how can I encourage my semi-feral TNR cat to be calm inside my home?

tutubean

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A few months ago I TNRd a handsome feral panther boy whose sister (already spayed) I started feeding in March 2020. Their affection for me is ever-progressing, but now mister panther actually peeps into and even enters our house! He's been inside twice before, actually. First the TNR, and then I had to re-trap him cuz he had an ear injury (which seems to be healing. He was so good at the vet. Scared as heck but still good.)
Recently he started to rub up against me, like his sister does. But unlike his sister, he's started to ALMOST tolerate pets!! If he's rubbing up against me I can run my hand along his back and tail, but that's it. He usually realizes it's my hand that's rubbing him and jumps away. But he still comes back.
I think he started coming inside when he realized we had an indoor cat (she was a foster, but she is gone now). He ADORED her and head-butted her several times. I'm pretty sure he's still coming inside solely to look for her. But this morning, for instance, he ate breakfast inside. The front door is always propped open for him to actually want to come in--I can't just stand there keeping it open.
One night I had left the door open and knew he came in, but then I couldn't find him and assumed he'd left, and closed the door. Turns out he was exploring in a dark room and, him being black, I hadn't seen him. He realized the door was closed and immediately started to panic, crying out for help (same sound he makes when in a trap). He went into another room, looking for escape. Finally he saw the door was open again and fled, but didn't go far. He actually came back to the door, just not inside.
So clearly he likes us. He greets us so happily that he practically bounces around. Sometimes he doesn't even want food, he just wants to say hi.
Obviously being feral born he is confused by what a house is. It's just a big trap if it means he can't go outside. We don't have a cat door. But I'm wondering if in time he'll realize the house is NOT a trap and that we're not veterinarians trying to do things to him lol. I figure the more times I feed him inside the home, the faster he'll learn that home=awesome. He's about 2 years old so I don't think it's impossible to domesticate him. He's such a love bug, I know it'll happen eventually, I just want to speed up the process, if I can.
 

Talien

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A catio or enclosed porch might be good, it's still "outside" so it might help transition him to being a housecat, and give him outside time whenever he wants without the dangers of things like traffic and other animals.
 

tabbytom

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He's about 2 years old so I don't think it's impossible to domesticate him. He's such a love bug, I know it'll happen eventually, I just want to speed up the process, if I can.
This one seems quite easy to make him stay indoor. I guess he freaked out the first time when he's locked in a unfamiliar territory. It's good that he wanders in. Keep feeding him indoors and everyday just move his dish further and furthering to the spot where you want him to eat every time.

Next is prepare some clean towels and the next time he comes rubbing on you, use the towels and gently go all over his body especially around his face where the scent glands are. After that, place the towels in different part of the house, one near where he eats and some in the safe room. Also leave your clean unwashed non perfumed attire together with he towels as this will give him familiar scents and it also help calm him down.

You may place a cardboard box with the towel in it too so that he may use it to hide for the time being. Once he's in, do not open the door again else it'll be hard to get him in again. Once there's familiar scents in the house, it'll boost his confidence.
 
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Jcatbird

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I have socialized even old feral Tom cats. He can learn to feel safe inside. Every cat is different but you are well in your way to establishing a trusting bond with him. You can try to speed things up in many ways and I am sure others will be along with tips too. I find that bonding with the kitty so that he knows you are someone he knows will be there for love and good things is the key. Can you spend time with him just at the door or just outside it? Offering special treats to him while you sit or lay on the ground puts you more at his level and you look less intimidating. You can try putting his food near you. If he will eat near you then you can slowly move his food closer over time until he is eating beside you or even from a dish in your lap. Being very still at first will help. Offering food from your hand can be a way to encourage trust. Special treats can be used for encouraging trust right now. Something really yummy to him. Gerber 2nd foods all meat baby food is a lure I used a lot. It takes time to lick it up and this gives him time to see you are not moving towards him to capture or be a predator. Catnip might be a treat he would like too. Some cats love it and some don’t care much about it. Talk to him in a regular but calming tone. Key words will help. Good, if he does something you want to encourage. Announcing yourself if you are entering the area he is in and avoiding startling him is also helpful. Repetition in everything. Kitties like set routines so they know what to expect. Once I gained trust from a cat, they were inside for good but I don’t know if you plan on keeping him as an inside only cat. He will be much safer if he becomes an inside kitty. He is already socializing and obviously wants to be a part of your life. Thank you for allowing him to enter and for caring! Thanks for being a foster too! We need many more like you! :clap2::goldstar:Please do keep us updated!
 

kittychick

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SO glad you’re here ——especially if you came for advice, information and encouragement!! We specialize in that! (Well, that and hand holding and a shoulder to lean on 🙂)

You’ve already gotten some great advice from some very experienced members! They’ve said a lot of what I’d suggest. I first have to give you a big “YAHOO!” for TNRing. It’s not always easy, and not well-known everywhere (YET! Many of us are spreading the word - glad you’ve joined the chorus!), but glad to hear you not only managed to TNR your boy but to trap him a SECOND time for medical help.Wow! Trapping once isn't always easy, but twice - definite kudos to you!!!!
I love that you care enough about getting him transitioned to a fully indoor cat (it CAN be done! Jcatbird Jcatbird & I are both here to tell you it absolutely can be done. Transitioning a kitten is indeed usually quite a bit easier - but we’ve both transitioned adult ferals & lived to tell the tale! (Or tail, as it were! 😆). Do, however, hope you live in an area where leaving a door open 24/7 like that is safe. We all want YOU to survive so you can help this little guy!!!!
It does seem like, comparatively, this boy’s going to be relatively (note I say relatively 🙂) easy to transition. A lot of what I’d suggest at this stage is what Jcatbird Jcatbird & tabbytom tabbytom suggested. The key is to try to look at it from his perspective & make it more about bonding to YOU as the “bringer of all good things”....of food....treats....affection....etc. And you’re very VERY well down that road in only 6 months! I too always “announce” myself with my (TNR’d) ferals & any un- or under-socialized fosters. Most kitties respond best to a soft female (or at least higher pitched) voice— so I start talking softly in a sing-song voice as (or before) I have any interaction. Since he’ll already let you pet him (woohoo!) - if you feel like he’s pulling away, you might try approaching him w/a closed fist (it’ll look & feel like a head butt to him, a very typical friendly kitty interaction). Many very socialized, very human-friendly kitties have a fairly short “touch” tolerance, so don’t let that frustrate you!
And, as a kitty who’s already getting bonded with you and has shown interest in the house, slowly moving the bowls inside the threshold’s a wonderful way to get him to understand inside IS a good place. Talk to him as food goes down, & stay w/him, chatting softly, as he eats. And rewarding him w/kitty crack (bc 99% go nuts over it!). Just Gerber’s Baby Food Stage 2 Chicken & Gravy. I lie down close to the bowls if possible —& slowly offer it on a long spoon as a reward for things like letting me be close while they eat, or letting me touch them—-& I use an extendable spoon from Amazon so I can shorten length as they trust me more. It’d be a great thing (or whatever his favored treat is!) to reward him with as he comes further past the threshold to eat! And don’t forget to softly chat with him as he comes in so that he learns inside is a safe place —- where food and treats and YOU come from!
I’d start w/a litterbox just inside the door, steps away from the doorway but in sight, & (if possible) containing a few of his own ‘tidbits’ if you know where he tends to go outside). Obviously the box won’t need to be there forever (unless you want guests to put their shoes in it 😆) as moving it once he gets what it is generally isn’t that tough.
Yes, it’ll likely be 2 steps forward & sometimes 1 & sometimes 3 steps back (one early bit of advice to me on this site was “socializing a feral cat will teach you patience you didn’t think you could have” which has been very true) —— but I think you’re very, very well on your way to a safe, happy, healthy inside kitty & much fewer worried nights for yourself!!!!
Keep us posted....and pics are ALWAYS welcomed!
(For encouragement - a pic of Flick - a kitty we TNR’d at 2, & didn’t even try to bring her in for ages—-and she’s now the happiest, most loving totally indoor, 100% lap cat ever —so it can work!)
248BA9FA-CB8C-4373-841B-98152DC65177.jpeg
 
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