Adjusting Semi-Feral Cat to Home

catlover_nyc

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Hi,
Apologies in advance for this long-winded post.
Some background, I live in a small 1 bedroom duplex apt in NYC with my boyfriend and 2 cats. About 6-7 months ago a cat appeared at the fire escape of our 3rd floor apt. I live in a heavily populated part of NYC so this cat showing up on my fire escape was quite a surprise to me as as I had never really seen any stray cats in our neighborhood. Our apt looks out onto a collection of neighboring courtyards and it appears that the cat had seen my cat in the window and climbed up the fire escape to investigate. I started feeding the cat daily through the window of the fire escape. He eventually climbed his way up the ladder to the 4th floor patio that is outside of our bedroom. For the past 4 months he has spent 90% of his days on our patio, essentially moving there full time and only going down the ladder 1-2 times and the trips away were usually less than 15 mins. Over the last few months he had really built up his trust with us and he started coming inside at meal times or just to play with our 2 cats, but would only come inside as long as we left the patio's sliding glass door open. But literally anytime we opened the door and backed a way a few feet, he would come rushing in. He would meow, roll around and show us his belly, slow blink at us, and play with us using string toys. We thought for sure he wasn't a feral based on this friendly behavior. The only thing that gave us pause was that he did hiss at us if we tried to touch him and he had what appeared to be a tipped ear.

A couple weeks ago we made the decisions that we were going to move out of NYC within the next 2 months. But we did not know what to do about this outdoor cat that appeared to now be totally dependent on us for all of its need, and we also weren't sure the incoming tenant would appreciate having a cat living on the patio outside of their bedroom. So we made a plan to trap him, bring him to the vet, and integrate him to become an indoor cat so that we could adopt him. Trapping him was pretty easy, because he comes in literally everyday and all we had to do was shut the door behind him and move him to the space we setup in our spare bathroom. But everything after that has been pretty much a disaster....

The vet had given us mild sedatives to put in his food so he would be calm for the vet visit, but he would not eat after we captured him so he was a basketcase by the time he got to the vet. The vet had to put him under so that they could examine him. They confirmed he is a neauterd male with a tipped ear (likely part of a TNR program), as well as that he has serious infections in both ears and is FIV+. We returned him back to the space we setup in the bathroom for him. But there was a heat wave yeserday and we became concerned about him becoming overheated as there is no AC in that bathroom and it's directly exposed to the sun on two sides and the roof (would certainly be 105+ with the door closed). We tried to prop the door in a way so that he could get some A/C but not escape, but he was able to get around that pretty easily and got out. So since yesterday morning he has been free around the apt which has meant spending most of the day under the bed or the sofa, and the evening roaming around the apt crying (and he peed on the couch last night).
He has also not eaten since we brought him home from the vet two days ago. Our other cats do not pay him much attention during the day when he is just hiding but we did notice some mild aggression from their end last night which is out of character for them (blocking throughways, one of them hissed and growled at him a bunch, but no major fights). And while he is obviously scared of us, he has not shown any signs of aggression and his behavior appears to be completely submissive to the other cats. Based on the research we have seen online, we think it's probably best that we try to corral him back to the spare bathroom as that is really the only room with doors that we can sequester him until he starts consistently using the litter box and eating his food. But we still have the same concerns before about the room becoming overheated based on the forecast for the upcoming days.

I would appreciate any feedbacks or tips you can provide on how you think we should move forward with adjusting him to the household. Also, I have attached 2 youtube links of videos that I took from last week that demonstrate how friendly and comfortable he was inside before we trapped him. Am I wrong for thinking he could be tamed based on his behavior and desire to come inside? I want to know if this is a lost cause, or if this response to being trapped in normal for a cat this he has been outside for a long time. I am committed to finding a situation that works out best for him.


Thank you in advance for your help!
 

shadowsrescue

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Thank you for rescuing him. When first bringing a cat inside, it can take lots of time and patience for the new kitty to adjust. You are right that he should not be in the bathroom with it so hot. Yet, I would also be careful about interactions between all the cats.

Bringing a cat inside the home can take lots of time and patience. Also as far as interacting with the other cats, cats don't just automatically get along. There is an introduction process that cats much go through. I will attach some articles below that can help with getting him used to inside living as well as introducing to the other cats ( after a vet visit).

resources.bestfriends.org

How to Socialize Very Shy or Fearful Cats
This resource offers a step-by-step method for socializing cats. This process was created to help very shy or fearful cats who came from the Great Kitty Rescue, a hoarding situation in Pahrump, Nevada where hundreds of neglected cats were saved. Table of Contents
resources.bestfriends.org
resources.bestfriends.org

How To Successfully Introduce Cats: The Ultimate Guide – TheCatSite Articles

www.jacksongalaxy.com

The Do’s and Don’ts of Introducing Cats to Each Other | Jackson Galaxy
Bringing a new cat home can trigger the territorial panic switch in your existing cat. Follow these time-tested, fundamental steps to give you a significant leg up on the process.
www.jacksongalaxy.com
www.jacksongalaxy.com

www.jacksongalaxy.com

Cat Introductions Part 1: Before the Introduction - Jackson Galaxy
In my experience, bringing a new cat into another cat’s home can either be seen as no big deal, or a huge challenge. The truth, however, generally lies somewhere in the middle. In this series, we will explore the critical ins-and-outs of making this transition as smooth as possible for all...
www.jacksongalaxy.com
www.jacksongalaxy.com


 

ArchyCat

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You might try feeding him Kitten Milk Replacement.Not the Hartz brand. Buy the powdered form and mix him a saucer or two a day, if he will drink it. It contains a lot of calories, protein and minerals. Good luck and keep us posted!
 

theyremine

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If you could get some cheap baby gates and stack 2 or 3 in the door to the bathroom that might work to keep the bathroom cooler. They are about $12 at Walmart. Also some sort of hiding spot in the bathroom would make him feel safer. Even a cardboard box with an opening/door cut out would work.

He's lucky to have found you!
 

rosegold

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Based on those videos, I’d say he is the opposite of a lost cause! I am positive that he will come around with time.

Since he is familiar with your house already, I think if it were me, I’d probably just let him stay in the main part of the house, and not try to put him back in the hot bathroom again. If possible, I would try to block off most of the hiding places, but give him a few that are comfy for him yet also accessible for you - seconding a cardboard box with holes cut in it! The other (probably better) option you could try is getting/borrowing a large dog crate, with room enough for a litter box, a carrier or hiding place, and food/water, and a light sheet over the top. It might make him feel more secure and would also prevent accidents on the sofa or access to the other cats.

Definitely try to get him to eat asap with lots of tempting items. That would be my main concern.
 

fionasmom

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It is very kind of you to take him with you....as a former feral, he is evidently reliant on you for food by now and leaving him would be cruel...and, as you said, who knows what the next tenants might do.

I agree that blocking off hiding places if possible and not using the bathroom is a good idea. Aside from that, I don't know if you can use baby gates as was suggested as well and put a fan outside the bathroom so that he has some cool air at least. This boy is really on his way to being a pet.

In March I brought in two TNRed ferals who were born under my neighbor's house. Due to circumstances, I had to release them after they were fixed, then resocialize them. One was like your boy....would run into visit and play....and the sister was a little more reticent. The first week was an adjustment, but now they are both dedicated house cats and have completely adjusted to their new lives.
 
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catlover_nyc

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Thank you all for your feedback and support! It is much appreciated!
Fortunately, there has been a lot of positive progress in the 24 hrs since my initial post. He is now using the litter box (yay) and he has started to eat a little bit. I am going out now to buy some smelly food and the kitten replacement that was suggested. Hopefully he finishes all of his food tonight.
At this point we are not going to try to isolate him in the hot spare bathroom and are currently letting him roam free around the apt, but have blocked off the hiding places and setup a cardboard box like you suggested. Our biggest goal now is to work on socializing him with us and our 2 cats. One of the cats does not seem to care at all, while the other still growls when he sees the new cat walking around the apt. And he is still crying quite a bit night and a little during the day, so I know he is still feeling overwhelmed. It is still early days and so I assume that is to be expected so soon after such a big change.
Thank you all for your messages of support and sharing your stories that have reassured me that taking him in was the right thing to do. So much of what I was reading online yesterday was making me feel like taming a feral cat wasn't a possibility. But I have seen his potential and know that he will make a good housecat, we just need to be patient and put in the work. I will keep you all updated on his progress!
 

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Thank you all for your feedback and support! It is much appreciated!
Fortunately, there has been a lot of positive progress in the 24 hrs since my initial post. He is now using the litter box (yay) and he has started to eat a little bit. I am going out now to buy some smelly food and the kitten replacement that was suggested. Hopefully he finishes all of his food tonight.
At this point we are not going to try to isolate him in the hot spare bathroom and are currently letting him roam free around the apt, but have blocked off the hiding places and setup a cardboard box like you suggested. Our biggest goal now is to work on socializing him with us and our 2 cats. One of the cats does not seem to care at all, while the other still growls when he sees the new cat walking around the apt. And he is still crying quite a bit night and a little during the day, so I know he is still feeling overwhelmed. It is still early days and so I assume that is to be expected so soon after such a big change.
Thank you all for your messages of support and sharing your stories that have reassured me that taking him in was the right thing to do. So much of what I was reading online yesterday was making me feel like taming a feral cat wasn't a possibility. But I have seen his potential and know that he will make a good housecat, we just need to be patient and put in the work. I will keep you all updated on his progress!
Would really recommend you get a "Feliway" to put where your new cat is. Its a calming scent for cats and really lowered my deceased cats anxiety and stress levels (she was semi feral)
 
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catlover_nyc

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Watch out for door dashes! He might try to go outside!
Yeah we are pretty sure he would try to escape if we opened the sliding door leading to patio. Luckily we can also access our patio through our building's common stairwell, so we are keeping the sliding glass doors in our apt permanently closed to avoid any door dashes.
 
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catlover_nyc

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Would really recommend you get a "Feliway" to put where your new cat is. Its a calming scent for cats and really lowered my deceased cats anxiety and stress levels (she was semi feral)
Yeah we have a Feliway plugged in upstairs in the bedroom that the new kitty is currently in, but thinking of getting a couple more to plug into other areas of the apt since I am sure my other 2 cats could use it right now too.
 

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Thank you so much for helping out this kitty and not abandoning him like so many others would do. I've been doing TNR and rehoming what we call "community cats" for years. I've honestly only had ONE that would never tame up. He never hurt me or another cat, but if looks could kill I'd be a goner. Sounds like this kitty is going to do just fine. If they are just occasionally growling or hissing I wouldn't worry too much. My last rescue, Gunther, was found in a field with huge mats hanging off his back like the tail on a raccoon skin cap worn back in the old days. The old warrior had 9 infected fox tails on his bare sunburned back, a bent ear (which the vet said looked as if it had been glued down :mad:), just a few teeth, and horrible arthritis. I had him shaved, vaccinated, bloodwork done, etc., and he now resides in his own room complete with a baby gate due to an incident with my 19 pound Maine Coon, Horton, and that was my fault. Shortly after bringing Gunther home to meet my 4 other kitties, rather than letting them do things on their own time I decided to sit on the floor with him in my lap while the other kitties smelled and examined him. Not smart on my part! I don't think anything would have happened if I hadn't had him in my lap, but Horton (being my only male) didn't like it one bit and lunged at Gunther. I put my arm up, and Horton bit me instead of getting to Gunther. Now they smell each other through the baby gate, and Horton hisses, but it's time for Gunther to have the run of the house.So my only suggestion is to maybe not do anything to show favoritism to the new guy until they are all buddies, and your two cats realize he is not a threat as far as taking you away. My friend and I feed a community of cats and have had to take several to the vet that needed recovery care. So, my friend has 3 "ferals" in her salon. At first they would run and hide and hiss if you tried to pet them, but over time they have almost completely mellowed out and will even allow a good pet or brushing now and then.They were born outside and truly feral, and they are now sweet as can be. And it didn't take that long.
 
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catlover_nyc

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Thank you so much for helping out this kitty and not abandoning him like so many others would do. I've been doing TNR and rehoming what we call "community cats" for years. I've honestly only had ONE that would never tame up. He never hurt me or another cat, but if looks could kill I'd be a goner. Sounds like this kitty is going to do just fine. If they are just occasionally growling or hissing I wouldn't worry too much. My last rescue, Gunther, was found in a field with huge mats hanging off his back like the tail on a raccoon skin cap worn back in the old days. The old warrior had 9 infected fox tails on his bare sunburned back, a bent ear (which the vet said looked as if it had been glued down :mad:), just a few teeth, and horrible arthritis. I had him shaved, vaccinated, bloodwork done, etc., and he now resides in his own room complete with a baby gate due to an incident with my 19 pound Maine Coon, Horton, and that was my fault. Shortly after bringing Gunther home to meet my 4 other kitties, rather than letting them do things on their own time I decided to sit on the floor with him in my lap while the other kitties smelled and examined him. Not smart on my part! I don't think anything would have happened if I hadn't had him in my lap, but Horton (being my only male) didn't like it one bit and lunged at Gunther. I put my arm up, and Horton bit me instead of getting to Gunther. Now they smell each other through the baby gate, and Horton hisses, but it's time for Gunther to have the run of the house.So my only suggestion is to maybe not do anything to show favoritism to the new guy until they are all buddies, and your two cats realize he is not a threat as far as taking you away. My friend and I feed a community of cats and have had to take several to the vet that needed recovery care. So, my friend has 3 "ferals" in her salon. At first they would run and hide and hiss if you tried to pet them, but over time they have almost completely mellowed out and will even allow a good pet or brushing now and then.They were born outside and truly feral, and they are now sweet as can be. And it didn't take that long.
That's a great story and gives me hope that our feral kitty will come around soon :)
 
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catlover_nyc

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NEED HELP - so things have regressed in the last couple days. At the beginning of the week, he was at least eating some of his food, but admittedly he never ate all the food we put in front of him. But in the last 48 hours it does not appear that he has eaten any of the food we have put in front of him. I have followed all the online guidelines about giving him food at the same time everyday (once in the morning and once in the evening), I leave the room and even have locked my other two cats in the kitchen so that he does not feel too intimidated to eat. Last night when we noticed he still had not eaten the dinner we had originally put out for him, over the next few hours we proceeded to offer an array of of different smelly foods, but he did not touch anything. We are now starting to get really concerned about him, since I read online that cats can starve themselves and go in to liver failuer if they do not eat for 2-3 days.
He does not let us handle him yet, so we can not force feed him with a syringe. As I have mentioned in my earleir posts he has been just roaming our apt freely. Do you think it would help if we tried to give him his own room again? (would it help him feel more safe eating?) I can give him our primary bathroom (which has A/C) and setup a space in there for him, and we can just use the hot second bathroom.
My boyfriend thinks we may need to consider letthing him outside if he does not start to eat soon, but I really do not want to give up now. Would appreciate and help or guidance you can provide! Thank in advance for your help!
 

BBirdcat

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NEED HELP - so things have regressed in the last couple days. At the beginning of the week, he was at least eating some of his food, but admittedly he never ate all the food we put in front of him. But in the last 48 hours it does not appear that he has eaten any of the food we have put in front of him. I have followed all the online guidelines about giving him food at the same time everyday (once in the morning and once in the evening), I leave the room and even have locked my other two cats in the kitchen so that he does not feel too intimidated to eat. Last night when we noticed he still had not eaten the dinner we had originally put out for him, over the next few hours we proceeded to offer an array of of different smelly foods, but he did not touch anything. We are now starting to get really concerned about him, since I read online that cats can starve themselves and go in to liver failuer if they do not eat for 2-3 days.
He does not let us handle him yet, so we can not force feed him with a syringe. As I have mentioned in my earleir posts he has been just roaming our apt freely. Do you think it would help if we tried to give him his own room again? (would it help him feel more safe eating?) I can give him our primary bathroom (which has A/C) and setup a space in there for him, and we can just use the hot second bathroom.
My boyfriend thinks we may need to consider letthing him outside if he does not start to eat soon, but I really do not want to give up now. Would appreciate and help or guidance you can provide! Thank in advance for your help!
id stop trying to adjust him so much, but yeah its extraordinarily stressful for a cat.

Also make sure you're not doing any extra stressful things like trying to pick him up for no reason, etc

might suggest putting a camera where it is and monitoring it.

I will say I had a similar thing where my semi feral cat had a coyote issue, so we forced it inside for an entire night and it went into a state of shock. Cried for literally 9 hrs straight, then hid in a corner so deep into our place, she almost got stuck and it took forever to get her out. IT was horrific and have never seen her so sad. I won't make decisions for you but we eventually made her an outdoor-indoor cat like before. The mistake was not socializing her/trapping her REALLY little as by a certain point they just dont trust people etc..

Ive heard stories of it taking 2 weeks, but obviously not eating for multiple days is really bad. Please make sure they are at least drinking water or give it a bowl somewhere.


I think other people would have much better advice just my experience. sorry for whats going on.
 

havecats

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Wow, you are having quite a journey with your new feral friend! I know it seems overwhelming now, but it will get better. Do you think the feral cat is having a health issue? You mentioned he had an infection in both ears. Is he having to take any medication right now? Is there something that could be upsetting his stomach? The vet could probably help with that. I know there are things they can prescribe to increase the cats appetite and also to help with any kind of stomach upset. Also, sometimes syringe feeding can be necessary if they stop eating to prevent fatty liver from setting in. I'm sure your vet can advise you, just a few things I thought of when I was reading this thread. He is so lucky and blessed to have found you! Hope things settle down soon with him and all goes well. :-)
 

BBirdcat

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Wow, you are having quite a journey with your new feral friend! I know it seems overwhelming now, but it will get better. Do you think the feral cat is having a health issue? You mentioned he had an infection in both ears. Is he having to take any medication right now? Is there something that could be upsetting his stomach? The vet could probably help with that. I know there are things they can prescribe to increase the cats appetite and also to help with any kind of stomach upset. Also, sometimes syringe feeding can be necessary if they stop eating to prevent fatty liver from setting in. I'm sure your vet can advise you, just a few things I thought of when I was reading this thread. He is so lucky and blessed to have found you! Hope things settle down soon with him and all goes well. :-)
If its a legit feral cat I dont think a trip to the vet could even be possible since the last visit ending up traumatizing it apparently. and if its not letting its owner pet it or come near it at all.

I had a semi feral and after having to trap it and get it neutered and go to the vet it really did not trust other members of my family its entire life.

feral cats are really difficult. please just try your best OP and appreciate every moment you have. I know for me on the last few weeks of ym feral cats life it started having more flea and ear issues which frustrated me. in retrospect just wish I enjoyed their time more, but I didnt know what was going to happen :( best of luck
 

pearl99

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I don't have experience with true ferals but yes I would have him in his own room. I think the whole apt. may be too much, let him be in his room for awhile till more adjusted. Maybe then he will eat.
I have heard (read) of people getting human canned chicken and/or tuna and giving the kitty the chicken/tuna water, and leaving some of the chicken and/or tuna meat out. Sometimes cats really go for that. To get something in him.
 

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please give updates! really hope the cat eats soon and at worst drinks water
 

havecats

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If its a legit feral cat I dont think a trip to the vet could even be possible since the last visit ending up traumatizing it apparently. and if its not letting its owner pet it or come near it at all.

The OP did mention a vet visit in the first post and another vet visit would not necessarily be required in order for the owner to get something prescribed to help stimulate the cats appetite. Getting him to take it is another matter entirely. Hope things are going better with kitty today.
 
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