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Four months ago I took in two ferals who had been hanging around in our yard. One was just weary of people but got over it within a few weeks. However, the other one who was about 6-8 months old, was completely feral and fearful of people.

We believe the "stray" was dumped out here a long time ago and the "feral" is her kitten. (Names are Gimley and Gandalf).

Anyways, he was obviously passed the feral kitten stage to pretty much adult. But after working with him almost daily for a few months he suddenly switched. It was an overnight thing. One day he was running from people in terror and the next he was begging for attention! Basically he let me full on pet him for the first time and he realized how amazing it feels ;) and bam, no longer feral.

It saddens me that people and especially shelters give up on ferals quickly or give them no chance at all.. I think most of them would eventually be tamed. But of course with all the friendlies out there, I can see why they don't bother..

Still sad.

Here's the kitties I saved:

 

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Oh yay for you!

My grandma has a garage and people would dump cats there all the time. I tried so hard to tame the ferals. I have a scar on my arm from trying to pet one.

The shelter thought my Moosey was a feral, but she is the sweetest.
 

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i agree that almost all feral cats can be socialized, at least to a degree. the obvious variable is how feral they are, meaning are they an older cat that was born feral, a cat that was dumped and has become feral, a younger cat that was born feral but has had some interaction with humans, etc.

the former feral that is sleeping on my lap right now (my avatar) was about four years old when i trapped her and started the socialization process. she spent nearly five months in a dog cage as i worked with her and even now, over a year and a half since she left her cage she still will not let anyone but me get near her.

most people are not willing to put in the time required to socialize a feral cat, they may "want a cat" but socializing a cat that was/is on the higher end of the "feralness scale" is a lot of time/work/patience/dedication.


good for you, you have saved lives and will be rewarded with the most dedicated cats you could ever imagine.

PS- they are beautiful!
 

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I agree to a point. It definitely depends on how feral they are, there are different degrees, and it totally depends on their unknown background. Some can become tame in a matter of weeks, others months, others years. Some can be around people the rest of their life and never become properly tame, maybe they've been abused or on the street too long, or had no human interaction in the past. Some cats to start with just aren't as friendly, it could be genetic as well. Some are so feral you never even know they're outdoors, they aren't going to show their face when they know there's a human around.

I've got one on my bed that took a year to allow me to pet her and another one in the garage downstairs that has come a long way in the last few months - I still wear leather gloves and oven mitts around him.

It can be dangerous taming a feral, their scratches and especially their bites can be very serious, scratches can cause cat scratch disease and deep bite wounds can lead to blood poisoning as cat mouths are full of bacteria, I've known people that have received both from cats. I'm pretty sure I've got a a few scars on my hand from the kitty in the garage, too. Even with gloves I wasn't totally safe.

It's also a lot of work so it's only for those that are ready to be fully dedicated to the process. It can be very discouraging, especially at first. Often a previous feral cat will not warm up to most people - ever, and when you pass that cat along to someone else, that other person would have to be willing to work on socializing that cat all over again. Most people opt for the more sociable ones to start with, as shelters are crowded, there sadly isn't time to tame them all... I can't blame them, it isn't for everyone. It is, however, a very commendable thing to do. Good for you!
 

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This thread reminds me of my little femal feral Ben, she was about 1 1/2 yrs. old when I trapped her 4 months ago, I don't believe she had any human contact, now I'm working with her in her room. There are days I do get discourage, but she has progressed so much, able to sit with her pat her - she loves it. It has been a long slow progress, but we ARE making progress and that is what counts. I am in and out of her room constantly all throughout the day, alot of work, but it is so worth it to see her coming along slowly! I do believe if you are willing to make that commitment, anything can happen!!! I am living for the day that she can roam freely around my house, even if it is a very long ways away!!!
Sally
 

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I've got scars but my upbringing was such that I I was taught to regard it as going with the territory - maybe my weird clan have been doing so long we have some kind of immunity from the horrible problems I hear about other people having.

As well as feral cats, I have, either permanently or temporarily, kept all sorts of wild animals and the vast majority of mammals and birds (even many reptiles) can be "tamed".
 

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My policy on taking in and rehabilitating ferals is that you should only do so if you are ok with the prospect of caring for that animal for the rest of its life, regardless of whether it becomes well socialized or not. It's hard to find homes for well-adjusted house cats, never mind a semi-feral that spends all of its time under a bed.

I agree that almost all ferals can be socialized to an extent where they can interact, at least minimally, with people, and that their lives can be greatly improved because of it. Many people who care for feral colonies have established a certain level of trust with the cats and can interact with the colony cats in a way that belies their feral nature. It's trust that isn't easily gained, and is easily lost. But, the sad fact is that some cats are never going to be "adoptable". I use quotations because, to those of us who have taken in and socialized ferals, not being "adoptable" to the average person is a far cry from hopeless.

Rescue organizations generally don't accept ferals or semi-ferals because they simply don't have the resources and man-power to devote to a long rehabilitation process, especially when there are countless other cats being brought in every day that are immediately adoptable. Do I think their policies on, and, in some cases, beliefs about ferals are correct? Not really. I have had a couple of very heated arguments with a woman who works in the office building adjacent mine (this is the area where the colony I am caring for is located) about my plan to rehabilitate and foster Autumn and Ramona, a 2 year old queen and her kitten. This woman was extremely upset that I had taken it upon myself to trap these cats, so that I could have them, at the very least, spayed. When I explained to her that I feel that it's important to evaluate ferals on a case by case basis, and that I would not be returning Autumn to the colony if she was, as I suspected, only semi-feral, she became belligerent and accused me of all sorts of horrible things--her vet had apparently told her that adult ferals cannot be rehabilitated and would be miserable and live in a constant state of fear if placed in a home situation. Incidentally, the tortie in my avatar there is Autumn. I have had her and Ramona in my house since getting them vetted in mid October. Autumn comes running when my mom or I enter the room she's in, purring, and weaving around our legs to the point where you can hardly take more than a step at a time without tripping; she gets along really well with all of my other cats; she loves to play and will meow, and wind around your legs, and try to lead you over to the area where we usually throw bits of kibble for her to launch herself at; and she spent most of yesterday on my bed, sleeping pressed up against me, while I used my tablet. We have a cat that we've had since he was a 4 week old kitten--he's now 8--who's not nearly as friendly or affectionate as Autumn is. Autumn was only semi-feral when I trapped her, but she had gotten somewhat used to people leaving food out for her and her kittens. She had been living in a desolate office parking lot with no real human contact for at least a year, according to other office workers in the area, and she behaved like a full feral when I first started seeing her. My guess is that she was probably dumped as a kitten.

Honestly, so much is dependent on a cat's personality. I know of people who have tried to socialize semi-ferals who seemed like great candidates for rehabilitation and had no luck, even after several months. I also know of people who have taken in ferals that were unmanageably aggressive, destructive, and fearful that were very quickly brought under control and became wonderful, affectionate cuddlers.

Rehabilitating ferals is a long, difficult, and sometimes bloody process, but, as anyone who's ever been even marginally successful comes to realize, it's also a really rewarding experience--and one that can result in a lifetime of love, trust, and companionship with an animal that would have likely otherwise not had much of a life at all.
 

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Very interesting thread, and that photo is absolutely awesome. I hope it's ok that I've set it as background (wallpaper) on my computer screen? It looks stunning there.
 

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How can you tell between a very fearful stray and a feral? I always thought the former could be tamed in a matter of months and the latter would take years if they could be tamed at all?

Four of my strays, whom I've been caring for intensively and spending hours with every day, still don't let me touch them after 2+ years. They all show very marked progress in their trust of me and the amount of closeness they'll seek with me / tolerate from me. They keep surprising me with a new step in the closeness direction when I least expect it. I still think that one day they may let me pet them...
 

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How can you tell between a very fearful stray and a feral? I always thought the former could be tamed in a matter of months and the latter would take years if they could be tamed at all?

Four of my strays, whom I've been caring for intensively and spending hours with every day, still don't let me touch them after 2+ years. They all show very marked progress in their trust of me and the amount of closeness they'll seek with me / tolerate from me. They keep surprising me with a new step in the closeness direction when I least expect it. I still think that one day they may let me pet them...

strays vs. ferals - Feral and Stray Cats - An Important Difference - Alley Cat Allies
 

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Whaler, those definitions seem off to what I consider correct, I feel they're missing the middle ground.

Stray: Cat that's lost, 'strayed' from home and is scared. Usually will walk right up to you and/or you can gain its trust with very little effort involved. This is where all the "I've found a stray" topics come about; you don't really "find" semi-feral and feral cats... you trap them.

Semi-feral: Cat that used to be owned by someone but has forgotten and/or had bad experiences with people. They are very leery and may take months or or years to adjust.

Feral: Cat that has never been raised around people and has been taught from its mother to avoid humans. They likely won't even be seen, they run as soon as they spot a person. Might be possible to gain trust on a case by case basis.

There's exceptions to every rule, but that's the gist of it to me. So from my working definitions, I find that the difference between semi-feral and feral at first can be very hard to tell the difference. Only time will likely tell if that cat is receptive to trusting you, semi-feral and feral cats and start off pretty identical in their opinion of people. While a semi-feral has a much better chance of learning to trust you, they may have become too wild for too long to ever become a tame cat.

However, there can be telling sings a cat has been around people before, to use Jasper as an example, I knew he was semi-feral because he would allow my father to walk slowly up to him with food outside. He also has never been all that desperate to get back outside. A feral wouldn't let you anywhere near them, and would door dash. That's not to say that a semi-feral may not let you anywhere near them, and may also want to door dash.

Straysmommy, my guess would be you're working with feral cats but there's no real way to tell for sure. They can become accustomed to their caretaker after awhile. The progress also may be hindered by not having one on one time with you, I believe taking a cat inside to tame makes the process go much faster, since you're forcing the issue on them. Of course, it's more stressful.
 

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Shelter care of ferals

I just want to chime in on the part regarding feral cats/kittens and shelter care related to that specific. In our shelter we take in about 100-200 ferals per year, the minority of them being kittens. I am the main cat cleaner, often giving up to 50-60 hours per week to cleaning, maintaining and improving the cat section. I target out the least socialized cats and socialize them when I have time and do medical work with (shots, grooming, ear cleaning, eye cleaning). I usually take home the kitten ferals and socialize the adult ferals at the shelter. Im guessing if I didn't take the kittens home, it would takes months. Taking them hope accelerates the progress 10x.

Adults are a lot harder. Kittens can take weeks-months on average. Cats can take much much longer. Safety is a big issue. Over half the ferals we get are from abandoned buildings and are very aggressive, sick or both. Some we get in charge you and literally try to attack you if you get within 5 feet of the cage. I use really strong gloves that cost around $300 to socialize them but I have had one bite through it before and through my fingernail - so some shelters don't want to have liability issues. We had an officer almost lose his hand last year due to a bite.

Lets' not forget time is a factor. With an average of 1-1.2k cats coming in per year and an average of 6-12 cats adopted per month (we have seen huge increases this year though since the opening of a website and Facebook). I still mourn for the ones I could not socialize... and believe me, I try my best. The worst part is that is aleady hard to adopt our well socialized cats, we have had a pure bred persian here for up to a year (papers and everything). And cats that don't like being held are a big problem too, and ones that don't like other cats and dogs. I have seen first hand the number of cats that don't get adopted because of that. So the mission is to always raise the socialization standard up a little above that.

Below are a few pictures I have had:






 

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Do you mean that thousands are euthanized there each year for lack of homes to adopt them?
 

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That is usually the case with most kill shelters. When funds are not sufficient, space is too little and staff retention or volunteer retention is not at the desirable amount - it becomes hard to care for each and every animal that comes in through the shelter and find them homes. WE have adopted nearly 5x our average last month. The website and Facebook has been a blessing.

Like many kill shelters, we are just overloaded with cats. We go out of our way to treat the sickly, tame the ferocious and place the ones deemed "unadoptable" into loving homes as we can. Unadoptable are usually ones that dislike other animals and children, doesn't like being held, is old or has ongoing medical issues. A lot of the feral cats come out of abandoned buildings, as do the sick ones. And being rural, there isn't as much a market for the cats as there is dogs. Especially in the summer time we also get so many kittens in that are either ill, too young to survive in the shelter environment etc...

But we have increased our staff this year, set up foster care plans, and have came up with more solutions to the problem than before. We have gotten so many more donors this year too, which is awesome and will help us find more animals homes this year. A few mentionable upgrades we did was building a new cat room and remodel our other cat area and get more cages.

TNR doesn't seem possible with us, but that doesn't mean I haven't given that idea up. I study 5 per day after work into doing more for the shelter and I am finding out a lot more ideas. I have helped come up with better sanitation plans for the cats that matches the dogs sanitation plans. We also have rescues set up for cats and dogs both, saving about 90% of dogs this year which is 10% or more higher than last year. Next on the list is to try and get more volunteers.

Our shelter is doing the best it can on the expenses that it has and cats we get for our area, and I think the best a kill shelter can do is to try to decrease the animals it has to put to sleep every year by coming up with alternative plans to every situation it can encounter and coming up with a goal of programs it can make in the future to help increase the adoption ratio.
 

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When I think about the cats that I have had in my life, only 1 came from a shelter. One was a tiny 4-5 week old monster who tamed within 36 hours. Another was a barn cat who loved to play. Smokey came from the yard at about 6 weeks old and tamed overnight. Lexi, who was about a year old quickly figured out that food and warm was better than hungry and cold. She has been with us for 9 years now. The current backyard cat is presenting a challenge only because he is frightened but I have no doubt that once he is inside and warm he will tame (calm) quickly as well. He will approach but is unsure do I suspect he is a dump. The true ferals are the ones we never see, only the tracks in the yard.
 

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I have a mama that was left behind and lived outdoors for 1 + years but fed by another neighbor. Her last litter had one survivor and I have them both. The mama was easier to trust me then the kitten. They still will run from sudden noises and even if I am walking fast towards them. I realized from many calls that once I started to take responsibility it had to be for life. I find this all to be very sad and think that we need a mandatory neutoring policy because now I have had my eyes open to so many animals who have no homes.
 
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