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French Ferals Update

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Last year when I bought my house I knew that there were two feral kitens in the barn but was unable to do much then. Now that I have finally moved in I have discovered that they are still here (a black male and a female tabby) and that they have produced a family of their own! There are now two more barn kittens, a black and a solid grey. Over the last three weeks the adult male (I presume father of the new kittens) has become quite friendly and I was able to trap him yesterday and take him tot he vet. He was FIV/FELV negative, so they neutered and vaccinated him and I have treated him with Frontline.
But although I am leaving food for the barn kittens every day I cannot yet get near them and it is hard because they are in the hayloft and hide in the bales, where their mum has dug tunnels. As for hte mum, I only see flashes of her as she runs across the fields. I have now started putting the food in the back of an open trap, and it is being eaten, so I am going to set the trap soon. But I must try and catch all three of them as soon as I can. I have a possible home for the kittens later - they are only 4-5 weeks old, I think, though it is difficult to tell. At least we won't have more kittens next year!
The male feral though, launches himself at any of my cats he sees, and I have not let them out without harnesses till yesterday, when he was at the vet. Thankfully he won't give them any nasty diseases. I am not sure how to gradually introduce them - right now he is in my spare bathroom, happy to see me but ready to destroy them. Should I keep him indoors and try to socialise him first - he is headbutting me already and purring and I can stroke him while he eats, so he has potential. Should I try the vanilla trick with a feral? I have not named him yet - I must do that before I take him for the second vaccine next month.
post #2 of 28
He will be easier to socialize in with your homecats in a couple of weeks, when the level of hormones will became low.
As now, he himself seems to be possible to socialize to you humans yes - but unknown cats - almost impossible.... Him not shy but hostile to them.
post #3 of 28
Thread Starter 
I may have found a solution - a friend who lives in the Auvergne, quite a way south of here, called me asking if I knew any cats available as hers has died and she feels ready to offer a new cat a home. Would it be cruel to rehome him away from his home territory? He is a year old, and really quite good around humans already. He is not freaking out in my bathroom and purrs as soon as he sees me. I can now pick him up. If she took him I could work on the feral kits in the barn and they would not terrorise my five guys, who are really nervous when they go out in case they get attacked. My friend is visiting on Tuesday, which would be perfect. What do you think?
post #4 of 28
This seems a good solution. She is not entirely new to cats. You do of course explain to her he isnt typical home-cat as yet, and will give her some guidance.

The ex-tomcat is friendly to people as you say. And now after spaying it will go faster. He will not lack the territory either as he will get a now - the flat of his new owner. For him, now castrate, it will be enougt too.

Well worth a try I say.
post #5 of 28
Thread Starter 
He would have more than that - she has a house and garden in a very quiet rural area so he would be inside/outside in his new home, after a period of being inside of course. He will now sit on my lap, on his haunches only so far, while I pet him, so he is making fast progress. I have never known a feral adjust so quickly to humans, yet he has had almost no contact with them since he was born in my barn last year - he and his sister were left on their own as I was only able to pay very short visits to the house. His sister is more typically feral - I still can't get near her.
post #6 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by jennyranson View Post
I have never known a feral adjust so quickly to humans,
Yes, that was quick. But perhaps some tomcats are quickier than females or even he-castrates . They being males arent so shy as the females who has in the genes to hide because of the kittens, and of course because of the male hormones making them bravier.

I did read about several cases of semiferals tomcats, roaming the streets (ie not much shy to people!), beating up the homecats in the revire. They can sometimes go in through the cat door and eat the homecats food. If homecats dare to protest they are beaten up.
If captured inside the house they showed to be kind to the humans...
In a couple of these cases they captured the cat, neutered him, fostered him - he was kind and quite affectionate to people - the difficulty was to give him time and possibility to adjust to the homecats...

The other case was sorrowful but yet beautiful. The semiferal tomcat could be cuddled, but was very dominant and hostile to the familys homecats. They could not find anyone who wanted to adopt the tomcat - neutered or not. And they couldnt keep the cat - their homecats were too fragile. So they took the semiferal to vet paying him to put him to the long sleep. Took the body back and let him have his last resting place in their own garden.
post #7 of 28
Thread Starter 
I would never have him put down - not now that he is proven healthy. But he will attack my cats who are just learning to go outside here without fear. So to rehome him to a single cat person may be a good solution.
post #8 of 28
Thread Starter 
Well, sadly she didn't want him - I think he scared her a bit as he is very strong, chunky and all muscle, no fat. But he was very sweet with her and jumped on her lap. So now I think I have to try and add him to our family. He didn't freak out when he and Dushka met today, but she is the most laid back of my cats anyway. Tomorrow when I feel fresh and brave I will try some vanilla on everybody and see what happens. My friend did say that she might take one of the barn kittens if I catch them - we looked for them but couldn't see them today, though the food I left had gone.
post #9 of 28
Excellent he begins to make pals with at least one of your homecats. Although Little Soul being laid back should be the easiest yes, as she is submissive and no threat to him. The point is he begins to accept the scent of this households cats as not threating.
Im thinking. Perhaps you dont need to rush things; let these twoo be good pals. After it it will be easier with the rest too?!

How soon will his hormones - ue aggresiveness - disappear? Over a month they say, even 6 weeks. The behavior even longer.
But both our Sirs were helped in less than 48 hours. So with a little luck it can go fairly quick.

(the younger one was OK but was meowing a lot and searching, the older didnt feel well; aggressive to his son teaching lessons every time it was needed and often when it wasnt needed, losing weight, even peeing everywhere. Today thay are as they were but more harmonic. The older one is again the kind and shy, massive muscled male cat without any unnecessary fat, but harmonic and playful, the younger social, playful as ever, gained some weight but still a slender male.)
post #10 of 28
Thread Starter 
I put vanilla on all of them and let them see each other through an open door. There was a bit of growling but no open aggression. Then I let them all out. Merlot (my new name for black feral as he is strong, soft and black like the wine, and of course, French) immediately chased Persil out of the yard, which scared me. I went haring after them, but they both came back five minutes later with no harm done. So I think now they have to sort out their own dominance, though I will not leave them alone together in an enclosed space as I think that would be asking for trouble.
post #11 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by jennyranson View Post
Merlot (my new name for black feral as he is strong, soft and black like the wine, and of course, French) immediately chased Persil out of the yard, which scared me. ... they both came back five minutes later with no harm done. So I think now they have to sort out their own dominance,
Did they come back together? If yes it is splendid!

If no, how did they behave to each other after they come back? hostile or more or less neutral?

In any case. If Persil did dared come back already after 5 minutes, it shows he didnt get scared almost to death by an openly hostile enemy, but more like Merlot showed his muscles: look, I understand you will live here together with me, I accept this, but you must know who is the strongest here and the new mastercat here. And no hard feelings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jennyranson View Post
though I will not leave them alone together in an enclosed space as I think that would be asking for trouble.

Yes, if at least unsure it is important the weaker can always run somewhere. Outside, or at least in some shelter. Perhaps up some shelf...

We did also always so the our Sirs had visitations of their mamsels. They were kind tomcats, but one must always give the cats this safety to have somewhere to retreat if necessary. It makes also they are stressed less.
post #12 of 28
Thread Starter 
It all turned out badly. While I was upstairs posting I heard a catfight and when I went down they were all at it. I managed to get my cats inside one by one but then the feral turned on me and jumped straight at my head, leaving me with bites and claw holes. I have just got back from hospital having had 12 stitches in my head! My cats are OK but Merlot has a leg injury which I cannot assess. I have to try and catch him now and take him to a vet for treatment and for rabies assessment, which is the law. I don't know if he will trust me enough to get in the carrier, and I am a bit nervous of him. All my own fault of course - he was OK in the kitchen because that is not his territory, but outside he immediately became the Lord of the Manor and fought for his rights. Now I will have to start all over again with him.
post #13 of 28
Oh Gosh! Not nice to anyone...

But. His assault on you was probably not so bad-meaned. When a cat is sky-high with adrenaline, he may jump anyone. Even homecats have been known for fiercely assaults on their owners.
And owners trying to stop cat fighting between their own cats have been known to taken deep wounds - and being sewn with many stitches at the hospital.

Only to do is to let the cat be alone some hours till he cooled down and stressed down. Perhaps closed in own room. Or even you closed in a room...

Chance is very good he will be his old afectionade himself to you when he stressed down tomorrow.


More. Fiercely fighting, your homecats unhurt (but check again, some deep bites may be hard to see!), but this ferale survivor, victor of many catfights - is the one wounded.
Your homecats are apparently no greenhorns either!
post #14 of 28
Jenny, I've been lurking your thread. It all sounded so good, I'm so sorry for this setback. I hope you and the kits are okay (although I'm sure you're in a fair amount of pain right now).
post #15 of 28
Thread Starter 
All cats are fine this morning, my guys are out and poor Merlin (slight change of name) is in the spare bathroom following a vet visit as part of his rabies assessment. I must keep him in for 21 days, during which he has three examinations, and if I lose him then I have to have the rabies jabs no matter what.

It will give me time to take things slower and see if we can make it work. I know that it was not his fault - I rushed things and he was crazy with fear and anger. I think that maybe, since I was the only thing he could see, he attacked my hair thinking I was another cat. It was the horror of that leap onto my head that will stay with me.

The vet, though, thought that it would be impossible to get them to share territory as Merlin has been here too long. He suggested a cat enclosure which I really don't want to pursue for any of them. We will see what progress we make during hte next three weeks. But does anyone know what the chances are of it being OK both inside and outside - Merlin was fine inside with me, and even with the cats, but won't tolerate them on his territory outside which is understandable.
post #16 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by jennyranson View Post

I think that maybe, since I was the only thing he could see, he attacked my hair thinking I was another cat. It was the horror of that leap onto my head that will stay with me.
Ah, he attacked your hair, not face? Yes I agree with your hypothesis - him attacking not you but the cat-alike hairs.
When I did play with our Muskis when he was young tomcat the game Big Dangerous Monster Chasing Poor Muskis, he retired, but after a while he always gave battle. Jumping on a chair and striking with paws at the face. Always soft paws thought. (I do have glasses, otherwise I probably wouldnt dare...). Astonishing, this gentle, strickt indoor-purebred cat knows very well how to fight against opponents much bigger and stronger than he...

And once I did get hard bitten by our very friendly, very kind younger male Vagis.
At this period they had some conflicts. Probably who would be the master-cat. One day we would clip nails on Muskis - he dont likes it. I was forced to catch Muskis and get hold on him. So there was some tension. And suddenly, Vagis leaps to us, and did gave me a violent deep bite in my hand holding Muskis. To this day I dont know if he tried to defend his pal and father Muskis, or if the bite was for Muskis - Vagis making use of the situation, or it it was something triggered out by the tension...
But it was a exemple when even a very nice, very kind, very friendly homecat CAN attack his beloved owner if the situation is tensed enough and adrenaline high enough. It must not be a semiferal tomcat...
And I too remember the feeling. Do I dare to rely on Vagis? Is he still the same old kind little friend - or??
But my cat-friends said: yes, you must forget. When he cools down, he wont remember he did bite you. But if you are afraid of him, and mistrust him, he wouldnt understand why you did changed your behavior.

And so it was. There were never ever any other controversies among us...

Quote:
Originally Posted by jennyranson View Post
The vet, though, thought that it would be impossible to get them to share territory as Merlin has been here too long. He suggested a cat enclosure which I really don't want to pursue for any of them. We will see what progress we make during hte next three weeks. But does anyone know what the chances are of it being OK both inside and outside - Merlin was fine inside with me, and even with the cats, but won't tolerate them on his territory outside which is understandable.
Now, I think it will be easier and easier as his hormones get lower.
TNR-ed feral tomcats do get friends with other cats, and can live in the females-colonies as their pals and one of them. While whole tomcats usually dont do.

And if he is ok inside (or will be) with the other cats inside, not only the docile Little Soul but also the others, I do trust he will in time tolerate them also outside...

But if not. One possibility is you keep him as an indoor cat, as it seems to work fine. I know quite many ex semiferals do accept to live as pure indoor homecats. They know the life outside is not only fun.
The other possibility is to get him an enclosure outside, a voljaere as for birds. So he lives as indoor cat, but can go a little outside sometimes.

So is my thinking as for now.
post #17 of 28
Thread Starter 
Thanks Stefan - some good ideas.
post #18 of 28
Thread Starter 
Poor Merlin is still living in the bathroom (though it is a big room and is being used to store some furniture so he has lots to climb on and around and a perch by the window). I do feel mean letting my cats out and keeping him in, but I have to do it.

He is mostly affectionate now and wants attention. He did nip my hand the other day, but that was an attention getter, not aggressive. My head is beginning to mend, though it still hurts and there are several large lumps on it.

I am being very careful not to make eye contact with him - I did that by mistake a couple days ago and his eyes immediately narrowed and got very mean. I blinked and looked away and defused the situation. But right now I have to say I am a bit scared being with him - I did try to let him into the house when the others were out, and he came and climbed all over me, but I could not relax and was trying so hard not to communicate my nervousness to him. In the end I had to lead him back to the bathroom again (he follows me around quite happily). I do not know what to do for hte best in the long run. If I could find someone who would take him it would be ideal as I think he would be OK as long as he is not defending his present territory from other cats. But I don't know what the chances are of that here. Whether I shall ever feel relaxed enough to keep him I don't know, and of course it all depends on being able to get him to tolerate my guys. I feel really stressed about it and so sorry for him - he is just trying to live his life the way he always has.
post #19 of 28
Perhaps it could be his hormones setttling down?? I don't know if you remember the stray I had a couple of yrs ago-Tommie??? When he was neutered my vet said it could be a good 6 weeks before his hormone levels drop. (that was the case when we had Bobber spayed) After he bit me I was quite nervous after I got him back from his 10 day vet confinement. I got better at it though.
There is a good chapter on agression in the book Outwitting Cats by Wendy Christensen. You may like this book.
How are your head injuries feeling.
post #20 of 28
Thread Starter 
Gail - when his hormone levels finally did drop, how did he react with other cats? That is my main concern - it was the fight with my guys that led to the attack on me, but thankfully none of the cats (including the feral, Merlin) got hurt.
My head is feeling distinctly better, thanks, though I get very woozy when I bend down - not sure if that is the antibiotics or the wounds!
post #21 of 28
I had kept him in the garage as he had fought with OX, Grizzly was OK but little Bobber he was afraid of!! I think they tolerated each other more than anything.
It was a good thing I kept him seperate as he ended up with FeLV and I had him PTS. The funny thing was he wanted to be inside the house really bad and I think if he had not been PTS he would have become a indoor only cat.
post #22 of 28
Thread Starter 
I have taken Merlin to the vet for the second exam to check he does not have rabies, and it was OK. But as my head takes a turn for the worse with this infection, I have found myself getting more and more scared of him. He has nipped me twice, but not in anger, just to get his food or as an attention getter, and he rubs against me and purrs when I go in to see him. I am trying so hard not to communicate my fear, and to sit with him a bit, but it takes all my strength to do it. I have to go away next Friday for a week, and I am at a loss as to what to do. My cats will be boarded, but I cannot board him, and if I just let him go outside (he will have had his third and last rabies check by then) we will be back to square one when I return. No one I know wants him, knowing what happened. It is a horrible dilemma. The vet wants to put him down at the end of the surveillance but I said this morning that I have never put down a healthy cat. His attitude was that he is not healty if he can attack people, but I feel that the poor animal was happy here in his kingdom till I came, and it is me, with my cats, who have upset the balance. Any ideas?
post #23 of 28
A solution, bad but not worst possible, is you turn loose. He will do allright, he is used to live homeless.
And with some support from you in the winter... He will be OK.

And who knows? There is still a chance somebody will take him in. He is spayed now, therefore easier for the new owner.

This solution in any case better than putting down.

He wouldnt be any worse than if you would simply did TNR with him.
post #24 of 28
Thread Starter 
If I turn him loose on my property, which was my original intention, which is why I had him neutered, I am afraid he will continue to attack my cats, and might attack any children who come to visit.
post #25 of 28
Yes. But being neutered he will not be quite as agressive as before!

His problem will be other tomcats will probably get upper hand of him. This is why some dont like TNR of feral tomcats.
BUT The practice shows they instead got friends with feral females and other semiferale castrates. And tomcats leave them alone - they arent any longer competitors...

So. If you dont dare to turn him loose in your neighboorhod, try to find a colony of semiferal cats. Preferably one where there are people helping them...

Look, I dont say it is a good solution. But I agree with you. It is a shame and sin to kill off a healthy cat who manages quite well on his own. And probably will not be any big nuisance no more, now when he is castrate.

If you dont find a good solution, then better with bad solution than death.


/Im of course talking about ex-ferals, ie cats who did and do manage well living homeless. Im NOT talking about abandoning a homecat: this is sheer infamy, a horrible thing to do./
post #26 of 28
Thread Starter 
I have been talking with the mayor of my commune this morning about the problem and he is going to see if he knows anywhere where the poor cat can be safely released. I agree - I would NEVER do that with a domesticated cat, but this cat has been living wild all his life and it is the only life he knows, which is why he is trying to defend it. And now he is neutered, he will not contribute to the problem of feral cats.
post #27 of 28
This is terribly late I realize but reading Stefan post I wondered..
I didn't know that there was a major problem between intact toms and neutered ones..we've cared for a feral colony for several years, not all toms were neutered at the same time and while toms will be more aggressive, the "good uncles" would be submissive and stay out of their way. They live in harmony.
Sometimes there's a intact one that doesn't like neutered ones but it is the exception. Hormones play a big part but also the cat's own nature does too.
We've 2 semiferals at home and one was obviously born submissive while his sister has a distinct alpha personality. (in my siggy is Nanette, she's this semiferal grandniece [we assume] we're fostering her), of course both cats are altered. I see this pattern in other cats in the colony, even with intact toms.

On another subject, I like hearing about ferals or barn cats in other parts of the world
post #28 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by zinc View Post
This is terribly late I realize but reading Stefan post I wondered..
I didn't know that there was a major problem between intact toms and neutered ones..
No, there istnt. Precisely like you witness. The problem is lesser then many fears and feared in the beginning of TNR.

It is precisely this I use to tell. But english isnt my motherlanguage, possibly Im speaking clumsy.

A couple of years ago I did read a course on etology (ie behaviour) of cats and dogs. The british cat-course-book written in 1986(?) talked much about ferals, as it is a way to study cats natural behviour. I talked some about work with ferals too. It had much good to say about TNR as a very promising way tried in some places.
But. The scientist wrote. There are questions and unsureness. TNR is excellent for females, but we are not sure about tomcats. There is big danger the neutered males will have great difficulties....

I had of course seen later other books and articles. And even articles of the same writer written some years later. And he writes: The fears were not confirmed: practice shows the neutered males are no longer competitors for the tomcats, therefore they are usually not beaten as we feared. On the other side, they usually get good friends with the femalales in the colony, and are admitted in. Ie in practice the castrated males fare quite well, better then when they were tomcats.
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