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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-18-2011, 06:57 PM Thread Starter
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Need Advice, Proper Care for Indoor/Outdoor Cat

Hi all! Experienced cat owner, but have always adopted kittens and raised them solely as indoor cats. We recently, quite accidentally, adopted a 5-6 month old stray who unexpectedly approached when offered food after less than 5 minutes of coaxing. (Offering her food was something I viewed as a game with the kids...I never thought she would take it!) After taking her in the house, she "tamed up" in a matter of hours. In many ways, she is more friendly than the 12 yr old cat we raised from a kitten. Despite the friendlyness, she was definitely a stray cat when we met, as she was skin and bones and so hungry she drew meaningful blood eating from my hand. Its possible she might have been a housecat at some point -- I'm not sure the quick friendly behavior is consistent with a 5-6 month old true feral cat -- but it clearly wasnt recent given her state.

Anyway, we have a 12 year old cat that is relatively unaggressive, but will hiss at new cats. We have tried and failed to introduce her to another cat in the past (mother in law got sick and we took her cat for a while). So we arent real eager to try another introduction, and more importantly, the former stray wasnt taking to the literbox real well and was peeing inappropriately. It could be just a matter of being more patient, but we are afraid to be patient, because in the remote past the existing cat would pee whenever it smelled a place other cats had done so. We tried to get a taker for her, but could not, and now I'm not sure the family would be real happy with giving her away. So we made her an indoor/outdoor cat; our existing cat spends time in the furnished basement when she is in. She doesnt pee inside at all even if she is in for hours. She is getting spayed tomorrow.

Here is the thing: she doesnt mind going out when its nice, but HATES going outside when its raining (which it has been a lot lately) and will even growl and hiss at me, and we arent at all sure what happens in wintertime. We live in New Jersey, and winters do involve some snow and sub-freezing temperatures. She doesnt seem to wander far, and I'm not overly worried about cars or dangerous wildlife, more so the cold/rain. Even if its not dangerous for her, I'm worried that it will always be a battle to get her to go out in winter.

We have a screened in "Sun" room that would at least put a roof over her head, but driving rain will get in to some minimal extent, and in winter it will be as cold as the outside.

How do I set up for her? What type of "cat door" can I put in the screen door to the sun room (can I just buy a door with one built in, not that handy), and what type of arrangement will best offer her some shelter from the cold (presumably in the sun room, but open to other ideas).

Thanks for any suggestions!
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-19-2011, 12:30 AM
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I don't know whether I have any suggestions for the indoor/outdoor situation. But with semi-ferals that I've taken in, I've managed to adjust them to using the litterbox by either mixing in some dirt in with the litter and/or purchasing black litter (like Goodmews). You might try that if you want to try to make her indoor only. But you would need to confine her to one room. I have mild winters here, but when we had a snow storm quit a few years back and I was watching over some ferals, I opened the door to underneath my house (crawlspace) and let them go in there to keep warm. I hope you figure something out for her. She at least has a couple of seasons to go through before winter again.
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-19-2011, 01:00 AM
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I would try *really* hard to do an intro with the cats now while your new cat is still a kitten. Older cats are usually much more receptive to kittens. Then, if in several months time the cats are unable to be left together, I would worry about winter/rain shelter for the cat. There are some stickies in the forums that you can read about introduction techniques. I know you said you've had bad luck in the past, but this cat really sounds like she can't fend for herself outside (I say this because she doesn't want to go out, she is so friendly that she seems to be a stray rather than feral, and if she was that skinny then she doesn't have very good hunting/survival skills). If you absolutely must put her outside in the rain/cold during the day, I would buy/make her a mini shelter (like a dog house) in the sun room stuffed with plenty of blankets to burrow in. No matter what, bring her inside at night during the winter though. As far as the door, are you referring to a door from your house to the sun room, or a door from the sun room to outside?
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-19-2011, 01:55 AM
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I agree with Kristen, I would try to do the introduction. Kittens really are more readily accepted, they're less threatening because of their small size. Here are some good instructions:

Cat-to-Cat Introductions | Little Big Cat

She sounds more like a runaway than a stray or feral, based on how quickly she warmed up to you. Even inside/outside cats don't care to go out in the rain. Heck, even most dogs don't want to.

As wonderful as it is that you're taking care of her, I think the kindest thing you could do, considering the weather in NJ, would be to find a good home for her if she doesn't click with your cat.

In the meantime, - pictures?

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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-19-2011, 10:34 AM Thread Starter
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I'll post pics tonight, but she really doesn't look like a kitten anymore. She has a main coonish tail (not the other features per se) and has grown a LOT in the month we have been feeding her. She is probably 8 or 9 pounds already. The ecat really isn't the problem anyway, he will hiss but is simply not at all aggressive. We are more worried about the former stray, who we call Rocky because her tail has a raccoon pattern. We didn't realize she was a girl when we named her. Anyway, she does show some signs of wanting to attack the ecat. But thanks for the litter tip, if that works we can at least try. How long to confine to one room?
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-19-2011, 11:06 AM Thread Starter
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Just to summarize, exactly whats happened in the month so far, there was about a week where we had her confined to one room, at least at night, and she was using the literbox in that room. And sometimes she wasnt, going elsewhere in that same room, which is our biggest problem.

There was some growling at the door to the basement (where we had the existing cat), but nothing frequent or bad. She presumably smelled the existing cat everywhere, and he smelled her when she went out and he came up. We then let the existing cat up while she was in a room with glass doors, and that went OK, maybe some hissing. A few days after those experiments, we did a supervised visit while giving both cats treats maybe 10-12 feet apart. It seemed OK, some hissing, nothing terrible. In subsequent attempts, Rockie has seemed interested in attacking the existing cat. We havent let that happen, but she seems to have some interest in it -- approaching fastish while hissing, what else could that be? SO...some encouraging signs, some not so encouraging. All in all, MUCH better than when we tried with the mother-in-laws sweet looking persian -- who *instantly* goes on the attack on seeing another cat. I know we didnt follow recommended procedures exactly.

The existing cat is a 12 yeal old named Blackie, who eats almost nothing (one of the tiny fancy feast cans and a handful of diet dry a day), but is very fat. Yeah, I know, we need to play with him more. Its hard, he is lazy, and he doesnt trust my kids much. Blackie has never shown the desire to fight other cats, and will run away first. However, he is capable of provoking other cats by hissing.

Thats where we are at now.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 05-19-2011, 03:49 PM
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To help with the litter box problem, you might want to have 2 litter boxes available to her. Some cats don't like to pee and poop in the same box.

I have a resident cat, Jake who is 3 and I have been working with my feral, Shadow who is about 1.5 years since September. It has been a very slow process. Shadow now comes inside and sometimes stays inside all night. He will use the litter box too. I have 3 litter boxes for the 2 cats.

Unfortunately, I am having problems getting the 2 boys acclimated to each other. Jake is getting aggressive and Shadow just curls up in a ball or hides behind me. It is really a work in progress.
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