Originally Posted by mollyannietaffychester
My husband says the cat was quite self-sufficient to keep himself warm before I came along and maybe I should just let him be.
I want to make his life as comfortable as possible.
You are both right...the cat has been self-sufficient, but it is also very kind of you to want to make his life better. ANY improvement over how he was living on his own, is still an improvement in that cat's quality of life. I think you are doing a very good thing for that cat.
I think he is nervous when he is inside, only because it is unfamiliar and he doesn't have options when he is closed in. As it happens more often he should be able to grow accustomed to it and be more accepting and maybe lose some of his skittish-ness. If you continue providing food and being reliable, he certainly could come around for you, but it may take a long time.
I have TNRd (Trap, Neuter, Released) many ferals. Every one of them was also tamed and became housecats. Some tamed quickly. Some took a long time. My two longest-to-tame ferals to date are Malibu, 5mo from time of TNR until I was able to touch her fur, and Pretty who was TNRd and took 14mo until I could touch her fur.
Mallie tamed pretty quickly when she learned my fingers felt pretty good giving her a massage and petting but Pretty was a challenge and it seemed to take forever: 14mo to 1st touch, probably another year before I was able to touch her reliably and let her learn that scrubbling felt pretty good and longer still until I could sit and lift her into my lap and hold (scruff) her for petting/scrubbling massages and another year getting her comfortable coming inside the back door to eat canned food with the other cats. This past year she is very comfortable coming in/out and sleeping either during the day or all night. I've also been able to pick her up and she will let me put my face near hers without getting anxious. She likes to snooze in my lap when I watch TV movies.
When I began feeding these ferals that showed up on our property, one of the first things I did was get them spayed/neutered through local TNR programs. Yes, it is traumatic and scary for the cat, but I have NEVER had one leave and not come back for the food they were accustomed to getting at my home. Do not let the fear of damaging his trust in you deter you from getting him neutered.
As for his eye...if you could get him trapped and taken in asap for neutering he could have his eye looked at and the vet could do something to help, even if you would be unable to handle him for further medication after he is returned and released.
*sometimes the only way to get a cat trapped is to stop feeding it so it will be hungry and then set the trap with a very tempting offer of food, like smelly sardines.
Some of my best housecat pets were former-ferals, and as an advocate of TNR and taming ferals to become housecats, I wish you success.
Best of luck,