Friendly Before Food,

Antonio65

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I have two semi-feral cats in my yard.
They have settled down well, they have their own comfy house, their set of steel dishes, water and lots of places where to relax.

One is a female, she arrived about three years ago, so I guess she's about 4-5 years old. At first she was very shy and would come out to eat only at dark and when nobody was around. Then she gained some trust to the extent that 2 years ago she took her 4-kitten litter in my yard and let me feed and touch them. After rehoming the kittens, I spayed her. Now she's rather friendly but she doesn't allow me to pet her, unless...
Unless it's food time.
When I go outside with her pouch of wet food, or I take out the dry food pack, she stays at my feet and rubs insistently on my legs, she stands on her two rear legs to reach the garden table where I prepare their dishes and let me scratch her head and she purrs. She's friendly and never aggressive.
Then, as soon as she has her dish ready, she doesn't trust me anymore, I cannot get near her, and when she has finished eating she walks away and I have no chance at all to even stand 3 feet away from her.

What kind of explanation is there for this behavior?
I'm happy like that, I respect her choice, but I just would like to understand why.

The other cat, a very young male, neutered less than a year ago, is much more confident, and he's become so bold that now he jumps inside the house from any open window :)
 
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Furballsmom

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I think that's it, she literally is more comfortable and confident when hungry and as long as you have food in your hands.

I wonder if she was frightened by someone unexpectedly, and now with you she's trying to work things out.

Try not looking directly at her, moving slowly and quietly, and maybe even sit on the ground at a distance while she's eating but again, not looking directly at her. Time, and these things plus your loving care are helping this kitty :)
 
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Antonio65

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Try not looking directly at her, moving slowly and quietly, and maybe even sit on the ground at a distance while she's eating but again, not looking directly at her. Time, and these things plus your loving care are helping this kitty :)
Well, I actually keep her company while she's eating, I stand a few steps apart, it seems she feels safer with me around her, because there are other nasty ferals that would like to steal her food. So, as long as I stay there, the other ferals won't come close and she can eat. But if move a bit, even without looking at her, or make a noise, like also sneezing, she gets startled, stops eating and doesn't want to do anything more with me or her food...
 

rubysmama

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I think I've read before, (possibly from Jcatbird Jcatbird ) that when you're first trying to gain the trust of a feral cat, a good time to try touching them is when they're eating. So there must be something about them letting down their guard when they're hungry and/or eating.
 
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Antonio65

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She even lets me pet her head at the beginning of her meal, then something happens and she gets shy again...
I will try sitting, but I think I have to be constant, everyday, in order to gain some more trust.
Even if I think that after two years with attitude, it will be a hard task to try to change her.
 

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The above is great advice. I sit or even lay down with them. Standing over them is protection but then when you move it can seem intimidating. Laying down beside the plate with your hand near it gets things started. If this kitty lets you pet it then you can definitely get much further. I have older ones who were totally feral but now I can’t get them out of my lap! Lol I was once intimidated by one of them after he bit me but he is now the biggest baby of all. Holding out a treat of food in the beginning can introduce them to taking food from your hand and trusting that this is safe. It’s a gradual process but you work your way to doing a little more and before you know it, kitty trusts. I’m so glad you are guarding this one while eating. Poor kitty is afraid. Once again, my hero!
 
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Antonio65

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And that's not all :)
There are days, like this morning, when not only does she rub against my legs, but she rubs between and around my legs, she follows me with her tail held right up, she lets me pick her up, hold her in my arms and kiss her all over while I rub her belly and little face.
And when I put her down again, she keeps rubbing against me, then she eats her meal, and off she goes, she doesn't know me anymore :lol:

I haven't tried to sit next to her while she's eating yet, it's still a bit cold outside.
 
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Antonio65

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Immagini ridimensionate - 1.jpg

Here she is, a rather chubby tabby grey girl, with a Seresto collar and her pink tag with name and phone number :)
The photo is 1 year old, but she's shy and doesn't like to be photographed.
 
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