Feral in my garage

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Bitsy's Mom

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Hi Shadowsrescue,

Thank you for all the advice and for telling me about your experience.

I must tell you that having him in the garage upsets me a great deal. I know that my friends tell me he is fed and safe, but what kind of a life is that? I am a huge animal lover and I want so much better for him.

Anyway, I do think he likes when I put the cotton t-shirt pieces down with my two cats and two dogs smells on them. They are always moved and so he must be picking them up in his mouth. Maybe even rubbing against them.

The garage is very small. I wish he wasn't up in the rafters. There are old sheets of insulation up there that are dropping debris and lots of dust down and I just hope it's not toxic for him or for me. They were there before I bought this house 17 years ago.

I feed him, put treats down, he has a heated bed and fresh water, but still, he is in the garage. I have left the door open during the day with a crate grate up, to get some air in there. He has not tried to leave or even stirred during the day to my knowledge, except to use the litter boxes which are way in the back of the garage, blocked by the car that is never driven.

Two things; I guess I have to get over the guilt and sadness I feel about his life and that I am making it worse. Then try to accept that the garage is OK for now, even if I have to trap him again in the garage. There is a small area where I feed him that would fit one smaller trap. I guess that would be easier than trying to trap him once he's outside.

Sorry for rambling. I just want to make this kitty's life better, not worse. Thank you.
 

shadowsrescue

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I do believe caring for feral cats can be one of the most difficult things I have done. I have cried buckets over these cats. I worried each and every night that they were outside. I had cameras outside on my deck to keep watch over them. Shortly before I moved coyotes came into the yard. I was so freaked out.

Maybe you could try to think of this as just a step in the right direction. He is safe, warm, well fed and loved. You have a plan to take him with you and make him an inside kitty. This is all temporary. I am a firm believer in talking to my cats. I always tell them what is happening. Try talking to him and telling him that you are going to care for him and that in a few months you will be moving to a new place and he will be coming too. Tell him about your pets inside too.

You can also try putting a t shirt of yours in his bedding. That way he will learn your scent too. Try wearing a shirt for the day and then placing it in his bedding. It sometimes helps to calm a cat.

You are doing the right thing. I know how incredibly hard it is. Just stick to your plan. Work on a plan for when you move. Work on a plans for trapping him again. You may need a few back up plans.

I read somewhere that when trying to trap a difficult cat, you can purchase a "feeder mouse". I guess you can buy them at feed stores. You then need a small cage for the mouse that is firmly attached to the back of the trap. The trap is then covered so the cat cannot try to get at it from the back, but must enter the front of the trap. Just another idea!
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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Hello everyone,

I have an update.

I have been caring for this feral kitty for about 4 months total, 2 months outside and 2 months in my garage. Needless to say, I am very attached to him.

That said, the weather here in CT is getting warmer with spring on the way. I had planned to keep him in the garage and retrap him in there when I move in May, even though I have not seen him since he showed himself to me a couple of weeks ago. The past week, however, his appetite has decreased. It had me worried that perhaps being locked in there with no real exercise or stimulation was having a deleterious effect both physically and emotionally. So, two days ago, I opened the side door at 9 pm and left it cracked open all night.

He did leave. I am hoping that he comes back for food and I can once again establish some kind of contact with him. When he was loose before I trapped him, we interacted much more than we ever did in the garage. We would look each other in the eye and he would let me get within 6 feet of him. I think because he had an escape route outside and he knew the territory outside, he was more able to tolerate me. But in the garage, there was no exit and so he would hide.

I am sad about it but hope that if he comes back, maybe I can make a better connection. Then in May, I can make the decision to try to trap him and bring him with me.

Fingers crossed. This is so hard in terms of knowing what is best.

Thanks.
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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Yes. It was very hard since I care so much for him. But when his appetite started to decrease, I was concerned for his emotional state. I hope he will be back.
 

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Did you actually see him leave? If so, how long did it take before he left?
 
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No; I didn’t see him leave. I have only been using the side door to go in and out and that’s where his food station was. I knew he also hung out there at night since the catnip toys were always moved and the heated bed was used. So after he’d eaten a full meal (I wanted him to have a full belly if he left) - I went out at 9 pm and opened the door 10 “ and then went in the house. So anytime between 9:30 pm and 6 am I’d say.
I keep looking for him outside and hope I see him. I left food in the garage last night right inside the door and left the door open but it was intouched this morning. Tonight I will leave food outside the garage, but a Fox always comes by so if it’s gone - unless I see him, there will be no way to know if it’s him or the fox.
 

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I've never used one, but lots of people on the site use cameras to be able to keep an eye on their ferals, so maybe that's something you could look into getting.
 

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I know it must have been hard for you to let him go, but I think you did the right thing.

:hugs:

Don't worry if you don't see him for a while. I have one feral cat who turns up for breakfast every morning for a month, then disappears for 4 or 5 months at a time. If you want to invest in a trail camera they are a really good way of keeping track of the cats and other wildlife that are in your area.

You don't need a very expensive one, just a standard battery powered trail/hunting camera is fine.
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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I am so happy! He’s back!!
He had left Monday night and I hadn’t seen him despite looking everyday. Then tonight around 7:30 I got a feeling and grabbed the flashlight and went to look under my parked car. And there he was looking back at me!! He looked thin.

I got food and water and sat down on the ground and spoke to him. He didn’t move. He just stayed there under the car. I got up and left but was much more able to interact with him outside than in the garage. I think he’s in his element and has an escape route snd so feels better.
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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Hello, I'm sharing since maybe some of you can relate, maybe not.

I struggle with whether I should have opened to door for him overnight so he could leave. My worry was his appetite was less robust and he had very little movement in there. And, he was sleeping up in around insulation and dust in the rafters, and I could not interact with him. He was in there for 7 weeks and nothing had really changed. Not that I expected it too . . .but given that he could hide from me, I couldn't work with him. And so I thought while the outside life is dangerous, at least he would get movement and be able to be a cat.

I was thrilled to see him last night. I am hoping to see him again tonight. The good news is that when I sat on the ground near the car and talked to him, he didn't run away. He was about 6 ft from me. Today I took a big piece of flat box cardboard and put a flat warming cat bed with a fleece over it on top of the cardboard. I threw catnip and valerian root on it. I know it's a long shot, but I am hoping he may lay on it.

I will keep you posted. I just want to do everything I can for this guy.
 

shadowsrescue

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It is good news he is back. Keep working with him. You really want him comfortable with you. Do you feed him someplace that is under cover? If so, I would get a large carrier and begin to feed him inside this carrier. You can start by placing the food about a foot away from the carrier. Two days later, move it right outside the door. Then just inside the door, then a bit inside and so on until he is eating his meals in the back of the carrier. You can even place some catnip inside the carrier to entice him.

I have used two types of larger carriers to recapture feral cats that had previously been trapped. Here is what I used: The first one is a small/medium sized dog carrier. Much better than the small ones for cats.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008AGV63G/?tag=thecatsite

This second one is really nice and tall and a bit bigger.

Another trick is to start tossing him some yummy treats. I used to sit outside on the ground and toss small pieces of plain cooked chicken to my feral. After he got the taste, I would make him move towards me for the chicken so each throw would be a bit closer to me. I was always certain to keep my gaze down so he wasn't spooked by my eyes. I also would talk and talk. I always reassured that he was safe and I was there to help.

You also could make him a shelter. There are some really simple ideas using rubbermaid tubs. If you google feral cat shelters you will find all kinds.
 

rubysmama

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That's wonderful that he's back. :yess:

Hopefully if you keep working with him, and gain his trust, getting him into a carrier, when it's time for your move, won't be too difficult.
Keep us posted on your progress. :petcat:
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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About 4:30 pm last night I saw him in the way back of my yard. He stands out terribly that I think he is only comfortable out at night for survival reasons. There are hawks and coyotes around here and in the daylight he’d be easy pickens.

I called him and put some food down and went in the house. He then made his way to the underbrush on the side of the yard. He waited patiently since the food was out in the open. So I want back out and set down on the ground 7 ft from him and talked to him for 15 minutes. Did the slow eye blink and didn’t stare at him. He was staring at me the whole time but didn’t leave. I finally got up and left. He waited until dark to come eat the food.

I think I will start feeding him down in the yard since the idiots next door are starting to play basketball up near where my car is and he won’t come up. It’s going to get worse with the warm weather and so I’ll have to pick a consistent place in the backyard. Once I get that done and hopefully in a regular schedule, I can put a crate down near there to get him used to it.

I know this is a long shot - but I’m trying and open to suggestions!

Thanks everyone.
B5E7D4F0-56B4-4B69-89AF-DAC00A4AB089.jpeg
 
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Hi Rubysmama,
Thank you for following up. Yes, "Oscar" as I have named him, comes for food every night in the backyard. I had to move it down there since the idiot neighbors started playing basketball near where I used to feed him.

I cannot get within 10 feet of him if he is out in the open, but when he is on the side of the yard, or under my car, I can get within 5 feet. I put the food down and move away and sit for a bit and talk to him. He looks at me and I do the slow eye blink. Then after talking to him, I go inside and only then will he move to eat.

He seems OK and while I worry, I know since the weather is better, he is happier outside. I wonder what more I can do to try to bond with him? As I have mentioned several times, I am going to be moving after I find a house; which could be as soon as 3 months. I am not sure what will be best for him, trapping and taking him with me, or leaving him here. My neighbor in the way back said she has seen him before and I read that feral cats can have a territory of 2 miles. I wonder if he lives somewhere else also, or just in the way back of my yard. Hard to know since he was so hungry when I first met him in November.

Liz
 

rubysmama

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Oh, he does have a name! I was actually going to ask that, so glad you mentioned it. Also glad Oscar is still coming by every night. :redheartpump:

If you plan to take him with you, you'll have to start working on getting a way to eventually trap him. And the way to do that will involve putting his dish closer and closer to the un-set trap, until it's in the trap, and he becomes comfortable eating in it. Then hopefully the night you need to trap him to take his to his new home, he'll co-operate. But since he was trapped before, he may be super trap savvy and avoid it. But you could try covering it so it's not obvious that's it's a trap.

Meanwhile, keep doing what you're doing. Talk to him when you see him. Say his name, so he gets to know it. I still think taking him with you is the best plan, even if he might now think so. Leaving him behind, when you don't know if someone else would take on feeding him, would just cause you to wonder and worry. Ferals can, and do, become comfortable living inside only. It can take time. But it can be done.
 
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Bitsy's Mom

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Rubysmama, You are so right about wondering and worrying! Some neighbors in the back where he hangs out (and may even live) took down some tree limbs and I didn't see him for 24 hours. I was so worried. That night I went out about 10 pm and saw his eyes looking back at me from under the car. I fed him.

He's not a young cat and has been out on his own for a while. But, I will keep doing what I am doing. We still are not down to a regular routine like we were before he was trapped. Back then I had the timing down perfectly. Now it is more erratic since people are out and about with the nice weather.

I guess one day at a time and once I get him to a more regular of a schedule (hopefully I can) - then I can put the trap out near where he's eating.

Thanks for caring!
 
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