Do some feral/stray cats seem to ask for domestic? - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-09-2014, 03:52 PM Thread Starter
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Do some feral/stray cats seem to ask for domestic?

Domestication but the software wouldn't let me write the whole word, ha ha

Okay, my girlfriend and I recently adopted Bobby, a little grey shorthair stray (or feral, whatever you wish) who was part of a small pack of cats that frequented our apartment walkway, mostly because my gf fed them, which was fine with me.

Anyway, I've got Bobby's adoption (and neutering) story in the "Meet Kitty" section. I have to admit, I'm a pretty bright guy but I seem to never find the correct section for a new thread -- a bit afterward and it's been moved by one of the mods to a new section and I have to do a word search to find it. This is okay by me, I just don't seem to be able to second guess the mods. haha

All right, back to topic...

Bobby was very peaceful and didn't skittle away like the other cats did. He'd hang around when we were outside, linger on the fringe, and gradually he got closer and closer to my girlfriend first, then me, and we could pet him.

He's a very smooth and gentle little guy, smart and attentive and in excellent health (the vet checked him over) but he didn't show the fright that other feral cats had of us. He seemed to "welcome" our attention and that was why we decided to adopt him -- he's very much friendly with my old cat RJ too.

But it seemed as though he wanted to join the family. Before he was taken inside "formally", he'd often make a move to come inside with us, all on his own. He'd sit at the window ledge and scratch at the screen, looking for someone to come out. And when we did, he'd run to us and mew and ask for petting.

So... amazing that some mostly feral/wild/stray cats have the urge to be with humans, even more than with their own kind. It seems to go against natural instincts until we realize that house cats (even the wild ones) are a domesticated subspecies of felines, and have been with humans for at least 5000 years.

That apparently makes the difference, I guess, and shows why it's so difficult (and usually discouraged) to try to domesticate a truly wild species, such as a bobcat.

Anyway, Bobby's a new family member now and we're all happy.

Your feedback on domestication of strays, and how some of them seem to "ask" for this? Thanks.
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-09-2014, 04:00 PM
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I don't know that much about feral cats, but from what I've read it seems that true ferals might take a lot longer to become comfortable with humans than Bobby did. I'm betting he was a stray and was someone's cat at one time, which is maybe why he warmed up to you and your gf the way he did.
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-09-2014, 04:02 PM
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Originally Posted by katdad View Post
So... amazing that some mostly feral/wild/stray cats have the urge to be with humans, even more than with their own kind. It seems to go against natural instincts until we realize that house cats (even the wild ones) are a domesticated subspecies of felines, and have been with humans for at least 5000 years.

That apparently makes the difference, I guess, and shows why it's so difficult (and usually discouraged) to try to domesticate a truly wild species, such as a bobcat.
I'm wondering if you understand that a feral cat and a domestic cat are no different? The one sleeping on your lap and the one scrounging outdoors starving are the same kind of cats.

The only difference is, one was either dumped outdoors, got lost, or was raised by a feral mother -- they still have the same potential to be acclimated to humans. In a lot of cases, these feral cats may have only been living on the streets a short time and previously were indoors; I call these "semi-feral"... they revert to a feral state after enough time outdoors, growing leery of everything and only looking for their next meal and becoming a stronger fighter in order to beat everything else that wants that food. It's a tough life. It's that, or they die quickly. If the cat was previously raised around people, or is young enough, they can (re)learn how to be indoors again.

Also, cats are not pack animals, and unless in an unnatural environment like a cat colony or human home where they are fed, they mostly stick to themselves.

A truely feral cat, one born and raised outdoors for a substantial period of time, will be very difficult or impossible to teach becoming a "tame" indoor cat. That is no surprise, however... have you read/watched stories on feral children? People are no different; if we do not have proper human exposure at a young age, we do not learn how to speak (and that part of the brain dies) and we do not learn empathy; essentially... we are not human.


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Last edited by Carmel; 03-09-2014 at 04:04 PM.
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-09-2014, 05:09 PM
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Something I wanted to add specifically regarding your case is that Bobby sounds like he had not been outdoors long enough to even become "semi-feral" ... he's what I'd call a stray cat. One that's recently become lost or abandoned. The other option being he was raised outside however has always been raised around people feeding him such as your girlfriend, so he never had to become semi-feral (while his mother may have taught him feral ways he could have overcome that for the food).

A true feral would have taken much longer and likely never have adjusted so competently to indoor life. True ferals you are very unlikely to even see outdoors. They do not make a habit of even allowing people to see them, they sleep during the day in a hidden location and only come out at night and run a mile a minute when they see a human even thinking about approaching.

A semi-feral cat, one that's been outdoors for awhile without anyone feeding them, at first is almost indistinguishable from a feral cat (one that was born and has lived outdoors and away from people). Except they may let you get a little closer than a feral.

Blacky took a year until she'd allow me close enough to pet her -- yet was spayed and had an ear tattoo, and Jasper took months of daily forced close contact with me before he stopped trying to rip me to shreds, especially when it came to food. He wasn't neutered either and s somewhere around 6-10 years old. Neither were feral, but semi-ferals. They took a lot of work, but a feral would have taken longer, and never have adapted as completely to the home and strangers as they have.


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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-09-2014, 05:26 PM
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That's a very sweet story about Bobby. He is one lucky cat. I've had some of my semi-feral cats act like Bobby - you'd almost think they have a strategy on how to ingratiate themselves into our hearts and homes.
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-09-2014, 05:40 PM Thread Starter
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Okay, Carmel and Heather... No, Bobby wasn't a stray or tossed out. He was born "wild" of stray parents, all part of this small "pride" that originally stayed about a block down the street but have relocated pride HQ to be closer to our apartment, as we feed them.

A neighbor had originally been watching this group of cats and first saw Bobby as a teeny kitten near his mom some months ago. Although the neighbor didn't feed or try to "tame" the group she did watch them, and was sad when the cute little grey kitten stopped hanging around -- she thought he'd come to a bad end. So she was happy to know that Bobby's "family" had moved to greener pastures and that he'd now been adopted by us.

Also, yes I know full well that domestic cats are the same genetic mix as strays. My own big buddy RJ was a rescue cat lo these 18+ years ago. In fact all my cats have been rescue or "found" strays.

I'm however speaking of genetic variations within the general breed of "house cat" regardless of whether they are domestically reared or strays. From the very start, Bobby was much more friendly and less fearful than his other family. He seemed to "want" human companionship. Often, prior to his adoption, he'd stay around after being fed outdoors, and when his family would scoot away, he'd stay near us and let us pet him.

It seemed that he genuinely chose human companionship over his own "pack" -- and of course some of this is my own emotional coloring of the event, but I still wonder whether some of you have noticed that particular strays are more domestically slanted.

Oh, another good story... Bobby's brother has been adopted by one of our neighbors. My girlfriend occasionally takes Bobby to the other gal's apartment for a "play date" with his brother. Funny but true.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-09-2014, 05:51 PM Thread Starter
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A true feral would have taken much longer and likely never have adjusted so competently to indoor life. True ferals you are very unlikely to even see outdoors. They do not make a habit of even allowing people to see them, they sleep during the day in a hidden location and only come out at night and run a mile a minute when they see a human even thinking about approaching.
Well, this small pack did indeed run away quickly at the beginning. And a couple of them -- we think the mother -- would simply not get close to us and never has.

Btw this was at night, late mostly. I'm a writer so I set my own schedule, my girlfriend does charity work and is a night owl. So all these first encounters occurred 3-4am. They never came around daytime.

It's very likely that Bobby's parents were abandoned or toss-outs, but it's evident from the neighbor's info that Bobby was born in the "wild" (if you call urban Houston "wild" -- maybe it is, with the nearby bar scene, ha ha).

Bobby had 2 siblings, we think. His bro was adopted by a neighbor, and the sister (we think it's the sister) is still among this small pack that shows up for night feeding.

Anyway, Bobby's roaming days are over, as he was "clipped" and vacinnated this past Friday and is recuperating, thankfully nicely except for a couple of mmm... "accidents" the first few hours home.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-09-2014, 05:54 PM Thread Starter
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That's a very sweet story about Bobby. He is one lucky cat. I've had some of my semi-feral cats act like Bobby - you'd almost think they have a strategy on how to ingratiate themselves into our hearts and homes.
We know it's just instinct but it does seem a strategy, doesn't it? I know that after he was brought inside a couple months back, he's found his routine daytime attachment by keeping close contact with my girlfriend as she goes about the apartment, and then nights, he sacks out on the bed close to me.

So he "shares" himself with both of us, ha!
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-09-2014, 06:10 PM
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The other option being he was raised outside however has always been raised around people feeding him such as your girlfriend, so he never had to become semi-feral (while his mother may have taught him feral ways he could have overcome that for the food).
^ This pretty much is what you've described, then. He was a feral kitten that was frequently around people for food. Food is the ice breaker with any cat. Kittens are easier to break that barrier with.

No two cats are going to become tame at the same time, and many cats that are even raised inside a home may never become a snuggley cat; all cats are different. Some cats simply are a little more afraid of strangers, loud noises, etc. no matter their background... it's a better survival instinct, really.


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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-09-2014, 11:54 PM Thread Starter
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You're correct about the survival instinct. The fact that Bobby's less afraid of people could have worked against him, sadly. Thankfully he's now an official housecat.

Thanks to everyone for the excellent feedback.
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