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caged-cat rescue advice needed

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I rescue-adopted a young cat that was "made feral" by an irresponsible breeder - he was kept in a cage 100% of the time with other kittens but without any petting or ever being let out. I accepted him three days ago; he is a full 5 months old. I have him in a quiet room with food and a sandbox. He rejected wet food but is eating premium dry kitten food (he was underweight) and using the box. He mews very piteously, but when I go in, he scrambles wildly to hide and must be lifted by the scruff of his neck from one of his hiding places to get him out of hiding. Yesterday I tried holding him very gently on a soft blanket on my lap, without actually stroking him, but he did not relax at any point even after a half hour. I am afraid if I don't start holding him now, and just duplicate his caged life in a bigger space, he will stay ferel, especially because he is now 5 months old and is probably running out of time to become fully accepting of people. He won't come out to eat while I am there. Any advice would be very welcome. Thank you so much!
post #2 of 9
I have heard advice given that you should give the cat time to get accustomed to you, your scent and your voice before trying to make touch contact. Give him something of yours to lie on, feed him treats on a smelly t-shirt, and go in and sit on the floor and read to him without making eye contact. Then he will begin to associate you with good things and eventually hopefully will come to you. He is not too old - my feral boys were 5 months old when I got them, and I had to keep them isolated for a time because of diseases and parasites, but after three weeks of the above treatment, they warmed up and now, 6 months later, they are two of the biggest lovebugs you could imagine, sleep on my pillow, curl up on my neck and lie and look at me adoringly!
post #3 of 9
We adopted Cassi as an 11 month old feral.
You'd never know it today, only a year later, and she made a complete turn around in about 8 months.

The best thing you can do is let them approach you, never grab them from hiding.
Hiding makes them feel safe and the last thing you want is for them to feel like they are not safe anywhere.
Give him a comfy box to hide in, let him set the pace.
It may take days, weeks or months, but he will eventually learn to trust.
post #4 of 9
You call him yourself feral. Then do treat him as shy feral.
I second JennyRanson and Arlyn´s advices.
Let him hide if he feels secure... He must have this security. Dont force yourself on him. The previous owner surely did it.
There are many threads on socializing shy ferals. Look through them for ideas.

Do you have other, friendly cats?
Use them. It is much easier to socialize a feral if you have own friendly homecats...
post #5 of 9
Hi, I read your post, and although I am only going through my first experience (with my 7 year old feral Lexi ), thought I'd reply. I've had her for about 5 months now. Although I can't confidently pet her as of yet (she enjoys the touch, but hates knowing that it was my hand that did it!) she has come a very long way. What I wanted to say was that, like the others recommended, I didn't pursue any contact with her (my attempts at petting Lexi have only been within the last couple of weeks as she walked herself so close to me). Any and all of the progress she has made have been "on her terms"; as she began trusting me more, she came more out of her shell. She was terrified for the first month or so, and stayed hidden in her bed (that has somewhat of a hood over it), wouldn't use her box or eat in my presence, etc. The only thing I did back then was to sit in her room, play a cd of harp music on low volume and talk to her so she could hear my voice. I also purposefully established "routines" with her (i.e., feeding at certain times, litter changes, etc.) so she'd know what to expect and when. It's been a long road, I've learned a lot (esp. from here!), but it's been well worth it! Good luck!

post #6 of 9
Please do not lift your kitty by the scruff. Only momcats should do that, and at your kitty's age, it is probably painful for him.
I have a kitty that was kept in a bird cage at that age, and was only allowed the scraps of food from the "good cat." I made some common mistakes in handling her and getting to know her, like you, I did not know that I should not do some of the things I did, such as force attention on her. She is still very shy, and associates very little with the other cats, but she loves her humans. Best of luch to you and your kitty, I hope things go well for you. You have already gotten some great advice, and can always get as much of that as you need. Do you have any pics?
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thank you all so much for the advice on my formerly caged kitten. He is doing 100% better. I did the following:
1) Made him a "fort" of a 3' high by 4' long piece of new cardboard held in a lean-to against one wall on a desk in the side of the room, with a tall stack of books about 6" out on one end, and his sherpa-fur cat bed beneath the cardboard at the other, with just one big book tight against the bed end. That gave him both a protected entrance in and out and a way to peek out from his bed by sitting up and craning his neck around the edge of the cardboard. I put a 3' tall cathouse by the desk so he could easily climb up and down from the desk or stop halfway up in the "house" part
2) Made a "bed" for myself of soft comforters on the floor, put on an old nightgown, and spent a couple of nights sleeping with him, talking to him from the floor. He had gotten lonely and started coming out to look at me, eventually sat in his cathouse, then let me put my hand on him and talk to him while he was in the cathouse, and finally let me pet him on the comforters. Now he lets me hold him on my shoulder - so long as I stay on the floor! (I stopped lifting him by the scruff, too; I was doing it to avoid getting bitten (he likes to bite), but I did not know it could hurt him.)
3) Per the suggestion on this board, I let my almost-3-year neutered male in, even though I knew he would be very hissy, and watching me pet the older cat really helped the kitten. (The older male's previous cat companion died, so he is used to other cats). Now the older male is leading the kitten in and out of the door of the room, although he constantly smells the kitten and then hisses and growls; but the kitten does not seem very scared and just rolls around on his back and waves his paws at the older cat. The kitten seems to really enjoy being petted and the door of his room stays open so the older cat can visit (which he does, constantly), although the kitten still spends much of his time in his fort. The only thing I have to remember is to always go into his room barefoot - he is terrified of any kind of shoes or slippers, which I suppose he thinks look like animals. All in all, a tremendous improvement. Thank you so much to all for your helpful advice.
post #8 of 9
You are doing a great job with him! I am glad he is adjusting to his new surroundings.
post #9 of 9
Excellent, wonderful! What a recovery...

Lifting by the neck isnt necessary dangerous if he isnt overweight, but the perhaps main problem with is the former "owner" surely did it when he handled the kitten...

Ah, so he does bites. How hard? There are bites and there are bites.
If a cat wants to bite for real heshe draws blood as the very least. You DO got bitten. It is a tremendous force in cats jaws and the sharp corner teeth.

But many cats "bites", snaps. This they can do as a warning. Which is a good thing to be grateful for, better be warned then bitten for real!

Or they do it playfully, but do it too hard. It happens frequently if they were taken from mom and siblings when too young. Or were alone in the litter.
This is possible to learn them not to do - but of course first when he is socialized and he knows you are his friend and Mom.

When two cats meets it is the usual there are some hisses - mostly by the old inhabitant who wants to mark he is oldest and top-cat.
The young newcomer usually dont mind it too much... Your inhabitant-cat dont assaults him. A very good sign - some hissing as I said is normal.

Lying down my be capitulation. But as he is rolling on his back and wawing paws it is probably a form of defensive standing; I think he is inviting to playfully wrestling-matches...

It is going marvellous well for you and your both cats.
Please, do proceed with the good work!!!
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