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Is a feral always a feral ?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
My vet labled my cats feral 3 years ago. But they totally are not feralish with me at all and have never been . But they are extremely shy around everyone else. Completely hiding and not coming out. They were very bad, growling and hissing when they went to the vet. Now when its vet time, we have to cage them for the vet to come to us, but they are more skittish with no growling or hissing.

Is a feral cat always considered feral for the rest of his life ? Or do they go from feral to semi feral and then to domestic ?

Or say you find a feral and socialize him to where he is not afraid of people anymore, is he considred no longer feral ?

It has always confused me why, even from the beginning of getting Easy, she was totally sweet and not shy at all, with me, but to my vet she was called feral.

Just looking for some understanding from the some experts.
post #2 of 23
I'm not an expert, but I think ferals do become semi-feral or even ex-feral.

We have a cat who was born feral but whom we socialised, and she's pretty normal. We still consider her semiferal, but despite her quirks she's one of the most affectionate cats I've ever known.
post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Satai View Post
I'm not an expert, but I think ferals do become semi-feral or even ex-feral.

We have a cat who was born feral but whom we socialised, and she's pretty normal. We still consider her semiferal, but despite her quirks she's one of the most affectionate cats I've ever known.

You're an expert to me !
post #4 of 23
Originally Posted by Pami View Post
You're an expert to me !
Thank you, that's very sweet.
post #5 of 23
Stricktly speaking:

Feral is a wild domestic cat. Ie born outside by long-homeless mother or even by mother self born outside - and living wild outside.

Semiferal is perhaps same feral but who isnt panickly afraid of people; who accepts to get food from friendly people etc.
Therefore by semiferal we also call all unclear cases, like many shy strays etc.

Yes of course can many feral and almost all semiferals be tamed and socialized, many becoming excellent family-cats. Some individuals seems almost tame from beginning to their chosen human - like Pami tells us.
But the ex-feral is usually shy to strangers - especially the vets.

Our Muskis, correctly raised and bred home-cat, is shy to strangers (although he is not aggressive, only shy).
Your vet would probably call him for feral if he didnt know Muskis is purebreed Russian Blue.

The correct description is shy, or in your case possibly shy ex-feral.

(ps MuskisĀ“ son and heir Vagis, is a social cat, somewhat shy and afraid to vets but not to our guests. All their kittens became sociale, nice RB)
post #6 of 23
Thread Starter 
After reading about ferals, Im starting to wonder if my cats, with their hissing and growling at the vet, is even what a true feral would do....... wouldnt they be the ones who are more quiet, kind of stand offish ??

Maybe mine are extremely shy with some attitude issues
post #7 of 23 - allie cat allies has some really good info on ferals, maybe if you weed through some articles, it will give you a better understanding of the classifications .

My little abilene is a feral kitty but she's come around a lot.

I would classify your kitties as being born feral....but as far as now is concerned- maybe semi-feral?
post #8 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thank you Nikki, but all I could find was merchandise, not any articles
post #9 of 23
When I adopted my very friendly stray cat and her never-touched-by-humans 1-2 month old kittens, I thought that "feral" might be the correct word. To my, vet, though, my cats were not feral because they lived in my house. The mother started out as a stray, not a feral, because she was always friendly to humans. To them, the "feral" cats were the ones in the traps to be spayed and then released. My cats, in carriers, were not feral because their records were going under my name.

I'd say, use with your vet whatever word works with your vet, but I, personally, restrict the word "feral" to cats who don't live with humans and don't come up to be pet, no matter their history. Ex-feral certainly seems like a good description for your cats.
post #10 of 23
Im thinking on. Possibly the vet dont uses the word feral about their ancestry, but stricktly about their behavior with him. Ie cats who are very difficult to handle and aggressive - are called in his journal as "feral". so his companion vets and vets assistants knows they must have gloves on etc...

And my Muskis? He is shy, and he dont like to be carried especielly not when worried. He isnt aggressive and never ever scratches, but he tries to climb out and down - so you get scratched anyway... Much like many nonaggressive ferals would behave.
post #11 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thank you Stefan, I believe you are correct !!!
post #12 of 23
9 of my 10 cats were born outside to feral mothers. The first, brought in at 5 weeks, became a "pet" cat. She has attitude, but is friendly or supercilious, like any pet-born. (I trapped & spayed her mother, who lived in my house in the laundry room for her last few years, roaming the house at night when I confined the few other cats I had then.)
One brother & sister pair, brought in at 10 months, could not be less alike. The little guy is friendly & affectionate with me and my adult son (whom most of the other cats are not partial to) while no one can pick up his sister but me. She's cuddly as can be with me & both sleep on my bed at night, snuggled up.
I have one little white guy who came in with a herpetic eye infection, which required we put both drops & cream into his yese avery few hours for a few days. This traumatized him, so while his siblings learned to be picked up & the joy of laps, he remained spooky with all. Over the years, he got up nerve to climb onto my lap a bit, and I made it a point to pet him a lot every night in the small room where he sleeps with his siblings. Then I picked up his front to pet him, leaving his hind legs always on the ground. Now he comes by every night and yowls at me until I pick him all the way up and pet him. I always hold him close, so he feels secure, and he like to look down from my height.
In all, this took 7 years.
At the vet, almost all put on their company manners, scared stiff they will be left there. But not Spooky - he reverts to wild cat mode.
Fortunately, my vets are all highly approving of my feral-taming & adoption, and when I'm at home, they all show they love me.
post #13 of 23
Originally Posted by StarryEyedTiGeR View Post - allie cat allies has some really good info on ferals, maybe if you weed through some articles, it will give you a better understanding of the classifications .
The correct link is:

The other link brings you to a website that sells gifts and trinkets.
post #14 of 23
I have a lot of cats and all were born feral except for a few. Since they all live together, the ones I hand raised have some feral traits.

The ferals I have all love me and my husband to pet them and love them. Super friendly cats. However, if anyone else comes over, it appears to others we have a catless house. They hide, disappear and are completely invisible. The hand raised kittens have adopted this attitude as well except for three cats. And they are old cats...

The others appear tame except for two of them but only to my family. We have had them for years. I don't feel like they will ever like other folks. Just us but we don't mind. They are not up for adoption.
post #15 of 23
One of my cats was feral, then when I started feeding her she eventually started playing and trying to come in my house. After I adopted her she become very, very friendly. The only sign she came from outside is she hides from new people in my house (company), but once she sees you 3 or4 times she will walk right past you and even eat out of your hand, but she is fine with my family, no shyness there!

If you work hard enough it's very possible to get a feral to become a wonderful, friendly house cat.
post #16 of 23
I have taken in seemingly wild outdoor feral strays who bolt at the slightest sign of people and freak out in the trap or carrier and when they came inside, realized it was warm safe and food was always available, they calm down significantly to the point of being handled.

On the other hand, I caught a stray once who was so completely sweet, she loved to sleep in bed with me and I kept her until I went out to a sanctuary. She freaked in the carrier and when we tried to get her out and bite someone and was immediately put in with the ferals. I am still kicking myself today for not bringing her back home with me, but that was a long time ago.

I also have taken 8 week old kittens from a very feral inbred barn cat at my uncles house. The kittens hissed and hissed and were very unsocialized and they are now living in my friend's home and sleep in bed with her and this is only after a few months.

SO I think it totally depends on the cat. I think that a vet who always labels a cat feral, even when it is clearly not or not always panicky and agressive would not be a vet I would care to continue seeing. Or like the humane officer here who considers all unneutered stray tom cats to never be able to live a neutered life inside a home and not spray continuously to be completely unheard of. I hate when people assume that if one is a certain way then they all will be.

No I don't think a cat is always feral.
post #17 of 23
Gypsy is my former-feral, and despite her crazed photo in my sig line, she's not aggressive. We've had her five years next month, from the age of about 6 months, and she still only trusts me. Sometimes she'll "let" my husband give her turkey, and once in a while he can pet her, but I'm the only one who can pick her up and hold her. And she's the only one of my cats who loves to be held. She'll lay on my lap for belly rubs, making biscuits on my arm, purring until she starts drooling. But I'm also the only one she (occassionally) bites and scratches. For instance, she was well-behaved, although paralized with fear, at the vets last week, until I put her back in the kennel, and she bit me. She's sweet, lovable, but can be unpredictable, like Jeckyl and Hyde.
post #18 of 23
Every cat in my household was born feral. All but 1 was brought into the house by 10 weeks old. You can't tell by most of them that they were born feral and most people are amazed when they come over and see 8 or 10 friendly cats walking around in the open. I say they are feral, but only when referring to their origins, not how they behave now.

The vet doesn't have a clue about most of them until I tell her that they were born feral. There are 2 of them that are EXTREMELY shy and rarely come out in the open with strangers in the house. They actually get very timid around the vet as they are so scared they just freeze. It's my overly friendly (and dominant) ones that the vet has a hard time with, as they are used to having things their way and can't be bothered with poking and prodding.

Some cats, regardless of being feral or not are going to react bad with a vet. Some cats, regardless of their origins are simply going to be shy and others outgoing. It's nature versus nurture at its finest.
post #19 of 23
I refer to my three who were born feral, as being former ferals. Gracie was very young, too young in fact, when I adopted her, so she was easy to socialize and, while she's not shy around strangers, she's totally a one-person cat. Peter and Claire were older, close to 4-months-old when they were trapped along with their littermates. Socializing them and earning their trust was a much longer process. They're both very sweet with me, but neither one of them is much of a lap cat or likes to be picked up, so I respect their boundaries. They both love snuggling (on their terms) and being petted, though. Peter, especially, is petrified by new people and situations. Claire does a little better, mostly because she learned to adapt after being bounced around to four different homes in less than year, but she had some major trust issues when I adopted her that took a while to work through. They may never be lap cats (Claire's only done it once and Pete a handful of times) but that's fine. I love them just the way they are.
post #20 of 23
Zoey is my semi feral ... she is unpredictable in surroundings other than home... I do warn the vet and others that I dont know how shell react... She is the resident greeter of the house thus her nickname Little red dog... though I need to post warnings FRIENDLY RED ANDWHITE KITTY DOESNT want to be PICKED UP
post #21 of 23
I like to say that my Felix went from "feral to FABULOUS." He was feral when I trapped/neutered him and after a year of patient coaxing, he is now a the cuddliest housecat ever and is only shy when strangers come to the house.
post #22 of 23
Originally Posted by Jen View Post
...SO I think it totally depends on the cat. I think that a vet who always labels a cat feral, even when it is clearly not or not always panicky and agressive would not be a vet I would care to continue seeing...
I agree with Jen - A vet who would classify a cat as feral because it growls and causes problems at the vet is not a vet I'd want to continue seeing. How a cat acts at the vet is totally dependent upon the cat's personality and has little to do with whether the cat is feral or not. All of our cats were born feral to feral parents. But they are all timid as heck at the vets - they're scared out of their minds.

I think there's two uses of the word feral. As a noun, it refers to a cat that was born outside to parents that do not have human guardians - in other words, to parents that are also ferals. A cat that was born a feral will always be a feral - but will not always act like a feral cat.

There is also the word feral, used as an adjective. My feral cats are pretty socialized. When they're around people they have come to know, they do not act like feral born cats. They love pets, treats, play, and they sleep in bed with us. But when strange people visit the house, they act like feral cats and hide. So when used as an adjective, feral can become semi-feral or non-feral.

But if born outside to parents that were ferals, your feral cat may be socialized well enough to act like a semi-feral or non-feral cat. I'm not sure I'd use the word "ex-feral" - although its use here clearly means a cat that was born outside to feral parents, but is really well socialized and now acts like a social pet.

But technically a feral cat is always a feral cat - but kitty doesn't necessarily act feral. Just as a stray cat is not a feral cat - but if living outside on its own, it may very quickly come to act like a feral cat.

post #23 of 23
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by LDG View Post
I agree with Jen - A vet who would classify a cat as feral because it growls and causes problems at the vet is not a vet I'd want to continue seeing.
I used the term "my vet" when I originally posted this. This was the very first vet they ever saw. (they were still baby kittens) We were actually thrown out of his office and asked to not come back because he didnt "work" with feral cats. I was overly angry at how my cats were treated and had it out with this vet in a very undignified way.

I then took them to another vet. My cats happened to respond to this vet a lot better. I did inform the new vet that the old vet called them feral. But they were extremely scared, they didnt hiss or growl, though .

AT that vets office, there was another vet that only worked on certain days and the other days did house calls. So I decided that I would just use him, to come do house calls. It has worked out well for us. Although, they are scared when he comes, its not the same as when I would take them to the vet.

Laura actually let him pet her, the last time he was here.

When I was looking for better quality cat food, it just so happened that the only place in my area who sold it was the "old vet", who I had it out with.

About a month ago, I went to purchase the food and they wanted to put my name, address info into their PC. I said, "It will probablly alert you to throw me out" LOL

I then explained what had happened 3 years earlier. They explained to me that the vet had since passed away. That he had a ridiculous amount of complaints against him and that he always preferred dogs to cats.

When I originally posted this question (4 months ago) I was still with the idea of what he had told me that my cats were feral. I have since decided that they are possibly just "shy".

I wish I could have a few more words with that vet, though. Because of his words to me, I have sheltered my cats more than I probablly should have. Im sure they would have been more social with strangers if I had exposed them more. But since I thought they were "feral" I thought it would scare them more, so I tried to make sure they were not ever stressed.

But irregardless they are my baby's, they love and cuddle with me daily. I could never ask for better
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