Feral in my garage

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Bitsy's Mom

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That's a great idea but the top does not come off. I will take some pictures and post. I wish he would use it, since it's going to be 16 degrees at night here and the garage is freezing.
 

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Being in the rafters is probably warmer than being on the ground. So, could be one of the many reasons he is up there. I think you said you had some blankets or towels on the ground in addition to the igloo? Are they in a large box - preferably one that is low sided? I just heard about a trick for creating a makeshift warming bed. It has to do with using aluminum foil (I think) as an insulator underneath blankets. I will see if I can go find the thread.
 

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Maybe he feels vulnerable too close to the ground and wants a higher spot to hide in.

What are the rafters like, is there any way you could safely slide a bed up there for him? Have you tried a cardboard box with straw inside? The kind pet shops sell for rabbit bedding is fine. It's actually a really good insulator and some cats prefer the more natural smelling grass to blankets or heating pads.
 

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Here's what I wrote in a rather long-ago thread:

It's really easy - and inexpensive! - to make a self-warming cat bed. My cats love this.

Get a car windshield sunshade, the kind with a silvery foil cover attached to a thin foam backing. You may be able to find it at a Dollar Store. If not, NAPA auto parts, maybe Wal-Mart auto department.

Use a pair of scissors to cut to desired size. Slip it into a pillow case, foil side up. When the cat lays on it its own body warmth will be reflected back up.

I may have mentioned this on a different thread but it's O.K. if I'm repeating myself since this is so useful in this really cold weather.
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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Small update and/or progress.

I had put a small piece of cotton fabric across the opening to the heated igloo cat bed. This morning, the cloth was moved about 7 inches away from where I put it. That means that he went into the igloo! Not sure if he slept in there, but it means that he's going into it.

I know it's a small thing but it's a nice bed that I bought specifically for him and so maybe he is sleeping in it and getting some comfort. That said, he must only go in at night since at 9 pm he is nowhere in sight and at 7 am when I go out there to refresh food and water, again, he is nowhere in sight.

I'll clean his litter this weekend but the next decision is whether to open the door overnight next week when it's warm to see if he wants to leave. I am going to be moving in 2-3 months and so if he does leave, I would have to retrap him to bring with me if he's still hanging around.
 

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I am thrilled to hear he has at least checked out the igloo!!! That is progress all by itself.

If you are truly planning on taking him with you, it would probably be best just to keep him in your garage. It's a tough call, I know I would be going back and forth about opening the garage door too. But, I know it would kill me if I would open the door and he would leave!!! Are you spending any time throughout the day in the garage, talking/singing/etc? If you are taking him with you, you want to start getting him acclimated to your voice and your presence.
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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He definitely knows my voice since he knew it when he was loose outside and I would call him. He would let me get within 10 feet but that was it. And yes, I always talk to him when I go by the garage and when I put the food down, but I have not spent as much time in there as I should.

I have opened the side door near where his food is and put a metal grate divider from a crate across the open door. It blocks it but lets the air in. He hasn't tried to leave, but again, I did that during the day when he stays hidden. He only really comes out after dark.

It is a hard decision about whether to let him out. Either way, I will have to trap him again if possible to take with me. No one in this neighborhood is helpful to cats or wildlife and as his feeder, he would be out of luck with me gone.

I cannot believe how much I worry about this guy! It just makes me so sad to think he has never had anyone care about him.
 

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Thanks so much for being the first human to care about him. He doesn't realize it yet, but he will eventually.

Since he's already been in your garage a month, and you're moving, and taking him with you in 2 or 3 more months, I think keeping him in the garage, and trying to spend more time socializing him is your best move. Even though, as a feral, he's "street smart", there are still dangers out there for cats, and I think it would crush your heart if something happened to him in the time before you move, or worse, he just disappeared and you never knew what happened to him.

Right now, though he's not 100% happy, he's safe, fed, and loved.

Does the garage have windows? If so, can you set up something that he can sit on / sleep on, so he can look out the window?
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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Thanks fir your reply Rubysmama. There is a window in there and I can certainly put something up there fir him to sit and look out of. That said, he hides during the day for now.
Due to all the snow, I was able to sneak up to the side door ten minutes after I put his dinner down. I saw him and he’s gotten big and fluffy (he’s black and long haired.) I let him finish eating, watching him through the window. I then started speaking to him softly and he froze. I was hoping he’d turn around and look at me so I could do a slow eye blink. He did not, but rather took off up to the rafters. I never did open the door since I didn’t want to scare him. It didn’t feel like progress at all but at least it was another interaction with a human sort of - where I didn’t hurt him.

But back to whether to keep him in the garage for another couple of months, I’m not sure if I feel it’s cruel. I just don’t know.
 

rubysmama

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Oh, the poor cat. :sigh: And I totally understand wondering if it's cruel to keep him caged, so to speak. But remember, he is safe. If by some chance he got trapped by animal control, he'd end up in a cage until someone adopted him. And that would be the best case scenario. More likely, due to his feral tendencies, his future wouldn't be very hopeful.

Is it possible for you to spend more time in the garage, or go there several times a day, so that he gets used to your voice, and you being around? Do you talk to him when you bring him his food? I know he runs to the rafters when you come into the garage, but maybe start saying his name before you enter the garage. Tell him you're bringing his dinner for him. Tell him he's safe. And that you want to take care of him. Then, if it's possible, sit in the garage for a while and read out loud to him. Just being still and non-threatening might let him see that he doesn't have to be so afraid.
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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It's not a great situation however you approach it. The issue is that I cannot work with him in the garage. He won't willingly come down and approach me while he can stay up and away, tucked in the rafters. He stays up there all day. I talk to him all throughout the day and I know he knows my voice, but there is no incentive for him to come down.

The options are to keep him in the garage for the next 2-3 months until I move, at which case I still will have to try to trap him again. But this time I will have to trap him in the garage. :( I cannot leave him in there.

The other option is to open the door at night when he is active and see if he leaves. If he does leave, then I would hope for the best, keep feeding him if he comes back, and then try to trap him again right before I move to bring him with me. And then set him up in a better garage or room or something suitable in the new place.

Neither option is great :(
 

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A thought - instead of feeling so guilty (which all of us can empathise with!) compare how his life would be in a kill shelter with small cages vs your garage. Don't underestimate the bond he has already formed with you as his gentle food provider. Keep singing and talking to him, including when you pass by the garage. For now he is safe, fed and much warmer - IMHO, that has already added a good year or two to his very tough life.
If its any consolation, I do not think you should feel under such pressure to release him before you move. 2-3 months really does give him a chance to become your pet. Just like this girl in her favourite barrow - she was terrified of us for months. She had her kittens (now my indoor cats) in our garage and was locked up for weeks so we could sterilize her, tame her and .... look how happy she is today, guarding her wheel barrow.
 

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rubysmama

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The thing to keep in mind is that he's not showing signs of stress, right. He's eating, and using the litter box. Sure he runs when you come into the garage, but he has somewhere to escape to. And, again, he's safe.

You mentioned upthread, I think, about him not eating one time when you left a radio on for him. Maybe try doing that again. One day not eating isn't going to harm him, and it would be good for him to get used to the sound of people's voices, for when you bring him to your new home. And if he doesn't eat for one day, that might be a good time to test the stinky, yummy food suggestion.
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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Thanks for your suggestions! I am trying to figure it out!! I will try the radio again.

The bit of good news is that he goes in the heated bed that I have on the floor. I checked it today and saw some dirt way in the back (it's a heated white fleece so easy to spot.) He must have figured out that it's quiet at night so that must be when he goes in there.

I think it’s OK to open the side door and put the crate divider grate up against the door. It blocks it but let’s the fresh air in. I’m hoping he can smell the air and recognizes that it’s his old territory. And frankly, if he really want to leave, he could probably figure out a way over the grate.
 

rubysmama

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I just reread my last post, and I must have deleted the part where I first mentioned stinky food. What I thought I posted was that if he's really food motivated, he might be enticed to come closer to you if you brought him something like tuna, sardines, or KFC (apparently a fave of ferals).
 
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Hi - he has stopped eating in the morning and only eats at 5 pm now. He used to eat in the morning. Eating three small cans and some dry and treats but all at night. I tried stinky real tuna and sardines and no results. I ended up leaving it all outside for the little fox that swings by.
 

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I am not sure what to make of that. It could be because he has figured out he can rely on you to keep him fed, so the urgency to eat every time you put food out has subsided a bit? It could also be a bit of him finally 'catching up' on his food intake needs. And, since he pretty stationary (as far as you know), he might not require as many calories as he did before you started to take care of him.
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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I don’t know. I think his routine is to stay hidden from 7 am (since that’s when I let the dogs out and he hears us) until dusk 4 or 5 pm when he waits to be fed. The three times I’ve seen him it was getting dark out. The litter box is used religiously and he eats the treats at night too. I put the radio on today so we’ll see how that goes.
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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BTW - my two indoor cats left me this today. It looked exactly like a toy they have and so I went to pick it up and at the last second realized it was real and screamed. I guess my two indoor cats are earning their keep!
361B897E-1537-4A73-A9A4-C28018490DB4.jpeg
 
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