Advice Socialising Semi-Feral Adoptee

VivienneS

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I'm trying to socialise a 3yr old semi-feral in a household with a domesticated 5yr old. The semi-feral hisses but is not aggressive otherwise. She has only been with me for 2 weeks and some progress is being made but I'd like advice as to the best way to proceed.

She is eating to schedule but not whilst I am in the room. She hides most of the time I'm in the room. Just twice she has emerged but primarily to get further away from me. She watches me and any toys but doesn't engage. She loves treats but they don't tempt her sufficiently to overcome her fear of me. Her favourite hiding place is an igloo bed, but if I try to interact at the entrance to the igloo with any toy or try to stroke her with a wand or long handled brush, or offer treats on my hand she hisses. She is a fearless confident explorer (and seemingly happy) at night (I have a video camera to monitor this) and has easily ventured out onto the landing/hall (when my resident cat is secured elsewhere and I am in my bedroom). She also comes out of the igloo to 'meet and greet' (with little kitty cries) my resident cat (in broad daylight but only when I am not there) at the mesh divider between her door and the rest of the house. I have Feliway diffusers in use.

My resident cat is curious, and fairly open I think to meeting/being with another/other cats. He is very sociable and is never far from me. He is however showing some concern (territorial checking) but nothing too significantly worrying.

My question is this: do I continue to keep the semi-feral confined until she approaches me / doesn't hide / is willing to eat whilst I am in the room ... OR do I go ahead with full cat to cat introductions and then let my resident cat 'show her' the way.

My concern with the latter option is that she will bond only with my resident cat and never me.... and if she hides whilst I am around she will never see the human interaction traits anyway. I'm inclined to go down the first option route even if it takes months - or find a compromise training method like for example crating her without a hiding place and periodically putting the crate in the more actively used rooms downstairs. I don't want to be 'impatient' or do more harm than good though so would appreciate expert advice having never done this before.
Many thanks
 

susanm9006

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I would move ahead with the next step in introducing the two cats. If they do get along, it would lessen her anxiety and he may be able to show her that you are a safe human. My girl Willow Was semi feral when I adopted her as a one year old and it was months before she came out of hiding and came near me. The best advice is talk to her softly but don’t otherwise try to make contact. Hard as it is you need to wait until she tells you she is ready. Willow did not trust at all being offered treats but yours may be different. You can try setting out something delicious every time you enter her space and then start moving it closer to you. But dont look at her if she comes out to get it.
 

fionasmom

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Welcome to The Cat Site and thank you for helping this cat! Does she already have access to your entire house when she comes out at night or is she still confined to a portion of it? There are a couple of ways to look at this. Your cat may become the sentinel cat who will show the newcomer that the house is safe and become her conduit to a more sociable life. Jackson Galaxy brings that kind of relationship up from time to time in the cases he works with. Sometimes it works remarkably well.

The only thing I wondered about was if the newcomer could or would find a new hiding place in the house and make it harder for you to relate to her? Some of that can be controlled by blocking off some areas, such as under beds, etc. This all depends on your house specifically.
 
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VivienneS

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Welcome to The Cat Site and thank you for helping this cat! Does she already have access to your entire house when she comes out at night or is she still confined to a portion of it? There are a couple of ways to look at this. Your cat may become the sentinel cat who will show the newcomer that the house is safe and become her conduit to a more sociable life. Jackson Galaxy brings that kind of relationship up from time to time in the cases he works with. Sometimes it works remarkably well.

The only thing I wondered about was if the newcomer could or would find a new hiding place in the house and make it harder for you to relate to her? Some of that can be controlled by blocking off some areas, such as under beds, etc. This all depends on your house specifically.
For the first week she was confined to just one room with the only an igloo to hide in, for 3 nights I let her have access to a little more space (hall, landing and stairs) but her default was to hide and still is whilst she can see or sense me. Since then for the last 3 nights I’ve kept her confined back in her base camp but with a mesh door dividing her from the rest of the house. My resident cat roams during the day but he is confined to the Kitchen overnight.
I feel like I’ve made a baby step in progress since I first posted, this morning my resident cat ate and played within sight of the door (and showed his affection for me as I was right there) and significantly my adoptee came to the mesh door and stayed there watching for a little while.
I am concerned though that they are both exhibiting territorial behaviours - adoptee in her room (scratching round food), and my resident checking rooms out (he can open doors) and running up and down stairs to his litter tray, the kitchen where his feeding has always been, plus coming to me and checking in and around my bedroom (none of these spaces has had adoptee in yet). Aside from this the interactions have been promising, resident has sat within a foot of adoptee - no obvious hostility, just cautiousness and eventually he turns and leaves. Adoptee rubs up and down the mesh, pacing and gentle kitten like meows. I think she may have rolled onto her back too but I have to watch from the camera monitor as of course as soon as I came closer she would return to her igloo.
I think more by luck than judgement I’m progressing fine but I so want this to work for both of them and end up with an adoptee who is not afraid of me! I have been watching Jackson Galaxy videos to try to interpret as well as possible, not rush it and make the right calls.
 
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VivienneS

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And yes the wider house would have lots of hiding spaces and her not bonding with me is my number one fear. I wouldn’t be able to control her room access because my resident cat can pretty much ‘break into every room’ unless it’s barricaded (generally not possible)
 
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VivienneS

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I think I’m building positive associations….
Second day running of adoptee feeding, watching and accepting visual on me near or at the mesh door - being rewarded by treats; and
my resident feeding, playing and having me to himself nearby on the landing opposite the mesh door (he doesn’t take treats). He’s still troubled and prowling his territory but when he approached her this morning I swear I heard her purring!!! Clearly she wants this cat to cat association and comfort, whereas my resident primarily wants his territory including me!
 

fionasmom

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You are definitely making great progress and baby steps is fine. It sounds as if you are organized and methodical about this so that the cats have time to adjust to each other. The positive association with the mesh door will end up paying off. Please keep us posted.

Continuing to contain her is a good idea as you don't want her to hide in the house at large. It sounds as if she likes your resident cat, which means that at least she will not be aggressive with him. I do think that this will work out.
 

maggie101

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I think I’m building positive associations….
Second day running of adoptee feeding, watching and accepting visual on me near or at the mesh door - being rewarded by treats; and
my resident feeding, playing and having me to himself nearby on the landing opposite the mesh door (he doesn’t take treats). He’s still troubled and prowling his territory but when he approached her this morning I swear I heard her purring!!! Clearly she wants this cat to cat association and comfort, whereas my resident primarily wants his territory including me!
One way to get her attention is to clicker train. My cat likes me singing to her. Can you crawl on the ground or sit some will be more comfortable?
 
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VivienneS

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One way to get her attention is to clicker train. My cat likes me singing to her. Can you crawl on the ground or sit some will be more comfortable?
I have tried both crawling and sitting on the floor for short periods - I’m mid fifties with back and knee problems so I can’t stay like that for long so she so far has out-waited me! I’ve tried classical music on the TV, last night harp music, and I’ve read to her…not sure I would sing….but I could read up on and try clicker training maybe.
 

maggie101

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I bought clickers online then followed instructions online. Only thing I needed to teach her is to come when called. I haven't thought her to do a high five!
 
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