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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-15-2008, 03:33 PM Thread Starter
 
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Socializing Mature Feral Sister Cats

Hello there,

I have been put in an interesting new position. I was looking for cats to adopt and while looking on Craigslist found a postign about these cats that I have wondered about who have been living in a vacant storefront two blocks from my house for a little over a year. I have stopped by when walking and tried to engage them, talking and inquiring about who took care of them so it seemed rather serendipitous that the one day I decide to look for cats on Craigslist I see a post about these specific cats I have been curious about for a year.

I got in touch with the lady who posted about them and apparently she is a property manager who found the two girl kittens in a garage of one of her properties last winter. She is allergic to cats but she wanted them to be safe and has kept them in a vacant storefront she owns for the past year.

She felt like she shouldn't take them to the humane society because even though they were young they had been in the wild long enough to be very feral and difficult to socialize and she worried they would kill them right away. Her original plan was to spay them and get them their shots and then release them if she couldn't find someone willing to socialize them. However, they were so afraid of people that she was not able to easily contain them to take them to a vet, and I think feared if she contained them forcably they would be even more fearful of humans and thus harder to tame for adoption by someone.

What she wants to do is have someone (me) visit the cats every day and develop trust with them. Once this has been established and we can more safely transport them to a vet without terrifying them too much she is going to pay to spay them and get them their shots. At that point, if they are tame enough to take into my house I plan to adopt them. If it seems they will never adjust to a domestic existence, we would then release them, I suppose.

I have never worked with feral cats before and I am trying to do as much research as I can before I start working on them, but all of the websites I can find either (a) are only discussing kittens who are much younger than these cats and/or (b) are discussing it from the standpoint of removing the cats from the wild for the first time, when these cats are a little over a year old and have been living together in a storefront for a little over a year with very little human contact besides the lady who brings them food and checks in on them from time to time and the passersby who talk and signal and play with them from outside the window.

I should also state one of the cats is more sociable and will always run to the window and play or otherwise interact with people who stop by (though she does seem easily frightened by sudden movements and loud or high-pitched sounds) and the other I have never seen because she seemingly hides all the time. This seems like it might lend hope to the situation, as the more playful one might be easier to socialize and develop a trusting bond with and since the cats have been living together always if I can get one to trust me the other one might follow...

I just don't know! I really only know as much as I read about feral cats on the internet today so anyone who has hands-on experience with cats of a similar disposition or were in a similar situation, please please please let me know how you think I should approach these animals.

SPECIFICALLY, most websites seem to think that to socialize feral cats you have to contain them and only open the cages to feed them and pet them and thus make them completely dependent on you, and I feel this might be traumatic and breed hostility in cats that have been living in an open, though indoor, space and have been together all their lives.

Please respond.

Thank you so much.

-Erin Day
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-15-2008, 10:02 PM
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I think it would be wonderful if you could socialize these cats. I wouldn't keep them in cages. I would give a room to one of them and work with the others at the storefront. It takes time and patience to socialize a feral, but it can be done. There are some great links at the top of this page. Here's one: https://www.catforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=36326

There are threads throughout this forum that would be helplful. Here's one with detailed information. Remember; everything should be at the cats' pace. Never rush.

https://www.catforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=45928




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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-22-2008, 11:30 AM Thread Starter
 
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Hi again!

So I've been caring for these kittiegirls since Sunday. I show up around the same time every night and I fed them and clean the litter and talk to them and sing to them. When I come they are usually sleeping or relaxing on the window sill (making use of these sheets and pillows I bought for them the other day to give them a warmer, softer, more comforting environment because the storefront they are at is kind of grimey and I don't even like being there).

When I first arrive they stay put and look interested in me, but once I start to unlock the door they scatter, and they have been hiding in the same spots, one hides in the far corner of the window sill on the wall farthest from where I am and the other goes behind all these cages that I stacked against the wall to make the space for open so there were less places for them to hide. When I am there they remain in whatever spot they ran to the whole time, except once one of the kitties ran across the room to a better hiding spot when she thought I couldn't see her. Though they are clearly afraid, they seem interested in me and have stopped putting their ears down when I get closer to them or look at them directly. The other day I brought treats for them and I got pretty close to both of them so I could put the treats by them and talk and motion to get them to understand I brought the treats for them and both of them stayed put and didn't show signs of aggression. Thus, I have only been actually going into the space since Sunday but they seem like they are warming up to me pretty quickly considering.

Today on craigslist a lady posted about needing a foster home for her cat for a month or two until she finds a new living situation. She says this cat is very sweet and friendly and likes to venture outside every once in a while. My idea is that I will take this cat in for her and be happy because I have a kitty I can hang out with at home, and also that once it feels comfortable in my apartment and with me that I could possibly bring it over to hang out with the other cats and maybe they would respond well to seeing another kitty, and it might help them to trust me if they see another cat interact positively with me.

In your experience is this something that works? Is it possible the cats could react very negatively to another cat? They don't seem outwardly aggressive, they just seem timid and unsure about me, but curious. I think they are smart ladies.

One thing I am specifically concerned about is that the kitty I would fostering for the lady is declawed on the front, and I don't want to put it in a situation where it was ganged up on by the others and couldn't defend itself. I will of course be there when I introduce the cat to the others but I wanted to check to see what people with more experience taming feral cats think about this idea.

If it doesn't get along with the others I still have a kitty to hang out with at home while I work with the other ones so it's kind of win-win.

Thank you!

Erin
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-22-2008, 02:03 PM
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You're taking good care of the ladies; that's obvious. I would not approach them at all. Just do what you have been doing, and move the food a bit closer as they seem less shy. A true feral is not really frightened. In fact, you could get badly scratched of bitten if you rush things. These cats might be strays. If so, they will get socialized more quickly.

I would not stare at the cats. That's too much like a challenge. I would read a book, listen to soft music, and, as they get more curious and come closer to the food, have an interactive toy and some treats for them. Let them approach you. Don't attempt to pet them until they are rubbing against your hand, and then still take it slowly. That could take weeks to months. If it's weeks, they probably had a home at one time. Just don't rush, and let them decide when they want to make friends. Sometimes true ferals become wonderful house pets. Others never want human contact. Let's hope these are strays!

As for the other cat, you're going to have to go through a slow introduction period also. Don't bring her to the ferals now..not at all...perhaps in the future. Everything depends on the "ladies." I'm glad you're going to have a house pet to love, and it's so kind of you to take care of these ferals. Keep us posted!




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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-28-2008, 02:19 PM
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Im going to give you the story of what I did with my three ferals .. now ex

I got them at about 4/5 months ... i complelty cleared out a spare room with only a box for them to "hide" in and sleep in.

I removed the curtains cos they would have destroyed them.

In the beginning I would sit on the floor with their food .. and slowly one of them got closer .. the others however ignored me ...

It took a while and they slowly would come out of hiding to "peep" at me .. I would always "pretend" they werent there.

Next step .. hubs made a wooden frame with plastic netting on so that they could get used to my other cats and the household but still be "safe" ..... as soon as I saw them being curious .. we went onto the next step ..... I would confine my dogs in the evening and close up the house and let them out of their room for an hour or so ..in retrospect I should have done that earlier .. because thats when they really started to get tame.......

I might add this all took nearly a year....it wasnt long and I was letting them out with the dogs .. and then of course I had them all spayed ....and now I have three housecats ....

Only spookie still doesnt want to be touched .... she will sleep on my legs etc .. but I cant touch her .. the other wto are cuddlebugs.

It takes time and good tinned cat food .... I would sit for hours waiting at a dish of smelly cat food waiting for them to pluck up the courage to come closer ... but it worked ....

Dont look at them .... and always lick your lips rapidly this calms them .

One thing I did find odd .. they wernt at all aggressive to my other cats ... and my cats were fine with them ....

2 boxers Miki & Monty
Boy Cats: Tucker,Freeway,Tyson,Copicat,Mike
Girl Cats : Magic, Garfield, Buggie,Lexie,Spike,Ginger,Blue,Spooky,Rotten, Trouble
Strays: Charlie
2 Conures,2 African Greys,1 Black winged Jardine
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 05-31-2008, 05:50 PM
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Good advice, Carol!




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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-19-2008, 01:53 PM Thread Starter
 
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OKAY change of direction. Please advise!

So I tried to tame these kitties just in the storefront for a month. I saw some progress, especially with the more daring of the two, Sekai, who started to come out into the room and move around and even eat occasionally while I was still there. Midori however always found a spot to stay in and remained there the whole time I was there, sometimes it would be very visible on the windowsill, sometimes it would a lot more discreet in the corner of the uppermost shelf of a dark room in the back of the space.

It was incredibly hard to spend more than 20-40 minutes with them a day because I work full time and when you add in the bus time out to my work and back my day is like 11 hours long so when I come home I just want to stay there. Also, the storefront space was really dirty and stinky and I couldn't stand being in there so I know the kitties must have hated it!!! This made me think since I was planning to tame & adopt them anyway that I should just trap the girls for spaying and bring them to my house.

I talked to the lady who found the kitties/was keeping them at the storefront and we forged plans for trapping.

I have one kitty back from her spaying (Sekai, the more active one) as of last night. When I moved her there she was in a carrier, I covered the carrier with a sheet I gave them that she and Midori used to sleep on at the storefront thinking it might comfort her, and then set her in the spare room while I prepared it for her. It is mostly empty, one of the doorways has no door in it so I had to temporarily barricade that using a couch and the two pieces of this futon frame we've kept in there for now. After I set it up and laid out some fresh food and water for her I opened the carrier so she could explore. (They were not caged in the storefront either. They have lived together in the storefront for over a year uncaged, hence my hesitancy to separate or cage them.) She did not leave the carrier while I was in there but when I came back she was hiding under the futon frame and she had eaten some of the food that I left for her. Over night she ate more of the food, and was still hiding there when I visited her before work this morning. My main question here is should I leave the frame there if she can hid there and it makes her pretty inaccessible to me? Should I give her something like the box instead, mentioned above, that allows her to feel the comfort of a hiding space but still remain clearly visible to me? Should I remove any kind of space she can hide in? It seems there are a lot of different schools of thought on this.

Now, her sister Midori was trapped yesterday! This was exciting because the first time we tried to trap her she was able to get at the food without it going off because the trap was really big, and she is small, and also very clever. So she was spayed this morning and I will pick her up after work tomorrow and take her home. I am wondering if I should keep Midori in the same spare room as Sekai. If so, should I let her be loose in the room with Sekai or should I keep her in a cage? Or should I keep her in a separate room, like my bedroom? Midori is very frightened and will not let people get very close to her, whereas Sekai has let people pet her in the past and has a generally positive, friendly and exploratory nature. I feel Sekai has progressed since I started working with them and don’t see the same with Midori, in case that affects what I should do once they are both at my house.


Those are my current questions. Please advise!

Thank you,
Erin
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-19-2008, 04:08 PM
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I would give them several places to hide in and feel safe so they arent stressed. Keep them together. Sometimes when one comes around they teach the other it is safe watch me. They will come out and explore when you arent there and get familar with the room, sounds and smells. I would arrange the room to its convient for you to come and go.

Best of luck. You are to be commended for doing this for the kitties and giving them a good chance at a good life.
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-19-2008, 05:43 PM
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I agree with Merry. Allow the sisters to feel as comfortable as possible. Just move the food slightly closer to you as you sit on the floor and read..in a dimly lighted room with soft music. You can read aloud, if you wish. That might help, actually.

Allow the sisters to make the first move. If you try to force the issue, you might be taking steps backwards. Patience is the key. Patience, food, and eventually, interactive toys. The rest is up to the cats. Let them lead the way. It is often a slow process, but a very rewarding one. I wish you the best. Please keep us informed. Thanks for the update!

PS Don't touch them; let them rub against your hand. Still, make absolutely sure they want to be touched. Thank you for caring.




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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 06-20-2008, 02:29 PM Thread Starter
 
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thanks for the help, y'all.

i am at work today waiting until 3:30 so i can take the bus to pick up midori and take her home, and my boyfriend called to say that when he went in to see sekai this mornin' she had made a big blahhhh behind the futon where she has been hiding. once before when i went to see the sisters at the storefront i had found puke, that would have been a little over a week ago, on the day i decided to trap them for spaying and take them home where i could care for them more constantly.

now when i visited them at the storefront i would put a whole can of food in the dish for them, because there were two kitties and i knew i wouldn't be back for a full day. there is also a thing of dry food always available. now i have been doing the same without really thinking about it, and am wondering if she is maybe puking from eating too much or if the food is going bad since it is takig her longer to eat it? should i only give a portion of the can and refridgerate the rest? only bring them wet food when i can be there for a while to see how much they eat and take what they don't want away so it doesn't spoil?

i haven't noticed her having hairballs or puking other than those two times in the past ten days. i'm also wondering if she just ate too much after being starved for trapping and then being less interested in food after her spaying. or if her anxieties about being in a new space are causing her to overeat. please respond as soon as possible because i would like to have some good suggestions before i go to the small animal hospital and leave work (thus internet access) for the day.

i should also say that the food the lady had for me to feed them is not premium. i've been feeding them the 9lives canned stuff that she bought, and i don't even know what the dry stuff is because it was moved into a plastic bin instead of the original bag. i ordered a variety pack of the newman's organics cat food and a bag of nutro complete care for adult indoor cats for the dry stuff but i don't know when it will come in the mail.

heaaaaalp!? i dont want little sekai to be pukey and sad, puking is the worst, at least in my human experience of it
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