Friendly feral- then not friendly?

catfoster11

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I recently took in a feral TNR'd female that was in my backyard at odd hours during the day, even during the coldest of mornings. She would always clean out my food and even when I fed her from my window she didn't run away. She didn't look like she had a successful food spot and was skinny. My neighbor mostly feeds, and every now and then I leave food out. I also had my yard TNR'd, but that's as much as I can do. I know it's not recommended to retrap any feral unless dire, but I just had a hunch she was friendly, and trapped her.

She was put in a crate in my bathroom for the first week, then left crate door open. Day 1 she growled/swatted my hand if I got too near. On day 2 she was purring, I could pet her, she'd come down from the crate to get pets, head bumps, biscuits in the crate, etc. I used a stick to pet her from a distance. Seemed like she was missing affection a lot. Sometimes If I gave her food she hesitated to eat, until I pet her with a stick, she purrs then starts to eat. She is scared of things but finds some comfort in me.

But then she changed. When I pet her, she was very enthusiastic, but used too much teeth at times but not in aggressive way but overexcited, I usually wear a glove for safety, but when she did use too much teeth I only said "eehhh" in a neutral tone. It wasn't a "NO!" or angry. It happened a few times the first week. Then she froze, and the last time she went to back of the sink. When I approached she hiss/growl/swatted. It was a few days later she accepted pets from my hand again. Until I got too close with the stick/gloved hand in the crate today when she was laying down and purring, and she attacked and hiss, and defecated. In the crate, it is only if she comes towards my glove to sniff and headbutt, she had no problem. Outside she hasn't attacked me at all. She has problem if I approach in crate with my glove, but not the stick.

She will always eat baby food and she eats from my gloved hand and all, temptations, etc. If I pet her with stick she immediately purrs, biscuits, and rolls on her back. Just hates if something is in her face unexpectantly. But she doesn't come out from the crate to greet me anymore like in the picture attached but will purr and maybe come forward a bit. She seems more apprehensive but she will eat in front of me. She doesn't hiss or growl when I enter. I know she is scared and unsocialized. She doesn't like when I change her liter box, or when spouse uses bathroom, etc but doesn't attack or hiss when it happens. She will attack something like a petting wand, like a stick with a long fuzzy ball at the end. But somehow a regular stick is ok.

If I give her more time, and not push petting with hands for now, do you think she'll stop attacking? Atm I'm not going to force glove petting or get too close or leave her alone if she hides in the tub. I worry she may attack my spouse or dog when she is let into the living room. It just seem weird she was fine with me before but after all that she thinks I'm a threat. We had an incident in the past where we fostered a friendly feral, had no issue with me, but would swat/growl at my dog, who is very much a wimp and doesn't fight back at all, if he was too close, walked too close, and esp. at dinner time. It never got better even when he avoids him. I just think he wanted more space with my apt doesn't have much of. He did get placed w/ another foster and adopted.

If somehow I don't get Jenny to calm, I feel I'll have to place her with a rescue I volunteer for. Which kinda sucks because I was hoping to adopt her, but I think she has enough potential to not be put outside. Any encouragement/advice appreciated.
 

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fionasmom

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I think this is very typical ex feral behavior. She is still figuring out what is going on in her new life and her hesitancy at times does not mean that she does not want to be with you. It sounds as if she feels trapped in the crate if you try to play with her there, so I would not continue with that attempt to befriend her. If she is doing things like eating from your hand, she is definitely on the road to integrating into your household.

The sister of my avatar, who greatly resembles her, is a rescued feral....well, they both are of course. She was the harder one to get into the house and seemed more wary. Now she comes to me several times a day to be picked up and hugged. She actually wants to be lifted up and put on my shoulder which is almost unheard of behavior for most cats. However, she does not want to be approached straight on into her face....like not being petted by my husband or I reaching over her face to the top of her head. She will flinch and pull back.

I had a huge GSD who was afraid of a 12 pound tortie that I had. She was a bully, the cat not the dog, and I did have to train them to accept each other, but you can get help here with that if it happens.
 
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catfoster11

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Thank you!

Hoping so. It's so strange because she acted very friendly to me, which was unexpected (I was planning this would take awhile before I could pet her), then I expected her to sort of be that way if she's friendly now, then she regressed. Too many "scary" things happened, like turning on the exhaust fan, me or spouse entering the apt, walking by, etc sets her off and now she thinks I'm a threat and doesn't want to do anything with me. I think underlying, she was very scared/stressed but me petting her from afar was enough to feel good for a moment. She howled/meowed the first week but now just silent.

She didn't even want to eat much today and she shoved her body behind the box in the tub. But I didn't try to pet her, just feed her.

Usually we foster/socialize kittens due to this, my dog isn't afraid of them and they get along fine like roommates but not snuggle buddies. Just after the incident with the friendly feral I'm hesitant to take on that particular risk. Kinda too early to tell what will happen down the line, but I'm hoping she'll turn into a sweetie and will be fine with my dog. But if not, I have a rescue that will help get adopter.
 

fionasmom

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If you can keep trying for a while, that would be great. The amount of time that you have had her is not that much for ferals to adjust and it can be a one step forward two back kind of thing. It is often not a straight path to socialization. You are looking out for her though and it is good that you have a rescue that can work with her.
 

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Try cat music (there's one called cat in my arms on spotify as an example), or this website purrli . com, or even purr toys or heartbeat toys. She sounds like she may benefit from one or more of these :hearthrob::hugs:
 
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catfoster11

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Since she regressed last week, I put her back in the crate and kept the door closed so I could easily interact with her. I fed her between the bars and past few days left the door open during meal time and she came out to eat half a bowl and back in. Recently she stretches-greets me in the morning, and she even purrs when she gets temptations. Instead of being in the back she's more in the front. I only reach in with the stick to pet and she still purrs, but today she laid down and closed her eyes.

She's still hesitant, she used to roll around when I pet her with stick all excited and came out of the crate easily. Still quite unsure, in the morning she was eager and hungry to get treats, she accidently swatted my left hand to get a treat when I tried to get a treat in the crate, usually I use my gloved right hand but I wasn't being smart, I said "eep!" and she recoiled and hissed. Tiny bit of skin taken off, but no blood, washed hands and came back. Still offered food and she ate most of it. Didn't try to come out of the crate. Overall it feels like it's getting better but stuff still happens. Feels like she had some bad experiences with other cats or something to react this way, but she knows the human will give her good stuff because she is comfortable in some ways.
 

fionasmom

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I think that you are making progress with her even though it seems slow. She is beginning to trust you and I agree that she probably had some bad experiences along the way.
 
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catfoster11

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I've decided to let her roam the bathroom since she seems more comfy outside the crate. Unfortunately as I had a hunch she had ringworm so I'm cleaning everything, giving her meds x2 a day in food, which she eats, but I'm not able to spray antifungal or she'll freak out for sure. So she has to be in the bathroom till May 1st.

But I'm thinking of taking down the crate and leaving her liter box and bed in the tub for now by the end of the week. She does have a carrier she hides in if she needs space. I'm still able to pet her with the stick, she purrs, even rolls over sometimes, puts out her chin for chin rubs, but after finishing her hand fed meal, she tends to slink backwards. She doesn't try to reach for my hand. If I reach out with my hand if she's behind the sink or under the crate in the tub, for sure she will probably lash out. Either way my priority right now is clearing up that ringworm and keeping everything clean as possible.
 
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catfoster11

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Jenny's ringworm is healing, halfway done with meds. She's more eager to come out from behind the toilet to take her meds in baby food and to eat inches from me before going back to hide again...She really needs a lot of encouragement to eat more on her own. She will eat every bite if I hand feed but not from the bowl. She does play with the bird string toy a bit too.

I took the crate out...wasn't happy but she's fine now. One of my TNR'd cats I'm testing is in for a week or 2 because he never hissed, growled, or anything from start to now. Strangely calm, but also very observant of everything going on, but doesn't seem to want to hide. This morning he did hiss at me but he eagerly eats in front of me, eats all his food without issue. Tolerates petting from a stick but would rather not. It's hard to tell if he wants to be inside or maybe just decompression stress.
 

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catfoster11

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Really thinking about releasing Jenny. I pet her behind the toilet with the feather stick a few times. But then she lashed out at me because I was too close and sat on the toilet cover even tho she was purring a few seconds ago. After a month of being in my bathroom I'm feeling she's getting worse with being locked in there and only comes out to eat. Treatment is almost done so...She turned from being really friendly to just not wanting to be within a foot of me unless food.

I know I had some moments like this with my foster cat, even after a month he had moments of "wow I don't like you at all get away from me" and now he's nagging me for pets. But he was never aggressive. But Jenny? I don't think I can handle her if her idea is to jump to aggression. I literally can't even pet her anymore because she has this idea that my hand is a threat all because I said "eep" one too many times. Meanwhile my other TNR cat barely shows a growl, but he's not doing much.
 
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catfoster11

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It's been awhile, but it's more of the same. Jenny is coming out more often, mostly during meal times or when she hears me prepping food in the kitchen, and she'll hang in the back of the animal crew I have here. Never really hides in the bathroom anymore, she plays with toys sometimes. When it's not meal time, she's back under the bed. Sometimes coming out even when there's no food to just, sit and observe. I've done some very light petting with a feather stick, or she has to touch it for a treat, but mostly have left her alone since she's difficult and I was also socializing my other friendly TNR tabby and now he's for adoption.

Whenever I open the window a crack, it has screens, it seems like she wants to try and get out because she tries to move towards it the second it opens. though her fear stops her from going completely and she runs back. The other 2 foster cats I have here, she doesn't like them at all. One of them is young and tries to play and she doesn't want any of it, understandably. But there's no yelling or fighting here. She has a hard time eating around them, sometimes not finishing her bowl, but does approach me for food at a small distance or she comes out again if she hasn't eaten enough. I have to gate off one of the fosters because he plate surfs and pick up bowls.

She sees them getting petted and fed, and given toys, but she just, keeps her distance but I see her little white paws under the bed come closer to the edge. She will always come out for temptations, whether that's me feeding the cats or her directly, bizarrely, getting very close to me, and back under the bed.

Once the other 2 are adopted out I plan to observe and see if just having the whole place would make her better. It is some progress, but I get a vibe that feral.exe is still kicking in despite having all of the indoor life amenities.
 

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I admire your patience. I think having the place to herself may help. I have not had the experience of having a feral living in my home that has not at least had the other cats as friends. Is there a time line for ferals to accept living in a home before we do a kindness by letting them go? Living under a bed is no life. I really have no advice for you but I do remember someone saying how awful for a feral to live in a basement because they couldn't be socialized. Do you post on other sites? I check out a TNR Facebook page occasionally so maybe get more advice there.
 

fionasmom

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She is making progress but the question is how far it will go. I think that keeping her and working with her after the others are adopted might give you more insights into what is happening. In my experience, some cats do not bond to other cats; in fact, to me intense cat bonds are more interesting as they are solitary animals by nature. I have definitely owned former ferals who kept to themselves or ignored or disliked other cats, but coexisted. It will be interesting if she could possibly go to a single cat household where the adopter did not want another cat.
 
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