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post #1 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-27-2010, 06:36 PM Thread Starter
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So I've got her in the house...

We've been very worried about a feral-turned-semi-feral that lives in our backyard recently. She does not have a colony, all of her siblings that I TNR'd died or disappeared along with her mother and she's pretty much always lived with us. She's had a rough winter, despite her insulated house and electric heating pad. She's about 1.5-2 years old, very timid in general but very friendly with us (will climb in our laps, let us scratch her belly, will beg for head-rubs, lets us treat her with Frontline (after a fashion). However, our neighbors now have 4 very aggressive dogs that we've seen kill wild rabbits with one bite, and at one point they actually chased her onto our roof! Between city traffic and the dogs, we feel it's better to try to transition her to an indoor cat.

We have set up a very large dog crate, covered with sheets, and have a cat carrier, small litter box with dirt from "her" outside spot, food/water, and a scratching post inside. She actually walked right in the door in our dining room to get to her bowl and right into the cage. However, my semi-feral is now acting very feral indeed. We've had bouts of freaking out, climbing the walls, howling, etc. It's only been an hour but I'm second-guessing myself.

Half of me thinks "this will pass, it's normal, this is the best thing for her, ever," but the other half is thinking, "This is so cruel, she's too old to adapt and I'm causing this poor animal undue anxiety and stress."

Someone please just talk me off the ledge... Need a glass of wine to take the edge off the howling!
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post #2 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-27-2010, 09:07 PM
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Re: So I've got her in the house...

Merlot? ... or would you prefer a nice Cabernet Sauvignon? Come down off the ledge! *waves to you*

What you are doing is to better her life, she just doesn't understand it because it happened so suddenly. She is having a very natural fight/flight reaction to containment. If she can't harm herself, maybe just give her time to calm down and realize that nothing bad has happened.

I tame, socialize and foster feral cats, semi-feral cats and poorly socializied cats for public adoption. I would say that more than 50% of our personal housecats used to be feral cats. However, other than kittens, all adult ferals were tamed outdoors *first* (just like your kitty...) before they were brought inside. The closest I have come to your situation was Pretty. She was TNR'd at about a year old. Her litter (10-11wks old?) was trapped the day before she was and they were placed in my bathroom for taming/socialization and she was released back to our rural property. It took 14mo after that TNR before she would allow me close enough to just barely touch her fur, that first time. ...but it WAS a first step and I persisted. Anyhow, it was a very long journey, socializing her outside, for probably 2yrs before she began to show interest in trusting me enough to want to come inside.

...and those first forays into our home were *very* brief. She would follow the former-feral tomcat (her mate, neutered the summer after her TNR) inside. It was his calm acceptance of me during those first 2yrs that allowed me to be able to approach her for taming/socializing. She would follow Dusty in, but would make a nervous, quick circuit of the kitchen and then I could tell by her expression she was on the verge of panicing and I would call for her attention and open the back door for her to scoot out of. I let her in at every opportunity and over time she began to voluntarily stay in longer and longer. Something odd: the TV freaked her out. It wasn't the noise, it was the movement on the screen. She kept expecting that movement to come into the room and 'get' her. It took several months before she accepted the TV and a few more before she was confident enough to relax and fall asleep in the LR when it was on.

Anyhow, by small degrees, she learned to accept being inside and was able to stay in overnight and for several days at a time (voluntarily) when the weather was poor.. After Dusty expired suddenly at the first of the 2009 year, two rival tomcats took over his 'territory' and it was unsafe for us to allow Pretty outside. For the past year + she has remained completely indoor and is doing fine.

Your kitty is having to accept this all at once. I have never encountered a feral or semi-feral in this manner so I really have no advice, other than to offer patience and a trusting/calming demeanor for her to learn this isn't so bad. Good food, treats, maybe toys, sitting near her and being calm, talking soothingly to her ... those are the only ideas I can think of, but if she is freaking, I don't know how to reach her, until she has exhausted her 'freak' and is willing to listen and learn. You may be able to try some natural cat-calminng products, like Feliway, Composure Liquid and/or Rescue Remedy.

Mitts & Tess (Merry) works extensively with ferals and I think she will be able to give you the best information. Shoot her a PM, or just be patient and wait for her to see your topic. I know Merry and her organization have had great success using the F, CL and RR products I recommended.
Wishing you and your semi-feral the best of luck.
heidi =^..^=



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post #3 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-27-2010, 09:17 PM
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Re: So I've got her in the house...

Quote:
Originally Posted by isabel
Someone please just talk me off the ledge... Need a glass of wine to take the edge off the howling!


No I dont think this is crewl. She can transition into your home.

Can you start gradual. Feed her inside the door so she will get use to going in and out? Keep her in for awhile and let her back out? Let her wander your home and become familar with it. The howling and climbing the walls is just fear and panic. Ive seen cat brought in from outside as a kitten but has a little bit of feral coarsing thru her veins get startled and go straight up a wall. Its a normal reaction inbred into them.

If you do decide to keep her in I would use feliway despenser by the kennel and put rescue remedy in her water and / or Composure Liquid in her food. They all help calm the cat.

My sister and I transitioned an abandoned - turned feral (one of my first TNRs) into a house cat. He showed interest to come in the house with the rest of the cats. So hed come in for 10-15 minutes and it gradually grew longer and longer. We went from not being able to touch him to carrying him around and he sleeps on my sisters bed! He is in the house 95% But it took us a couple years.

Or if you felt strongly put him in a room with places to hide and cat stands to look out the window and start your kitty out there. Make sure you remove all window covering as they will destroy them. Tape all screens with duct tape also.

Just wanted to comment also -Ive never had a feral that didnt use a litter box. We use regular litter for them.

I know Heidi has brought many ferals into her home. I hope she will see this and post. She has more experience in this aspect of transitioning than I do.

You sound like a very compassionate person. Thumbs up for what your trying to do for this lone kitty. I think it can work out. Hang in there.
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post #4 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-27-2010, 09:17 PM
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Re: So I've got her in the house...

We must of been posting at the same time...
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post #5 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-27-2010, 09:37 PM
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Re: So I've got her in the house...

I think we were 'composing' at the same time! Tag-team: you're IT! *runs*



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post #6 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-27-2010, 10:05 PM
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Re: So I've got her in the house...

Regarding the curtains! I took an outside cat, a rather pleasant one, home. It really did climb the walls and rip the curtains. It went absolutely wild. As an adult, I realize that it felt trapped. As Merry told you, start very gradually. I wish you the best. It takes time, even though the kitty loves you when she's outdoors. Keep the faith!




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post #7 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-28-2010, 09:33 AM Thread Starter
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Re: So I've got her in the house...

Well, I didn't do this gradually for a couple of reasons, the main one being concern for her safety if I waited any longer - but also that none of the links here recommended that? I read the muttcatts.com article on taming ferals in depth and followed that advice, which is why we've gone for containment w/a box with her dirt, a hiding place, etc. (We unfortunately don't have a bedroom to dedicate just to her, nor a 2nd bathroom in the house.)

Now I'm torn, have a made a mistake? She's been in there for going on 24 hours, much quieter but still unhappy and hasn't eaten. Do I let her go and try to do this gradually and hope for the best, or plow on? We're due for 2-3 days of heavy rain here, hate to let her go today to have her hide somewhere without shelter because I've spooked her.

And I'm sorry, I should have first said - thanks for the replies and the support! A little tense here, forgot my manners!
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post #8 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-28-2010, 10:22 AM
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Re: So I've got her in the house...

There is no right way or wrong way to do it. Im just telling you
my experience. Your circumstances are different from mine and
you feels she needs to be off the street immediately then we
can all go from there to try to help with suggestings to smooth
the way.

Dont beat yourself up you have not done anything wrong so far.
The only thing youve done is shown compassion and moxy to
save this sweet kitty.

Ive only TNR and fostered since 2006. Its been a crash coarse.
One thing I have learned is there is not just one way. Every cat
is different, every circumstance is different. Being flexible to how
others are doing it is what counts. Big picture is were in it for the
cats. We can work it out as we go along in this journey.

Its your conviction she needs to be in and its not an option to
let her back out. Its way to dangerous. We can work with that.
If you did let her out it would be a 50/50 chance shed come back
and survive while she is gradually working her way into being your
house kitty. Now she has a 100% chance of survival.

I would put some cubes or upside down boxes with a cut open doorway
as safe hidey holes in your house. I would definitely invest in some
Feliway despensers and Composure Liquid. Ive never put CL in food
but only given it orally twice day and gotten immeidate results. Go
look on the Spirit Essence site also. I think those products are good.

I mentioned the cat box cuz I thought it would be easier for
you to manage then bringing in soil. Its been my experience
that all the ferals we had to keep for awhile use the litter boxes
with traditional litter. But for all we know if you switch she may
defy my experiences! do what you want with that.

She seemed pretty tame outside and comfortable with you.
If she will let you sit in the area of the food dishes when you
put down soft food and gently talk to her and sit with her.
Edging closer and closer as she lets you.

She is a survivor that is why she is so freaked. She just
got dropped into a foreign situation to all her instincts.
Im betting she will adjust quickly because of her relationship
with you. She maybe skiddish for a while but she will come
around with your gently pushing her comfort zones by
eventually touching, petting, briefly holding.. etc.

Please know no one here would ever judge you or be critical of
your efforts. I know its hard to read a persons tones in their posts.
Were here to cheer you on and throw suggestions out that worked
for us.
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post #9 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-28-2010, 12:55 PM
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Re: So I've got her in the house...

Quote:
Originally Posted by isabel
Well, I didn't do this gradually for a couple of reasons, the main one being concern for her safety if I waited any longer - but also that none of the links here recommended that?

Now I'm torn, have a made a mistake? She's been in there for going on 24 hours, much quieter but still unhappy and hasn't eaten. Do I let her go and try to do this gradually and hope for the best, or plow on?
I would not let her back out, so I vote for "plow on".
You have made a decision based on the very real dangers you saw her encountering and now the issue is one of continuing the taming you began on your porch. Many cats, when brought into new situations won't eat/drink/litterbox on the first day. Sometimes even the 2nd day. But usually by the last half of day 2, or certainly by day 3, they eat/drink and use their litterbox. However, that period of time where they didn't eat/drink affects when they finally do, because their bodies will utilize most of that and there will be very little to deposit into the litterbox. If the kitty has not eaten/drank on day 3, there will be cause for concern, but I don't think you'll have to worry about that. I really feel her self-preservation will kick in and she *will* eat/drink.

I love Smirkitty's suggestions, you will find them very helpful and Merry is right; you haven't done anything wrong and you HAVE saved her from a possibly horrible death outdoors (traffic/dogs), things she will NOT encounter in your home. She just needs time to adjust.

I've never brought an adult feral cat into my home without first having socialized it outdoors, but that is mostly due to my own inexperience (never having had a complete feral indoors w/out some socialization) and wanting to protect my own housekitties in case I make a mistake and the feral gets loose into my general populace.
Where our situations are similar: Your kitty was facing an absolute danger from traffic and aggressive, high-prey-drive dogs when you brought her in, and so was my Pretty in danger when the two aggressive tomcats showed up.
What makes our situations different: I had already been allowing Pretty inside and she had been in/out, spending enough time indoors to know the routine and be comfortable so when I simply refused to let her back out, it was a small transition. Your kitty has had fabulous socialization outside and simply hadn't been inside before.
It is a big change for her to adjust to.

Because your kitty appeared so friendly when outdoors, I *do* believe that when enough time has passed and she realizes nothing bad has happened and that there are actually a lot of Good Things that happen indoors, she will adjust. The oldest feral kittens I brought into my home were about 5mo old and it was VERY hard for me to reach them, but I did. It just took longer than I had previously experienced. YOUR kitty already has a head-start because she knows you from the porch as providing food and loves. You are miles ahead! Miles! Allow her the time to settle and process these new changes and I am sure her happy and friendly kitty-behavior will return. It will take her as long as it takes her, and only she knows when she will be ready to accept these changes.

Merry is RIGHT, there ARE, NO MISTAKES:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mitts & Tess
One thing I have learned is there is not just one way. Every cat
is different, every circumstance is different. Being flexible to how
others are doing it is what counts. Big picture is we're in it for the
cats. We can work it out as we go along in this journey.
All we can advise you to do is keep allowing her to see you as calm, kind and trustworthy and for you to be vigilent in monitoring her behavior so you don't 'miss' the point when she has decided to not be frightened and give-this-a-chance; basically letting you know she is ready for the next steps. You'll help her get there, and it has been my experience when we help the ferals/semi-ferals transition to home-life ... they turn out to be *wonderful* housecats. Absolutely wonderful housekitties.
Best of luck, and we'll help you brainstorm along the way!
heidi =^..^=



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post #10 of 36 (permalink) Old 03-28-2010, 02:41 PM Thread Starter
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Re: So I've got her in the house...

Thanks, all. We seem to be doing quite well. She used the litter box to pee in, we've got a feliway dispenser running next to the cage, and she let me rub her head and throat thru the bars, purred a bit, even climbing on top of the carrier to keep the headrubs coming before something spooked her and she hid again.

We quietly moved away to the LR so now she's back on top of the carrier, relaxing. I'll feel so much better when she eats/drinks, but this is progress! I'll keep you informed. We have a webcam set up to watch her, I tried to upload a picture but got the message "Sorry, the board attachment quota has been reached." (doh). Thanks again for all the support and well wishes.
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