Feral in my garage

Bitsy's Mom

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Hello everyone,

About two months ago I became aware of a cat trying to find food in my recycling bin (there were empty cat food cans in there from my two cats) when my dogs chased him away. I thought he must be a stray or feral since none of my neighbors are animal lovers. So, to help him, I started putting one small can out every night. That graduated to him coming here to be fed twice a day, in the morning and at night. I could not get near him, but he would eat and see me watching him through the storm door. His ear was notched but he was definitely alone. This went on for a month and then I called a rescue group to trap him to get him shots and for me potentially to bring him inside.

Anyway, the rescue group did trap him and get him shots, but the woman had him in a trap for 6 days unbeknownst to me. Anyway, that is water under the bridge but she said he was "very feral" and didn't think I should crate him in my house since he might "go for me." So, because the weather is bad, she released him in my garage. My garage is freezing but there is no snow or rain and I put a heated bed and also a down comforter along with litter in there.

He has been in there now for one month! He uses the litter and eats (only once a day even though I put food in the morning since I think he feels safer in the dark.) I have only seen him twice since he freaks when he sees me and flys up onto the rafters and so I quickly leave because I don't want him to hurt himself.
The question that I have is this: Do I leave the door open at night next week since it is getting warmer? So he can leave? I don't know if he will but should I give him that option? I will be moving from here in about 3 months and that worries me. I could always try to retrap him and bring him with me if I have too but he is very smart and so retrapping might not be possible. The other option is to keep him in the garage for another 3 months but that is a horrible option I think. There is nothing in there and he doesn't seem to be using the cats beds or blanket. I just think he's up on the rafters. I cannot work with him since he is terrified of me.

It makes me so sad that he has never known a kind hand or a warm bed and I want to help him if I can. I just don't know what to do next. He now has his shots and is neutered, and about 14 lbs, and 4 to 5 years old.

Thanks!!
 

FeebysOwner

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Hi. Are you considering adopting him eventually? If not, then go ahead and open the door to the garage and see what he does. If you think you might want to take him in, then despite his reluctance to be around you, you would have to spend time in that garage with him. Not doing anything other than sitting on the ground (or a low chair) perhaps reading a book out loud (but softly) so he can get accustomed to you and your voice. Place yummy treats in the beds/blankets you have set up for him, to at least to try to introduce him to them. If you don't spend time with him he isn't going to get used to you. You have three months, a lot can happen in three months if you truly work on making him realize you are not the enemy.
A Feral Cat Or A Stray Cat? How To Tell The Difference – TheCatSite Articles
How To Get A Cat To Come Out Of Hiding? – TheCatSite Articles
The Five Golden Rules To Bringing An Outdoor Cat Inside – TheCatSite Articles
 

Norachan

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I think if he's been in your garage this long without getting used to your presence it might be better if you gave him the option of leaving. If you crack the garage door open so he can get in and out at will, but still leave food for him, he should be fine. He's neutered, vaccinated and well fed. Sometimes with the very feral ones that's as much as we can do.

If you think you might take him with you you'd have to spend a lot of time trying to socialise him. To be honest at his age you're going to have a tough time just getting him friendly enough to eat in your presence.

It all depends on whether you'll have the space and time to work with a feral cat at your new place
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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Thank you so much for your replies.

At first, I did spend time in the garage, but sitting on the floor when he is up in the rafters was pointless. I can't work with him since he immediately flies up to the top of the garage where I cannot see him. He is at the point where if he hears me walking outside toward the door, he zooms up to the rafters before I even go in.

I love animals and could try to work with him, but I do not believe he will approach me willingly. He knows my voice and I had hoped maybe he would just hide under the car but instead he's way up in the rafters where I a sure he feels safer. I did leave the radio on one day and he didn't come and eat anything, I think it scared him. Poor guy has been on his own for several years since he is between 3 and 5.

I can leave the door open next week when it warms up and see if he leaves, and then take it from there. My big concern is that when I move, he will lose his feeder. I can always try to trap him again I guess and bring him with me or figure out a setup for him where I am moving. I am not sure what is the best and kindest thing to do :( It breaks my heart to see him so petrified of me.
 

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Do you have any idea who got him neutered? There could be another feral colony with feeders close by. Not sure how it works in your city, but some places have registered TNR groups or feral care takers. I guess someone must have at least cared enough to get him neutered and ear tipped, so there might be a group operating in your neighborhood.
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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The group that I contacted that trapped him said that since he was alone, he wasn't with a colony. Maybe that is incorrect? The minute I started feeding him, he stopped licking all the cans in my recycling and started waiting in the back of my yard every morning for food and then again at night. And sometimes in the early morning, he would be waiting under my car and so I don't think he had a colony to go to. I can go and call all the rescues but he's a black long-haired cat and given his age, they may not know. I can try but in the meantime, not sure if I should leave the door open so he can go.
 

FeebysOwner

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At first, I did spend time in the garage, but sitting on the floor when he is up in the rafters was pointless. I can't work with him since he immediately flies up to the top of the garage where I cannot see him. He is at the point where if he hears me walking outside toward the door, he zooms up to the rafters before I even go in.
Sitting in there and just spending time with him is not pointless just because he chooses to hide in the rafters when you are there. This is no different that what happens when someone tries to acclimate a cat to their home. If you've read any of the hundreds of posts like this on this site, a cat brought in from whatever environment they came from can hide for MONTHS under a bed - never leaving it until the person who is caring for them has left the area. Then they eat/drink and use the litter box, but if they hear their caretaker open the door - BOOM, they are back under the bed.

I don't think he is an actual feral. He is an abandoned cat, left on his own too long, and is going to take a long time to come around. It's up to you whether or not you want to take on that challenge. If you aren't, please seek someone who would be willing to take him into their home and tolerate the months it will likely take to get him to accept humans are not all bad.
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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Hi, He has a tipped ear, and the rescue gal that trapped him so he could get shots said he was feral. I will not be able to find someone to take him on. There are friendly cats around here that don't get adopted. So I am trying to figure out the next best thing. I will keep going in the garage and I am also going to put a crate divider up across the open door so at least some fresh air can get in there. I hope he knows from the air that he is back in his territory. I would think that if he really wanted to leave, he would jump over the grate across the door. Right now though, it is going to snow tomorrow again (I'm in CT) and although the garage is freezing, at least he is dry and fed.
 

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My personal take may differ from others. Knowing he was hungry enough to scavenge your recycling and he will not have help once you move, if you are willing to work with him, I would not leave him behind. The trapper left him in a trap for six days!!! No wonder he is freaked out! What kind of attention did he get during that time? That may explain a lot! That could have set him
back a lot but given the right circumstances, he may be able to trust again. Cats are survivors but also forgiving. I have had ferals that actually ran at me when I approached their living area. In particular a cat that I was calling Vicious. It did take time but she is now named Flowers and lives inside. She loves to be petted and is completely sweet. I found out that she had experienced trauma from a human. That left her suspicious and scared. I am so glad that o did not give up on her. It could easily have gone down a much different path. If you plan to keep this kitty and can provide time to socialize, sitting in the garage long enough and using some of the tricks and tools used by rescuers may bring him some sense of trust between now and the time you need to move. I would put a large crate or carrier in there and place something in it to lure him there. Feeding him beside it can show him that is a safe cat cave. Cats need a sanctuary. Even a cardboard box might help to lure him down. Don’t pursue him right now but let him learn that you come and go without harm. Place something in the crate that carries your scent to let him know, you are the one feeding and in this way your scent will be associated with good things. He will know you are not the one who trapped him and you are not a predator or cruel human. He showed a bit of trust and need by coming in your garage to begin with. You may be the only thing that can give him a way to survive. Do you know about catios? They are enclosed spaces outside that can allow a cat to access shelter and even come into the house through a window or door as they feel the desire. If you cannot find someone to take on feeding him after you move, please consider putting in the work to socialize him enough to be relocated to your new home or even further. If you do relocate him, be aware that you can’t just release him into a new location outside. There is a process to follow for that to keep him safe. Many ferals do live outside their whole lives but the risks to them are very high and life can be short. He may never be a lap cat but knowing what happened with him being caged for six days, I would not make any assumptions. He might be willing to be a loving kitty given the right efforts. Thank you for caring so much about him! You have already given him a better chance at life. Maybe there is a feral or rescue group who would try to socialize if you cannot. Alley cat allies would be one source you can look up online. Please do keep us updated. Again, thank you so much for caring! :goldstar:
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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I do care about him and yes I was so distressed that they had him in a trap for so long for.no reason. It’s water under the bridge but at least he has a rabies and distemper shot.

I have a big dog crate in the garage with soft blankets inside but it’s untouched. I also have a heated cat bed but it’s in the ground near where I feed him and that is unused.

I agree when I move (whether he’s still in the garage or lose) he will be screwed so I will try to retrap and bring him with me.

At present, I just hate having him in the garage since it feels cruel. But maybe it’s not any worse than being outside and having to come up through the snow to get food.
 

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Right now though, it is going to snow tomorrow again (I'm in CT) and although the garage is freezing, at least he is dry and fed.
That's going to make a huge difference to him. Please don't feel that you are being cruel, a safe place to hide and regular meals are really helping him.

If you decide that you want to take him with you when you move we're here to help. I brought a bunch of semi feral cats with me when I moved. Jcatbird has rescued dozens of cats from outside. Lots of other people who post on here have done the same. It can be done, it just takes a lot of time and patience.

:hugs:
 

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You might be surprised. He may come down without you realizing it even if he doesn’t use the things you put out. I used a baby monitor to listen and later I got one with a camera and the cats really did a lot more than I knew! I still use those cameras to keep watch in other rooms of my house now. Lol Cat spying is extremely helpful. There is another person on site who is posting about a rescue in her ceiling. Very similar in the way the cat is responding but it is young and she actually had a little more contact with it before hand. It has a sibling that socialized quickly but this one is just a different personality. I have seen myself that of a family of cats, one would allow touching while the others resisted much longer but, in the end, they all became grateful for food, shelter and safety. Life outside is much more risky and is very scary. The smartest cats have keen survival skills. Going up high is smart! Smart ones also learn well. Once they are secure in their surroundings, they will make a move. Time! Also, remember that your perception of time may be very different from his. Humans are often in a rush but he has nothing but time. No rush to come down and it isn’t safe to him to rush trust. Very smart kitty! There are some calming products you could try too. Feliway makes a diffuser that may, or may not, help. Catnip is something he might find interesting too. Put it down in the crate and see what happens. There are lots of things to be tried yet. If you are determined to save him, you will find many here will be around so you can ask questions or ask for links to catios or whatever else you may be interested in knowing about. TCS is all about being supportive to anyone who loves a cat. You ARE helping him! Kitty guardians are kitty heros! Norachan is a kitty hero. The cats there have an amazing outdoor area that is totally protected and the kitties are the sweetest rescues you could ever see. Hang in there!
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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Thanks, Jcatbird.

He will be in there for the next week and then I will make a decision about leaving the door open at night to see if he wants to leave. He won't move during the day because there is noise outside and my dogs are out there too. They love kitties but he doesn't know that. He must have smelled them before though since when he used to be under my car, they would sniff around the car.

That is what got me started trying to help him. It made me so to see a cat crouched under my car at 10 pm when it was rain/snow and 29 degrees.

Thanks for all the suggestions and I will keep everyone posted. If I can get a picture if I ever see him again, I will! He's solid black and long hair and really quite beautiful.
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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One more question. How can I make it better for him in there? Leave a light on at night? I have put catnip and valerian root down quite often and treats. Should I put catnip down every day? I also put it in the crate and in the heated bed.

My dream is to have him in a comfortable bed in there at night, even if he won't let me near him!

Thanks everyone <3
 

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Hello B Bitsy's Mom , and welcome to TCS. And thanks for all you're doing for your feral kitty. I've no experience with feral cats, but have read many threads on their rescues, and love following their progress as they begin to trust the human(s) who care about them.

You mention your feral not using the heated bed. As cats are drawn to heat, so I can't imagine him not taking advantage of it's warmth. Maybe try leaving some treats or other dry kibble food on the bed, or in the dog crate, and see if they disappear.
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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The heated bed is an igloo with a heated pad inside. The heat is only activated if he lays on it and so he doesn't know its warm unless he goes in.

I have thrown catnip inside and treats around the outside, but I have read conflicting information about putting food in there. I read that they won't sleep where there is food since food can attract predators. So I have not put the treats inside.
 

rubysmama

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I have thrown catnip inside and treats around the outside, but I have read conflicting information about putting food in there. I read that they won't sleep where there is food since food can attract predators. So I have not put the treats inside.
I've never heard that before, but it does make sense. But since he's not sleeping there anyway, at least not that you are aware of, maybe it wouldn't hurt to leave a couple treats there, just to get him to check the bed out.

Oh, my vote is as long as he's eating and using the litter box ok in the garage, I'd keep him there till you move, since you want to bring him with you. I'd hate for you to let him out, and then never see him again, as it's clear he's grabbed onto a piece of your heart. :catlove:
 

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The heated bed is an igloo with a heated pad inside. The heat is only activated if he lays on it and so he doesn't know its warm unless he goes in.
If the top portion can be removed from the pad inside, you might just take the top off and see if that makes any difference. Maybe he is afraid to try it because it is enclosed and he fears it could be a trap?
 
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