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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-18-2015, 11:02 AM Thread Starter
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Getting feral to use a shelter

Some background first. I live in a suburban neighborhood. There are all sorts of cats about, some free roaming, some pets that wander, some feral. I figure the pets are the ones who wander and visit during the day. The ferals are likely the visitors at dusk and throughout the night. The outside camera captures the images so it is easy to determine the frequency of visits, time of day and the identity. I have no idea where they go for shelter but would like to leave out one of those do it yourself shelters for the ferals. How do you entice the ferals to use the shelter once it is there? For now, an orange feral appears around midnight or just after sunrise, the visits are determined by the hissing at the window from the inside cats. He/she will wait for food, eat and quickly depart. This cat seems to be less fearful with me to the point that it will accept food off of a hand held spoon so I figure why not make the effort. Any thoughts?
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-18-2015, 11:32 AM
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you can put some catnip or food in the shelter you build to entice the feral to come in. A lot are attracted to catnip and food. Once they explore inside the shelter, they will know to use it. You can place it where there is no foot traffic. The ferals I care for now some are lazy to go anywhere and would hang out in the backyard or in the shelter house. They usually go hunting I suppose after their dinner because all would be gone for a few hours and then they all come back. If you provide a place where they feel it's safe, they will be there all day. I also leave 5 of those catit jumbo litter boxes out so they don't go in my garden. Also once the feral starts eating off of your hand/spoon, slowly touch it's back. The feral will let you since it's busy eating and will know how nice it feels to have it's back and head scratched. Once you develop this trust, the feral will slowly bond to you. Good Luck and thank you for helping the ferals.
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-18-2015, 11:50 AM
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Most ferals will not go into any sort of enclosed shelter, for fear of being trapped in. I have seen "feral beds", I think they were even called that, that were open in the front and the back, so that they had an easy escape. My feral would not even lay in a cat bed that had sides, only on something completely flat, and she has to be facing forward to see anything coming toward her. She LOVES this flat heated bed from K & H, it is a flat mat, about $35, and it only heats up when they lay on it, it goes off when they are not laying on it and it only heats up to 102. They are very low wattage and safe to leave plugged in. My feral sleeps in our garage during the winter, and she loves this mat. Funny thing, when she is in the garage, she absolutely will curl up in a regular cat bed with sides. I live in Florida, so it does not get too cold, but we do get temps in the 30's for a few weeks.

I think it's great that this kitty will take food off of a spoon. Patience has been the key in getting my feral to trust me. It took me 6 months to be able to lightly pet her tail as she was walking away. It was baby steps all the way to her letting us scratch her chin, and to pet her back, that took over a year to get to that point. Now, four years later, she JUST this week started jumping up into my lap. She wouldn't sit at first, and now she actually will sit and rub her head against me, and I have a feeling she will get more comfy on my lap soon and never want to leave

Those ferals in your neighborhood probably have somewhere that they go. Unfortunately, probably some of them crawl up into cars under the hood. I know my feral girl used to climb up into an RV that some neighbors had parked in their driveway, this was before she started sleeping in the garage. She also used to crawl into a space that was dug out (not sure if she did it or an armadillo maybe) underneath a neighbors shed. They always seem to find somewhere to go, although sometimes it's not the best place, like inside car engines.

It took a very long time to get my feral to come into the garage, in fact, I've been caring for her for 4 years now, and this is only the second winter she has been in there. Before that, she would sleep in a pile of blankets by the front door. But then she would take off sometimes because another cat would come around and hassle her, and she is very non-confrontational. I used to have to stay outside in the morning when I fed her to keep other cats from coming up and stealing her food. If you could get her to come into a garage or shed or screened porch, she might do it, and she'd probably feel a lot safer once she was in there. My little Arwen, she is quite at home now in the garage. I usually crack the garage around 9:00 pm, she comes right in, sometimes she meows for a few minutes, but then she settles right down and sleeps until the morning, when I feed her. On cold days, she stays in there all day long too. I would love to bring her in but I don't think she would stay in, and I have 4 inside cats, and she is very, very timid, I think two of them would be aggressive to her. And I'm not entirely sure of her health. But she is fixed, someone must have TNR'd her, she is ear tipped. To gain her trust, I just sat in a chair near where she ate and made no moves to pick her up, I just read a book or sat on my laptop. At first she would hiss at me, belly crawl toward the food, gobble it and run. She gradually got to where she would stick around and sit down after she ate the food, and now here we are four years later, with her now sitting in my lap, which I thought would NEVER happen. She still won't let me pick her up though, but I can half pick her up, under her front legs as long as the back ones stay on the ground.

Thank you for caring for this poor little thing.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-18-2015, 01:03 PM Thread Starter
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That heated bed is interesting. I don't plan on leaving the garage open but this might just work if it is out of the elements. We are predicted to be at -4 overnight either tonight or tomorrow. When that happens I try to get these cats as much as I can. Since I get to see this one it gets wet food. That way it also gets some fluid without having to eat snow. I am not sure about the whole spoon thing yet, its either trust or desperation. Since it had to get through the snow to get to the door this morning I am going with desperation. Anyway I get to test a theory as well. Every time it eats and sees me I use a clicker. The association seems to be taking hold very fast. My last feral, who is warming herself by the fire, responded to a low whistle. You could hear her charging through the yards every time she heard that whistle. She very quickly decided inside and fed was better than outside and hungry. Maybe that will be the case with this orange cat.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-18-2015, 03:43 PM
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That is a great idea, the clicker, and most ferals are so smart. I swear, my Arwen, she is smarter than some people, lol. Before I got the heated cat mat, I just put a heating pad out there, with a blanket over it, and she did sit on it on really cold nights. I did build her a feral shelter out of a rubbermaid container with a styrafoam container, the cheap ones, inside, cut a hole in that and the rubbermaid container, and put some warm blankets in it. I had put straw bedding in it, but she ended up not using that, but I believe if it had been as cold as it is going to be where you are, she probably would have used it. If you have a heating pad, I'd leave that out for her. It was not that hard to get Arwen to come into the garage when it was really cold out. She cried a bit at night, but quickly settled down and has learned that it is much better than outside in the cold. Best of luck to you.
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-18-2015, 11:47 PM
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Some cats do like having an exit in any containers...just offset the openings to cut down on drafts, I have a covered patio, and I draped one of those cargo pads/quilt things over it to cut down on any drafts, the cat knew it was there, she had checked it out! Once she was satisfied, there was an 'exit strategy' in place, she promptly moved in!
Good Luck!

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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-19-2015, 08:58 AM
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I have watched cats "case" a potential shelter. It is interesting to see them circle it. Leave then approach from different directions at different times of the day, to get a "feel" for it before moving in.

I have a rubbermaid shelter on my porch for a couple of strays that have been hanging around. It has only one door. Once the shelter was in place, the one of the strays promptly moved in. A Feral girl moved in with him. She is attached to him and takes her ques from him. I can't get near her. looking in her direction can send her into flight mode. But she lives in that shelter. I have watched both of them squeeze in and out of it. It didn't take much for him to move in. He was a former house cat, unfortunately abandoned. So he had a good idea what it was for instantly.


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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-19-2015, 10:51 AM Thread Starter
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Well the orange boy showed himself last night (he also showed his sex for the first time). He even seemed to enjoy the catnip I placed out there. I will have to give this shelter thing a try but he is on his own until the weekend.
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