First Time Rescuing A Feral Cat

JuneLovesCats

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Hi all,

So here's my story --

Sometime in mid-March, while I was staying at home taking care of my parents' cats while they were on vacation, my boyfriend sent me a picture of a cat he'd spotted in the parking lot outside his condo. He only saw it as he was driving by on his way out somewhere, but it was obvious that its tail was injured and it was quite thin. We wanted to help, but despite frequent comings and goings in the parking lot, we did not see this cat again until a month later. I instantly knew that it was the same cat because I noticed immediately as it ran across my path that it was now missing most of its tail. Heartbroken, I made up my mind then and there to help. The kitty went into the bushes and looked out at my cautiously. I went upstairs and got some cat food for it and brought it down. I put it down, but the cat would not approach the plate until I went behind a pillar to hide. Then I could hear her crunching so I knew that she was eating. I watched her eat from my hiding spot, and over the next couple of weeks I continued to bring her food and water in the mornings and evenings. She was usually not around the mornings but I would leave the food for her, and she was often waiting for me in the evenings, sitting near where I would put her plate and meowing for me. At times I would think she was not around, but if I called for her for a few minutes, I would hear a meowing response from the bushes and she would come over to where I put her plate. By the end of three weeks, she would let me sit within about a foot of her while she ate her food, but she would back away if I got closer and hiss softly if I reached towards her.

Knowing that her tail needed medical attention, I borrowed a humane trap from a friend and set it up one morning. Kitty watched me curiously as I set the trap, and went in after a few minutes of sniffing around outside it. She was not terribly pleased when she realized she was stuck, but calmed after a few minutes and sat in the back of the trap. I called my friend who has a spare bedroom to come pick her up, as my boyfriend has three cats and we did not have a good area to house her. My friend took her home and put her in her spare bedroom, where she hid under the bed for the duration of her stay. She refused food while she was staying with my friend -- probably freaked out by the new environment and the smell of other cats (who had been coming and going in the room in the days prior to her arrival). My friend transported Kitty to the vet where they recommended that about 2" of necrotic tissue on what was left of her tail be amputated, so we set up the surgery and she has now been fully vetted -- spaying, amputation, tests for diseases and all the vaccines, de-fleaing, de-worming, etc.
My parents agreed to let her recouperate in their garage, which is where she is now. We are keeping her in a large dog kennel, with a sandbox with Yesterdays News litter as recommended by the vet post-op, and of course giving regular food and water. She has a cardboard box that she can go into to feel hidden, and we put a soft bed in for her at night. There is a blanket over the top and back portion of the kennel so she feels less exposed. She is eating well and has recently begun eating in front of me again (she would not eat in front of me for the first few days). She hisses softly when I approach the cage and will occasionally spit and attempt to strike if I try to get too close too quickly. I am not home every night, but I sit with her for long intervals when I am, reading her stories and singing her gentle songs. She seems very relaxed when we "visit" with her after some initial anxiety and hissing, but more and more she greets us (myself and my mom) with mostly meows and a few soft hisses thrown in for good measure. Lately when I visit with her she has been stretching, rolling around, bathing herself, rubbing her mouth on the corners of her box, and sleeping in a relaxed posture. I have gotten her to play vigorously with a string toy for 10 minutes or more at a time. I have also gotten her to lick baby food off a spoon I offered her. She still will not approach me, however, and I do not feel like she is at all ready for me to attempt touching her. I have been able to pet the sides of her mouth and the top of her head with the rod of the string toy, however. I leave the door to her kennel open when I visit with her and sit near the front of it. Last night, my parents and I played Scrabble in the garage with her so she can get used to all of us and our voices. She appeared quite relaxed and was resting comfortably throughout the visit.

Here are my questions: the vet recommended "cage rest" for 14 days. Wednesday will be 14 days since the operation. We would like to let her be able to have the whole garage to herself at that point, but I am worried that she will find some remote corner to hide in and we'll never see her again. (The garage is quite cluttered.) Should we continue to keep her in the kennel? It is large enough for her to move around some, but I feel like I am imprisoning her if I leave her in there. We have three cats inside so I do not want to bring her into the house yet, to avoid stressing both her and our other cats. We are working on cleaning the garage to eliminate "hidey holes," but it is a pretty big project, and as my uncle just passed away, we have not had as much time to devote to it as I would have liked. Should we begin leaving the cage door open on Wednesday, regardless?

From what I have mentioned so far, what do you think are the chances she can become a "house cat"? Or would she be happier/better off as an outdoor cat? I am afraid if we release her into our backyard, I'll never see her again. She seems to be making progress in socializing every day, and I have some reason to believe that she was not entirely feral when I found her -- a) she was wandering about in the daylight on people's stoops when my boyfriend first saw her, b) she was living alone and not with a nearby feral colony, c) she meows in response to me talking to her, d) the vet said when she spayed her that her uterus appeared "unused," and estimated her age at one year -- it seems unusual that she would not have been impregnated already if she had been outside for the whole year, e) we are familiar with all of the cats that live around the condo and did not see her for the first time until mid-March... so where was she before then? f) the progress she is making daily.

Any advice, hints, tips, tricks... would be appreciated. I really love this little cat and I just want what is best for her.
 

tabbytom

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Hello J JuneLovesCats , welcome to TCS :wave3:

Thank you for saving this kitty and getting her vaccinated and spayed Bless your heart.

1st answer to your questions will be best if you could keep her or have her adopted. She does not sound very feral to me. Would be good if she could move around in the garage. Except that you have to plugged up holes so that she doesn't go hide. But she needs a safe place so she might find a place to hide as the garage is a new surrounding to her.
If you could plug up possible hiding spots first, that'll be good and just let her put to explore the garage. Since she's quite used to you , she should come out to you if she hides. It may take a few days for her to get use to the garage and will come out if she hides after she finds that it is safe.

Chances of her being a house cat, I think is pretty high, according to what you have mentioned about her behavior. So best if keep her indoors. Leaving her go outdoors would leave her vulnerable to attacks by other animals, dogs, cat haters and getting hit by cars as we do not know what went wrong with her tail.

For the time being, love, patience and routine rules the day and it's an ongoing process till she is totally acclimatize and socialized before introducing her to the rest of your cats. Unless she is adopted by someone else that loves cats.

Here's an article on introducing cats :-

How To Successfully Introduce Cats: The Ultimate Guide

Do introduce yourself and your other kitties including yhis rescue to the community in 'New Cats on the Block' under the Social Forums and post photos of your kitties.
Feel free to ask questions and also do browse around the site for its rich contents and informative forum pages.

Do keep us posted on the progress on this rescued kitty :wink:
 

Sarthur2

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I think you are right to be leery of her hiding in the garage.

I think you should bring her in the house and put her in your bedroom. It will enable the socialization process to go faster.

It will still take time, but she is clearly trusting you. You have done an amazing job with her! :)
 

ondine

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If you can't bring her into her own room, which would have to be cat-proofed, you could add another crate in the garage. I used to link two two-door crate together by the side door. I used those metal grids they have to build bookshelves with. All I did was zip-tie them together and secure a sort of "hallway" between the two crates. I used on for the potty and one for her carrier and eating area. That way, the cat had an "escape" when I am working in one crate or the other.

You might also look into getting one of those two story crates.

Thank you for taking this on!
 
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JuneLovesCats

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Looks like I never posted with my update on this, but I thought I would share this good news, years later -- Henny Penny (short for Henrietta, as in Henrietta Pussycat from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood) is now my beloved house cat -- one of our clowder of five. She lives happily with her "sister" Coraline and her "boyfriend" (don't worry, everyone is spayed/neutered), Rusty, snuggling frequently with both of them. In the early days after I brought her home, she followed me EVERYWHERE and loved sitting in my lap. Since we introduced a kitten into the household a couple of years ago, whom she does not particularly like, she has unfortunately become a bit shyer again and rarely ventures from the upstairs, but I still sit next to her on her favorite spot on the back of the sofa every day and she gives me kisses and purrs. Take that chance on a "feral" or stray -- they just might reward you with their eternal love and devotion, and become a dear member of your family!
 

tabbytom

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Looks like I never posted with my update on this, but I thought I would share this good news, years later -- Henny Penny (short for Henrietta, as in Henrietta Pussycat from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood) is now my beloved house cat -- one of our clowder of five. She lives happily with her "sister" Coraline and her "boyfriend" (don't worry, everyone is spayed/neutered), Rusty, snuggling frequently with both of them. In the early days after I brought her home, she followed me EVERYWHERE and loved sitting in my lap. Since we introduced a kitten into the household a couple of years ago, whom she does not particularly like, she has unfortunately become a bit shyer again and rarely ventures from the upstairs, but I still sit next to her on her favorite spot on the back of the sofa every day and she gives me kisses and purrs. Take that chance on a "feral" or stray -- they just might reward you with their eternal love and devotion, and become a dear member of your family!
That's great to hear! :clapcat:
 
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