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Hello,
I'm very new to the forum and I have an outdoor cat that our family adopted named Socks. To give a little background history, Socks was left behind by our neighbors, two houses down from us. These people got evicted during the housing crisis and through the rush moving process, they just left Socks behind. We first saw his around March, 2013, very skinny and very skittish. He liked to hang out in our yard, but would dash away once he saw any of us coming toward him. Seeing that he was malnourished and abandoned, my husband/kids and I, we started to leave some cat food out further in the back of the yard, and started moving the feeding dish closer and closer to our patio door. By June/July, we started to take him in and feeding him permanently 2-3 meals a day. We have a big back yard so Socks is now just hanging out our yard all day long. He seems to be quite content to be just an outdoor cat.

I would like to do more for him, but I have 2 issues with Socks, unpredictable batting/biting behavior and not eating wet food.

My thinking is that when he was young kitten and was brought in as a house cat but because he was not properly cared for (i.e. not getting attention, love, petting, not being fed wet food), even when he was with his people, he's not as playful as most cat his age. Then after that, his people abandoned him when they moved. Being a stray cat on his own for quite a long time until we found him and his behaviors altogether are somewhat semi feral like. He walked in a defensive mode, almost crouching with his tail down, at all time. I never see him wags his tail or lifts it up. It took us months to be able to come close to see that he's a neutered male cat. At first he would not come up to his food plate until we go back into the house. It took him almost 7 months (From July 2013- to Dec 2013) for him to start trusting us. What changed him and brought him closer to us was that we had that cold snap in Northern California where temperatures dropped to 22 degrees at night. This is very very cold for us. Even some of our citrus trees took a big hit. Anyway, we tried to bring him in the garage but he was too skittish for that. We then built him several outdoor cat shelter. The main one is a dog house that I lined with warming mat and stuffed with towels. It is under the play set with covers. This is his favorite station. (We joked that he got himself made. He is an owner of a giant cat condo, all to himself ). This dog house shelter, I've seen him slept inside when it rained. We also created the feeding station under our patio and surrounded it with boxes and lined them with small sample carpets so that he's protected from the weather when he comes around to eat. That is when he started to come very close and gave us head butts, chin rubs and we could finally pet him. He's neutered and everything. He now walks with tail up like normal cat, comes running when call, rubs against us and can climb trees, scratch things, hunt, pounce things like a playful normal cat.

The only thing is his behavior is very unpredictable. I can only pet him when he's eating or when he head rubs me and I can scratch on his head and behind his cheeks if he allows me to. This only lasts for about 30 seconds. As soon as he turns his body around , if he sees our fingers and arms dangling out there he would take a full bat at us with claws fully drawn out. His actions are not of initiation of plays or anything. They were full batting with claws out for full scratches. I got two claw marks on my hands and also got several scratches on my legs and I was wearing long pants too. If we want to be near him, we have to sit down at his level, and try to be very still, not making any jerky movements and just let him come to us for head butts and chin rubs. One time, he actually held my arm down and try to sink his teeth into my hand because I placed a water bowl down next to his food plate. Luckily I was wearing glove on that arm. Every time I'm out there feeding him, I have to wear jeans and long jackets with gloves. I really like him, and really want to pet him like a normal cat if he allows us and may be take him inside the house. This is not possible because he's very skittish on us contacting him.
He seems to be really content being an outdoor cat and especially really content when I'm out there feeding him and just sitting next to him, making small talk and singing "soft kitty, warm kitty" to him :) :) . After he got a full belly, he just hangs out on the carpet, sitting next to me, and rubs me until he gets bored and goes off to do his sun bathing. I can't touch him or pet him or he'll turn around and bat me right away. I just wish I can do more for him if I can get him to be friendlier and not biting and scratching, unpredictably, without any warning.

Also , on another note, I really want to switch him from dry cat food to wet food. He ate nothing but dry cat food. The previous owner must have done a lousy job with him by just feeding him dry food. We don't know how he survived being a stray that long, but being a finicky eater. I've have fed stray cats and kittens who can eat better food than he could. He eats nothing but dry food. He must have just stalked some neighboring cats house at their feedings and go for the dry food after they are done. (We are in California. With the weather being mild most of the time, nice, many people allow their cats to be indoor/ outdoor, and the feeding are often taken place outside). We buy the premiums from Costco and mix it with the soft centered meow mix for him. He likes the smell of seafood and eat those heartily. I bought him the small wet cups of wet food from meow mix, 12 packs and try to mix the dry in for him. The first day, he absolutely refused and just stared at me with his sad begging eyes. Because he was a distant stray at the time and it was cold in December, we wanted to give him some food in his stomach so he can put on weights and also could survive the harsh weather. Now with the weather being warmer and he basically camps out in our yard, we set up a feeding schedule for him and so far he's like clock work and his feeding schedule is very regular. I want to successfully convert him into wet food but not having much lucks. I tried to mix 1/4 cup of wet food with dry food for him. I see that he licks the juice and ate some, but what I'm noticing is that it's the texture that he's after. If it's not crunchy and he can't pick up the morsel, he won't eat. I tried Sheba's pate , I tried shredded tuna from Friskies to chunky and Meow mix bites, etc...etc... He just won't eat or eat the wet food very little and never by itself. The most he would eat is when it's mixed with dry food and when he's hungry, he will eat most and leave like 4 pieces behind. I really want to move him into wet food but don't know how speed up the process. It's been a month already and he can't finish a can of wet in 2 days.
I've read some of the wet/dry food in the nutrition forum and try to follow some of the advices. Any advise would be very helpful. Sorry for writing such a long post, but I just want to get all the details about Socks out there so that he can get some help.
Thank you.
 

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For a cat that appears to have been poorly socialized to people, and abandoned and lived a semi-feral life for a while, I think "Socks" has made great strides. Yes, he's very clear that he only wants to be pet on his terms, so abide by him.....and when he turns to walk away...thank him and say see you again. Let him do all the initiating of affection, and don't go behond his 30 sec. petting limit, in fact cut it shorter....that might have the effect that he'll want more. If you open your hand passively, he will show you the spots he wants scratched or rubbed (likely chin, cheeks, back of neck).

You've done a terrific job of keeping him happy and comfortable as an "outdoor" cat with his sleeping and eating boxes. Maybe some cold day, he will want to come in the house. Just go with the flow. He's a confident determined cat and you can't force him to do anything he doesn't want.

As far as switching him over to canned food. Mix his dry kibble with a very little canned food and a bit of salmon juice to start and very gradually diminish the dry kibble over a couple of weeks, and/or add small bits of cheese into the canned-kibble mixture. By giving him some variety, may work to rid him of his fixation over dry kibble. You could also try some "Fancy Feast" canned....some of us call it "kitty crack" as it's very highly palatable, just don't overdo it or you may get him addicted to it!:) Hope some of these suggestions will help. Good luck.
 

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I should have looked at your photos first! From your photos, it seems to me that's a lot of food for one cat. Feed a lot less, but 2-3 "meals" a day, perhaps 1/2 cup/meal. You want him to clean his plate. He will eat more if he's really hungry. Always feed at the same time for each feeding and he will soon have a clock in his head when feeding time is and show up. Cats like routine.
 

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Thanks Catloverami for your responses. The picture with his food dish was taken back in July when we first saw him and we did not know when he will be around so we put out as much food as possible for him because he looked like he was starving at the time. Since then, I've have scaled down his portion. I only feed him half a cup of dry cat food, mixed with and little bit of wet food and juice from it. He 's not a very big eater and will finish most of that portion.

I will try the juice from tuna packed in water this week. We don't have salmon readily in the cans but I will try it for him when we buy it from the market. Also from what I can see he likes the smell of tuna's cat food.
Early in the morning, when he's hungry, he's most cooperative about eating the "mixed" food. He will eat most of it. In the afternoon, around dinner time, he refuses to eat any "mixed" food so we often caved in and gave him his meow mix dry food. For the cheese, do I have to melt it or just crumble, and what kind of cheese?


I also saw some videos on socializing kittens and was wondering if I should try Gerber baby food/ chicken for him? Since he never experienced any real wet food, I'm thinking he might like it? Every time I bbq or bake fresh chicken/pork/steak for dinner, I always give him some pieces in his plate. He'll come by to say hi, take a sniff and then walk away. I even tried to shred it in small pieces and blend them in with his cat food; he managed to sit there, for however long, and pick out every single dry morsel and leave the "strange new shredded food" behind. :) One thing that I find comforting though- is that Socks is "religious" about drinking his water. Every morning, I wash his bowl of water because it usually got cold overnight, so I refill it with warm water for him. He likes that a lot. He would sit there and lap up the water for a good long time. He actually enjoys drinking the water, then licking himself, then rest a little bit, then drink some more. :) I find it's comforting somewhat, since he's eating dry food, at least he gets some fluid in his system. He's a very cute and very curious cat. Whatever I put out there for him, he'll come and check it out within 30 seconds. Everything from water bowl, to new food, to new toy, new blanket, etc...

Also, I noticed that if I put toys out there for him, he would not play with these fake toys if they were just left out on the grounds by humans. He'll just sniff and walk away. I know he knows how to play and has potentials to play like a normal cat though. I've watched him throwing little barks and pebbles up in the air, in the back yard, and then chase after them hunt them down. Either that or he would stalk and hunt down the falling leaves that make rustling sounds. He also tried to hunt some birds that fly by but he's nowhere as fast as them :). I think feral cats don't have the "man-made toy "s concept, so today, by engaging him in the birdy toy, I think I made big progress with him. What I did was that I made I tied one of the fake bird toy to a rope and then the rope to a stick and made lots of movements near him. I think he was pretty annoyed at first, and then curiously and his eyes followed the bird for a long time. Then he finally wiggled and hunted it down once, just once. After that he just walked away and would not come back. The first picture here is taken recently during the cold snap and the second picture is this week. He managed to climb up to the roof top of the play set and came down. He's most frisky and playful early in the morning after his breakfast. :) :)
 

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When it is warm enough for you, I used to leave my patio door open a bit and that is how my cats started getting used to coming inside. I also have a kitty door too. My male is skiddish and for instance today he only insisted on eating outside. I also had to try to lure him to the canned food. I tried so many brands and heat them up a bit and have even ground up the dry food and poured it on top so it smells like what he is used to. Eventually he is coming around. He also does very well on catching his own food.
 

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For the cheese, just crumble it.....my cats like cheddar, but you could try other cheeses as well....even cottage cheese. As far as the Gerber baby food, I've found it excellent when weaning kittens, or getting a sick cat or picky cat to eat. It is pretty expensive tho. Get the baby food meat only (no veggies added). You could also try him on some raw food. Some cats love it, and others don't. My Devons will not eat raw no matter how many times it's offered.

This website may give you some encouragement to keep on trying to wean him off dry kibble.

Drinking a lot of water may be because the kibble is dehydrating him, and/or he's developing kidney issues. Because he's semi-feral, you won't get him into a cat carrier without a lot of trauma. He would likely have to be trapped and then drugged to submit to tests. It could break any trust with you that he has already developed if he sees you're the one who takes him in a trap to the vet.

Feeding Your Cat: Know the Basics of Feline Nutrition :: healthy cat diet, making cat food, litter box, cat food, cat nutrition, cat urinary tract health

Loving patience, perseverence is the key and consistency, don't cave in.
 
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