Feral cat inside, regressing

BFF_Amy

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Hi everyone, I’m the BFF mentioned in one of Lisa’s follow-up posts about this Persephone situation – I am “Auntie Amy” to her cats, and come over twice a day whenever she and her husband are both gone to feed, medicate, cuddle, play with, etc. the cats (and come over at some point when only she is gone for more than a few days, since all he – never having had pets until now - can do is report they’re all still alive and eating <g>). That now includes Persephone, who obviously comes with her own needs. I want to give you feral experts my background and my interaction thus far with Persephone, to get guidance on how I, as the back-up caregiver, should proceed as we help Sephie (as I call her) through this regression period and get her back on a forward track.

I’ve lived with and loved beyond reason cats since the day I was born and friends/family call me The Cat Whisperer – I indeed have a lot of experience and cats tend to quickly like me (on a couple of occasions more than they like their owners, heh). But my only prior experience with a feral cat was as a kid; it wound up an incredible success, but in spite of us rather than because of us – there was no info (or internet to find it on) then and we probably did at least half of it wrong. When Lisa told me she’d saved one of her job site ferals from same-day euthanasia, I started reading various feral cat guides, so I know the basics, but I haven’t actually lived with a feral since that childhood experience. And the fact Sephie was relocated (yes, a known no-no, but necessitated by circumstances; if not for Lisa, this poor cat would have been dead by the end of the day) puts me in completely new territory right alongside Lisa.

When, after a week at the shelter, she was set up outdoors at Lisa’s home, I came over to visit Sephie a couple of days later. She was as you’d expect, hidden the whole time. I talked in normal voice, in the baby talk I only use with kitties, roamed around the yard, etc. and just introduced myself to her from a distance for about half an hour. When I came back two or three days later, she was more receptive, ultimately sticking her head and front legs out of her little house within the crate once I plopped down in the grass outside the crate, and she’d briefly make eye contact, even doing “blinky blinky” a couple of times as I hung out for an hour or so.

Once brought into the house, she seemed to stagnate, but that was obviously another big change, and a couple of weeks after that Lisa and her husband went on a long-scheduled vacation and it was just me for nearly a week (twice a day, the door to her room always shut), so another change. But she’d let me get my hand – I kept my body perpendicular to her and my face several feet away always – within inches of her if I moved slowly, and she never spooked, would just inch back.

After they returned, I continued to come over at least once a week, with no further progress in our interaction, but no regression. Unfortunately, in the last three weeks, I have only been able to visit once. I can commit to at least one visit per week going forward, and can aim to make two or three whenever possible. But I don’t want to overwhelm her now while she’s learning to trust the door will again remain closed, denying the other cats access, as we deal with this setback. Should I resume visits now, or wait?

At this point, my plan is to go over Monday and just sit in front of the loveseat she hides under, reading to her as I did once before, so she gets used to my voice and smell again without me being in her face, and then go again on Friday and re-assume my perpendicular position from a safe distance and take it from there. But if I should alter that, please let me know.
 

Bookish1

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You gotten lots of good information. One thing I like to maintain for my cats is their own sanctuary. I prefer to have them bond to a cat carrier since it can go anywhere they do ( very handy for vet visits) but some of mine were also brought in to cages. The cage can work as here safe spot if she continues to be upset or seems to regress. She knows that cage is safe and since you need access to her , the cage may be easier than under the loveseat. Lol Also since you will be leaving for the cruise, she may feel some security being able to go in and out of the cage if she gets nervous.
It’s good to try and find quiet time to just sit near her on the floor. Giving treats by hand is helpful if she will take them. The Gerber 2nd foods all meat baby food is something most cats love! I use it as a lure when trying to catch ferals and to help socialize them. Slightly warm it puts off a nice aroma. You can put it on something and each time you feed her some bring it closer to you if she will come to eat it. It may take time but it’s a method that has worked well for me with old and young alike. If she has Ben having you talk to her, continue. Cats don’t love change so try to maintain things as you can. The litter box issue may be because she felt a little overwhelmed by too much too soon. Taking some steps back is a good idea. Closing the door probably helped. Great! You can introduce her to the other kitties later when you are going to be home and not have to worry about changes with other things. Having her get used to other people is okay. The friend she already knows is great backup for her. Use the scented shirt trick to get her used to your husband too. Would he be willing to sit quietly with her at times? Lol
Food is a great thing. It provides a chance to bond with her. Sitting with her to keep her company during treats is very positive. If she won’t eat with a person there then turn your back to her and see if that works. If she still won’t eat, leave her to eat alone but try at each feeding. If everyone who works with her follows the same routine it will help. Have you tried a toy yet? Some ferals don’t understand play since they only chase prey to eat when they get older. Play for a feral can waste valuable energy but the toys that are tied to a wand are great ones to attempt. If she will chase the toy towards you ( they kind of get so engrossed in catching the toy prey they forget themselves. Lol) she might come close to you and you can have her chase the toy over your leg. She may be startled when she realizes she made contact but it can start the process of touching. Some ferals will allow touch with the wand or even a hairbrush if it feels good to them. There are lots of tricks that can be used to get her back on track and beyond. Many here can help you as you go through this process. You are not alone in what you are doing and we all support you! I am so grateful to you for having saved her and brought her inside to a safe and loving home. Thank you! If you want to see pictures of an older feral as some of these methods were being used to help socialize him then please just tap on the link that rubysmama rubysmama posted to you at my Feral and Rescued Cats. It shows BJ and the process after he came in as a wild fellow. Lol He’s just a big ol lap boy now. Hang in there. You’ve done really great with her! I’m sure she will be fine. One thing typical to helping kitties adjust is that we often take two steps forward and one back. It just take time, patience and love and I can see that you are already showing her that. :thanks::clap2:
I’m going to try the baby food trick to lure this sweet boy that lives outside my house. I try to at least get him into the garage bc it’s safe, but he runs off, anyway enough of my chatter, you have given great advice! Love and hugs!
 

Bookish1

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Hi everyone, I’m the BFF mentioned in one of Lisa’s follow-up posts about this Persephone situation – I am “Auntie Amy” to her cats, and come over twice a day whenever she and her husband are both gone to feed, medicate, cuddle, play with, etc. the cats (and come over at some point when only she is gone for more than a few days, since all he – never having had pets until now - can do is report they’re all still alive and eating <g>). That now includes Persephone, who obviously comes with her own needs. I want to give you feral experts my background and my interaction thus far with Persephone, to get guidance on how I, as the back-up caregiver, should proceed as we help Sephie (as I call her) through this regression period and get her back on a forward track.

I’ve lived with and loved beyond reason cats since the day I was born and friends/family call me The Cat Whisperer – I indeed have a lot of experience and cats tend to quickly like me (on a couple of occasions more than they like their owners, heh). But my only prior experience with a feral cat was as a kid; it wound up an incredible success, but in spite of us rather than because of us – there was no info (or internet to find it on) then and we probably did at least half of it wrong. When Lisa told me she’d saved one of her job site ferals from same-day euthanasia, I started reading various feral cat guides, so I know the basics, but I haven’t actually lived with a feral since that childhood experience. And the fact Sephie was relocated (yes, a known no-no, but necessitated by circumstances; if not for Lisa, this poor cat would have been dead by the end of the day) puts me in completely new territory right alongside Lisa.

When, after a week at the shelter, she was set up outdoors at Lisa’s home, I came over to visit Sephie a couple of days later. She was as you’d expect, hidden the whole time. I talked in normal voice, in the baby talk I only use with kitties, roamed around the yard, etc. and just introduced myself to her from a distance for about half an hour. When I came back two or three days later, she was more receptive, ultimately sticking her head and front legs out of her little house within the crate once I plopped down in the grass outside the crate, and she’d briefly make eye contact, even doing “blinky blinky” a couple of times as I hung out for an hour or so.

Once brought into the house, she seemed to stagnate, but that was obviously another big change, and a couple of weeks after that Lisa and her husband went on a long-scheduled vacation and it was just me for nearly a week (twice a day, the door to her room always shut), so another change. But she’d let me get my hand – I kept my body perpendicular to her and my face several feet away always – within inches of her if I moved slowly, and she never spooked, would just inch back.

After they returned, I continued to come over at least once a week, with no further progress in our interaction, but no regression. Unfortunately, in the last three weeks, I have only been able to visit once. I can commit to at least one visit per week going forward, and can aim to make two or three whenever possible. But I don’t want to overwhelm her now while she’s learning to trust the door will again remain closed, denying the other cats access, as we deal with this setback. Should I resume visits now, or wait?

At this point, my plan is to go over Monday and just sit in front of the loveseat she hides under, reading to her as I did once before, so she gets used to my voice and smell again without me being in her face, and then go again on Friday and re-assume my perpendicular position from a safe distance and take it from there. But if I should alter that, please let me know.
She’s very lucky to have you. Y’all are doing a great job, acclimating a feral is a labor of love and patience. My heart melts for people that give love, kindness and most of all their time to animals. Giving a voice to the voiceless. Love and hugs! Please keep us all posted.
 

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B BFF_Amy Well welcome Auntie Amy! :welcomesign::thanks:Thanks go out to you too! Don’t stop visiting. Over the past couple of years I had the pleasure of the company of a large number of ferals of all ages. I discovered that socializing them fully was aided if I had regular visits by other cat lovers. It doesn’t have to be daily but whatever you can manage. The cats are smart and they know who the cat lovers are among us. She will remember you. It’s in everyone’s best interest to help her get over her fears there and since you have previous experiemce with her, I know you will be welcomed when “Mom” is away. You truly are her Auntie. If you follow the tips in the previous post then you should be fine. The slow blinks blink is a good thing and you can return those. No direct states but the blinks is a relaxed cat look. You already know to sit at ground level with her. If you lay down, belt up, they see that as you making yourself totally vulnerable to them. It is a position demonstrating to them that you trust them. The longer you can lay there still, the more likely she is to work up the nerve to come and sniff you. If she does, remain still the first times. If she gets brave enough to climb onto you, eventually you might be able to lift a finger to be explored which can lead to touching. Just slow and easy wins them in time.please do post back with any questions.I’m glad you are there to help. BTW Moving ferals is not the best thing but cats are amazing and with with all the love there, she should be making progress again shortly. I’ve seen ferals get moved many times and endure a lot and still become trusting of humans as well as adjusting to life indoors. My Banjo and Whistle are good examples of feral kitties recovering from a lot of trauma and being moved. The only weird thing now is that Banjo has fallen in love with a tree frog.:lol: Kitties! They give us great rewards!

Bookish1 Bookish1 Do try the baby food! It’s good stuff. Lol If you need more tricks please feel free to send a PM to me or others here or start a thread if you don’t have one yet. Thanks to you for helping the sweet boy at your house too! Welcome to you as well! :welcomesign:
 
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LisaRidlon

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Thank you so much everyone for the replies. Auntie Amy is terrific and I really am lucky to have such a good friend and fellow cat lover to help me out.

I went out and got another small litter box and some of the Dr Elsey’s litter and filled the new box with that. I also sprinkled some in the old box and I’m thinking of taking the cover off the old box. Now that we have the door shut again, there’s no need for it to be on. She does have her own feeder but since the regression I’ve just been leaving it open for her so she doesn’t have to deal with the lid opening and closing.

We have a little over a week before I leave for the quick holiday trip so hopefully I can make some more progress in the next 8 days with Amy’s help. I’ll see if I can find a good box, too. Cats love boxes but it didn’t occur to me to set one in there for her.
 

Bookish1

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B BFF_Amy Well welcome Auntie Amy! :welcomesign::thanks:Thanks go out to you too! Don’t stop visiting. Over the past couple of years I had the pleasure of the company of a large number of ferals of all ages. I discovered that socializing them fully was aided if I had regular visits by other cat lovers. It doesn’t have to be daily but whatever you can manage. The cats are smart and they know who the cat lovers are among us. She will remember you. It’s in everyone’s best interest to help her get over her fears there and since you have previous experiemce with her, I know you will be welcomed when “Mom” is away. You truly are her Auntie. If you follow the tips in the previous post then you should be fine. The slow blinks blink is a good thing and you can return those. No direct states but the blinks is a relaxed cat look. You already know to sit at ground level with her. If you lay down, belt up, they see that as you making yourself totally vulnerable to them. It is a position demonstrating to them that you trust them. The longer you can lay there still, the more likely she is to work up the nerve to come and sniff you. If she does, remain still the first times. If she gets brave enough to climb onto you, eventually you might be able to lift a finger to be explored which can lead to touching. Just slow and easy wins them in time.please do post back with any questions.I’m glad you are there to help. BTW Moving ferals is not the best thing but cats are amazing and with with all the love there, she should be making progress again shortly. I’ve seen ferals get moved many times and endure a lot and still become trusting of humans as well as adjusting to life indoors. My Banjo and Whistle are good examples of feral kitties recovering from a lot of trauma and being moved. The only weird thing now is that Banjo has fallen in love with a tree frog.:lol: Kitties! They give us great rewards!

Bookish1 Bookish1 Do try the baby food! It’s good stuff. Lol If you need more tricks please feel free to send a PM to me or others here or start a thread if you don’t have one yet. Thanks to you for helping the sweet boy at your house too! Welcome to you as well! :welcomesign:
Thank you, I sure will!
 

rubysmama

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Awww... she's beautiful. :hearthrob:

Eventually I’d added some World’s Best Cat Litter to the box and mixed it with the Tidy Cat. Just a few days ago is when I removed the box for 30 minutes to dump all the used litter, rinse it with dish soap, and refill it with all WBCL.
Wondering if she just doesn't like the litter being all WBCL. Can you go back to all Tidy Cat and see if that makes a difference?
 
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LisaRidlon

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We have poop in a box!! The new small litter box with the Dr Elsey’s litter in it did the trick. I also left her a shirt of mine I’d been wearing yesterday and a fleece sheep toy that my cat Shermie loves and both of those had been moved around. So yay! Tiny steps of progress!
 

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I have had cats who preferred baby sized cat boxes=go figure! maybe she feels more comfortable in a smaller box? odd isn't it? The cat was 15 lbs and squished herself in a small box but she also had bad arthritis=the sides were much lower so it could have been easier to get into position without having to bend the knees...but your kitty is pretty young, right?

You can roll some toys in catnip and leave them in there..Yeowww on Amazon are awesome toys=-never seen a cat reject them...
 
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LisaRidlon

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She is definitely an adult and was actually already spayed and ear-clipped when she’s was trapped. (I need to find out if there’s a TNR group in the city where I found her that is currently active.) She could be 3-4? The shelter vet estimated 5.

I had sprinkled some catnip around but that didn’t seem to have much of an effect. But I’ll get her her own set of toys - I think I’ve gotten some of those Yeoww toys previously.
 

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Thanks, folks - I will continue to visit, then, and basically do what I'd been doing. The (small) room is flanked on all sides by bookcases, plus some boxes and other things on the floor, then the loveseat she hides under in the middle, so there's not much room to maneuver and getting back up after arranging myself into an L position around the loveseat is not fun (Lisa is tiny, I am not <g>), but I agree that lying down on my back would be a good, vulnerable position to show myself to her. I can't squeeze behind the loveseat that way (she's in the middle, in a void between storage containers, facing the back 95% of the time either of us goes in there), but I can the front, so I can try that.

Is my coming over at least once a week adequate exposure to me, or should I put one of my shirts in the room, too? My instinct is that as her primary person, Lisa should be the one whose smell she always has with her, and then regular but non-daily exposure to Lisa's husband and to me will establish us as familiar and non-threatening while preserving the primary bond, but let me know if I'm off base.

Lisa told me this morning she'd started knocking on the door before coming in, and that was a light bulb moment for me -- I had been saying "Sephie, Auntie Amy is coming in" at the door, but she can't realistically distinguish that from me talking to one of the other cats in the hallway. So if she learns that there is always a knock at the door before someone comes into her room, she may feel more comfortable roaming it, knowing she will always have warning rather than being surprised by a visitor. We find some things moved, so we know she does move around some beyond going from litter box to feeder/water dish to hiding spot, but not much yet.
 

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I’ve currently got a feral kitty living inside my library room who seems to have completely regressed, despite us making progress over the last two months. I’m not sure what to do now and if I should try starting back at step 1, back to a cage/mini house/litter box, or if there’s a way to salvage what progress had been made.

The cat (now Persephone) had been living under a temporary trailer where I work, a construction jobsite. She’d been coming out daily for food and one of the night superintendents (Dave) had been feeding her. He ended up getting laid off by my company so I took over feeding her. She was a friendly feral - each afternoon she’d wait for me to appear, come running toward me but keep her distance, and then I’d place food for her under the trailer. Dave had been doing this for months and had her coming very close to him before he was let go.

There’s a longer story here but the short version is that someone placed traps near the trailer and Persephone got caught. I was concerned about her being taken to the shelter near the jobsite where she’d be euthanized, so I took her to a different shelter hoping for better results, naively thinking some shelters would spend the effort to rehabilitate or find a sanctuary for feral cats. When I realized that wasn’t going to happen, I adopted her after she’d been at the shelter for a week. My initial plan was to let her be an outdoor cat and I followed the feral cat guides on how to confine her for several weeks before letting her go and setting up a permanent shelter for her. I’ve got a backyard with a fence but we have coyotes in the area, so I’d been looking at getting a Kitty Tube that has an entrance coyotes can’t get into. I had her outside in a large cage (with a small cat house and litter box inside) for a week. I was worried about the coyote problem and decided that if I was going to be her caretaker, the best I could do for her was to bring her inside and try to socialize her as best as I could. She may not be a pet cat like my three domesticated cats, but she’d be safe, warm and free of coyotes.

By the time I was able to move her inside, she’d already spent one week at the shelter and one week outside in the cage, so we were already two weeks into the four-week relocation/adjustment period which was not ideal at all. I moved her into small room, set the cage back up with the small house, litter box, and her food dish. I got her used to a SurePet microchip feeder (that opens a flap when she approaches the sensors, located in an arch that she puts her head through to reach the food) and she’d been using that perfectly and using the litter box every single time she went to the bathroom. Eventually I left the door to the cage open and she settled in under a loveseat as her hiding spot. I also slowly switched the small litter box to a larger one, and then added a lid to it. (One of my regular cats pees high, so I need something with walls for her if she uses it). The regular cats had entered the room while se was still in the cage, and while she was under the loveseat and there was minimal hissing. I thought I’d gotten her successfully out of the cage (I removed it) and into this room. Slowly I started leaving the door ajar whenever she wasn’t eating so she could get used to the noises of the house.

At Thanksgiving, she suddenly stopped eating out of the feeder but would eat when I brought her a dish of food. I ended up resorting to just leaving the feeder door open since it seemed like she’d just lost the knack of how to use the feeder. Now she’s started to not use the litter box either. The room is hardwood floor with an area rug and she’s been lying on the rug under the loveseat which seems cozy, so I hadn’t wanted to remove the carpet. Yesterday morning I found she’d pooped on the rug behind the loveseat and when I got home from work, I noticed she’d peed on the carpet also. I thought at first maybe she was spooked by having the door ajar, but then I left the door to the room closed and that’s when we ended up with pee on the carpet. I moved her little box to the back corner of the room, thinking that would help but this morning there was poop on the carpet again.

So I feel like we are back to square one. What do I do? Do I put the crate back in the room and try starting all over to reset everything? Do I just pull the carpet out and keep trying outside of the cage, maybe going back to a small uncovered litter box? For the last two days now I’ve been leaving the door to the room closed all the time, as opposed to leaving it ajar when she’s not eating (so the regular cats can wander in and out and she can hear us moving around the house). I’m just not sure what to do now since it seems like we are back to square 1.

Any help/ideas on what to do now would be greatly appreciated.
Lisa
My advice would be not to change anything for a while. Whatever is going on, another change might set you back even farther. It's a shame about the rug but we can all relate. You can take it up and toss it down the road when she's gotten more settled. Try to just leave things as they are for a couple of weeks so that she has some consistency.
 

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Letting her know you are coming in does help. She will learn her name too so she knows you are talking to her rather than other cats. B BFF_Amy A shirt from you won’t hurt anything but I don’t know if it’s needed right now. Maybe the day before Mom leaves you could put one there for her.
 

rubysmama

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We have poop in a box!! The new small litter box with the Dr Elsey’s litter in it did the trick. I also left her a shirt of mine I’d been wearing yesterday and a fleece sheep toy that my cat Shermie loves and both of those had been moved around. So yay! Tiny steps of progress!
Great news!!!! Just remembered this emoji: :poop::poop::poop:

Oh, btw, welcome B BFF_Amy , aka Auntie Amy. :wave2:
 

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Despite the three-week pause in my visiting schedule, Sephie seemed to recognize her Auntie Amy today, and it wasn't very long of lying on my back and occasionally turning my head to face her (me in front of the love seat, her under it at the back [it's not at all deep, so only a couple of feet away], parallel to me, with her body hidden behind a storage bin and her head exposed) before I got the "blink blink" she's been doing with me during most visits since my second one (one time she actually put her head most of the way down onto her paws and closed her eyes, which thrilled me, but we haven't gotten back to that since). The pee and poop was back in the box where it is supposed to be and she'd eaten all her food, so we seem to be back on track all around. We'll just keep the other cats out, knock to announce ourselves, spend time in her room regularly, and let this play out on her schedule.

We can't yet tell if she's been in the sideways box added to the room, but Lisa's t-shirt is in there, so if fur starts to accumulate on it, we'll know she's using it.

Thanks again, everyone.
 
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LisaRidlon

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I thought I’d post a quick update. Last week I installed some cameras in my library room so I could see what Persephone is up to when I’m not around. When I’m visiting, she still doesn’t want me to get too close, although she isn’t hiding as much as she used to. If I spook her, she may turn around to move away, but then stop, without completing moving to hide. I’m counting that as a little progress. Amy is able to get her hand a little closer to her than I am - maybe 4 inches away. We’re trying to move slow and get her used to the daily routine. But, I discovered that when the door is closed and she’s alone, she seems perfectly comfortable in the room. She walks around, sleeps on the loveseat, and I even caught her playing with a catnip sock! (Some screencaps of the playing below.) So, we have tiny progress but progress. I need to start spending some more time in the room with her rather than just quick visits, but so far she at least seems comfortable with the routine, and comfortable in her room.
 

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rubysmama

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So glad you posted an update. It sounds as though Persephone is doing well. And thanks to the camera, you know she's even playing when she's on her own. So all good progress. Thanks for posting. :catlove:

About touching her, not sure how Amy does it, but try reaching towards her with your fingers closed into a fist, rather than pointing them right at her. Another idea, is to put a sock on a long stick, like a wooden spoon, and try touching her that way.
 
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