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Feral Advice

Discussion in 'Caring for Strays and Ferals' started by angela15, Oct 2, 2018.

  1. angela15

    angela15 Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

    42
    68
    Oct 2, 2018
    Fairfield, CT
    Hi Everyone,

    I'm new here and looking for some feral cat advice!

    A friendly feral began visiting our yard over the past two months. We are guessing he is about 6-9 months old. At first he was very afraid when we would feed him, and would only eat if we went back into the house. Now he comes onto the back porch faithfully when we whistle, or when he sees one of our cars pull into our driveway. At this point he has gotten more comfortable with us and lets us get very close. When he feels like it, he will eat out of my hand, but that is as close as we get and he hasn't let us pet him yet. This past weekend, he did play with a feather on a string stick.

    He also enjoys looking into our house through our back door. He spends quite a good amount of time looking in at us.

    Last night we were able to trap him and this morning I brought him to the vet to be neutered/spayed (although I am referring to the cat as "he", we really don't know if it is a boy of a girl. It was a traumatic experience (probably more so for me) but he did okay over night, but he did make some "gremlin like" noises this morning during transport.

    Although he is feral, my husband and I really want to try to adopt him. I can't imagine he is living a great life on the streets, and with winter approaching I want to give him a warm home to live in and lots of love!

    A friend lent me a very large dog crate that I am going to set up for him tonight. I plan to put his carrier in it, as well as a litter box, food, water, and some blankets and towels. I am hopeful that after the initial shock of all of this he will be at a point where he can start exploring the house room by room. I am a little worried about him terrorizing the house (especially because both my husband and I work full time) and we don't have a particular room that he could start out in during the transition.

    Any advice or tips out there? Although last night was traumatic, I keep telling myself it was the right thing to do. I know that ferals are best socialized when they are very young, so I am hoping that we haven't missed our opportunity. I am also hopeful that he will begin to trust us again, because I really felt like I was getting somewhere with him outside.

    IMG_1676.JPG IMG_1686.jpg
     
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  2. white shadow

    white shadow TCS Member Top Cat

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    Nov 28, 2010
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    Hi Angela and welcome to the forum !

    I have to say, there's nothing else like just 'jumping into the deep end'!

    I'm on the run with errands, but wanted to immediately alert you to something.

    IF "he" is a "he", recovery after neuter surgery will/should be relatively fast and unremarkable.

    IF, however, "he" is a "she".....recovery from spay surgery is going to take more time and is fraught with more complication......

    In any case, as soon as you can, call the Vet and find out...whatever they've 'discovered' about the cat.

    You need to speak with the Vet directly...no receptionists/techs/etc...

    You need to discuss aftercare, specifically pointing out that this cat is feral and completely new to you. Personally, in this situation, I'd recommend that the cat remain at the Vet clinic for at least some of the recovery period. post-operative pain control will be needed and you will not be able to manage this, I assure you. IF it's a female, the pain management will be more complicated and prolonged and, as well, the incision will need to be protected and monitored for a few days - something that won't be possible for you.

    It's wonderful that you've taken this little one in...and now, you'll need to work with what you have.

    There's lots of support here in every aspect of your journey together.

    Please consider all this carefully...and, please, don't let over-confidence get in the way of proper aftercare of this cat. UNLESS either of you has extensive experience with feral cats, you must exercise careful judgement and be guided by experienced rescuers - those will join you here shortly.

    @Jcatbird @shadowsrescue @Mamanyt1953 .....and, "you guys" please invite those you know will provide appropriate support and advice.

    Angela, once again, it's amazing what you've accomplished so far!
    .
     
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  3. shadowsrescue

    shadowsrescue Advisor Staff Member Advisor

    5,408
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    Apr 27, 2011
    Ohio
    You did a fantastic thing for this kitty!! Please please please do not let him back outside. The first few days may be rough. He will yowl/howl and try to get outside. If you let him out it will be really hard to get him back inside. He will test your patience, but be strong and realize this is all temporary!!!

    While he is in the cage, it should be in a room of his own. It is also helpful to keep the cage covered with a light sheet. Start with it covered all the way and then move to uncovering one side at a time.

    Many people leave the ferals in a cage for weeks. Since you are unable to touch him, it does make it more difficult. Just be sureshe is in a room of his own right now. It will make him feel more secure being by herself. Once he has calmed down a bit you can think about letting him out to explore the room. Just be sure the room is completely cat proofed. You want a bed flat on the floor or picked up. I guarantee he will go under a bed and there it is almost impossible to get him out. You want to force him to be out in the open. Also watch for behind and under large furniture. Below are some helpful suggestions. We are here to help you!

    Here is a great article on socializing cats and also some tips.

    How to Socialize Very Shy or Fearful Cats

    1. The first tip is to have a room that is dedicated to the cat. If possible this should be a room where the cat will be confined for a period of time. You can use a spare bedroom or even a small bathroom. If using a bedroom or other room of your home, be sure that the room is cat proofed. Remove mattress and box springs or place them directly on the floor. Hiding under a bed is the first place the cat will run and it is almost impossible to get them out. Also block behind dressers or book cases. Cats can fit into very small spaces. You do want to have an appropriate hiding spot for the cat. This can be an old box turned on its side or a hiding box found on a cat tree. Also make sure all windows are tightly closed and blinds are up with the cords hidden. Do not be surprised if the cat throws himself against the window in an attempt to escape.

    2. If you do not have an empty room available or the cat is very wild, you can use a large dog crate or fasten two smaller crates together. Just be sure there is enough room for a small litter pan and food. If you need to use a crate, I would suggest keeping the crate covered with a sheet or towel when the cat is alone. This will help to calm the cat. Eventually you will need a cat proofed space where you can move the cat.

    3. You will want to start with 2 litter boxes. Many feral cats are not used to urinating and defecating in the same location. When choosing a litter, you can use fresh clean potting soil mixed with non clumping litter or you can try Dr. Elsey’s Litter Attract. I have found the Litter Attract to work very well. If the cat has an accident on the floor, sop up the urine with a paper towel and bury it into the litter box. Do the same with any stool. Make sure you clean the area very well with a good enzymatic cleaner to remove all traces of odor. Place the litter boxes away from the food and water.

    4. Feliway plugins are a great way to help a nervous cat adjust. Most cats find the product soothing. You can find Feliway at most pet stores as well as on Amazon.

    5. Another product I found helpful was Composure treats or Composure Liquid Max. The first few nights inside are very stressful. The cat will often yowl and cry all night. The Composure is very useful in calming the cat at night. I first tried the treats, but after a week or so, the cat no longer liked the treat. I then switched to the liquid as it was very easy to mix into wet food. Composure is available at the best price on Amazon.

    6. No direct eye contact. Feral cats find this very threatening. Keep your gaze over the top of their head or look down.

    7. Talk softly. You want them to get used to your voice. Carry on a conversation or even read aloud from a book or magazine.

    8. Sit on the ground so you are not looming over the cat. You also want to keep your movements slow.

    9. Food rewards are the way to a ferals heart. Find a special yummy treat such as plain cooked chicken or turkey, salmon, tuna or sardines. I would start by giving them a very small plate with some of the special treat. I would then have small pieces beside me and begin to toss the treat towards the cat. Each toss I would get the treat a little closer to me. I would do this activity each day. After a few weeks, the cats are often getting quite close as long as you keep your movements slow and gaze down.

    A very special food reward I stumbled across is Gerber Stage 2 baby food. Cats love the chicken or turkey. The jar is very small with a blue label. The ingredients are chicken or turkey and water, no added spices. I started with a bit on a plate and as time went by, I offered it on a spoon. When working with young ferals or kittens, they can often be coaxed to lick this off your fingers. Just remember this is a treat reward and not a meal replacement.

    10. Remember that when working with ferals it is often 1 step forward and 2 steps back. Just take it slow and steady. Also celebrate the small advancements.

    11. Jackson Galaxy of Animal Planets, “My Cat From Hell” series is the cat guru. He has a line of flower essences that are specially designed for cat behaviors. He even has one for feral cats. I have used this essence with great success on all of my feral cats.
     
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  4. angela15

    angela15 Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

    42
    68
    Oct 2, 2018
    Fairfield, CT
    Thank you so much for the kind words and advice.

    Luckily the vet that we brought Cat to specializes in ferals. They provided me with a trap and are aware that he is a feral. His surgery is today, and he will be spending the rest of the night/tomorrow at the clinic. I thought it would be best if he could recover at the clinic for at least a day.

    I wasn't sure about the use of an e-collar. When I asked the clinic (who is well aware that we are going to try and keep this kitty inside) they said that they do not use e-collars on ferals. I wasn't sure your thoughts on this.

    Thank you again!
     
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  5. angela15

    angela15 Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

    42
    68
    Oct 2, 2018
    Fairfield, CT

    Thank you for the kind words and advice! I know this isn't going to be easy, but we really want to give him a better life than on the streets. While we weren't planning to get a pet just yet, he sort of walked right into our lives, and it feels like the right thing! Coming home to feed him each evening on the porch was the highlight of my day, and I know I will feel so much better knowing he is safe inside now.

    I've been trying to do as much research and I can to be as prepared as possible. Some people recommended keeping the cage in an area where family members often visit so that he gets used to people. Do you think this is a good idea, or would it be better to put him in a spare bedroom that is not often used. My only hesitation with putting him in the spare room directly and not in a cage is that we currently have a trundle bed in the room. It has lots of nooks and crannies and I am afraid if he were to hide in the bed he would have difficulty getting out.

    I am a bit nervous about how he will adapt to the house because we haven't been able to handle him at all. I thought perhaps keeping him in the cage just at first would make him feel more secure (and maybe he wouldn't completely terrorize my house!)
     
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  6. white shadow

    white shadow TCS Member Top Cat

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    Nov 28, 2010
    CA
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    They don't use collars on ferals likely because those ferals are being (almost) immediately released/freed into TNRd colonies. The clinic probably doesn't have any/much experience with ferals going directly into permanent homes.

    My own feeling, based on personal experience with my own (then) recently adopted tame/socialized male cats is that, if the cat has received adequate pain control medication and, if there is no post-op infection, there will be no need for a collar nor other device. If the cat is pain-free, the cat will pay no attention 'back there'.

    I want to re-iterate something I said earlier....whoever answered you about the collars obviously knew nothing about your situation viz-a-viz this cat. I'd really advise you to get to know one/more of the medical techs there, make sure they know your situation and then, deal directly with either them or your Vet. One can get a lot of 'interference' at/from a Vet clinic and for a host of reasons. Best to deal with the most-informed there!
    .
     
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  7. Mamanyt1953

    Mamanyt1953 Rules my home with an iron paw Staff Member Forum Helper

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    Havelock, North Carolina
    @Jcatbird will be along as soon as she is able. She has gentled any number of ferals, and will be more than happy to give additional advice. Each of us has some bit of information that is unique to us, which is why a community like this is so valuable.

    The key to this is patience. Think of this cat as a tiny cougar in your home. Expect him to act accordingly...avoiding you, hissing, growling...FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES. And every feral cat is different, depending on their past experience with the huge, scary, dangerous beasts called "man."

    This article is really meant for outdoor domestic cats, but some of the information about enriching your home will be useful, anyway.

    The Five Golden Rules To Bringing An Outdoor Cat Inside
     
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  8. white shadow

    white shadow TCS Member Top Cat

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    Nov 28, 2010
    CA
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    We still have (at least) a couple of other r̶e̶s̶c̶u̶e̶ ̶e̶x̶p̶e̶r̶t̶s̶people with extensive rescue experience to drop by, welcome you and offer their thoughts. I don't want to page them again, but I'm sure they'll be by eventually.

    Make sure you have your account here set up to receive email notifications of replies - that way you won't have to hang around.

    Meantime, if you think of anything else, just ask !
    .
     
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  9. shadowsrescue

    shadowsrescue Advisor Staff Member Advisor

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    Apr 27, 2011
    Ohio
    I have brought 6 feral cats into my home to live. Each one has adapted differently. Yet each of them have adjusted.

    I have always used a spare room that is cat proofed. Since you have a trundle bed in the room, you can either remove the bed or stand it up so he cannot get inside. It is really hard to block under beds so it's best to remove it or stand it up out of the way.

    I truly believe a room is best. You have no idea how long it will take him to learn to live inside. One of my feral boys took a solid year. He was 3 years old when he came inside to live. Another one took only 3-4 months. Right now I am working on 3. I recently moved and brought the 3 feral cats I had been taking care of for years with me. They are doing well inside and we are now working on introductions between my other 6 cats.

    The first feral I brought inside loved his safe room. He used it when our lives were too chaotic for him. He was afraid of the vacuum, lawn mowers, snow blowers and other loud noises. He also was very afraid of strangers. He needed this room to have a safe place to decompress.

    I used a screen door on his room later on to allow him to see and hear the comings and goings of the house. I used a cheap wooden screen door that I attached with tension rods so I didn't have to deface my door. This time around I am using a barrier made out of wire shelving that is zip tied together. It is much easier to set up and remove.

    Time and patience is your friend. He may adjust quickly or it may take him many months. Be patient and don't be in a hurry.
     
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  10. angela15

    angela15 Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    Oct 2, 2018
    Fairfield, CT
    Thank you!

    I am going to try and connect with the clinic today. Check in this morning was a bit rushed, and the woman who I have been in contact with about my particular situation wasn't there today. If I am able to connect with them before pickup tomorrow (they aren't the best at answering the phones) should I insist on having them put a cone on if it is a female? Also, should I ask to have it boarded for more than one day if it turns out to me a female? The absolute LAST thing I want to do is put this cat in any harm's way. My only intention is to help it!
     
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  11. Mamanyt1953

    Mamanyt1953 Rules my home with an iron paw Staff Member Forum Helper

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    Havelock, North Carolina
    OH...LITTERBOX! Since this cat is accustomed to being outdoors, you might have better luck with the litterbox if you fill it with dirt (bags of potting soil will do) at first, then slowly begin mixing your choice of litters in with it.
     
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  12. angela15

    angela15 Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    Oct 2, 2018
    Fairfield, CT
    Great advice!!
     
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  13. angela15

    angela15 Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    Oct 2, 2018
    Fairfield, CT
    Just got a call back from the clinic. It is a girl!! We are shocked because we all thought it was a boy! Good thing we went with the name "Cat". Figured we would be gender neutral since we didn't know at first :)

    With that being said, I am now extremely worried about her recovery. When I called the clinic back I asked again about the e-collar. I reminded them that although she is a feral, we plan to adopt her as a house cat. They reassured me that none of the ferals they spay go home with e-collars (TNR or cats that are being adopted). The woman that I spoke with did say that she got her pain medication (meloxicam) which should last 24 hours. Cat will spend tonight and most of the day tomorrow at the clinic and they said they would monitor her for licking etc. I will do my very best to keep an eye on her recovery when I pick her up tomorrow evening. Since I can't handle her quite yet and I am sure she will be in rare form when I pick her up from the clinic, I do not think it would be realistic for me to put an e-collar on her.
     
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  14. Mamanyt1953

    Mamanyt1953 Rules my home with an iron paw Staff Member Forum Helper

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    She should do fine. The vast majority of spayed ferals who are returned to their colonies never have any issues with recovery. Now, there is always that chance, but I'm inclined to think that the stress of the e-collar on a feral would outweigh the benefits of having it in the first place.
     
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  15. shadowsrescue

    shadowsrescue Advisor Staff Member Advisor

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    Apr 27, 2011
    Ohio
    I would never use an e collar unless absolutely necessary. The stress would just be too much.

    As for litter, the best is Dr. Elsey's Litter Attract. Cats are attracted to it immediately. I usually use it straight to start with and then gradually mix in my regular litter. It is much easier than using dirt in your house. Yet it can be pricey. If she does have an accident outside of the box, you can blot it up with a paper towel and bury it in the box. She will then be attracted to her scent. The same with poop.
     
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  16. angela15

    angela15 Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

    42
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    Oct 2, 2018
    Fairfield, CT
    Thank you for the quick reply! You have all been so helpful over the last few hours!

    Is there anything in particular I should keep my eyes open for just in case? Since being inside is going to be a new experience for her, I wont necessarily know what unusual behaviors to look for since I think all of her behaviors might be a bit unusual as she adjusts to home life..
     
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  17. angela15

    angela15 Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

    42
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    Oct 2, 2018
    Fairfield, CT
    Thank you for the advice about the e-collar.. I just know that if the clinic doesn't get it on her I wont be able to.. But I am hopeful we will be okay without it.

    Do you prefer the Dr. Elsey's litter itself or the additive by the same brand?
     
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  18. Mamanyt1953

    Mamanyt1953 Rules my home with an iron paw Staff Member Forum Helper

    15,473
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    Oct 16, 2015
    Havelock, North Carolina
    The main thing to watch for is excessive licking/chewing at the surgery site. THAT needs to be dealt with right away, and might actually require a collar, although there are alternatives. So long as she is eating and drinking, and um...let's say that what is going in is coming back out...she's ok. Now, she may well not eat until the house is dark and quiet, so make sure you put food in her bowl in such a way that you can tell if she's eaten it.
     
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  19. angela15

    angela15 Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    Oct 2, 2018
    Fairfield, CT
    Good to know!

    I also LOVE the article you sent over before about how to socialize a very shy cat.. I know that every cat will be different but having somewhat of a plan to start with is so helpful to me!
     
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  20. Mamanyt1953

    Mamanyt1953 Rules my home with an iron paw Staff Member Forum Helper

    15,473
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    Oct 16, 2015
    Havelock, North Carolina
    Ferals and long-term strays just take infinite amounts of patience, and the ability to realize that seeming rejections aren't personal.
     
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