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Feral Cat help again

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Lionne posted 10/18/2013 09:36 AM

I asked for help with our feral cat friend a few months ago. I'm back. Turns out, she(?) is the most affectionate cat I've ever seen. Loves to be in a lap, head butts galore, purring all the time. However, she is a hunter extraordinaire, catching voles, chipmunks and mice almost her size. She is a little cat, probably only 5 lbs. I watched her tree a squirrel yesterday, up and down the tree about 12 feet in the air. Her claws are huge.
I took her for her booster shots and had her tested for HIV and FIL-both negative. I really cannot have her with my elderly cat who is immune-compromised and unvaccinated due to a vaccine induced sarcoma. But I am trying to figure out a way to bring this feral cat indoors and still have her happy. She could potentially have the entire (finished) basement to herself with frequent visits from us, and still hunt for the mice that make their way in. We live in the suburbs, our home borders on woods, and that's where new cat hunts. She is most likely in danger mostly from owls, there are no other predators likely to go after her, and she (hopefully) stays away from the front, and the street.
I've put a litter box on the deck, her hangout, but she hasn't used it yet.
I'm asking if you think she could learn to be happy as an indoor cat, and if you have any suggestions to make that happen...or should I just be content to have an indoor and outdoor cat?

tushnurse posted 10/18/2013 12:30 PM

Most feral cats won't use a litter box, they prefer to go outside. The one I tamed down as a teen lived with my inlaws for almost 20 years, and she always went to the door when she had to do her business, she was an inside/outside cat. They did keep a litter box in the house for her, for when it was snowy or rainy, and she would rarely use it on those occasions.
I would say since she has tamed down so much that routine will work with you. do you have the ability to put a doggie door in for her in the basement? So she can come and go as she pleases? (My inlaws did this as well).
Even though she is small most Owls won't mess with her, they learn that lesson the hard way. The only predator I have ever been concerned with for my kitties are coyotes, as they are around, and hunt in packs.

I had a cat that was a great hunter too, and he would leave his gifts in the dirty laundry pile. Nothing like grabbing a cold stiff snake to get your adrenaline going.....That particular cat only weighed about 7-8 pounds, and he killed and adult rabbit once.

osxgirl posted 10/18/2013 12:56 PM

Given that she likes being in a lap and such, she might be happy as an indoor cat... the only way to know is to try.

Most of the time, feral cats are never completely tamed, and even if you do manage to tame them somewhat, everything I've seen says that they seldom become lap kitties.... especially if they are not "tamed" until they are an adult. This makes me think that she might have been a pet at some point.

We have a feral that is a lap kitty, who thinks she should be attached at all times to a person, and who insists on being held by DH every morning and on getting under the covers with us every night. But she was only about 6 weeks old when she was caught, and I spent quite a bit of time when I first got her (at about 10 weeks or so) holding her and working with her to calm her down and get her to be less wild.

She has never really cared about going back outside - though she did wander out by accident once. And she has always been great about using the litter box - we've never had any problems with her.

Cats are individuals, though, so give it a try. If she turns out to be completely miserable, you can always let her back out again.

If you are going to keep her in, the suggestions I have are: make sure you have a tall scratching post that gives her both a place to scratch and something to climb. Added bonus if it has a good hiding place in it too - but regardless, make sure she has a good place she can hide when she wants: maybe a box or something.

Stuff to keep her busy. Finding what kind of toy a cat will play with can be tough too. Most of the cats I've ever had didn't care for 99% of the toys we've ever bought. The exception - one of ours now absolutely goes nuts for the little fur mice that rattle.... but they have to be the ones that have real (rabbit) fur, not the fake fur. He knows where I keep the new mice, and anytime I get in that closet, he is at my feet, hoping I'll get the "magic mouse box" out!

Since she's used to being outside and chasing things that move, you may need to engage in more active play with her. She may not be as good at entertaining herself.

Did I mention having something she can climb? If she's used to doing that outside, she'll find places to do it inside, so if there's anywhere you don't want her to climb, you may want to figure out a way to make it less attractive to her.

That's all I can think of.

Lionne posted 10/18/2013 15:39 PM

I know. It shocked the heck out of us when she became friendly. I believed she was too old to be tamed. She wasn't a pet, we saw her on and off early in the spring, a little kitten; a neighbor has her twin living near her deck. We do have ferals in our woods although fewer since the Trap Neuter Release program has been in effect. And not just friendly, obsessed with being a lap cat. I think she's about a year old and has been affectionate for about six weeks-after we took her for neutering and shots. I took her today for the second shot and HIV/FIL testing and she wasn't cooperative at all. She darted into the woods upon arrival at home but came back immediately for snuggling. Then went hunting to bring me back a mole, which she left for me instead of eating it.

We have no way to have a cat door for her. I'll just have to play it by ear, seeing if she needs to come in during the worst weather, providing shelter for her if she can't adjust.

Thanks for the reassurance about the owls-that's the only real predator around here.

Mousse242 posted 10/18/2013 17:16 PM

If you have woods you can be pretty certain you have some coyote (heck even in downtown Chicago you get coyotes that travel into town on rail lines and then set up camp in parks). Hawks too. Raccoon and skunk can also be aggressive as are opossums. While they may not eat her, they will kill her if they feel threatened.

Are you sure she's actually feral and not just a pet that got loose and is now wild?

Lionne posted 10/18/2013 17:34 PM

We keep a pretty close eye on the wildlife in the state, no coyotes in our county yet, although they are spreading south. This cat has been around all summer since early spring, she showed up first when we were cooking chicken on the grill, last May. She lived on, and off, in a corner of our deck, bolting if we approached or sneezed. I tamed her gradually by offering bits of chicken by hand and brushing against her until she learned to enjoy a human touch. Now she is insatiable. And very sweet. I can even pick her up briefly for a cuddle. Even in e morning when I take food out ( don't dare leave it, raccoons, and skunk visit) she wants affection before food.
I've also researched cheap cat trees on eBay as I'm certain she'll need entertainment if she does come in, if only on a temporary basis.
My indoor cat has renal failure, she's doing well with sub q fluids and special diet, but she wasn't supposed to last this long. She's not likely to adjust well to a little sister...but if I can keep them separated, she'll be fine.

sadone29 posted 10/18/2013 21:13 PM

Wow, I'm shocked the cat is affectionate! That's a good sign for at least trying. If she can learn to be indoors, she'll be happier in the long run! Wish I had advice for how to try!

We have a huge feral cat problem in my neighborhood. We just went through a terrible ordeal with one of them. A mother and two kittens abandoned a kitten who was injured or diseased (he couldn't move his back legs at all) We tried getting help and we left food out for him. It took us a day to realize it was another cat getting to the food first. The organization helping us said that he probably died fairly quickly. We haven't seen him since, so they're probably right. I'm heartbroken about it.

PricklePatch posted 10/18/2013 22:43 PM

As a girl I dangled lunch meat for a feral cat. He tamed down but never used a litter box. We currently adopted kinda of impulsively a six year old female former feral kind. The shelter trapped and released her. Someone tamed her an turned her in, the first two days were a nightmare, but she is 100 percent litter box now.

[This message edited by PricklePatch at 10:44 PM, October 18th (Friday)]

Lionne posted 10/19/2013 18:08 PM

PricklePatch, How did you get her to use the litter box? Did you just contain her?

I put a litter box on the deck. She's been in the box, digging around, but hasn't used it.

She is such a lover. Wants to spend all her time tucked into my lap, giving kisses. We had a visit from another feral cat last night, far bigger than our friend. I scared that one off, Kitty jumped into my arms, tucked in purring as though she was glad I rescued her.
Of course, this was the same cat that nearly caught a squirrel twice her weight earlier in the day...

stronger08 posted 10/20/2013 03:59 AM

I don't think you can really tame a truly feral animal of any kind. They are instinctively outdoor animals and should remain so. That said, when I was young and single I had a feral cat get into my house. I had left a screenless window open and he just came in. I remember I was out drinking with my friends and it scared the shit out of me when I came home. I had brought home some Chinese take out and shared it with him. He stayed for a couple of days and left again the way he came in. A couple weeks later when the weather started to get nasty there he was crying at the window. I let him in again and the same thing happened. I built a little door for him on spring hinges that I kept in the window. Small enough for him to get in without someone else breaking in and robbing me. This went on for about 3 years until he just never came back. We were like a couple of bachelor's coming and going as we pleased. The only thing I insisted on was a break away flea collar cause he gave me fleas once. But other than that it worked out fine. I always remember him because he loved Chinese food, especially the crunchy soup noodles.

fireproof posted 10/20/2013 07:26 AM

I am not an expert but we had an older cat we were worried about and after 8 years made her an indoor cat.

We closed off a room- large bathroom and put a litter box. She would meow then stop. After awhile she used the litter box. Then we move to a certain area of the house and we checked and she used it. We left it there and she was ok.

They will adjust and there are toys that you can play with her that resemble the "hunt". I knew a cat that loved hide and seek

Lionne posted 10/23/2013 12:04 PM

Me again. Frost expected, so I brought her in. She "lives" in the basement, two finished rooms with furniture that is expendable. It seems to be a great success! She slept alone, she was hiding under the sofa when I went down this morning with her food. She was very affectionate before she ate, that is a common thing with her. She ate, and used the litter box like a champ (it's got traditional litter but I did sprinkle some dead leaves on top.

I brought her upstairs with me for awhile. She wanders around, meowing a lot, exploring and coming for a cuddle. Downstairs she settles down for naps. Playtime is fun for both of us.

My older cat is intolerant, but curious. She could easily run away or hide, but she hangs around to check things out. She's hissed and swiped at the baby. Baby backs off, unknowing that she has tools (claws) while Old Lady doesn't. She had been declawed and then "lost" when we rescued her. I won't let them have close contact in any event.

She'll be a great pet, sweet and affectionate, loves humans now. My Old Lady is sick with renal insufficiency so I don't know how long I'll have her.

I'm relieved. I was worrying about cold weather, hawks, bigger cats.

I truly could be one of those crazy cat ladies. They are wonderful animals. I love dogs, too, but cats are special in that it's like taming a wild animal. Thanks to all of you for your input.

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