs somewhere beneath/behind my chair (which I had slowly turned to face the door). So as I wait to feel claws and/or teeth at my ankle, she suddenly runs back out, jumps onto the ottoman and back into her cage. I know that she picks up on my emotions and that I shouldn't feel stressed, but I couldn't help myself. I wonder if aromatherapy for me would overpower the Feliway for her!
post #9 of 20
Good for Lexi! Little Peas' reaction was quite normal. And Lexi tried to show her that she is submissive. Definitely a positive interaction all around!
post #10 of 20
I agree it sounds like it's going well! I know it's hard, but try not to be so "aware" of what Lexi is doing. If she's moving about the room, just continue with what you were doing. If she sees she is drawing your attention, she may go back to hiding. Pretend as if you don't even notice her. Talking out loud (softly) is great for her, though. If the screen is secure, you can leave the door open at all times. I don't even start with the wood door closed. They really do get used to the sights, sounds, and smells of the house. It's good for her socialization process!

Keep up the good work!
post #11 of 20
Thread Starter 
Well, the screen door has been up (when I'm home and awake) everyone has seen each other from time to time. Lexi has gotten braver as far as coming out of her crate for a minute or two when I'm not in the room, although she won't go near the door, regardless of whether Little Peas or my boy Clawd are near it or not. She will still hide in her bed (in the crate) when I am in her room; her head is buried down but her eyes are wide open. I've got a Feliway diffuser in her room, put Rescue Remedy drops in her water, and spray Felifriend on my hands when I go near the crate. I've tried bits of chicken, tuna, and babyfood (100% chicken and beef), catnip, etc. but she expresses no interest; she won't even pick her head up. She eats her dry food at night, but doesn't even want her wet food lately. Recently, I don't even heard her play at night. I'm thinking that she may be depressed. Any thoughts anyone? I feel bad for her and don't know what else to do!

~ Kathy
post #12 of 20
Thread Starter 
I just tried to pet her on her back using the feather end of a wand and she let out this big hiss! She hasn't hissed at all since I brought her home (and used a glove on the end of a stick). I've pet her before with the wand and her eyes would bug out, but nothing more. I'm confused.
post #13 of 20
It could be just that she is still adjusting to the idea that there is more to her world than just her little room. Opening the door and seeing other cats, seeing YOU more than she was used to, is a big adjustment for her to make. You're doing great with her, just giver her time to adjust. The biggest thing to always remember when working on socializing a feral is to allow them to do things on their timeline. She will have setbacks like this one, but she will also adjust to the difference.
post #14 of 20
You might try giving her some space. If you're approaching her when she's "hiding" in her crate, she may be feeling threatened, even if you do come bearing treats. Since having the screen door open is such a big adjustment for her, you can lessen her stress by not approaching her. There are many threads here where it is advised that when you go into her room, just talk softly, don't look at her. Make a routine. Put out her food, change her water, clean the litter. Sit and read out loud to her, and leave a treat on the floor where you were sitting, and leave the room. Keep music playing low volume in the room at all times. Don't look at her when you're doing all of this. It sounds "mean", but it's really not. She feels very vulnerable right now, and by doing this routine over and over again, she will start to feel secure, and will eventually come out when you're in the room. As good as your intentions are in trying to interact with her, and pet her, this isn't what she wants or needs right now. All this advice was from a former mod on this site who has done this countless times. From personal experience, I have to say that it works very well. It takes time...weeks, months, in some cases, years. It sounds like you really want what is best for this girl, and have shown great patience. She requires more of your patience right now, and she needs you to put aside your expectations, and go at her pace.
post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 
Hi, Thanks, That's a great idea to leave a treat where I was sitting. I used to play music all the time for her, but since having the screen door up, I stopped. Many people (I've posted on other sites, as well) have said to get her accustomed to the normal sounds of the house, so I've had the TV on in the next room instead. She seems to have acclimated well to the noises coming from it, she sleeps soundly through it. The most difficult part for me is trying to find that perfect balance between giving her space and "pushing the envelope" as others have suggested. I can be as patient as she needs me to be, but I'm confused as to if and when I should take things a bit further.
post #16 of 20
The best answer to that is that she will tell you when to take the next step. If she's a feral, pushing the envelope will only push her away. Let her make the moves. She really will get more comfortable in your home and with you if you allow her to do everything on her terms, in her time. It is really hard to ignore a beautiful kitty that you really want to feel your love and understand that she's safe, but that will help her adjust more quickly.
post #17 of 20
Thread Starter 
Well, it's been a month now since the screen door has been up separating Lexi from my other two, and still nothing. Lexi has shown absolutely no interest in the others, even if they are at the screen meowing, she doesn't even move an ear or take a look. Little Peas is still very interested in this newcomer and will scratch at the screen, being very vocal. My boy is unfettered; he'll lay at the door awhile wanting to take a look at her, but then ultimately gives up and goes on his way. Could it be that she has no interest in making friends and prefers to be alone? Even when I am out of the room and she is out of her crate she doesn't go near the door. There's been no hissing among any of them so I'm a bit confused. Also, the only time she'll play is during the night and only if I shut the wooden door, otherwise, if the screen is only up, she'll sit at the window and nothing more. I'm considering keeping the wooden door closed every night so at least she'll get some exercise and have a little fun. Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!
post #18 of 20
Pru was the same way. Wouldn't go near the screen door and only played at night. After the screen door came off and she was on her own, I would hear her at night in the house . A small squeak at first (I didn't know what it was at first and she didn't do it for quite a while when she first came out) and now it's non-stop. The squeaking, crying was her finding her voice and looking for the other two cats, she was lonely. If she sees the other two or gets near them the purring starts. Now she is starting to rub on them, and I think she thinks I'm okay now because the other two think I am.
I came home yesterday to find her on the radiator on a small cat bed (they love it, it's warm) and she didn't run away, she was out in the OPEN. This is a really big deal, a first.
It has been very slow going, but I am just starting to see results, and they are small, but they are adding up. It's been almost 4 months.
You may want to let Lexi out, and see what happens. The down side is trying to find her, they can get into some small places and will not even think of coming when you call. Hang in there, it's worth it. I had my doubts at times and probably still will, but things get better, just slowly.
post #19 of 20
On the subject of playing with Lexi with cat toys: don't. At least not for a while. Pru was frightened of any of the interactive toys. Think about it, they are scared of you and you are on the other end of that toy. It doesn't matter how cute, colorful, crackly, or cat-nippy the toy is. Pru plays all night with toys now, but she is still very suspicious of playing with me and a toy, in fact she still won't. My husband says she has no sense of humor or fun yet. One more thing she has to learn.
It's hard to realize that what is fun for a normal house cat is, may not be for a feral.
I hope I don't offend anyone with this next thought. But I feel like stray/feral cats are almost autistic in behavior. They are over stimulated way too easily by normal sights and sounds and they retreat inside as a way of coping with everything. It's a long journey that takes a lot of patience and love and trying not to compare them to "regular" cats. I'm learning a lot about myself and Pru. She's making me a better person in a lot of ways.
post #20 of 20
Thread Starter 
I agree! I thought it was all in MY head when I noticed that Lexi, particularly when I first brought her home, seemed to "disassociate" at times when I would try to talk to her - it was as if she would just go blank and not even see me! I would even move toys in front of her and her she would just stare, not even move her eyes - it was like she left her body and wasn't really there. She hasn't done this in quite some time now but it had me very worrried initially. I'm glad to see that her coping skills were normal! Thanks!
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