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