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Discussion Starter #1
I'm completely inexperienced and ignorant about animals, as I've never had a pet, and was always a little bit afraid of them. THAT SAID ... This long-haired gray cat started coming around my house, every day, toward evening. He was very cautious and jumpy. I started feeding him. Now he is becoming a bit more comfortable. Comes here every evening, and seems to like me. He eats, voraciously, then lays on my back porch area, licks his paws, and talks a lot. He wants desperately to come in the house and begs/paws at the door.

It is now frigid/cold winter. I built an insulated shelter for him. It's been out there 3 days and I can't get him to go inside it. Very frustrating. I want him to be warm. There is something around his neck that just looks like an old, thin strip of plastic. I THINK he's a stray because he always emerges from this sewage hole in the back yard, always looks disheveled, and is always very hungry. A few questions ---

1.) Can a garage be a safe place for a cat to live? Or is that dangerous because of the hazardous things in it.. and the car? Can I just shut him in there overnight? Will he scratch/destroy my car?
2.) I can't get him to drink ANY water -- tap or bottled. He won't touch it!! What's up with that?? I thought they needed water to live.
3.) Maybe the entrance hole on my shelter is too small. I think it's like 5.5 (or so) inches diameter. Is that too small?
4.) He's becoming very friendly.. walks right up to me and wants to rub/cuddle on my leg. I'm scared to death as he's doing it, because I've read a LOT online about stray cats biting people. I DON'T want to get bit. I stand still and try not to make any sudden movements, because I don't want him to get scared and bite me. He seems starved for affection, and I feel bad for not petting him.. but I'm so paranoid about getting bit.
5.) I would like to get one of those outdoor heated mats for him. Do you know if those are safe.. not fire or electrical hazards? Are they worth investing in?

I would just like to help this creature to survive the winter. THANK YOU for any advice!
 

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First thing, catch/trap/whatever and have it checked for a tag/chip. Maybe it belongs to someone.
If it's not fixed, fix it.
After that you have a lot of choices. A medical checkup would be nice. The cat would do fine in a garage. A little place tucked away with straw would make a nice home. Entrance/exit to the garage? Shutting it up might be ok for a short period of time, but probably wouldn't be very practical for long. I don't think that it would scratch your cat, but hey? I've got/had 4 cats in my garage and they haven't done anything to the car, but they like to lay on top of it. I put a moving blanket on top. Biggest potential problem is that they may get into the engine compartment so you'd have to check before you started the car.

Garage, shelter, sewer? The cat prob goes where it feels the most secure. Right now the sewer is home. There may be some reluctance to go into an enclosed space right now. The entrance is large enough. There are several low watt heating pads that would work. Don't use a "people" heating pad.

Bit/scratched. Ya pays yer money, ya takes yer chance. Yep, it might happen, but that's the biz. I don't think that a healthy cat is likely to just leap on you like in the movies though. If it's hurt or scared it might strike out of pain/fear. Keep putting out water.

Plenty of folks here who have been where you are. Good luck.
 

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I hate to say this friend, but once you started to feed it you've taken responsibility of it! The owners may be looking for it - check Craigslist and local newspaper ads and grocery store peg boards. Lyle is right: call a vet, borrow a cat/dog carrier from a neighbor/friend, explain the situation to the vet and see if there is a microchip and get a med eval done. Vet may charge a modest fee for an eval, but you are doing the cat (and you) a favor. Put on leather gloves when you handle the cat if you are paranoid about bites. If you decide to put it in the garage be sure there is no antifreeze or other hazardous stuff on the floor. You have a good heart, but may have just won the heart of this cat. Most of us were new to cats at one time or another. They can be addicting. If you don't have the $$$ to properly care for an animal long term, please ask the vet about options for him/her. Rescue this little guy and you may just have found your new BFF! This is the place to come for ongoing advice about care though. Keep us posted!
 

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This is similar to how I started out! A little stray kept coming around my porch, so I kept putting out food and water, and I grew quite fond of her. I knew nothing about cats so I was also afraid to pet her, but the week I put out the trap, I took a chance and softly petted her as she was next to me eating and I was surprised that she arched up and seemed to enjoy it. So I trapped her, took her to the vet to get spayed, but they discovered she was already spayed. Looked around for her owner (newspaper, Craigslist, etc) and called the county shelter to file a report, but no one ever claimed her.

Rescuing Josie was one of the best things I ever did. I love her so much and I'm now officially a "cat person."

Good luck!
 

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Biting is always a risk if an animal has teeth, but given how friendly the cat seems, I'd say you're not super high risk for a bite. He's asking for affection, and showing you some. If you want to try petting him, I'd suggest you be sitting/squatted down, more at his level. As he's coming up to you, slowly stretch out your hand, so he can sniff it (like how you would greet a dog you don't know). If he's as friendly as you're describing, most likely he'll rub his cheek on your fingers. He'll do the "work" and you hardly need to move your fingers at all. If he doesn't come up to your hand, or walks away without sniffing/rubbing it, then you can just leave him alone. He'll tell you, if you listen. :)

The worst thing you can do is be nervous. He'll pick up on your anxiety. If you're too afraid, perhaps someone else could make that first contact for you?

Do you have any "cat" friends? Anyone in your life who's good with cats and could come greet him for you? Maybe look him over? Sometimes just being confidently handled by someone who's not afraid and knows what they're doing can work wonders.

I foster lots, and so I constantly have "new" cats with unknown histories. Most of them very protective mothers with kittens and crazy hormones. Letting them sniff your hand, and come up to you on their own terms is what works well for me. Also, while I've been scratched some, I've never been bit. Generally cats don't go to "bite" as their first reaction. First reaction is usually "run away." If they can't, "growl" or "scratch" are still generally above "bite."


Regarding him not using the shelter:...first thing you have to know about cats is that they won't do something just because we want them to. In fact, if they know we want something, the frequently like do to just the opposite. :) It's kind of funny and cute, except when it's your cat that won't behave.


A garage can be a safe place to live, if you pick up the things that are dangerous. In my garage, the chemicals and things cats shouldn't eat are kept on the top shelves. However, if this cat is truly a stray and has never used a litter box, you'll have to be prepared for there to be messes. If you won't deal with that, then locking him in the garage probably isn't the best idea. If you keep your car in there, make sure you locate the kitty always before you start it, as engines can kill cats if you turn it on while he's sleeping up there.

Keep offering water, but if he's been on his own a while, he probably has other sources. it's worth offering, but don't freak out if he won't drink it. You could try putting a little tuna or something else yummy smelling in the water to make it more enticing.
 

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Also, I've never seen a cat scratch on the outside/paint of a car. Occasionally I'll see them use the tires, but their claws aren't big/strong enough to do any damage. The most trouble my cats have ever given me regarding my car is to leave big muddy paw prints on the windshield. ;)
 

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You've gotten excellent tips from other posters. I'll just comment on the heated pad and the shelter.

About why he won't use the shelter: I have read that some cats feel trapped. There are shelters that have a second entry/exit. That might be the case. However, if you put a heated pad in there, I'll bet he has a hard time resisting, especially if it's in a place where it would be difficult for other critters to get at.

I have an outdoor heated pad for my stray, and he absolutely loves it. I believe it's the one of the only heated pads (if not the only one) that's ok for outdoor use. It's called Lectrosoft. A google search turned up this place as the cheapest: K&H Pet Products Lectro Soft Heated Outdoor Bed Heated Dog Beds

This is the 3rd winter I've been using it and I've had no problems. The cord is wrapped in wire so it can't get chewed through. Since my outdoor outlet isn't working, I have it plugged into an extension cord and run it through my back door. I haven't noticed that my electric bills are particularly high in the winter, so it can't use all that much electricity.

Don't get discouraged if he doesn't respond to your attempts to take care of him. He's getting more comfortable with you but for the moment, he's going with what he knows is safe for him. Good luck and thanks for looking out for him! :)
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
THANK YOU to all responders, for a lot of great advice!! Well, the first thing I am going to do is conduct a search for the possible owner. The white thing around his neck turned out to be a flea collar. (Oh, it might help to mention -- I am in Pennsylvania, near the Pittsburgh airport)

I've placed an ad on Craigslist ---
I Found a Beautiful Gray Cat in Hopewell

I will attempt to attach a couple of pics. I am calling him "Puffy".

I will keep you posted on this crazy adventure...
 

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You could also put the ad in the Pets section, maybe someone will recognize their neighbor's/friend's cat.
 

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I like the name - generic enough for either sex!! He/she (have you looked??) is very handsome/pretty. It sounds affectionate enough to pick up and give a cuddle. Who knows, you might just get a new best friend if it doesn't get claimed. Good job with the posting! My local newspaper will run lost pet ads in the classified section for free. Check your paper.
 

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Marcia.. I still haven't figured out if its a male or female yet. Still working on that.

Just had an absolutely HORRIBLE experience. WOW. I am just SICK about what just happened. Several people told me I should give the cat some CATNIP as a treat. They said it was an "herb" that cats enjoy. I SHOULD HAVE RESEARCHED THIS MORE, but sometimes I trust people. I put a little bit on his dish. The reaction that it caused in him was absolutely frightening. Here I am, trying to gain the trust of this poor creature.. He TRUSTS me. He trusts the food I put in front of him. He trusts that I'm not going to DRUG HIM with some HORRIBLE SUBSTANCE that makes him completely lose control of his body and mind.

Here's what I think -- I think CATNIP should be BANNED. I think it's a DRUG that gets into a cats nervous system and causes the same type of reactions as crack cocaine or speed would cause on us. It is NOT normal. It is NOT just a pleasant food that they enjoy. I stood there in horror and watched this poor thing roll around on the ground, probably hallucinating, out of control. And I have only one question -- WHY WOULD SOMEONE AT A PET STORE TELL ME TO FEED THIS TO MY CAT????? Are you kidding me??

Sorry for the rant, but I am flabbergasted. Needless to say, no more catnip. PLEASE REMOVE IT FROM THE SHELVES!! Or put a large WARNING on it. I hope I have not lost the trust of this cat. If I were him, I would run as far away as I can get, and never come back.
 

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Oh my goodness, that is one gorgeous cat, absolutely stunning!

Everyone here has given you some great advice on strays and the like, I live in a pretty close knit area so most of the outdoor cats, we know who owns them, so I don't have much experience with strays or feral cats, but I can tell you people are right when they say a cats first instinct is to scratch when they feel threatened. Even our last girl who was declawed would swat with her paws before she would try to bite if she wasn't feeling the best. I find cats tend to bite more when they're trying to play, at which point they don't tend to use their claws, they just sort of bat at you with the claws sheathed.

Also on the note of catnip, don't worry overly about it, the kitty was probably enjoying itself.

Catnip and Catnip Affects FAQ
Catnip - Everything You Need to Know About Catnip! | General Cat Articles

There's some FAQ's on catnip and the psychological effects it causes, it generally isn't harmful to them as far as I know, and they quite enjoy the smell and taste of it. A lot of people tend to use catnip to help teach their cat what they can scratch and stuff, that's how we got our boy using his scratching post.

I mean, in terms of catnip, I could be wrong as I haven't gone into great detail as to the causes that can come from eating it since we don't put it in his food, but I'm sure that as long as you don't use a lot it should be fine.
 

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Ummm... I think you need to do a little research on catnip. It is a herb, it's related to mint, and it's totally safe. Some cats don't even react to it... others - I'd say the majority - go quite funny on it, like you described. Some cats eat it, too, and like I said, it's totally safe.

A cat rolling around is just a cat having fun for a few minutes, it's not something I'd give every day but it's something they enjoy... where's the harm? There aren't any side effects. Catnip started growing in our front yard as a volunteer and our cat can occasionally be found having a little fun in the flowerbed.

I also found it helped relax the semi-feral I'm trying to tame; he'd be going berserk on me at first growling and hissing, but I'd throw him some catnip and he'd settle down, win-win for both of us, as him being that worked up wasn't helping either of us.

And it is often suggested to help cats learn where to scratch, it's a great tool when sprinkled on a scratching post that will guide them to it instead of your furniture.
 

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I love seeing my girls high on nip, it truly cracks me up. They go a little nuts at first, but then they mellow out. Relaxed bratz.
 

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Did he look something like this?



I hope I have not lost the trust of this cat. If I were him, I would run as far away as I can get, and never come back.
Quite the opposite - you've probably made a friend for life.

I've never thought about how creepy a cat on catnip must appear to someone who's never seen it before. Rolling around on the ground and looking zoned out is a normal reaction to catnip - it's why kitties love the stuff. One of my cats eats it and gets mellow. The other prefers to roll around in it and then she gets feisty and wants to play. The effects seem to wear off after a few minutes, but I would definitely suggest that you don't put your hands within reach of his paws for those few minutes.
 

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Oh, no, don't get it banned! It's one of the only things that truly gets my old cats actually moving!! Two just love it, but the effects wear off in a few minutes. I really don't think you need to worry about it. I really hope you can keep this furbaby. Oftentimes strays make the BEST pets. It really is a gorgeous animal, too. As far as determining the sex: gently pick up the back end (again use gloves if you want) and look. Unfixed males will be obvious. Females have their vagina that is very close to their anus (within 1/2") . Almost looks like two anus'. If you do not see either obvious signs of testicles or a "double" anus look, then it's probably a fixed male. Hope this helps....of course a lot of fur may mask the entire sight.
 
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