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Captured feral cats REFUSING to eat!

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I need advice on how to get two feral cats to eat! I had been feeding these two stray ferals outside all winter long. They know me as a food source. I have been trying to trap them and finally succeeded. They are now in my home.

I took in one feral cat about two weeks ago. I placed her in a room of her own, gave her hiding spots, litter, freefed dry food & canned food 2X day. She refused to eat for the first 3 days. On the fourth day, she began eating at night and ate every night. All was well until I took her in to be spayed three days ago (had to wait for a feral spay appt.). After the spaying, she ate about a tablespoon of canned food. Now the last few days, she has eaten nothing. I have offered her canned food, cat treats & real tuna. She is freefed dry food. She stays inside her hiding box whenever I am around which is what she did before and after the surgery. She doesn't look sick, though I am sure the surgery scared the heck out of her and caused her pain.

The second feral is a male (waiting for his neutering appt.). He was captured five days ago. He is in a separate room & has dry food, canned food & hideaways, litter, etc. He is offered the same meals as the female feral. He ate well the first night, but has refused all food since.

I make sure to spend time with both cats each day, talking to them, not looking in their eyes, reading etc.

HELP! Any ideas on what I should do to help encourage them to eat? Are there any special foods which entice ferals to eat?

I took in a feral years ago (she has since passed on of old age), but eating was never an issue for her. I know the time and patience that is needed to befriend ferals and I am willing to give these two what they need, but I can't help them eat! I am especially worried about the female as she had surgery.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
post #2 of 18
Why are these cats being kept inside so long? I understand you successfully trapped & spayed the female but why hasn't she been released? Most females should be held 48-hours after spay for release. Just my opinion, of course, but to hold a feral/stray cat for 5 days or more inside until spay or neuter is a very long time...maybe that's why both of them are not eating.

Again, just my opinion, and going by personal experience, my belief is that not every feral/stray that we successfully trap for spay/neuter should be kept as inside cats/companions...most as a matter of fact, should be released to the colony or place where they were trapped. I have seen many a feline literally starve themself and fall into a real good depression if they not released after recovering from spay/neuter. My personal advice, is to neuter the male, release him after 24-hours after neuter and the female should be released immediately (if there are no complications due to her spay/surgery.)
post #3 of 18
My feral cat had really bad constipation after her anaesthetic,i would have a word with your vet,he may be able to recommend something to loosen her bowels if she is constipated.

If you are intending keeping her and the boy,I would leave her alone for longer,just go in to feed her,too much too soon may be more than she is willing to accept.
why are the cats being kept apart?can they not be put in the same room,i 'm sure they will both feel more secure and may be more confident if they are with each other.
post #4 of 18
First of all, thank you for helping these guys! It sounds like you're doing the right things, and hopefully it's just a matter of time. I can understand, however, your concern.

I respectfully disagree that she should be set free. If she's had surgery, and has not eaten for a few days, I would be worried she is too depleted physically to be able to fend for herself. The boy you could wait out, but I agree with your concern for her. Have you called the vet? Perhaps something else is going on with her. Are you feeding her the same brand and flavor of food that she is used to? Are you going into the room on a schedule? If you're going in a few times a day to check on her (understandable), maybe she doesn't feel secure enough to come out and eat? Also, for some reason, ferals can't seem to resist Kentucky Fried Chicken. Not that you can feed her this exclusively, but maybe it will whet her appetite.

Please keep us updated on how they're doing! Please call your vet, too.
post #5 of 18
I would call the vet right away about the female feral since she has just had surgery.
post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all your replies. First, the good news - both cats ate overnight. The male ate almost everything he had (which was a lot). The female ate some food...probably about a teaspoon of canned and a tablespoon of dry.
I guess that's a start. I hope they keep eating. I am leaving them alone more now. Also, now that I know about Kentucky Fried Chicken, I will try some for the evening meal (thank you)! I had called the vet & he said to give it time and watch her behavior.

To clarify my story:
While I was feeding them outdoors, I was also working on befriending them. They were both to the point that they would walk around my legs as I set the food down. I was not able to pet them. This was real progress as initially they would run and sit about 150 feet from me, watch me put the food out and then come to eat only after I was gone. I was hoping to befriend them and then take them in, but the female went into heat and I saw her mating with two males. I did not want a kitten problem, so I made the decision to take them in now. The female is very young-maybe a year old. The male may be slightly older. Time will tell if I made the right decision.

My plan is to keep them inside, if possible. I do have one pet cat currently, so I am hoping she will break the ice with the newbies.

Releasing them would be my last resort. We believe some neighbor has been poisoning cats in my neighborhood and no one knows who that person is. We only know we have been finding dead cats...even found one shot. If I have to release them, I will have to release them elsewhere (like maybe a farm). Meanwhile, I will put all my effort into keeping them inside. Neither one flew into walls when I took them in like my original feral cat did...both of these are hiders. I tamed the wall flyer years ago. I believe I can tame these two.

And finally, I didn't put them in the same room as I feared that the male might attack the female if she had an unusual smell about her (the surgery). I had taken in a cat and kittens years ago and the mother attacked the babies after I gave them baths. I would love to have these two together right now. Any thoughts on the safety of putting them together (they were friends outside)?

Thanks again for all the advice. It is appreciated!
post #7 of 18
Oh, I hope you keep them. !!!!

And this is an encouraging thread as well.. I have a feral that is not eating well either. He is drinking though.

One thing..... As far as surgery and getting attacked. That's not going to happen. At least it's very doubtful. I have 13 and that has never happened. They smell their butts and carry on. They don't bathe them at the vet before surgery. Just wipe their bellies.

The mama didn't recogonize her babies oders when they tried to nurse after a bath. That's probably why she attacked them. Totally different scenerio.

I would put them together if they know each other. It will relax them.

Thank you for the thread.
post #8 of 18
I don't think there is a cat that wouldn't eat tuna!!! Or you could try cottage cheese or the infamous boiled checken breast-maybe some chicken broth???
post #9 of 18
Not eating is a sign of extreme stress. The psychological stress of confinement for a feral cat is as bad as, or worse than, the physical stress of a spay surgery. A cat who will come close to you when being fed but will not allow him/herself to be touched is one who is likely to do poorly indoors. Cats are territory-oriented and though the ferals you feed have a bond with you, it's not the same bond that a pet has. Their bond is to their territory and the other cats there, first and foremost.

They aren't frantic like the wall climber was, but that sort of behavior isn't a sign of the degree of "feral-ness". Cats respond to perceived threats in one of two ways - they fight (like the wall climbers) or they shut down and become withdrawn and depressed (like the ones who stop eating). The wall climbers look more wild, but really the ones who become depressed are suffering more. Not eating is a sign that they've just given up.

If you are going to keep them inside, definitely put them together. Having a familiar cat with them might be what it takes to give them some will to keep going. But all things considered, even with the risks it would be wise to consider letting them go back outside. Even though their physical safety is reduced, they will be much much happier. It's a trade off but one that, from the cat's perspective, is usually worth it.
post #10 of 18
Semiferal's advice and knowledge are both EXCELLENT!!

I, too, over the last few years have been caring for a colony of seven. Over the years...the many many hours of my presence and the twice a day feedings have led them to trust me enough to pet them and even have them sit on my lap while I stroke them. Although they are very sweet with me on their own "turf", I would never expect them to act in a similar fashion on the inside.

It took a lot of thought & research to come to my opinion that this colony (and most) should be trapped, neutered/spayed and then released to "their" home...the outside. It is a very hard concept to swallow that some felines will just not benefit from becoming inside cats...they simply cannot.

I wish you luck with these two cats, thank-you for taking the time for them and hope their trust for you grows to the point where they are happy living inside....but please...if they fall into a depressed state, it really is best to release them.
post #11 of 18
As long as they start eating, I think it's worth the effort to try to socialize them. I had three feral adults come through my home this last year, one a wall climber, and two hiders. The wall climber, and one of the hiders have both socialized beautifully, with a great deal of effort, and are already adopted out, and are great pets. The third, JinJin in my sig, was also a hider, and went on a bit of a hunger strike. She is now to the point where she is adoptable, and I am working towards this goal for her. I had no contact with this cat prior to trapping her, but, with time, she has learned to trust. She enjoys her life, purrs constantly, plays like a kitten, and loooves being pet. I think it may be too early to deem these two "untamable". Anet is willing to put the time, effort, and love into these guys, I for one, support that effort, especially in light of the fact that they have started eating.

Anet, please continue to keep us updated! I'm so pleased they are eating! Stick to your schedule, and they will start to feel more comfortable.
post #12 of 18
Wow, although I wouldn't take a feral in my yard inside, I live in a safe area! I wouldn't let them back outside where you are. And it is kind of hard to relocate ferals.

I wonder what would happen if you just let them free run of the house?!? Since they were already coming up to you, maybe if they had free run, they would pack together with your kitty and begin to calm. And find hiding places they feel comfortable with.

I don't know...it is kind of scary to lose them in your house, and not be able to track who is eating what...but they may calm down.

Maybe you can start by letting your kitty into the female's room. At least then she will have a companion and friend when she goes into the house. And you can make sure they won't fight.

Also, try to use the same behavior when feeding as you did outside...the same calls, same routine. Best of luck with them!
post #13 of 18
Originally Posted by leesali
Semiferal's advice and knowledge are both EXCELLENT!!

It is a very hard concept to swallow that some felines will just not benefit from becoming inside cats...they simply cannot.
That's so true. A long miserable life isn't a good thing IMO.

I hope they'll start eating and be happy cats. Putting them together will probably help.
post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
Cat Update:

Both cats are now eating very well (the male eats too well)! They only seem to eat in the evening and overnight, but I know that's when they feel safe. The Kentucky Fried Chicken was a big hit! Both enjoyed some chicken, some canned food and some dry food.
After everything that has been posted, I believe my mistake was "too much of me too soon." I am am pretty much leaving them alone now and sticking to a schedule for feedings.

I will put them together later today and see if that is better for them.

Again, I appreciate the feeding advice & success stories! I will keep everyone updated on their progress.
post #15 of 18
Oh I'm so glad! Typical of them to only eat at night, that's all they did outside, so it makes sense. I'm glad they enjoyed their KFC treat! I'm also glad the schedule worked. They really do seem to need it in the early stages. Keep up the good work!
post #16 of 18
Thread Starter 
Another Update:

Both cats are eating very well now! Both cats eat their day and night meals. They have not eaten in front of me, but I have seen them eating by viewing them with a video baby monitor. They are getting braver and coming out to check things out. They are also getting to know my current pet cat without too much hissing.

Again, I appreciate all the advice! "Marble" and "Tiger" also thank you!
post #17 of 18
Originally Posted by GailC
I don't think there is a cat that wouldn't eat tuna!!! Or you could try cottage cheese or the infamous boiled checken breast-maybe some chicken broth???
I have to tell you that neither of our cats will touch anything with fish in it.

I also want to add that even though Semiferal has good experience and advice, I do feel that if these cats are eating now and starting to investigate their surroundings, if you can continue to work with them to keep them indoors, please continue IMO. They will be much safer and it sounds as though you are on the right path here.
post #18 of 18
That's a great update Anet! From here on out, it's pure patience on your part to get them to trust you. Now that they're safe and eating, you've got all the time in the world to help them adapt to the indoor life.

The baby monitor's a great idea! The hardest part for me was to not look at them. Sometimes you just want to "feast your eyes", but dang they hate that!

Keep up the good work!
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