or Connect
TheCatSite.com › Forums › Feral Cats and Rescue › Caring for Strays and Ferals › Can you help me help Snowflake?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Can you help me help Snowflake?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I hope I'm posting this in the right place.

I very recently started fostering, and I was just given a "project" and I could use some help.

Snowflake is one of a group of ferals that were captured. Some finally had to be released back after neutering, etc., some were socialized. Snowflake seems to be a special case, as she seems to have been traumatized and they don't feel comfortable just returning her to the wild.

When they had her in the shelter cage all she would do is curl up with her face hidden, and would only eat, use the litterbox, etc., if absolutely nobody was around. If anyone tried to go near her she'd swat, and all had to use gloves. They have been very happy with the results I've had with other cats (although I've never worked with one this difficult) and hoped I could do it before they reluctantly put her back out. She's about 1, had shots, etc., and is spayed.

I was hoping if I told you what is now, and what's happened since they brought her here, if you could give some advice. I really don't know what I'm doing other than what I've read, and I'm fairly new at this.

Some of my obstacles are I live in a 1-bedroom apt. so I don't have a separate room for her. I also have 2 other cats (a 1-something mom and her 7 1/2 mos old male kitten) who seem simply interested, but not overly so, and they've been looking a bit but haven't really invetigated. They did say snowflake was with a group of cats when captured, so hopefully that will not be a problem. In the past after a short uncomfortable "getting to know you" period my cats have gotten along with visitors.

I have a small utility closet in my kitchen, which is out of the way of the work area, so I emptied the bottom out, and we put her bed and toys in there, and I sprayed it with some sort of cat aromatherapy spray. I put her litterbox, food and water opposite each other in the space outside the closet which is slightly enclosed by a standing cabinet, so it afforded her a small, safe, enclosed place away from most of the traffic.

We opened the carrier right at the closet and she ran in and spent most of the rest of the day and evening with her head buried in the cat bed. Later than night she went out and found the space up on top of my kitchen cabinets and stayed all the way up there until the am. Then she came down and hid behind the fridge. Then in the fridge in the back where the motor is (took me an hour to find her). Finally by the end of that day i guess she felt safe enough to turn around, and though the back of her body was still in the fridge she left her head out.

She finally would look at me, and if she made eye contact, I would only keep it for a second or two, then look away and talk gently to her. I would go in periodically and just sit and talk softly to her a bit and would let her watch me put a little food in a bowl and put it towards her.

Eventually she started to roam and by that night she was hiding under my kitchen table and chairs, very suspicious, and I left her there, continuing what I was doing.

The next morning I found poop all over the floor. She was not using hte litterbox, and she was peeing in the bed in the closet. I cleaned it up, and hoped since she had used the litterbox in the shelter, she would ocme around.

Instead, the next time I found her on the stove. Again left her there, and when I returned to the room, she was now hiding on the side of the fridge, and there was a poop convention all over my stove.

The rescue org brought me a cage, and we made a new setup in that. I was hoping to put it in my kitchen against the sliding glass door, and cover the rest with a blanket, so she could look out, protected if she wanted. When they showed up she ran behind the fridge.

We blocked the side so she couldn't escape and put the set up cage on the other side of the fridge, with food, water, litter, etc., hoping she'd eventually go in there herself.

She has used the litterbox, but just peeing. I'm praying she'll poop in there too. However, she will not stay, she keeps going back behind the fridge. Although I'm leaving her to do that now.

At osme point today she wiggled her way out of the obstacles and was under my kitchen table, I sat on the floor, gave her some food, and for the first time (and I was wearing gloves) tried to gently stroke her hind haunch with my fingers. She didn't swat or hiss, but she did move away and just stare back. I pulled back my hand and averted my eyes and talked gently, then pushed the food towards her and left the room.

A bit later she was back behind the fridge where she could go right into the box.

She's a lovely cat, and everyone would like to see her socialized and get into a home. Can you suggest what I can do and how to bring her around and what the best way to approach her is?

And I'd really love to get her into the cage where I'd have a better handle, and she'd be safer, and I wouldn't have poop all over, and i'd be able to work with her, but the only way I can see to do it now is to scare her from one side until she runs in then close the door. I hate to do that though. She's scared enough as it is and trusting enough at least to now hide her head constantly anymore. What do you suggest?

One odd thing she is doing and I'm interested in what this might mean...

Every so often she'll start meowing. Actually I'm not sure if it's meowing or crying, sort of in the middle, and she'll only do it when I'm not in there.
When she does, I answer her in the same sound, and she answers me back. Then I go in, talking gently to her. Sometimes I'll give her food.

But she stares at me with this odd look, and honestly, I can't tell if it's a hostile one or not. I just know that the one time I tried at least she didn't go for me. Doesn't mean she won't another time.

So, what do you think? Is there any hope? What can I do?

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.
And sorry this is so long.
post #2 of 12
I can only tell you what I would do, and I work with difficult ferals a lot. I would not allow her behind the fridge period. Once she is out, I would make sure to block all entrances to the back of the fridge. She could get hurt back there, in the motor or the fan, not a good idea to let her there. Give her an alternate place to hide. I would take a heavy blanket and drape the dining room table so that the blanket(s) cover all sides and drop almost to the ground. She will go under there to hide, and I would let her be. She needs two litter pans all her own, and she sounds super stressed. I wouldn't try to interact with her much, but instead go on a scheduled time with her putting food out at certain times every day, doing everything for her on a set schedule so there are no surprises. I would invest in several comfort zone room diffusers and plug them in in the room she is hiding in. I would not cage her, I would just let her hide. She will come out when she feels safe. Keep the room she is in relatively dark and quiet as you can- don't play music loud, don't bang things around, and talk to her all the time, even if she isn't in the room. If you make eye contact with her, blink slowly several times then look away. Sit on the floor as often as you can, read out loud to her, don't wear shoes around her- you would be surprised how many feral cats are scared of shoes/boots but barefeet are just fine

Good luck
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much for your ideas.

I went back in the room and sure enough she pooped all over the floor again. I am going to try to put out a second litterbox. In fact, do you think 3 might even be better? I'll see if that works.

She seems not to want to stay in one place, and she has almost gotten hurt a few times trying to get out of blocked areas. I don't know what I can put around the fridge on all sides to keep her out of there that would be foolproof. She does spend some time under the table, but I will try putting a sheet over it so it will hang down.

The problem is she's going in to a lot of dangerous places, like up on top of the cabinets. Unfortunately, the kitchen is the most separate room. Anywhere else my cats would be all over, and that's where most of the traffic is. I wish she liked that little cubbyhole closet better. And although I have a lot of tolerance for things like this, and there isn't really anything I have I would care about having ruined, things like finding the stove covered with poop is a bit of a problem. The floor I don't care about.

What are comfort zone room diffusers?

I have been trying as much as possible to keep the traffic down in that room, and have been doing a lot of take out I do go barefoot most of the time anyway. I will try to put her on a more specific schedule, and reading or talking to her more.

And I'm totally at a loss about the meowing. It sounds more like meowing and sounds friendly. Yet as soon as I would respond and go in, she stops. I'm not sure what she's trying to communicate. It sounds like an attention-getting meow. I wish I knew what she was trying to say.

also, what about my cats? Would they be helpful or should I continue to keep them away?

That's why I said that I am aware there are better ways to do this, but unfortunately because of my circumstances, space, logistics, some things are just not as viable. However, what is possible, I will do to the best of my ability. I wouldn't have agreed to this, knowing my limitations, except they have no one else who's even willing to work with her, so I hoped that somehow I could find ways to compensate.

The reason we thought of trying the cage as the lesser of the evils was because she did not seem to want to stay in places that were safe and cordoned off, which we tried a few of, like the little cubbyhole closet and under the table. Even with the fridge she still goes out to other places and hides there too, eventually returning. The fridge is sort of freestanding on 3 sides so I'm not sure how to keep her out of it. I've only been able to block off one, and that was by taking apart another table and wedging it against the side with a chair. She's gotten through just about everything else.
post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 
I just added a 2nd litterbox where she left the last offering of poop. I cleaned it up, but put one little one in the box on top of the litter hoping that will give her the message.
post #5 of 12
She just sounds extremely stressed. If the poop is solid- soft but not runny I wouldn't run her to the vet quite yet. They really pick their own places to hide, turning their nose at anything we humans can come up with. I had one fella hide in our rafters for over a year, and another girl hide inside the recliner stool for weeks. Is there anyway you can encourage her to stay on the top of the cabinet? Clearing everything off the cabinet and maybe blocking half of the opening so she has a cave, but she can still peer out?

You can PM if you wish for help with her. I have lots of tricks and have been working with ferals for a long time. I don't get here much anymore. I thought I could stay away from here, but found I really can't. There are to many cats out there in need of help, so I will always try to help where I can-
post #6 of 12
Can you tape cardboard from the side & top of your fridge to the wall? Maybe if you cover that with tin foil (which they hate), it may keep her out of that area where she may be hurt, and you can't get her.

BTW...hi Hissy
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
Nix on the tinfoil. I can't stand tinfoil. Maybe that's why people always said I was catty? LOL

However, her poop is solid and fine, just in the wrong place. lol She hasn't pooped again yet, but seems to only once a day, or maybe I haven't found it yet. I'm hoping the 2nd litterbox will work. As far as a vet goes, the organization I'm fostering her through is run by a vet, who has been kept up to date and is there if she feels it is needed, so that's one stress for me and problem I don"t have to worry about.

I think the top of the cabinet would not be great either, it's pretty far up.

However I spoke to the rescue people and tomorrow they're going to bring over some screening and we're going to try and screen off the sides of the fridge and walls, and the opening in the back to the motor just to be on the safe side. And we decided to keep the cage there and covered, with all her trappings in it, but leave it open instead of keeping her inside. We're hoping she'll feel safe in there and use it as a bit of a refuge, since it does seem to encourage her at least to use the litterbox.

She's spent the day hiding behind the fridge (not inside the motor at least), but did eat a little.

Hopefully closing it off will encourage her to hide elsewhere or hang in the open cage, which is covered with a nice soft carpet, and also has a kittybed for her, and that I have covered with a blanket. That would be a better solution I think than the kitchen table, which has more traffic.

They also think the meowing is her calling for the two other cats she used to hang with until she was caught. Sounds right to me, as the call does sound like a "I want attention" call, even though she doens't want it from me .... hopefully yet

Thanks again for your help, and any other suggestions offered are more than appreciated, especially on how to get her to trust me.

Oh, and thank you for the idea about the eyes. Although I knew enough to not stare and avert my eyes, the blinking is a great idea. In fact, she did that to me yesterday, which now it seems sounds like a good sign.

I'll keep you all posted, and accept any ideas!
post #8 of 12
I cant offer much advise unfortunatly, but what I can offer is pm Hissy - she sure knows what she is talking about!!

I have been enjoying reading your 'updates' for want of a better word and I look forward to continuing to read them.. I have already posted in your 'hello' post in the new cats forum and I think I said it already there - just be reading that post I have a feeling you will succeed with this kitty - you have the patience and the love it sounds like. There is such a wealth of information on this forum and so many members have been through or still going through similar situations as you are right now.

I send you lots of love & support... many of us will be here right beside you, even if we cant offer much advise
post #9 of 12
Bless your heart for fostering, where would we be without people like yourself

Like Danielle said pm MA (Hissy) because she can give you lots of advice with regards to strays and ferals.

Lots of luck to you and your foster kitties
post #10 of 12
This cat sounds very feral and will take a lot of time and patience to socialize. What was their reason for trying to socialize this one versus releasing her back to where she was trapped? I admire your dedication, but sounds like she will need a room to herself where she cannot run and hide under or behind anything. This cat may never tame up enough to adopt out as a pet. Are you planning on keeping her yourself? If so, the best advice I can offer is let her adapt at her own pace and do not force anything. She needs a place where she can feel it's her own space and not so threatened right now.
post #11 of 12
I know this question might sound really obscure, but I have to ask anyways. Guessing by the name Snowflake, is she white? Does she look like Twitch & Ophelia Rose in my siggy?

When you say she seemed traumatized, can you be more specific? What exactly did she do that makes shelter not want to release her again?

While Snowflake might greatly benefit from other cat companioship, I would not suggest it. If she is as scared as you say she is, she might become aggressive with your cats.

I have a large, open house. I had to put cats in the bathrooms to seperate them. We have 3 bathrooms, so we usually use the one(yes, there's only one empty ) that doesn't have a cat in it. It is tough to try to find a place to put a cat when they are that scared. It is amazing the places they can find to hide.

MA(hissy) really knows what she is talking about. I think every member here can say she has beeen so very helpful, I know I can. Glad to hear you couldn't stay away MA!
post #12 of 12
I totally agree with House of Cats. She's demonstrating classic feral behavior and unless there is a very strong reason for not returning her to her old outdoor home, that is really where she will be happiest. Right now she is very, very stressed and absolutely terrified. The reason she appeared "traumatized" in the shelter was probably because out of all the cats, she was the one who was most terrified of being confined. If this is the case, she should be the first candidate to go back out.

Putting her in a cage would be about the worst thing you can do for her. Caging is fine for young kittens (under 10 weeks, or possibly slightly older if they are not too frightened) but it is borderline cruel for an adult cat unless there is a good medical reason (e.g. recovery from surgery, or if very ill).

I definitely agree that the odds of getting her to the point where she is a realistic candidate for adoption are very, very slim and it would come with a steep psychological price for her. You also need to take into account that kitten season is pretty much here and within a few weeks your rescue will be inundated with 6 and 8 week old feral kittens who will almost certainly make excellent, happy pets if you are able to work with them.

If you are planning to keep her, that's a slightly different story. The best thing in that case is to just let her be and let her find her own way. Remember that she truly views you as a predator and even though your intentions are completely friendly, she honestly believes that you are planning to eat her for dinner. Don't force interactions with her, but let her come to you when she is ready. Realistically, this may take months, it may take years, or it may never happen. It all depends on the cat's individual personality.

But for a cat who is that terrified, letting her go back outside should really be the first option to consider.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Caring for Strays and Ferals
TheCatSite.com › Forums › Feral Cats and Rescue › Caring for Strays and Ferals › Can you help me help Snowflake?