Unable to isolate my new feral kitty. - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 05:53 PM Thread Starter
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Unable to isolate my new feral kitty.

Hello guys,

I am new to the forum and essentially looking for support or suggestions. I'm attempting to tame a feral kitten (6 months) and I'm just confused and overwhelmed. I should give you guys a little background on me and the situation, first. So here goes…

The city I live in, roughly 3 years ago, came through my end of town and demolished most of the apartments and invariable pets were left behind. Our neighborhood has been flooded with stray cats that have turned feral. At this point in time, I had always owned dogs and didn't know to do anything more than feed them so they wouldn't starve to death; they were all skin and bones. After a few months of just feeding they began to trust me and while they wouldn't let me pet them, they'd be on my porch to greet me when I got home from work, even when feeding time wasn't until 11pm.

On June 25, 2010 one of the feral cats, Smokey Bear, brought me her kittens, one by one. In total she brought me three, Nugget (black), Ginger (orange stripes), and Jett (ghetto stripes). I knew absolutely nothing about cats. We all took a nice trip to the vet, loaded up on all the essentials, and for weeks I walked around in zombie mode from lack of sleep. It should be said that Smokey Bear sat on my porch for two weeks, I think she was young and just couldn’t care for them. Sadly, Ginger and Nugget didn't survive; one had cleft pallet and the other a congenital defect in her stomach. This experience taught me a lot about the feral problem we were having and I started trying to TNR.

TNR has been one of the most heartbreaking experiences of my life. I refuse to release a cat that has FIV or FELV and instead opt to put them to sleep. I believe it is a more merciful death, and I feel it isn't fair to expose the other cats that may not be positive. I understand not everyone feels that way, but it is how I feel and how I handle it. Every cat for the past three years I have trapped has had a positive Snap test, including Smokey Bear, until last Thursday. I cannot express to you all how much it means to me to know that all of this time, money, and effort has not been in vain and, at the very least, one little cat has a chance.

Which brings me to my concerns, this cat is 6 months old and the vet said she was on the cusp of becoming very difficult to tame. Friday she had her shots, was spayed, and cleaned up by the vet to the best of their ability. I have her in a 42" wire cage with a plastic bottom, lined with a towel. She has the Breeze litter system inside her cage, which she has used, along with one of those little hut things with a pillow in it for cave effect. She seems to be quite content; she doesn't claw at the walls, moan, or do anything destructive. She's even taken to using one of those drip mount guinea pig water bottles. Jett is also crate trained and the drip water bottle worked soooo much better than a bowl of water which was perpetually being knocked over. I just stuck it on the new cat's crate so she could get used to looking at everything all at once, but to my happy surprise she uses it. I have been able to squirt the pain meds into her mouth using a syringe, without incident. She does let me put my hand in the cage to move things, change her water, clean the litter box, etc. She has never hissed, bitten, or clawed at me or really expressed any aggressive behavior. To be honest, she doesn't act like she feels threatened when I talk to her through the wire crate or move things inside the crate, she doesn't flinch, she just keeps a safe distance, and by that I mean she's away but she's not cowering or plastered to the walls. I have never attempted to touch her.

Everything I have read, and the videos I have watched say she needs to be isolated. That’s not a very feasible thing for me. I live in an efficiency style guest house. The bathroom doesn't even have a door, it's hard to explain, it's private, but it's a one person house. I really don't want to mess this up for her. I'm not sure how to best proceed, do I just skip this isolation step and work with her as best I can while she's in her cage, and then move to letting her have free run of the house? I don't want to create a situation where she becomes an indoor feral. Also, I have a dog and I have never trusted her and Jett alone together. The dog adores my brother and can stay with him, if I need to relocate her during this process, but I'm concerned that free run of the house instead of a small room like a bathroom, will not help her become tamer. Do you guys have any thoughts on how to get started with her? I feel like I need to get the ball rolling with her, she's had time to recover from her surgery and she's had time to settle in to her new environment. I think I'm at the point where I need to start feeding her from my finger and maybe if that goes well attempt to pet her as shown in the videos? My biggest fear is that I will fail her and be unable to rehabilitate her and be forced to release her back into the elements. I am more than willing to put in the time and effort to help her so any suggestions would be tremendously appreciated. Thanks so much for reading all of this, I can be long winded. I will try to post pictures later of the cats, and her setup, just have to find that silly cord that goes to my camera


-Dahls
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 07:41 PM
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I don't have any feral advice but we fostered a pair of very timid cats last year and one of them, Valentina, would only really just tolerate a pat on the head around feeding time. If you picked her up, she wouldn't struggle but was never comfortable and would take off as soon as you put her down.

Things improved drastically one afternoon when I decided to call her bluff and locked her in our (very small) bathroom. She couldn't really move too much without being in arms reach. I ignored her and read my book, changing positions every so often and talking to her when I did but not really looking at her. I gave her some bits of wet food and patted her when she licked them. After a few hours she wasn't snuggling with me but she was sitting next to my leg and looking interested in what I was doing. She was still never super snuggly but after that she was a lot more relaxed about me--so much so that I had my husband do the same thing for a few hours one afternoon.

Maybe you could start her un-crating by uncrating her in one room in the house at a time and sitting with her in each place? Sit across the door/escape route or block it off with the crate? Pick things up, put them down, whatever she'll tolerate so that she gets used to the different noises and movement in each room. Try to pet her while she eats--put the food bowl next to you/closer to you in varying degrees and see how she tolerates that. Give her treats. See if she'll play with a bit of string--anything to get her interested and interacting, bonding with you. Leave things that smell like you in her crate when you're not around, things that she can snuggle with.

I guess that's all the suggestions I have! Good luck! I'm interested to hear how it turns out and it sounds like you're doing a great job already!
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 07:50 PM
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it sounds like you are doing a lot of things right.

i can tell you what i have done. i am socializing a adult female named pretty girl that came from the colony i care for.

i have nearly the same set up as you do in regards to the dog cage. the only things that i would recommend as far as the set up are; get a nice thick foam pad with cover and put it in the den. since they spend a lot of time in the den it just makes it more comfy to sleep or relax, i got one at petco that was sized for the carrier that i use as a den. put a towel on top of the den. once the cat gets more comfy with their new environment they seem to like sitting on top of the den. and lastly if you don't already, put the cage on top of something so it is off the floor. this makes the cat feel a little more at ease since it isn't looking up at everything and everyone. also, with it elevated a bit it is easier for you to pull up a chair and spend time with the cat.

from there, just simply spend time with Jett. i spent sooo much time with pretty girl just sitting with her, talking to her (i read the news to her) and doing blinky with her. with pretty girl it was about six weeks of her being in the cage until she decided that she wanted me to touch her. just let Jett decide what you should do, don't force it.

it has now been another six weeks and i am still working on not fearing everyone (but me) with pretty girl.

be patient and keep up the great work!

"In studying the traits and dispositions of the so-called lower animals, and contrasting them with man's, I find the result humiliating to me."
--Mark Twain
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 07:54 PM
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It sounds like she's doing fine so far. For a feral, trust takes a long time. Introducing her to the rest of your house and Jett would definitely be easier without the dog. Any aggression or even curiosity by the dog would freak out the feral and be a step backwards. I have seen ferals in captivity (a cage) go into a passive state but it wasn't related to being tamed. It was some kind of survival mechanism.

Taming ferals can take months and the steps are small, but rewarding. I agree with the advice about trying to pet her while she eats something tempting. If you let her out into the house she will probably hide for days or even weeks, but that is just her way of coping. Good luck, you clearly have a big heart.


Whaler is right, ferals are much more comfortable up high, well off the floor.

Last edited by Greenport ferals; 03-15-2011 at 07:57 PM.
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 08:37 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks guys so much for the responses. Her crate is up high, it's on top of my Armoire where my TV once rested lol. I put her up there initially because the dog does run around the house. I think I will move Hailey, the dog, in with my brother until I have her feeling more comfortable.

You mentioned that her hiding for six weeks would be a normal thing and she'll come around, do they almost always come around or is there a chance she'll never want to socialize due to her age?

Thanks again guys, I really do appreciate the help with her. Oh btw Jett is the kitten that was dropped off almost two years ago, the feral kitty cat is still nameless She's so timid I'm afraid to name her then her little personality come out and her name not suit her anymore.

-Dahls
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 08:50 PM
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with one as young as yours, i am as certain as i can be that given time it will come around, at least to a degree. it may not ever be a cat that will want to hang out with guests but in time it will develop a bond with you.

a couple of things to do once you do decide to let it out of the cage. first off make absolutely sure that you have blocked off anywhere that the cat should not be or could get injured from being there. second, lower the cage. not all the ways to the floor level, but a foot or so off the ground and make sure that the cat can easily get back in by creating a little set of stairs. this way when it is out and gets scared it can return to the "safe haven" of its den.

"In studying the traits and dispositions of the so-called lower animals, and contrasting them with man's, I find the result humiliating to me."
--Mark Twain
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 08:55 PM
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Six months old is still very adaptable. Try to see this new world inside your house through your cat's eyes. After her life on the streets - it's overwelming.

Naming her would be a good first step, too. Try out some names on her. Cats learn their names pretty quickly. When my ferals were still wild and kept their distance, one of their first signs of acceptance was a pleased-looking response to my praise.
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 09:00 PM
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that is a good point Greenport ferals. i have noticed with my colony that when i talk to them and use their name they seem more comfortable and at ease with me.

"In studying the traits and dispositions of the so-called lower animals, and contrasting them with man's, I find the result humiliating to me."
--Mark Twain
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-15-2011, 09:14 PM Thread Starter
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I name everything, even the fish in my tank have names. For some reason, I just can't seem to find a name that suits her. Someone on the Introduction forum mentioned Pepper, and I really liked that for her, but I'm not so sure she's feeling it. I really need to get a pic uploaded for you guys.

Oh and thanks for the tip about lowering her crate when I bring her out. One of the reasons I crate trained Jett was my vet suggested with a dog in the house she would want a space of her own where she was safe. It makes a lot of sense that if she's comfortable with that, keeping it accessible would maybe put her a little at ease.
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 03-16-2011, 08:14 AM
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I have been working on socializing my feral for almost 6 months now. Yet my situation is different since I decided not to cage him in the house, but instead let him decide on his own when he is ready to join our house. I did TNR with him in October. He has shelter and a feeding station on my deck and comes in the house daily. I too have a dog, but also an indoor cat. I am slowly letting the cats get to know each other. My feral (Shadow) loves to play with feather wands and toy mice. He loves to explore the first floor of my house too. I have touched him very lightly on his paws a few times, but he is still not ready. I am also trying to get him to use a litter box inside the house. So far no luck with that.

I have figured out that working with ferals takes all of the patience in the world. They march to their own drum. At times it can be frustrating, but it is so rewarding too. I often question myself and wonder if I am doing the right thing.

I did find that using flower essences greatly helped Shadow. In fact he began coming in the house a few weeks after I started the remedy. I use the Feral Cat Rehabilitation drops. I am also using Safe Space for Cats and Safe Space for Dogs on my other animals. You can check them out here Spirit Essences - Holistic Remedies for Animals
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