Why couldn't I tame this feral? - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
 
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-25-2011, 08:59 PM Thread Starter
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Why couldn't I tame this feral?

Okay, I'm new here. Never owned a cat before. Had a roommate with a cat, and the cat and I became best buds. I am a total cat person. Cats always come up to me, get along with me, while dogs bark at me, growl, and even try to chase me. LOL. Anyway, so here's my story of how I tried to tame a feral. I'm curious to get opinions on what went wrong.

So in my condo complex there are these two cats that hang out. One of them is fed regularly by a neighbor, but the other one, a scrawny orange tabby, was generally afraid of people and would run when people approached. I felt bad for the little guy, so I got some cold cuts and found him one evening under a bench where he liked to hang out. At first he was hesitant, but then he realized I was feeding him, so he came out for the meat. I pet him a bit and he didn't resist. The next night he was in the common areas and I fed him again. Eventually he came up to my condo. Eventually he came inside and started hanging out with me.

So I bought the little guy two bowls, one for water and one for food. I bought some of the hard cat food and the soft kind. I also bought a little cat bed for him and a litter box. At first he stuck to the food, water, and bed in the corner of the room, and seemed appreciative. But he always wanted to go outside after a few hours. Didn't want to be just an indoor cat I assumed. So I would let him out, and he would come back the next evening or whenever.

Things got rocky though when I tried to civilize him, for lack of a better word. For one thing, he got it into his head that it was okay to bite me. He would nip during petting, which was fine, because it wasn't hard. But sometimes he would grab my arm, dig his claws in, and basically tried to bite my hand. Of course I would instinctively yell, causing him to run away in fear, or because he knew I would be angry. Usually I handled this by putting him outside. Sometimes he would just run outside, but other times I had to physically put him outside. He didn't like this at all. He felt that I was intruding on his right to be inside my place I guess. LOL.

Then there was the issue of sleeping habits. We tried it several ways. First he was fine spending the night out with his feral friends. Then he wanted to sleep inside, especially when it was cold, so he moved up to the couch and forgot his cat bed existed. Then he would wake me up by scratching on my bedroom door, demanding to come in and sleep with me. So we tried that, but the cat insisted on sleeping on TOP of me, waking me up whenever I turned over. Now, my former roommate's cat would sometimes sleep at the foot of my bed too, but it wasn't a problem when I lived there, because when I turned over, the cat would just jump off the bed, or adjust accordingly. But this cat did NOT like it when I interrupted his sleep by requiring him to move. This led to me putting him in the living room, more demands by him to be let in, me putting him outside, or some combination of that.

Speaking of which, the cat often refused to let me move him, and responded by biting me while in the process. This of course led to me being startled and saying, "Ow!" (or something more profane, LOL), the cat being startled and running away, me putting him outside, etc. Basically an unpleasant experience for everyone.

Feeding time was also a challenge. The cat soon decided that the dry food was too ordinary for him. So I bought him greater amounts of wet food. But he soon tired of that too. He would go to the kitchen and meow for me to feed him. I would give him dry food. He would refuse to eat. I would open a can of wet food. He would eat a few bites and then walk away from it. He continued to demand something else. Now I am not stingy with my food. I like to eat and I appreciate a pet who likes to eat as well! So I would try to give him my table food. Some toppings from my pizza. A little piece of hamburger. Etc. He rejected almost everything. But he still meowed like he was crazy hungry. I seriously don't know what this cat wanted from me. Oh, and he stopped using his water bowl, which I kept full, and insisted on drinking from the toilet.

So the story seems to end with the cat acting very weird about coming up to my place. The weather has just gotten warm down here in the south, and the cat seems to be enjoying his days and nights outside. He did see me come home today and came up to my door. I opened it and he peered inside like everything was new to him. He'd been here a hundred times before and always rushed right in, so I don't know why he hesitated. Then he came in, snuck into the bathroom for the toilet water, and snuck into the dark bedroom. I came to find him and picked him up like I often do. He proceeded to bite me, not hard, but just hard enough for me to drop him. He ran to the front door and stood there. He wanted me to kick him out, the tricky little guy.

So I now realize that trying to tame a feral was kind of silly for an inexperienced cat person. I'm sure this cat was used to going where he pleased, eating what he pleased, and sleeping where and when he pleased, and my lifestyle seemed oppressive to him. But still, I am curious as to his behavior. Why did he demand food and then refuse to eat? What caused the biting? Why has he been so hesitant to come and visit lately? Is he just weirded out by the whole thing?
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-26-2011, 01:52 AM
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Grabbing your arm and biting without blood: normal
Sleeping habits: normal
Not liking to be picked up and moved: normal
Picky eater: normal
Can't decide whether he wants in or out: normal


Congratulations you have successfully tamed a feral!


No seriously though. All of these problems are normal 'tame' cat problems.

1. He was not taught to play nice, so when he bites, do what you were doing, say OW and then stop giving affection.

2. Cats love to sleep with people. That doesn't always mean they do it nicely. Some cats are bed hogs. You can either push them off until they learn, don't let them in your house or bedroom at night, or get used to it. (like the rest of us xD)

3. A LOT of cats don't like to be picked up. It makes them feel awkward, like they are going to fall. If you Have to pick up a cat, it is better to cup their feet in one hand so they feel more secure. (But you may never be able to get a cat to like it.)

4. Cats like variety. Try feeding either a combo of wet and dry Or dry one day, wet the other, Or different flavors of food.
Please don't give him table food though. It is full of preservatives, dyes, and carbs which are not good for cats.
Oh, and cats Know if you will give in and put down other food. You really just have to ignore the meowing and leave the food out and eventually they will eat it.
Drinking out of the toilet is probably due to that he likes fresher water. (I know.. toilet doesn't sound like fresher.. xD) Try a cat bowl that has running water.

5. Cats are weird like that... They will stand at your door and want in then out.. then in.. then out..
I usually just boot them out and leave them there. xD

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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-26-2011, 06:18 PM
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My (ex) feraL does not really like to be picked up. Tolerates. When he's had enough, he puts his teeth on my arm, but very tender. Early on he tried biting a few times, and I screamed NO. He doesn't like screaming.
I also cuffed at him when possible when he did it ( I mean when he didn't get away too fast). Like mom cat would do. I read that the only times ferals get picked up is when a predator has them, so it is very scary. Makes sense. You have to remember they have probably had experience only with other cats and with predators, or potential predators. I think you've really done well. He's not a ***** cat, he's a feral, and his outlook and reactions most likely will aways be different.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-27-2011, 05:18 AM
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Has he been fixed yet?

It may calm him down a little, jack would spray, growl and be relatively aggressive before he was cut. Afterwards, he's a ball of furry emotionally attached love.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-27-2011, 02:47 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Husky42 View Post
Has he been fixed yet?

It may calm him down a little, jack would spray, growl and be relatively aggressive before he was cut. Afterwards, he's a ball of furry emotionally attached love.
Yes he was fixed. The vet said that he was neutered at some point in the past, meaning he was either a former house cat, or he was part of the trap, neuter, and release program.

Poor little guy has been fighting one of the other animals in the neighborhood. He had a big gash on his side the other day, and today he is missing a patch of fur near his arm! I feel like I should just refuse to let him back out, but he will stand by the door and refuse to do anything else when he decides it's time to go back outside and be a feral.
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-27-2011, 03:35 PM
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He mostly sounds like a normal cat to me. He's not going outside to "be a feral", he's going outside because he's used to going outside. Any cat that is used to the outdoors will want back out there often. That's the way it is with any indoor/outdoor cat. What if someone told you "hey, you can't go outside any more?" -- I don't think you'd like that!

If you really don't want him back outside and are worried about his safety, buy things inside to keep him occupied (toys, cat condos), make sure he has a nice sunny window seat, and give him lots of attention. Most indoor/outdoor cats can learn to be indoor only, eventually. It just takes a lot of time, and a lot of meowing and scratching at the door before they adjust. You could also look into having him on a leash only when allowed outside, cats grow to expect this, so you'd have to be committed to giving him some outside time.


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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-28-2011, 12:42 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by MinkaMuffin View Post
Oh, and cats Know if you will give in and put down other food. You really just have to ignore the meowing and leave the food out and eventually they will eat it.
Thanks for the advice. I did exactly what you suggested regarding the food today. Opened a can and ignored the pleas for the better, magical food that the cat is certain exists somewhere. Lo and behold, the cat eventually gave up and ate the food I opened for him.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-28-2011, 01:51 AM
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I wouldn't say he was a feral. I'd say he was a stray, a street cat. Used to humans, but not to a domestic situation. Ferals are not used to humans and don't let you see or touch them, let alone lift them, before a very long time has passed if at all.

My strays behave very much in the way that a person raised in the street does. They lack the finesse, the rounded ends that house cats have. Naturally, they wouldn't be so easy to live with in my home. However, with time (and I mean years) and intensive work (without blaming yourself or him), I believe wonders can be achieved.

I wouldn't put him outside as a discipline measure. It conveys an "unwanted" message that is exactly what you're trying to erase from his mind, the feeling of being a street, unwanted cat. I'd use coldness, ignoring, as has been suggested above already.

All in all, for a street cat, he's very well behaved. And for an inexperienced cat tamer, you're doing wonderfully.

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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 04-28-2011, 06:11 AM
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Originally Posted by keithdoxen View Post
Thanks for the advice. I did exactly what you suggested regarding the food today. Opened a can and ignored the pleas for the better, magical food that the cat is certain exists somewhere. Lo and behold, the cat eventually gave up and ate the food I opened for him.
Hehe, you are welcome. ^^

The dog may be wonderful prose, but only the cat is poetry. - French Proverb
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