Fostering 8 Month Old Feral Cat - Just Got Him 3 Days Ago - Very Scared and Angry!

Cuddly

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Hi I made an account here to ask for advice. Three days ago we received an 8 month old male cat who is 3 generations feral. He was with another lady for the past 3 months who managed to make some progress with him.

We currently have him in a small-ish bedroom, set-up with a litter box, food, water and toys. (the lady was kind enough to give us his bed, toys and some food/ litter!). When we go into the room he is always hiding in the corner of the bed, out of reach. We are mostly leaving him alone in there, hoping he becomes less scared! We also have 2 other cats (1 indoor 1 outdoor) and we are keeping them seperated for the time being. Anyway we need some advice as we have not made any progress yet - see below.

-He is eating and using the litter box - presumeably at night when he feels safe.
-We tried to feed him with a spoon and some wet food - but he attacked the spoon/ our hand.
-From a distance he stares at us wide-eyed and not moving. If we get too close he hisses.

We might be moving him to our very small bathroom at some point, as the room might be too big (not looking forward to the task!!). We really need some advice to make him more comfortable and not scared of us! We are only experienced with friendly house cats!

Thank you so much!
 

rubysmama

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Hello and welcome to TCS. And thanks for taking on the fostering / socialization of this kitten.

I haven't personally socialized ferals, but have read many threads from members that have, and love following the progress they make. So I'll be following this thread as well.

Three days is a very short time, even for a non-former-feral, so him still hiding isn't something totally unusual. He's probably still stressed from the move, and not sure what's going on. He may even miss his former foster mom. So for now, be patient with him. The fact that he's eating and using the litter box, is really good, and means there's nothing to worry about right now.

Do talk to him when you're in his room. And before opening the door to his room, say his name, or something so that he'll learn to recognize the voice and know who's going to enter.

If you can, spend time in his room, not necessarily interacting with him, just being there, maybe reading, listening to music, etc.

Try not to loom over him, but stay crouched down, if you can. I definitely would not try moving him to the small bathroom for a while. However, you could try putting his carrier in his room, and put treats in it from time to time, so that when you do need to move him, that might be a way to get him to willingly go in the carrier.

Another thing, don't stare directly him, as ferals can find that threatening. When you do look at him, try blinking really slowly. He'll see that as a sign of non-aggression.

Hissing is ok. It's normal. He's just telling you to stay back.

Do be careful reaching out to him, as you don't want to get scratched, or worse bitten.

That's all I can think of right now. I'm sure other members will be along to offer suggestions and give you support.

Good luck. Keep us posted on his progress.

And post a pic of him, if you can.
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gilmargl

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Hi Cuddly Cuddly , thank you for taking this cat into your home. I hope he has at least already been neutered and that you realize that you may have an impossible task ahead of you. He was brought up by a feral cat who has taught him to be extremely wary of people.

He is eating and using his litter box - is there any real reason to move him to the small bathroom? We usually only do this in the case of young kittens who don't use the litter box. My cat, Katy, who turned out not to be a true feral, hid from me for at least a week. When I had to move her into a warmer room a few months later, after she'd been spayed, she started hiding from me again.

I would advise you to leave him where he is. Sit with him in the evenings - or whenever you have time. Drop a few treats on the floor between you and his hiding place and just keep quiet. Don't try to feed him with a spoon, just read a book, play some quiet cat music (or what I call dentist-waiting-room-music), use Feliway (if you believe in it) and keep still. Katy eventually started coming out to rub my feet but I had to be looking in another direction and it took a long time before she accepted my hand (and she was not a true feral!). Do you know why this cat was not simply neutered and returned to the wild?

Hopefully others will come up with some good ideas I wish you lots and lots of luck!
 
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Cuddly

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Thank you both for the advice! My boyfriend and I will spend about 10-15 min a day in there playing uno or whatever, and stop approaching him for the time being. Hopefully he will come out eventually!

Unfortunately he is not yet castrated and vaccinated (previous owner wasn't able to get him to the vet yet as he was too afraid). The organization that set us up with the cat will pay for it though:) Might be a long time before then sadly.

It was not my direct decision to foster him. My boyfriend wanted another cat and the organization suggested forstering. Although we got a very challenging kitty lol! I think they were getting a bit desperate as the original lady was no longer able to care for him :(

I think since he was around 4? ish months old when he was found, they thought he could become socialized. To be honest I'm not sure why they didn't TNR him. I guess we will have to stay hopeful :p I believe they don't have space at the shelter, especially for a cat who is not yet a friendly house cat. Time will tell.

I will post a pic if I get the chance but he is hiding in the dark haha. He's a grey and white short-hair. Very cute!

Thank you again!
 

rubysmama

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My boyfriend and I will spend about 10-15 min a day in there playing uno or whatever, and stop approaching him for the time being.
Longer would probably be better. Or more often., If you can. He needs to get used to you and your boyfriend being around, and learn that you aren't a threat to him.

Unfortunately he is not yet castrated and vaccinated (previous owner wasn't able to get him to the vet yet as he was too afraid). The organization that set us up with the cat will pay for it though:) Might be a long time before then sadly.
Sorry to read he hasn't been neutered. At 8 months old, he could start spraying at any time now. It's unfortunate that they didn't take him to be neutered between the time he left the former foster and came to you. Besides (hopefully) preventing spraying starting, neutering will take away the stinky tomcat urine smell. And it might also lessen any aggression / territorial impulses he might have. I'd keep in touch with the foster organization to see how/when they plan to proceed with getting him neutered.

I think since he was around 4? ish months old when he was found, they thought he could become socialized. To be honest I'm not sure why they didn't TNR him. I guess we will have to stay hopeful :p I believe they don't have space at the shelter, especially for a cat who is not yet a friendly house cat. Time will tell.
Even older ferals can be socialized. . Not every single one, but many. So there is still very good chance your guy can become a friendly house cat.
 

di and bob

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Yes, there have been MANY formally feral cats who have been tamed. It is a problem that he hasn't been neutered, his tomcat hormones will make him that much more afraid and wanting to leave. You'll have to decide whether to take him in ASAP and get it over with, or wait until he is somewhat tame and do it then, but it will break his trust in you once more and you will likely have to start over. 3 days is not long at all, all cats would be hiding and acting like him to a certain extent. Cats absolutely hate change, and just when he was starting to trust someone his world was torn apart. He is SO afraid and stressed out. Since cat introductions usually take months anyway, your other cat should be ready by the time he settles down. Then you can come back for introduction tips. For now, sit quietly and be on your phone, or reading a book, and read out loud in a quiet soothing voice. Leave treats when you leave, do not stare at him, and get him used to your presence. Try not to have any loud noises or strangers staring at him. This is a long, drawn-out process, but CAN be achieved, I admire you for taking him on. You EARN a cat's love, and especially in situations like these, it is one of life's treasures. All the luck and please come here any time you need.....
 

Carolina SA

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Longer would probably be better. Or more often., If you can. He needs to get used to you and your boyfriend being around, and learn that you aren't a threat to him.
Take a laptop, watch a movie or listen to a podcast or send emails. Make sometime before work eg eat brekky and check emails. Then after work watch a movie lying on the floor. It's a great way to be a non-threatening presence as he gets used to your normal house sounds.
 
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Cuddly

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Hey guys. So my boyfriends mom got back about a week ago (the cat is in her room). Luckily she is happy to co exist with him and we don't have to move him :) He is making some nice progress; going out to eat and playing when she is there! I guess she is stealing him haha. He is still scared of being approached - very spicy when you go near him. Hopefully in some weeks or months he will calm down! Here is a pic of our little boy!
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gilmargl

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Hey guys. So my boyfriends mom got back about a week ago (the cat is in her room). Luckily she is happy to co exist with him and we don't have to move him :) He is making some nice progress; going out to eat and playing when she is there! I guess she is stealing him haha. He is still scared of being approached - very spicy when you go near him. Hopefully in some weeks or months he will calm down! Here is a pic of our little boy!
View attachment 367365
He's lovely. I'm so glad your boyfriend's mum is willing to share her room with him. Things couldn't be better for your little boy. Has he got a name? Something Norwegian which we won't be able to pronounce? :)
 

kittychick

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What a beautiful boy! I’m glad he’s found his way to someone who cares enough about him to find their way here (spoiler alert - it’s you :) !). This is an amazing site, w/people from all levels of experience. People happy to share advice, lend an ear on tough days, or give a pat on the back on good ones. You’ve already gotten great advice by some very experienced members!

We members often socialize stray/feral kitties very similarly. But you’ll also find lots of “variations on a theme.” We each do what’s worked for us. After fostering somewhere around 150-ish cats/kittens w/a wide range of socialization, I’ve learned that, like people, every kitty’s “their own dog.” :lol:. So if a tip from one of us doesn’t fit....try a variation another member’s suggested!

A bedroom is perfect. He needs space to move around (but giving him the run of your place will usually make the process muuuuuch lengthier). Blocking off small spaces he can wedge into/under & hide helps (we use a bedroom too, & put the mattress on the floor - but since boyfriend’s mom may not love that —you can also block it off w/books/etc— we do the same w/nightstands, bureau, etc). Otherwise it reinforces the “if I hide, make myself tiny as possible & ignore the big scary thing, it’ll go away” repeating in his head. I make sure kitty has a couple of spaces they can “cocoon” in, but where I can still locate them, and (eventually!) tempt them w/treats & love!

On the other hand - a bathroom is just too small for an 8-month old cat. It’d be like a human trying to come out of their shell while eating, sleeping, etc in a small walk-in closet, while a ‘thing’ comes & goes when we least expect it. (I know I’d be climbing the walls - & I don’t have claws!!

Neutering will help too. He’s loaded with testosterone. Which often makes socializing harder & increases the chance of him spraying. He should have been neutered before transferring to you — but what’s done is done. I need to think how Id handle this.

Definitely keep him separated from your 2. I’d put a rolled up towel/blanket at the bottom (on the outside of the door) so he isn’t threatened as much by them. As said by others — we’ll help you when it’s time to introduce them!

One way into his heart? Food! I leave hard food & water out 24/7. But they learn the “good stuff” only comes from me. A lot of us use “kitty crack” (can’t remember if that’s suggested above). It’s Gerber’s Stage 2 baby food, Chicken & Gravy flavor. I start out putting a bit on a dish & pushing it their way w/ a yardstick. All while keeping my eyes down. Once they fall under its spell, I move to putting it on an extendable spoon (Amazon has them) —-fully extended. I then shorten it bit by bit. It’s definitely helped me earn lots of trust over the years!

One of the biggest keys is time. In a couple of ways. Time as in spending as much time with him as possible. Unfortunately, 10-15 minutes a day just isn’t enough to make much progress. I’m a graphic designer & work from home- so I take my laptop in their room & work, shop, check email, watch tv, etc. All while talking softly. I even read my emails, make design decisions, text, etc out loud, softly & gently while sitting or lying on the floor (I look crazy!). If I’m not in the room, I leave a radio (or tv) on to public radio (gets him more used to voices, & drowns out “scary sounds” like a hairdryer, etc.) I always “announce” I’m coming in in a soft, sing-sing voice (I know - back to crazy!), & once in the room I move slowly, sitting or laying on the floor as much as I can. It’s FAR less threatening to him. At first I thought “oh no!” when you said your boyfriend’s mother was staying in there. But I realized she’s becoming the bridge to “humans aren’t so scary” that only you & your boyfriend were providing (& it sounds like it IS helping!) - which is great!!! Hopefully she’d be willing to adopt some of the “low & slow” techniques when she’s in w/him.

And time also as in days. It’s hard to predict how long it’ll take for him to feel comfortable with humans. A lot of it is managing expectations. You’re working with a kitty who’s alive today only because his mama taught him that his only options were fight or flight. We had a very feral litter of 3 (we trapped, spayed & released mom). One was thrilled with chin rubs & lap naps in a week or so. The other two? We worked with them for hours & hours a day for several months, & slow progress was an understatement. I thought finding homes would be impossible. Who’d want a kitten they might rarely see....maybe never touch? I needed a miracle. Fast forward another week. A friend of a friend called me. Her husband & beloved cat had both died a few months ago, & she’d decided the house had been empty long enough. The miracle? She wanted to adopt two kitties that would be very hard to place — that needed someone who’d love them as they were. That was years ago—- we keep in touch, & she loves them dearly. One of them eventually became a lover - in his own way. Loved sleeping at her feet, or napping on the back of the couch while she watches tv. His brother still only comes out when it’s dinner time or bedtime. understands they may be brothers, but they’re very different. She always says “I’m just happy that they’re happy.” Music to my foster ears!!!!!

If you’re still reading— sorry so long. I’ve always got so much I want to help with that I end up trying to share it all at once. So I’ll try to be shorter next answer... promise. :wink: Please keep us posted!!
 

kittychick

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One last suggestions - promise! No more “lord-of-theRings-length” answers ! 😬)

As far as an age limit for socializing. Yes, it’s generally the younger you start, the easier/faster the process. But - for every generalization...there’s a kitty that wrecks the curve (like the first one in the my 3 kitten example). But we’ve had it work the opposite too. We took

in one of the many feral adults we’ve TNRd in our neighborhood. She was several years old, and very feral. She has CHP (fairly light case) so her colony shunned the poor thing. :bawling: After a year post-spay, during which she started falling for us & vice versa. Long story short (I know... I know...I’m trying!) ...... this very feral adult kitty (“Flick”) became a sweet, outgoing, super mushy lap cat!!

Someone forgot to tell her she was too old to socialize!

:purr:
 
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