What to do....or leave well enough alone? - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-26-2013, 08:32 AM Thread Starter
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What to do....or leave well enough alone?

Ok, I have taken care of Arwen, my feral girl, for about a year and a half, although I know she has been living in my relatively quiet neighborhood for at least 3 years, perhaps longer. My neighbor across the street believes she was born in her azalea hedge about that long ago, and that a neighbor that lives in the cul de sac across from me, used to have random cats roaming that had babies regularly and just let them roam. Well, apparently, either someone in the neighborhood, or possibly that neighbor that had the random cats, must have taken some of the cats in to be fixed because she is ear tipped, never been pregnant, so we assume she was taken to a vet at least once. She seemed completely feral though, but has come around to me, and now my hubby. We live on a very quiet street, she hangs comfortably in my yard and several other yards where neighbors are very familiar with her, they all know she is sort of the neighborhood cat that mostly I feed and take care of.

We have thought about bringing her in, but we have 3 inside cats already, NOT by choice even, they all found me and we are over limit as it is. But that is not what keeps me from bringing her in. Even from the get go, I thought possibly that this cat might either possibly be felv + or worse. There was one time when she was lethargic, didn't eat for a few days, I was worried, this was almost a year ago though, and she has not done that since. She is sometimes very bloated, and I have seen tapeworms, and I worm her now and then, but it seems like a hard battle to fight, that they come back a lot (I use drontal), and I regularly put revolution on her for fleas. We have been letting her into our garage, although she is very nervous even coming in there, possibly though since my husband is usually tinkering with something in there and noises scare her, but we are hoping that this winter she will spend more time in there, but we are in FL, and the winters are not that bad and she usually takes up residence under my neighbors shed on really cold nights, which they are fine with.

I am terrified that if I trap her and take her to the vet, 1. She is going to flip, and 2. I am going to betray her trust that I have worked so long and hard to gain...and now she has even gained my husbands trust. I am agonizing over this. If I do trap her, I know my vet said that they can sedate her in the crate with gas without even removing her from it, which they said is less stressful, but that sounds scary to me. My husband thinks it is a bad idea to bring her in, that it would upset her too much, that she has a good life now as it is, but I am second guessing myself. She had a little swelling around her mouth the other day, possibly a rodent ulcer (from what I read) but I'm not sure about that, and the swelling is now down and looks normal, and she is eating fine and otherwise seems fine. I don't think this girl could ever be inside though, I just don't think she would even know what to do, and it would freak her out so badly, and she would want to be in indoor/outdoor cat, which I am totally uncomfortable with since I have 3 indoor cats that are healthy.

What to do??? I feel l like I'm failing her in a way, and then my husband is like, you are doing more for her than she has ever had, feeding her, etc. But I know she could use some more shots too, although at this point, if she is felv + or worse, what good would it even do? The last thing I want to do is stress her or lose her trust. I know I have had this dilemma about this same cat, sorry if I am redundant. It is just something that keeps me up at nights sometimes. My husband and I have already agreed that if something bad did happen to her, and she shows up really sick or hurt, we will have to trap her and get her into a vet, but I almost feel like I'm waiting for that? Which seems awful. Then again, is it ok to just let her live the only life she has ever known, she is obviously TNR, so she has had shots at least once and fixed, do I just leave her as she is, comfortable and seemingly happy with the way her life is, or stress her out and trap her and risk losing her trust? I seriously do not know what to do. I just know how much I love her. Oh, and she has never made an aggressive move towards other cats outside, she will literally step aside if another cat comes along, rather than fight it, and my cats look at her in the window all the time, and there seems to be no real stress from any of the cats, but obviously Beep (my vicious NON cat friendly cat) would never accept her, although Taffy would (5yo male) but Stephano (1yo total pain in the butt stuck in kitten mode) would likely annoy the crap out of her and try to play with her.....something she has NO idea how to do, and I think it would freak her out.

Beating my head slowly on the table thinking about this........
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-26-2013, 01:00 PM
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Hmmm. How about paying for the visit but having another kind neighbor bring her in for you? Give them a nice bottle of wine for their efforts! Arwen won't associate you with the unpleasant experience and you will have the peace of mind of knowing she's been seen. Make sure the vet knows she is feral.

If you live on a quite street in Orlando she is probably fine staying outside. If you lived in Canada or up north I'd say she might benefit from a warm home during the winter but in your case the weather is never too bad.

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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-26-2013, 01:01 PM
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I understand how stressful your situation is, I've been there, and I'm sorry you're going through this. Your instincts are correct. If Arwen were a stray or even semi-feral, it might be worth bringing her in to try socializing her, but from what you've mentioned about her in previous posts, it seems much more likely that she was born a feral kitten, and the only life she's ever known has been lived outside with minimal human contact. It's absolutely wonderful that Arwen has come to trust and rely on you and your husband, and I see no problem with allowing her access to your garage, but if I were in your situation, I probably wouldn't choose to bring her inside. As much as you love Arwen, it's not fair to your other kitties to bring in another cat if doing so presents a potentially serious health risk. With Beep being as anti-social as he is, having a new cat in the house could very well make that situation worse too.

As you've experienced with Arwen, feral cats can take a long time to learn to trust a person, and their trust only extends to the one or two people who have taken the time to gain it. Trapping a feral cat does damage that trust to a degree, although trapping with an actual feral cat trap helps to lessen the association between you and the experience of being trapped, as the human is not directly involved in the same way they are when attempting to trap a cat in a carrier. I do agree that you should trap Arwen if she's ever in obvious medical distress though, regardless of how she feels about you afterwards.

Cats with FeLV can live happy, healthy lives for years, even as ferals living in managed colonies, but if you're concerned about Arwen's overall health, you could always try mixing supplemental vitamins and/or L-Lysine into her food, as this might help to boost her immune response and better fight off viruses and infections.

Another thing you could do, in leu of bringing Arwen into your house, is to create a cat-friendly space for her in the garage (which you may have done already) to encourage her to spend more time in there and less time out roaming and making you worry. A cat tree or cat shelves in an area of the garage where she seems naturally more comfortable, an additional bowl of food and water dish, even a feral cat shelter filled with straw where she can feel both comfortable and concealled might make her feel more inclined to share the garage with your husband.

Some "feral" cats are socializeable enough that they can make the transition to being a sweet, friendly house cat, some aren't, and it's not always clear at first which ones are which. Most of the fosters I've taken in have been semi-feral colony cats that I felt were socializeable, and all of them are now living as indoor-only cats, so, yes, it is possible to bring cats like Arwen around sometimes. But, when I foster, I do so knowing that I risk being stuck with a semi-feral cat for life. I also get every cat vetted, including spay/neuter, basic vaccinations, microchip, flea meds, deworming, snap testing and, often, blood work, prior to ever bringing the cat into the house where it could potentially escape the isolation room and come in contact with my own cats. I choose to do this for my own piece of mind, but it is by no means inexpensive.

I know it's hard to see a cat that you care so much about seemingly struggle to survive in the great outdoors, but Arwen probably hasn't ever known anything different. Just the fact that you and your husband have invested the time and effort into providing for and creating a bond with her has, I'm sure, improved her life emmensely. Please don't feel guilty.

Proud people-mommy of Galileo, Dante, Cosette, Autumn,
Ramona & Choco-cat (and foster kitty, Poe).

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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-26-2013, 01:38 PM
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I think Marcia has a brilliant idea.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-26-2013, 01:54 PM
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I agree with your husband, but if it bothers you so much that you can't sleep, try what Marcia said. or even try to see if there's a mobile vet that deals with mostly ferals who could come out where you live and check it out. (and still have it done not at your house and don't be there so she doesn't associate the incident with you.)
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-27-2013, 11:50 AM
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I had the same dilema with my Ben last year. We did decide to trap her (she also was fixed - ear tipped, but was outside at my house for over a year). We decided this because our winters are very cold, she survived the first one, but we knew she might not again. I don't have any regrets about bringing her in. I also could not touch her at the time. We brought her right to the vets, had all her shots and tests done, and we had a room with a screen door already for her. She has come a long way, it took a very long time, it has been a year now. She sits on my lap when I sit on the floor, I can pet her anywhere when she sits on me. She seems happy and content. I have debated on letting her interact with my 16 year old himalayn cat, but he is very frail at this time, and I am nervous about that.
They sit nose to nose at her door, so they have some contact. I am in the room with her alot, she interacts with us throughout the day. I didn't have any idea what to expect, never having done this before, but I didn't want her to spend another winter outside in 0 degree weather. I don't regret it at all, it was and still is alot of work, but the progress she has made has been worth it, I have learned that this requires alot of patience!!! Small, small baby steps!!
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-27-2013, 01:00 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for all of the advice. I listened to every bit of it, as this is something I struggle with constantly. For the most part, I feel like our situation is ok, since she is in Florida, and we actually are trying to get her to stay in the garage more, and I think if we can get her in there when it's winter outside, that would be even better. We do have a few nights of lows in the 30's on occasion, but it does usually warm up to at least 50 the next day....that is about as cold as it gets here, and not that often. Last year though, I sat out there with her and a heating pad, which she would only cuddle near, and she woulds shiver and I would cry and pet her. She wouldn't even come in the house those few times, even when I opened the door for her, but hopefully this year she can make herself comfy in the garage.

If she gets sick or hurt, we know we trap her, no matter what. I like the idea of putting some L-lysine in her food. I have seen the product at Petco, although I am not familiar with how much to use, but I will read up on that, a good idea.

Thank you again for the replies. I do love this girl so much.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-27-2013, 03:17 PM
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Amazon had cat treat with the lysine, my little feral loved them!
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-27-2013, 04:15 PM
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You are much further along than I am with Mooch, our feral. I would trap her if possible. I think you will find the trust will be returned. Mooch has been eating at my house for about 18 months. He remains untrappable and untouchable. I have managed to worm him but with each passing month he is a bit more beat up. Despite eating 2 cans a day he remains thin. Since we cannot coax him into a trap he remains un neutered. Over the last 12 months he has lost a lower canine tooth. Several weeks ago he suffered a scratch to his eye which has caused in injury that is long lasting. His pupils are un equal which could be from the injury or a disease. That being said, if you can trap your feral, do so. I know I would.
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