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Discussion Starter #1
I have had my little feral in the house now for almost 3 years. She will sit on my lap, let me pet her all over and give her kisses, she also head buts me, but only in her room. She now has the run of the house, I was wondering if she will ever feel totally "comfortable" in the house, or if this is the best I can hope for? I know I have read in some cases it can take up to 5 years for them to be totally domesticated. She likes to look outside, and I wonder if she will ever lose the urge to go outside? She had no human contact when I trapped her when she was over a year old. How long has it taken some of you for your ferals to come around? Thanks for any information!
Sally
 

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My 10 year old former feral female too a long time to fully domesticate. Her preferred method of communication remains to this day a purr or a hiss. She does however seek out and enjoy laps. When we figured out how food focused she was treats became a way of altering her behavior. She will never be a companion like a kitten raised in a home, but overall she isn't bad. It sounds like you are doing just fine.
 

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Read this post by Heidi on Kitty Boot Camp. Many of us who work with cats who are semi feral (probably once someones cat but abandoned outside and now skiddish) use the technics to bring them around to be adoptable or a member of our cat family. I have a feral that wouldn't let us near him or touch him for two years. Gradually made his way into the house and we used the technics to bring him to a point of he will let me do anything.... yes anything to him. Good luck with your precious rescue!
 

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Milady, a stray that lives in the building parking lot, is about 10 y/o. She was always used to humans but never let anyone touch her, not even those who feed her. Not even me, who spend about 1 full hour with her every day (4.5 years now) and pamper her more than many house cats. I just lost hope and accepted that's the way she is and will always be like that. About 1 month ago, she suddenly changed her mind and now she won't give me a respite, she's constantly on me for petting. It doesn't surprise me because I've always said cats don't change gradually but in sudden leaps of trust. They study the situation and prepare for the big day, sometimes for many years.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
That is exactly what I found with mine!, out of the blue one day (now two years ago), she sat in my lap. I find that when she changes for the better, it is usually "out of the blue". Maybe she has been thinking about it for a long time and decides the time is just right. I have not given up hope that someday she will be a "domesticate" cat, if not, that's all right too, I will love her just the same!!! She is doing better and better every day, will follow me from room to room. I am waiting for the day where I can reach down from standing and pet her!! As I said when I took her in 3 years ago, I have nothing but time to give her, so howevery long it takes----!!
 

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In what ways is she still feral?
 

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My house cat Nikita, adopted at around 2-3 y/o, is still changing and has a long way to go. She suddenly jumped into my lap one day after about 1 year of living with us. And she stopped going back to her territory in the street and staying there for days only a few months ago. After 3 years she started letting me touch her tummy, and even lift her.

My 3 house cats are adopted straight from the street here downstairs. I'll know for example that touching paws is off-limits so I won't do it, then one day after a very long time, even a year or longer, I do it and it's welcome. Who knows when along the way it became ok.

Nikita is still a bit feral. She only recently after about 3.5 years stopped attacking the other cats when feeling threatened at the drop of a hat. She's only now exploring high places in the house and lounging in them. And I'm sure she'll still change a lot.

It's not just time, it's also constant reassurance along the years that ends up convincing them that something is safe to try.

One of my strays, who sits on my lap for hours on the park bench, has only recently after 4 years stopped attacking my hand when I stroke her head me standing and she sitting, i.e. from above. It's taken years for some of the strays downstairs to try out and love the cushions I place for them during feeding hour.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I don't know if this is "classfied" as feral, but she startles very easily - noises, especially people, she is only comfortable with me, she is still very weary of my husband and will usually run when she sees him, sometimes she stays in the same room as him, but very weary - I am training HIM, to talk to her softly, blink the eyes and so on. I can pat her only when I am sitting on the floor in her room, she sits on my lap and lets me pat her all over and she will give me kisses and head buts when she is on my lap, but any kind of petting other than the usual and she will back off. She will curl up on my lap while I sit on the floor and sleep. I usually do this several times a day. I am trying to get her to come to my hand when I am standing, especially in the other rooms, she does follow me from room to room and will usually come when I call her. But again anything out of the ordinary she will run. She has only scratched me once in the three years she has been in, and that was my fault, I put my face down to hers when she was only in the house a few weeks, and she let me have it!! Other than that she is not agressive. I cannot pick her up, but the my niece who is a vet tech can, but she doesn't like it. I am trying to get to the day where I can pick her up, she has to have medicine put on her lip when it flares up, and she won't let me do it, so my niece comes over and puts it on. I have my grandkids over and she will hide for a while, but then I start to see her coming out of her room, nobody can get close to her but me though.
I think maybe this is semi-feral?, I have never had a feral before or have done anything like this before, so any input is welcome!!
 

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Yes, those are the behaviors I call "ritualistic" - as you say, very specific contact in very specific situations, anything else startles them. It does get better, a lot better, with the years. I remember how I could sense the tension in the air when they were new and sat all around me in the living room. I don't know if it's called feral, it's just the product of the street life. Chances are she was older than 1 year old when you adopted her.

To me, one of the big pleasures in life is to see how they become more and more at ease. For about 2 years, Nikita would attack anything that moved above her. I'd always tell her she was at home, safe, and had the luxury now to check first if it was some danger. Nowadays that's exactly what she does - she checks first, never attacks.
 

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Things that helped in the moment but also for the long run:

- Brushing her jowls with a small slicker brush while she's on my lap, for quite a long time, once or twice a day. This is very relaxing to cats and makes them less defensive, enough to explore a tiny new activity or behavior.

- Playing with the Cat Catcher, a very small and expensive toy but that is the one big hit among cats (thus the price) and is a true gem for bonding, relaxation and confidence building, also getting comfortable in more areas of the house. The fact that it's so small is what anxious cats find reassuring and fun. Nikita was afraid even of toy mice.

- Sitting next to her on the floor when she's upset and just looking in the direction she's looking, imitating her position a bit, and just relaxing.

- Standing by her when she feels threatened by someone, standing between her and the threatening person/animal. This worked like a charm because she learned what I always told her, that she's not alone to defend herself anymore, now we are 2 defending her, she has double protection.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thank you Strays Mommy for all the advice, having never done this before I appreciate it. You are right, she very well could have been over a year old, I would say somewhere between 1 and 2. She is coming along ok, wish it was faster, but I know it is a slow go. I pray that eventually she will become as comfortable in her home as my other cats were! I am letting her go at her own pace, I try not to push her too much, just a very little at a time.
 

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It's insignificant, ultra expensive for what it is, you have to buy a new one every few months, it's totally ugly to us, but most cats agree it's the best cat toy ever. :) I once had a 22 y/o cat that hadn't played in years go berserk with it.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I'll be getting one of those!! She plays be herself, but is afraid of playing with me, will be trying this!
 

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I buy the one that goes with the Da Bird wand, it's a lot more comfortable to use and more fun. And a Da Bird wand and feathers is another toy that cats go crazy about, I consider it another must in a home with cats.

You can hide behind a corner and make the little thing (Cat Catcher) scurry around the corner, the string is so long that you needn't be any close to her while you move it and she plays with it. I also shake the wand so the little attachment will go up to where the cat is perching (atop the kitchen cabinets or his tree), he'll play with it while I'm far from him, down there, just moving the wand.
 

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Another one if she's scared of interactive play: get a big cardboard box, cut out holes in it and while she feels safe inside the box, poke a toy (on a wand, to guard your fingers) in and out of the holes for her to catch.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thank you for all the hints - much appreciated, just ordered the cat catcher, will let you know how she likes it, I'm betting she will!!!!
 

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Yay, looking forward to the update!
 
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