Making progress with my feral cat...am I doing it right though? - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
 
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-01-2013, 12:24 PM Thread Starter
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Making progress with my feral cat...am I doing it right though?

I've had my feral cat, Bailey, for about 3 weeks now. She is 1 and she currently lives in an empty 400 ft. turkey house with her 3 month old kitten, and my two 8-week old kittens who are siblings.
The 3 youngest ones are completely tame. They love people and are super loving to people and each other. Bailey started out terrified of people and I couldn't even look at her or speak without her running and hiding in the engine of a truck.
About 2 weeks ago I was able to catch her and pick her up. I don't think she had ever been held or even petted before so she was quite nervous, but she stayed on my lap for about 20 minutes before she ran off and hid. I made it a point to catch her and give her attention at least once a day and now whenever I walk into the turkey house she comes running towards me and meowing. She won't come all the way up to me and when I walk towards her she will make me follow her for a few feet before she'll stand still, but once she stops she starts purring and rubbing up against me while I pet her. I'm a little confused over the fact that at first she acts like she doesn't want me to touch her, but when I do she acts just like my tame cats. Very loving and happy.
Am I doing all I should? Is there anything I shouldn't do or do differently? At what point can I let her roam outside? My goal was to get her bonded enough to me so I can let her roam the property (I have 31 acres) but she'll stay close so I can keep her safe and fed.
I'm actually debating keeping all the cats in the turkey house indefinitely. That wasn't my initial plan but I'm worried about them running off, or getting hurt by hawks or my German shepherds that roam. In the turkey house they have toys, things to climb, bugs to chase, food, sunlight, water, fresh air, etc. Would it be cruel to keep them in there long-term? I know they are content, whenever I see them they are playing and running around. I want them to be as happy and safe as possible.
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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-01-2013, 12:31 PM Thread Starter
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Oh, what is also confusing is that when I am petting her she gets into it but then she decides she's had enough then runs away and glares at me. But then a few minutes later she goes back to meowing for attention again. I swear the goofy cat has bipolar lol.
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-01-2013, 12:36 PM
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It sounds like Bailey is doing great!

The reason she's not coming all the way up to you is likely two things; she's still cautious and her instincts are saying to take it easy, and that you're BIG to a little nervous kitty!

Rather than walking to her walk to the point where you can see her think about turning and moving away, but rather than following her kneel down and offer a treat. It will probably take a few times before she'll come right up to you, but by making yourself smaller you'll seem less threatening and the treat will really encourage her to come to you.

Personally I wouldn't 'chase' her, but sit and let her come all the way to me. That'll build her confidence quicker than anything. Once she's running all the way up to you try it when you're standing, and offer treats that way but don't move towards her. Eventually she'll feel much more comfortable with you moving towards her, but building that kind of trust in an animal who has likely been chased by scary things in the past takes time.

As far as what to do with them....Here's my opinion.

Outdoor cats live on average 7-10 years (the stats vary widely depending on where you get them from) and indoor cats live on average 15-18 years, can be as long as 20-21!

The reason the average of outdoor cats is so low (IMO, not a scientist...just what I've observed and heard) is because of the first few years. Most indoor/outdoor, outdoor, and feral cats don't make it past 3 years old. Ferals have a much higher chance because their mothers will guide them and help them learn what's dangerous, and their feral instincts always put caution first...but it's still a very high mortality rate.

Out of your cats they're all under 3. Bailey, raised outside, probably has the best chance of making it and the kittens can learn from her...but TBH I wouldn't be shocked if outdoor living left you with 1/2 the cats you currently have, if not less.

Personally, I would bring them all in, or the kittens at least. I have my four inside and they're all perfectly happy with it. I just couldn't reconcile myself to the risk of losing any of them...so they never went out.

I was considering having an indoor/outdoor tom years back (before I got the boys), but he was a 3 year old male who had been living outside as a feral (kinda...) his whole life. Raised by a completely feral mother in a safe-ish area when he knew all the risks and places to stay away from. I didn't keep him because Jitzu wouldn't accept him at ALL. (Instead I had him and his brother neutered and Tommy went to a nice family who kept him inside. His brother was more wild and he's still living as a feral in the colony I was caring for at the time.)

That's about the only way I could see myself having an indoor/outdoor cat, is if they wandered up and were already comfortable that way. But I'd still worry constantly.

Anyways, that was longer than intended. Short answer: take them inside.
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-01-2013, 12:39 PM
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You posted again as I was typing.

What you're describing is common in cats and is called 'over stimulation'. You're actually lucky because it's pretty common for cats who become oer stimulated to chomp and scratch when they've had enough.

The fix is basically for you to not pet her so much at once. Watch her ears and back; when her ears start flicking back to you, or if she makes airplane ears, or if the fur on her back ripples and her tail lashes those are all signs she's had enough and is becoming too sensitive. Give her a short break, ideally before she decides she needs to run off, and then you can pet her again.

Also don't pet her roughly or vigarously, she may just want more gentle petting...and probably for you not to touch her tail, lol. Some cats like their tail and rear to be petted, others don't. My four are evenly split; two who don't mind having their tail and rear petted, and two who HATE it.
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-01-2013, 01:21 PM
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I think you are making good progress too. I have a feral girl, Arwen, I've been caring for her for almost two years, although she has lived in my neighborhood for about 5 years (our best guess), possibly longer. It took me months before she would even come close to me. However, she was a grown cat, I'm guessing that with kittens you probably need to be a lot more hands on with them while they are little, to socialize them. With a grown feral, you just have to be really patient and let them know that you are not going to hurt them, and you have to earn their trust. You don't make moves towards them at all, you let them come to you. It took a few weeks before Arwen would even eat in my presence, and the first time she did, and this was about 10 feet away from me, she belly crawled to her food bowl and she shook all over while she ate, and then she bolted. But every day got a little better. I never made any moves towards her. She eventually started to stick around and lick her paws after she ate, when she saw that I wasn't going to rush after her. EVentually she brushed up against my leg, and that was a huge step for her. It took close to a year before I could pet her. Now two years later, I can pet her, I can scratch her chin, she has jumped into my lap a few times, but I can't pick her up. I am lucky, I live in FL, so it doesn't get super cold here, we do have a bit of weather where it gets into the 30's in the evenings, but that's the worst of it usually, and she sleeps under my neighbors shed on those nights. She won't even come into my garage.

Sorry to ramble about my cat, I just wanted to say that with an adult feral, if you are patient and let her come to you and you don't try to hard to make contact with her, but let her come to you....and she totally will if you are feeding her and she doesn't see you as a threat. I have no experience with feral kittens though, I would think with those you would want to bring them in and socialize them if yo uhave any hope of adopting them out or just you being able to handle them at all. Otherwise they will probably remain wild little cats that you will never be able to handle. I would bring them in if you can, for the winter at least. Poor little babies.

Good luck and thank you for taking care of these poor little helpless kitties.
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-01-2013, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by ChasingRainbows View Post
I'm actually debating keeping all the cats in the turkey house indefinitely. That wasn't my initial plan but I'm worried about them running off, or getting hurt by hawks or my German shepherds that roam.
Where they are isn't a long term solution. Outdoors is never that safe either, but some cats that have become used to it you cannot break them of it. Others learn to be smart outdoors or don't wander far and can live a long life. Blacky came to us as an outdoor cat and there's no way we're taking that from her, she is street smart.

However kittens likely aren't so much... for example, my uncle has a hobby farm and got about 5 kittens from a litter... today, which is about 3 years later, he only has two. One was eaten by a hawk, another a coyote, another I believe had some chemical poisoning. I feel a lot of cats will die at a young age outdoors, and those that make it past, say, 3 or 4 could go on to live a long life. But there's a lot to learn out there and many cats aren't cut out for it.

In fact if the kittens are young I would consider rehoming them if you can find someone that will give them an indoor life. Places like Craigslist you can list them. Kittens are easy to find homes for compared to adults so move on that ASAP.

The German Shepherds, if you don't trust them with cats, give me nightmares just thinking about. Not a good mix, they are prey driven.

The feral mother you're doing very well with. It sounds like she could become an indoor cat in a short period of time. A few months or maybe less. If you are set on letting her be an outdoor cat, give it at least until she is happy and at ease around you all the time, you will know when that is by her body language. If you let her outside now she could easily revert to how she was before. Plus, it's coming up to winter! I think being in there is better than outside for now.

I would spend as much time in there as you can, hand feed her treats, let her come to you, read a book aloud, bring a laptop or something in there to pass the time... leave a radio on while you're gone. Talk softly and don't make eye contact, move slowly. If you're worried about her biting, wear some sort of protection on your hands (leather gloves, oven mitts... or both!), cat bites can be very serious.

Last year around this time I had Jasper in the garage as an aggressive semi-feral cat (there's threads in this section on Jasper), even after he was pretty tame he stayed in there and we slowly introduced him to the house... he was in there roughly 5 months total.


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Last edited by Carmel; 11-01-2013 at 02:59 PM.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 11-01-2013, 04:02 PM Thread Starter
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I got them on Craigslist. They were all street cats and have been outside forever. I have 2 indoor cats that are not receptive at all to other cats and because of that my parents won't let anymore cats live inside. The 2 littlest kittens come in when it's cold and when they are inside they are in a bathroom or my bedroom. My outdoor kitties will be indoor-outdoor once my fiancÚ and I get married and have our own place.
My German shepherds have all been around cats and kittens. They just try and play.
The turkey house is huge. 400 feet long and probably 200 feet wide. Half of the sides is

With Bailey, I don't full on chase her. I may have phrased it wrong. I walk slowly up to her and then when I get close enough to reach her I crouch down. I don't restrain her at all and I don't go up to her every time I'm around the cats. I don't want her thinking that every time she sees me I'm going to touch her. She definitely wants attention. When I walk in the turkey house she comes running and meows. And when I am petting her she purrs, closes her eyes, rubs up against me, and rolls on the ground. Bailey and Hallie (the 3 month old) are getting spayed, microchipped, exams, shots, and their ears tipped in a couple weeks.
If I'm able to let them all roam soon (obviously after spays, shots, and microchipping) I will put a cat door in the side of the turkey house so they can still have an "indoor-outdoor setting".
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