Really in a quandry about my inside feral cat - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-01-2014, 11:09 PM Thread Starter
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Really in a quandry about my inside feral cat

In late November we took in a young feral cat (we watched him grow up as a kitten in our courtyard). He stared at us through the glass door every day, even when there was food in the bowl, and when we opened the door he came right in. He loves our other male cat and sleeps next to him whenever possible. They play all the time. He has used the litter box from Day One. He even sleeps on the rug in the family room while we watch TV on the couches. His safety zone seems to be about 1 foot away from us. He seems very comfortable in any area of the house. I've even caught him following me (at a distance) into the bathroom and watching me.

Now, here's the hard part. He is feral, so he is very afraid of us. He's been with us for over a month and we haven't been able to take him to the vet for tests and neutering. When we get him alone in the laundry room where we feed him he hisses and jumps to the top of the cabinets where we can't reach him.

I left the door open today and he did go out for a while but eventually came back and walked back inside. He has become so much a part of our family it hurts me to think about putting him outside again, but if we can never take him to the vet it just won't work. We have many feral cats that come into our courtyard, we feed them and they are fine. I'm wondering if we should let this little guy go back outside and adopt a cat that is used to humans. We love him, but we're not getting anywhere.

Any experience or advice?
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post #2 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-01-2014, 11:25 PM
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Annie wasn't quite so feral but she was probably abondoned and lost. I put a pet carrier on an outside low table where I was feeding her. Then one day I started to put her food in the carrier and she would eat in there and come out for petting and such but wouldn't let me pick her up. So, one day I closed the door and took her in the house and began to socialize her.

then in the carrier we went (twice now) to the vet. Each time she was good but avoided me for a day or so after even tho the vet experience went well. I think it was the ride and confinement.

So, in your case you might have to trap him and face the unpleasantness after the vet visit. They will have ways to calm him I'm sure. And, once home again, at least you know his medical needs/problems and start him on shots etc. That is worth the mistrust that will probably make his adjustment longer but it is in his best interests.

Do you need both cats to love you the same? EVen Annie, is still distant from us but then on her terms she comes on the bed to be with the wife or now sleeps at the end of it. With wife's electric blanket on, we suspect a full house there. Sometimes she acts like I am going to do something to her or pick her up so I fool her by just walking by without even acknowledging her. I'll do that as long as it takes and if she never becomes a lap cat, I don't care. I already have two. But she is now inside and safe and has friends so that is good.

At feeding times she is right up there with the rest at their bowls waiting for slow me to dish it out. Hey, I'm old and slower guys>
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post #3 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-01-2014, 11:35 PM Thread Starter
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Great advice, thanks! No, we don't need Marvin to love us. Milo more than makes up for it because he is quite the little "affection hog" and even snores when he is sleeping so he keeps us quite entertained. I just want to be able to take Marvin to the vet. He is a good companion for our 8 y/o Milo, and we've already seen that Milo has dropped some weight from all their wrestling.

We'll try the carrier trick with the food. The challenge is that the vet appointment has to be scheduled in advance so we need to be able to catch him the day of the appointment. I just tried luring him a few minutes ago with Starkist pink tuna, but only Milo would take me up on it.

I'm not really concerned about how affectionate he is. We are satisfied knowing that he has found a good home. However, we can't stay status quo with no vaccinations and neutering.
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post #4 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-01-2014, 11:50 PM
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First off, thank you for opening your home and heart to this little boy. Feral cats can make for very difficult house guests, especially when they're loose in the house, but it does sound as though your boy is making progress. A month is really very little time at all when it comes to socializing feral cats. I'm involved in TNR and, as a result, often end up with foster cats that, while not fully feral (those would be the guys that get returned to their colonies) are under socialized or semi-feral. My current foster was what I would call semi-tame when I got her back in early August, and while she's very affectionate with me, she's still quite wary about being touched in any other part of the house other than her "safe" room. I can't pick her up without getting quite badly clawed. In addition, my 2 youngest cats, Autumn and Ramona, were a semi-feral mother cat and a feral kitten when I trapped them at my colony a year and a half ago. They've both become wonderful housecats, but I can't pick either of them up either, and Autumn still leery of being approached in certain ways. Socialization is an ongoing process, and it can be detrimental to that process to think about it in terms of a set time-frame. If you're committed to socializing your boy, you have to be in it for the long haul.

I agree that your boy needs to be seen by a vet and neutered before he matures too much and his interactions with your other cat start to become anything less than friendly. In order to do this, you will need to rent or borrow a humane cat trap from a shelter or a rescue that does TNR in your area. Some people are bothered by the idea of trapping cats because it is a scary thing for a cat to go through, but the alternative, is, as you've said going back outside, and, considering that he's unfixed, putting him back outside isn't really a good solution at all.

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post #5 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-01-2014, 11:51 PM
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right. I know you are trying everything you can. You said you offered tuna but only Milo took you up on it? I wonder if having Milo around at all during periods of trying to get Marvin to do things is a good idea?

Maybe Marvin is just one of those solitary cats.?

yes trapping him and making an appointment may be hard to do together. and I am guessing he will not let you near the carrier to close it while he is in it? You may need a TNR type trap which will surely agonize him more?

If cats only knew what we have to do for them.

good luck.
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post #6 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-01-2014, 11:51 PM
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It may not be the happiest solution but you may have to use a live trap to catch him!
Do you have any cat rescue groups that you could explain the situation to, that might be able to take him on a shorter notice for neutering?
We have a place over here that spays & neuters on set days...see if you've got someplace like that...
Neutering would probably also help with some calming effect as well for him!!
Sure wish you luck with Marvin!

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An everyday family name; A particular name;
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post #7 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-02-2014, 12:22 AM
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I adopted a feral kitten. He is now 13 years old. He had gotten his vaccinations and had been neutered by the rescue group who caught him. He is a very affectionate cat BUT he remains skittish to this day. It definitely causes me a lot of stress when I need to get him to the vet. He acts like a wild animal and I'm sure he will never trust me again each time. He does get over it though and is back up on my bed pawing at me to pet him. I have used a feral trap to catch him and I struggled with the same problem of not knowing when he would go in. I talked this over with the vet and they said to just make the appointment and if need be, I could cancel if he wasn't in by the time of his appointment. I had tuna in the trap and he did go in fairly quickly. I then covered the trap with a towel and set it in a dark room. He thrashed around quite a bit but it all worked out. Subsequent to that, I've just donned a heavy coat, welding gloves and goggles, placed a carrier on end and have grabbed him and plopped him in tail first.

It's wonderful you want to adopt him and get him into the vet. Just make sure you keep him in for awhile afterward so that you can rebuild the trust first.

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post #8 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-02-2014, 03:04 PM
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I have a professional trapper come to our house, because all my cats are former semi-strays, so taking them to the vet is an ordeal.

Ever since we trapped Nikita for her first vet visit, and that was 2 years after she started living with us (she had been already TNRed by the municipality and we don't vaccinate or do check-ups to newly adopted cats here), she left our home and only comes occasionally to eat and spend the night. I've been heart-broken but I'm trying to come to terms with it. That said, I believe you have to take her to the vet anyway, and hope for the best. Nikita has full trust in me and never lost it, because I wasn't the bad guy who trapped her. But she fears our house. I don't know, maybe have her trapped by someone else and outside the house, so she won't associate the house with fear?

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post #9 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-02-2014, 06:08 PM
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I think it is going remarkably well. A month is such a short time for a feral cat. He is going to come around though. The fact that he is getting closer to you and watching you around the house, very good signs. I have a feral that has lived outside for years, and it took me 3-6 months before she would come close to us. It started out that she would rub her chin on the side of the house right next to the chair I was sitting in, and then she would very slightly rub against my leg. Eventually one day, she let me pet her. But. She did NOT want to see my hand coming towards her. It started out that I would reach down and pet her tail lightly. If she saw my hand coming toward her, she would run or put her paw up like she was going to bat at me. It took probably near a year before I could pet her back, she held out for the longest time on that. It's been about two years now, I can pet her and sort of half pick up her front paws, but she has made it clear she does not want to be lifted off the ground, she won't bite me, but she squirms to get down. She now jumps up on a chair to get closer to me, tries to get closer to my face, makes good eye contact with me and purrs. I cannot even tell you how feral this cat was, but to me, she was not even semi-feral, she was fully feral. It was baby steps the whole way getting to where we are today. I have three cats inside, and one of them can't even be around the other two, because she is vicious, so we don't bring Arwen in, but I do let her in my garage when it's cold. We are in FL, so we are lucky, she does quite fine outside, and she likes it there. She goes into three yards to sleep and hang out, and everyone is fine with her and knows her. I still worry about her constantly and wish I could bring her in, but I just don't think it would work out with her inside with our current cat situation.

Give this boy some time. I would not put him back outside, it sounds like he is is so thankful to be inside. I would just give it time and just ignore him. Don't make moves to try to get him to come to you. I completely let Arwen come to me on her terms. That was key. She did eventually like your boy is doing, getting close to you and hanging out. Arwen also hissed at me every time I would feed her in the beginning. She did every time I would come out to feed her. She'd hiss one minute and then be laying near us the next minute. You just have to have unbelievable patience with ferals. And expect that even when they do come around, they will probably always be skittish. Arwen still is with us at times. We just have to realize that she is like this and she is not like our spoiled, pampered indoor kitties who have been handled and hugged and kissed their entire life. You will probably never be able to do that to him. But he will come around and he WILL show you love, I'm just sure of it. He sounds like he's doing exactly what Arwen did to me. It will happen. Just give him time
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post #10 of 34 (permalink) Old 01-02-2014, 11:54 PM Thread Starter
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Well, here's an update. I agonized over what to do because we loved having Marvin around the house and wanted a companion for Milo, our 8 year old cat, but we didn't want to run the risk of introducing infections or parasites and having to go through the ordeal of "trapping" him to take him to the vet.

This morning I opened the door and Marvin went outside. I left the door open for a while so he could make the decision as to whether he wanted to come back inside. He gradually sauntered off, went out of sight, and hasn't come back. As much as I knew it was the right thing to do for our particular situation, I was devastated.

So we went to the animal shelter and adopted a 5 month-old kitten, Toby, that talks to us when we enter the room and comes right to our laps. This was the second shelter he had been transferred to so we knew we were doing something good for him. He is an incredibly loving cat that is totally comfortable with humans. Unlike most cats, he will look you right in the eyes and give you a kiss with his tongue. It may seem selfish that we wanted a non-feral cat, but we also board our cats when we travel and the thought of getting Marvin into a carrier at that point left us worried.

We expect that Marvin will come around from time to time, and he will be our "outdoor cat". We will feed him consistently as we did before, and if cold weather is expected we will make a nice warm place for him to sleep. There are lots of his "family members" running around outside so he won't be alone. Those of you who have brought feral cats into your homes truly have my respect and admiration.

Although this wasn't the outcome I had hoped for, I hope we are now essentially helping 2 cats have better lives.
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