Seeking advice about a stray - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-03-2013, 07:05 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Pennsylvania
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Exclamation Seeking advice about a stray

I'm completely inexperienced and ignorant about animals, as I've never had a pet, and was always a little bit afraid of them. THAT SAID ... This long-haired gray cat started coming around my house, every day, toward evening. He was very cautious and jumpy. I started feeding him. Now he is becoming a bit more comfortable. Comes here every evening, and seems to like me. He eats, voraciously, then lays on my back porch area, licks his paws, and talks a lot. He wants desperately to come in the house and begs/paws at the door.

It is now frigid/cold winter. I built an insulated shelter for him. It's been out there 3 days and I can't get him to go inside it. Very frustrating. I want him to be warm. There is something around his neck that just looks like an old, thin strip of plastic. I THINK he's a stray because he always emerges from this sewage hole in the back yard, always looks disheveled, and is always very hungry. A few questions ---

1.) Can a garage be a safe place for a cat to live? Or is that dangerous because of the hazardous things in it.. and the car? Can I just shut him in there overnight? Will he scratch/destroy my car?
2.) I can't get him to drink ANY water -- tap or bottled. He won't touch it!! What's up with that?? I thought they needed water to live.
3.) Maybe the entrance hole on my shelter is too small. I think it's like 5.5 (or so) inches diameter. Is that too small?
4.) He's becoming very friendly.. walks right up to me and wants to rub/cuddle on my leg. I'm scared to death as he's doing it, because I've read a LOT online about stray cats biting people. I DON'T want to get bit. I stand still and try not to make any sudden movements, because I don't want him to get scared and bite me. He seems starved for affection, and I feel bad for not petting him.. but I'm so paranoid about getting bit.
5.) I would like to get one of those outdoor heated mats for him. Do you know if those are safe.. not fire or electrical hazards? Are they worth investing in?

I would just like to help this creature to survive the winter. THANK YOU for any advice!
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-03-2013, 08:12 AM
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First thing, catch/trap/whatever and have it checked for a tag/chip. Maybe it belongs to someone.
If it's not fixed, fix it.
After that you have a lot of choices. A medical checkup would be nice. The cat would do fine in a garage. A little place tucked away with straw would make a nice home. Entrance/exit to the garage? Shutting it up might be ok for a short period of time, but probably wouldn't be very practical for long. I don't think that it would scratch your cat, but hey? I've got/had 4 cats in my garage and they haven't done anything to the car, but they like to lay on top of it. I put a moving blanket on top. Biggest potential problem is that they may get into the engine compartment so you'd have to check before you started the car.

Garage, shelter, sewer? The cat prob goes where it feels the most secure. Right now the sewer is home. There may be some reluctance to go into an enclosed space right now. The entrance is large enough. There are several low watt heating pads that would work. Don't use a "people" heating pad.

Bit/scratched. Ya pays yer money, ya takes yer chance. Yep, it might happen, but that's the biz. I don't think that a healthy cat is likely to just leap on you like in the movies though. If it's hurt or scared it might strike out of pain/fear. Keep putting out water.

Plenty of folks here who have been where you are. Good luck.

Last edited by lyle; 01-03-2013 at 08:14 AM.
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-03-2013, 09:05 AM
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I hate to say this friend, but once you started to feed it you've taken responsibility of it! The owners may be looking for it - check Craigslist and local newspaper ads and grocery store peg boards. Lyle is right: call a vet, borrow a cat/dog carrier from a neighbor/friend, explain the situation to the vet and see if there is a microchip and get a med eval done. Vet may charge a modest fee for an eval, but you are doing the cat (and you) a favor. Put on leather gloves when you handle the cat if you are paranoid about bites. If you decide to put it in the garage be sure there is no antifreeze or other hazardous stuff on the floor. You have a good heart, but may have just won the heart of this cat. Most of us were new to cats at one time or another. They can be addicting. If you don't have the $$$ to properly care for an animal long term, please ask the vet about options for him/her. Rescue this little guy and you may just have found your new BFF! This is the place to come for ongoing advice about care though. Keep us posted!
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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-04-2013, 09:26 PM
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This is similar to how I started out! A little stray kept coming around my porch, so I kept putting out food and water, and I grew quite fond of her. I knew nothing about cats so I was also afraid to pet her, but the week I put out the trap, I took a chance and softly petted her as she was next to me eating and I was surprised that she arched up and seemed to enjoy it. So I trapped her, took her to the vet to get spayed, but they discovered she was already spayed. Looked around for her owner (newspaper, Craigslist, etc) and called the county shelter to file a report, but no one ever claimed her.

Rescuing Josie was one of the best things I ever did. I love her so much and I'm now officially a "cat person."

Good luck!
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-04-2013, 11:11 PM
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Biting is always a risk if an animal has teeth, but given how friendly the cat seems, I'd say you're not super high risk for a bite. He's asking for affection, and showing you some. If you want to try petting him, I'd suggest you be sitting/squatted down, more at his level. As he's coming up to you, slowly stretch out your hand, so he can sniff it (like how you would greet a dog you don't know). If he's as friendly as you're describing, most likely he'll rub his cheek on your fingers. He'll do the "work" and you hardly need to move your fingers at all. If he doesn't come up to your hand, or walks away without sniffing/rubbing it, then you can just leave him alone. He'll tell you, if you listen.

The worst thing you can do is be nervous. He'll pick up on your anxiety. If you're too afraid, perhaps someone else could make that first contact for you?

Do you have any "cat" friends? Anyone in your life who's good with cats and could come greet him for you? Maybe look him over? Sometimes just being confidently handled by someone who's not afraid and knows what they're doing can work wonders.

I foster lots, and so I constantly have "new" cats with unknown histories. Most of them very protective mothers with kittens and crazy hormones. Letting them sniff your hand, and come up to you on their own terms is what works well for me. Also, while I've been scratched some, I've never been bit. Generally cats don't go to "bite" as their first reaction. First reaction is usually "run away." If they can't, "growl" or "scratch" are still generally above "bite."

Regarding him not using the shelter:...first thing you have to know about cats is that they won't do something just because we want them to. In fact, if they know we want something, the frequently like do to just the opposite. It's kind of funny and cute, except when it's your cat that won't behave.

A garage can be a safe place to live, if you pick up the things that are dangerous. In my garage, the chemicals and things cats shouldn't eat are kept on the top shelves. However, if this cat is truly a stray and has never used a litter box, you'll have to be prepared for there to be messes. If you won't deal with that, then locking him in the garage probably isn't the best idea. If you keep your car in there, make sure you locate the kitty always before you start it, as engines can kill cats if you turn it on while he's sleeping up there.

Keep offering water, but if he's been on his own a while, he probably has other sources. it's worth offering, but don't freak out if he won't drink it. You could try putting a little tuna or something else yummy smelling in the water to make it more enticing.
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-04-2013, 11:15 PM
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Also, I've never seen a cat scratch on the outside/paint of a car. Occasionally I'll see them use the tires, but their claws aren't big/strong enough to do any damage. The most trouble my cats have ever given me regarding my car is to leave big muddy paw prints on the windshield.
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-05-2013, 02:09 AM
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You've gotten excellent tips from other posters. I'll just comment on the heated pad and the shelter.

About why he won't use the shelter: I have read that some cats feel trapped. There are shelters that have a second entry/exit. That might be the case. However, if you put a heated pad in there, I'll bet he has a hard time resisting, especially if it's in a place where it would be difficult for other critters to get at.

I have an outdoor heated pad for my stray, and he absolutely loves it. I believe it's the one of the only heated pads (if not the only one) that's ok for outdoor use. It's called Lectrosoft. A google search turned up this place as the cheapest: K&H Pet Products Lectro Soft Heated Outdoor Bed Heated Dog Beds

This is the 3rd winter I've been using it and I've had no problems. The cord is wrapped in wire so it can't get chewed through. Since my outdoor outlet isn't working, I have it plugged into an extension cord and run it through my back door. I haven't noticed that my electric bills are particularly high in the winter, so it can't use all that much electricity.

Don't get discouraged if he doesn't respond to your attempts to take care of him. He's getting more comfortable with you but for the moment, he's going with what he knows is safe for him. Good luck and thanks for looking out for him!
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-05-2013, 04:54 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Pennsylvania
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THANK YOU to all responders, for a lot of great advice!! Well, the first thing I am going to do is conduct a search for the possible owner. The white thing around his neck turned out to be a flea collar. (Oh, it might help to mention -- I am in Pennsylvania, near the Pittsburgh airport)

I've placed an ad on Craigslist ---
I Found a Beautiful Gray Cat in Hopewell

I will attempt to attach a couple of pics. I am calling him "Puffy".

I will keep you posted on this crazy adventure...
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Last edited by Newbie222; 01-05-2013 at 04:57 PM. Reason: forgot to mention something important
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-05-2013, 05:06 PM
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You could also put the ad in the Pets section, maybe someone will recognize their neighbor's/friend's cat.

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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 01-05-2013, 06:24 PM
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I like the name - generic enough for either sex!! He/she (have you looked??) is very handsome/pretty. It sounds affectionate enough to pick up and give a cuddle. Who knows, you might just get a new best friend if it doesn't get claimed. Good job with the posting! My local newspaper will run lost pet ads in the classified section for free. Check your paper.

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