Featured How Long Before Your Feral Let You Pet Them?

Discussion in 'Caring for Strays and Ferals' started by ads3j, Jul 14, 2017 at 5:28 PM.

  1. narelle

    narelle TCS Member Young Cat

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    Jan 12, 2016
    FL
    I think there are a lot of factors to it, beyond individual personalities, like the age you get them at and what kind of experiences they've had prior to you entering their life.

    My Astrid was estimated to be around 3 when she came home with me. It's been...a year and a half? And I still can't touch her. We have a treats routine where I can slowly reach towards her and she'll sniff my hand then take a step back, and that's pretty much the closest we get. The way she reacts to me reaching up, especially with something in my hand, like a wand toy, makes me wonder if she had bad experiences with humans at some point.

    I expect things to speed up after we move within the next month, once she gets settled in, because she'll be a little more forced to be present and part of the household living with just the fiance and I in a small space. I also plan to get her a better socialized companion once she's settled in, as she seems to be a very cat friendly cat. I think those things will open her up a lot.
    She rolls and rubs and does the whole song and dance excited to see me, I feel like once she learns how nice it is to be pet she might even pass for a regular (but shy) house cat one day.
     
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  2. engine4154

    engine4154 TCS Member Adult Cat

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    Jan 29, 2016
    SW Ohio
    When Clyde lived outdoors he'd show up to be fed but wouldn't let anyone touch him. All that changed that winter night when I opened the door and he ran inside. At that moment, he was all about getting petted and held. He has been ever since!
     
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  3. ondine

    ondine Advisor Staff Member Advisor

    You might try extending your fist toward her and see how she reacts. It looks a bit like a cat asking for a head bump (a cat's way of greeting another cat). If she puts her head down and turns her cheek toward you, you can gently pet her cheek and perhaps jaw.

    Chester, the cat in my avatar, is ten years old and only allows a ten-second head scratch every week or so. If he allows both my husband and me to scratch him in the same week, we are shocked!
     
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  4. kittychick

    kittychick TCS Member Super Cat

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    Jul 2, 2013
    Ohio
    Cats and kittens are as unique as people. One feral litter we took in is a great illustration of that. The three siblings in the picture were trapped together - and were very feral. We socialized all three in the same way - but they couldn't have been more different, in every way. The orange and white boy, Buffer, was letting us pet him while they ate within days. Within just a week or two he was sitting in my lap, purring, letting me brush him, rub his belly, pick him up, etc. We do our socialization in a large spare bedroom - so I started sleeping there periodically and he almost immediately took to sleeping curled up next to me or right on top of me (it's been several years so my exact time frame may be a bit fuzzy). He would still jump at loud noises, and initially opened up to only me, but within another week had opened up more to my husband. Shortly after that, we were letting a few friends who were very familiar with cats come and interact with him - and he did pretty well even with strangers (extremely well when you consider just weeks before he was 100% feral and had never been touched by a human). Within just a few weeks someone came to look at Buffer to adopt him - - - and I was completely sure it would NEVER work out - - that he was all wrong for a feral kitten still working on getting used to people (he was a "biker guy" - -pulled up in a Harley, was about 6'3" tall easily, and had a very deep, booming voice and an even louder laugh. I figured one second with him and Buffer would disappear under the bed, never to be seen again. To our surprise - Buffer loved him! The voice and size didn't deter him at all - - - he just wanted pets and treats! We still hear from Buffer (now named Indy) and his adopter - - and he's become a very outgoing kitty - bossing around the other kitties in the household and even the family dog! And he started out as a lap cat - - but as he's grown he's become a "I'll do my thing - you do yours" kinda guy. Still loving - - but when he wants to be (like most kitties, right?).

    The two black and white babies - Pip on the left, and Izze on the right - were another story entirely. My husband and I worked with both of them for weeks, which turned into several months. Progress was beyond slow. We started wondering if we'd done the wrong thing in trying to socialize them. - and would we need to re-release them (their mom was still out there so we knew at least they'd have company). But we kept working on them - - and eventually they were good with me (although they still startled easily) but were still fairly nervous of my husband, and disappearing if anyone else came into "their room." I went ahead and put out word that they needed a home, but that they needed a special one, with someone who would understand that they would each take time to warm up, and that they might never be exactly social butterflies. Only one woman called - and she was interested in both! When she came over - they basically hid - she barely got much of a glimpse of them. Amazingly, she said "I'd like to adopt them both. My husband just died, and I think I need them as much as they need someone to understand them." We're updated often on Pip, Izze and their mom - - and they were indeed exactly what all needed from each other - - and they greet mom when she comes home with a flying leap into her arms! They still aren't fond of strangers - but they both love mom to death!

    Other ferals we've worked with have also run a wide range of "teachability." Two sisters we TNR'd (we didn't know they were sisters at the time) we worked with over a full winter. And the tiny grey one with a white "locket" that we ended up taking inside ("Flick" - pictured below) went from a cat we couldn't get closer than 10-15 feet to and could barely touch even at feeding time after months of trying....to a cat who literally comes bounding with joy towards us every time we enter the house! She's a lap cat (the first I've ever had) - and my husband calls her our "comfort cat" - - I have fibromyalgia, and she always knows when I'm having an especially painful day, curling up on the area that hurst the worst. And the day my husband's mother died, she immediately jumped up on his shoulder and curled up around his neck, something she'd never done, before or since. And Flick loves strangers - - we recently had 40 people over for a Derby party, and as everyone screamed during the race, she happily wandered from person to person. But on the other hand, her sister, although she was worked with the same amount of time, has taken two years to really allow the wife to pet her (the husband can pet her a bit more) and she still runs when anyone but mom and dad are around (I haven't seen her again in the two years she's been in their home).

    I have many more similar stories - - - and they all illustrate the same thing. There's no such thing as a timetable that fits every cat, feral or otherwise. And each develops in their own way - -from lap cat to just happy to curl up in a sunspot one room over from where you are. From thrilled to be petted and have their tummy brushed to only being comfortable with a passing touch while being fed. So some you can be thrilled by knowing you can nuzzle their tummies and hear a rumbly purr....and some you have to take true comfort knowing you saved a life. And that cat is just as happy that he/she can eat without constantly glancing around in fear....can sleep with both eyes shut instead of one as they worry what might get them while they sleep....is thrilled that they never have to be shivering and soaked to the bone in a late fall rainstorm....or their paws frozen to the point of near frostbite. They just all show their happiness in a different way. But they're all happy they've been saved.
     

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  5. jmarkitell

    jmarkitell TCS Member Adult Cat

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    May 11, 2015
    We had 2 or 3 stray or feral cats that were hanging around. Binks, the big black Tom, was already fixed when he showed up and was pretty friendly...he took a day or two before he was my buddy. The true feral, Callie, was a male Calico. He would run off if he saw somebody thru the windows and I only saw him at night for the first year. He would run up to the woods and watch me as I threw some goodies up into the yard. It took more than 2 years before he trusted me enough to approach him (or HE approached me...he would still run off if I was the one approaching him). He got friendlier as time went on and would sometimes come into my daughter's bedroom from an outside door. He hissed at me every time he saw me, but I don't think he knew any better as he would both hiss and purr when I would be allowed to pet him.
    Unfortunately, Callie hasn't returned from his winter vacation...every yeaqr he would disappear from December to March/April, but didn't come back this year. I'm still hoping though....
     
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  6. ads3j

    ads3j TCS Member Young Cat

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    Jun 29, 2017
    Boston, MA
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  7. ads3j

    ads3j TCS Member Young Cat

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    Jun 29, 2017
    Boston, MA


    Thank you so much for sharing this, it melted me and sharing the pictures (they're precious). What sweet, bizarre little creatures they are and I am so grateful we have ours. I won't put any expectations on Lilly. She seems to be getting comfortable now, although she will sorta jog off if we get too close to her, but quickly comes back (especially to eat) and she seems to desperately want to connect and play. She seems very curious about my contact with Millie and it seems to encourage her - for example, I reached and scratched Millie's cheeks and she noticed her her euphora so she came and sniffed my hand while I was doing it. Recently though, she seems to look away if I'm petting Millie. I will give her all the time she needs to feel safe. I watched her for almost a year surviving on the streets fleeing from cars, people and other cats and dogs. My heart broke for her and I worked so hard to track and trap her and promised her that she could take all the time she needed to feel at home.
     
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  8. ads3j

    ads3j TCS Member Young Cat

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    Jun 29, 2017
    Boston, MA

    This is almost exactly my experience and I estimate Lilly to be approximately three. She is reacting exactly as Astrid. Do you have another cat already?
     
  9. ads3j

    ads3j TCS Member Young Cat

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    Jun 29, 2017
    Boston, MA
    She's lovely!
     
  10. ads3j

    ads3j TCS Member Young Cat

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    Jun 29, 2017
    Boston, MA
    He looks like a love "bug" now.
     
  11. maggiedemi

    maggiedemi TCS Member Super Cat

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    Mar 26, 2017
    Upstate NY
    After watching Animal Cops on Animal Planet and seeing that the ASPCA puts down every feral cat they take in, except for the baby kittens, I almost wonder if the mother cats know that humans will hurt them, so they warn their kittens to be afraid of humans. It's so sad the way ferals are treated, like they aren't worth anything. If people keep killing all the outdoor cats, they are going to end up with mice & rats everywhere and another Black Plague.
     
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  12. Shane Kent

    Shane Kent Crazy Cat Gentleman Alpha Cat

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    May 9, 2016
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    @maggiedemi -- When I called the Ottawa Humane Society about the feral kittens at my work they asked if there was someone at my work to feed and care for them. I had been feeding them and told them I could continue to do so. They told me I could TNR them and they would cover most of the cost. I thought it was strange they didn't want me to take them there and see if they could find a proper home for them. A bit of research and I discovered chances are they would have gotten euthanized, they don't have the time to socialize them. No wonder why they wanted me to TNR and keep them on the property where I work. I trapped them and took them to my vet. Socialized them and now they live with my other two cats at home. They are indoor-only cats now. Thank God I didn't just trap them and drop them off at the Humane Society as that was my original intention. Had I done that and later discovered the likelihood they were euthanized it would have broken my heart.

    As for how long till I could pet them.

    Kitty and Rusty were about 2 months old when I started to feed them. They were 8 to 9 months old when I trapped and brought them inside. I had been feeding Kitty and Rusty for a little under 7 months when I trapped them so I had been feeding them for most of their lives. Their safe room had a closet with boxes in it. I had to put gel in their eyes so right away I had to get close to them. They cowered in boxes and although I was able to pet them a little bit I don't consider that actually petting them seeing they were cowering. As for having them rub my leg and pet them. I would say Rusty was 2 to 3 weeks and Kitty was a month to a month and a half. It was gradual and then before I knew it I had two more attention seekers :)

    Kitty and Rusty were rather familiar with me and there was nobody around to harass them. Had they not been so familiar with me or been mistreated by people I would expect that getting to the point of petting them would have taken longer.

    Kitty and Rusty spent the first year inside the office building I work at before I took them home to introduce to my other two cats. While living in the building Kitty would come to me wanting me to pet her but would get petting-induced aggression and bite me fairly hard. Typically it would take a few minutes before she would bite but sometimes as little as 10 to 15 seconds. It is rather noisy at my work during the day and I am fairly certain Kitty was high-strung because of it. Now she lives at my house in a quiet neighborhood I no longer get petting-induced aggression from her. I am fairly certain she did it because she was high-strung.
     
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  13. kieka

    kieka Snowshoe Servant Top Cat

    I socalized Rocket using a crate and forced contact. So with me she was being pet from day one. Its been two years and she loves being pet and hanging out on my lap now. She gets visibly anxious and paces around if my lap isnt available after dinner. About 6 months ago she started going to my Moms lap if I wasn't around and is now about a comfortable as she is with me with my Mom. My Dad though is still in the bump a hand phase where he can't pet her but she will rub his hand if he puts it out.

    Oddly, my boy who has been around humans his whole life and used to cuddle as a baby hates being pet. He will allow my Mom and I some petting (essentiallly he pets us) but if people visit and even try he will bite them. Luckily he won't break skin so I warn people and if they get bit then they were warned.
     
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  14. adriennes

    adriennes TCS Member Kitten

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    May 2, 2017
    Ontario, Canada
    I have a small colony of four feral cats that have been part of the TNR program. Since they were trapped and released, it took me about a year before I could pat any of them. Two are now very receptive to being petted while they have their dinner, one is kind of hit-and-miss, and I just managed to pat the other one for the first time the other day. (So, about a year and half since they were trapped - and she's about 2 1/2 years old now). I can only pat them when they're eating and while I'm sitting down - once I stand up, they back away. It's been a very long process, but they they were 100% feral, and I LOVE the progress we've made. Initially, I couldn't get closer than 50 feet to any of them, so this is HUGE. Keep on being patient.... the reward of seeing them trust you is the best feeling ever. :)
     
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  15. kittychick

    kittychick TCS Member Super Cat

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    Jul 2, 2013
    Ohio
    So glad you liked the stories and pics I shared! And what you said at the end made me tear up - - since that's almost word for word what I found my husband saying to Flick (the grey one pictured on the blue and green background) one day. I came down the steps and stopped, as I saw my husband was holding Flick ...and they were looking out the back window, looking into our backyard. I heard him whispering into her ear, as tears streamed down his face, "I hope you're as glad as we are that you're in here now. And I promise....you'll never feel cold, or hungry, or scared and alone ever again. Not for one second. You'll never have to sleep with one eye open again. i promise with all my heart you'll always feel warm, full and safe...but most of all, loved." Then he softly kissed her ear. Then I started to sob, blowing my cover. It sounds like you and my husband have alot in common :)
     
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  16. ads3j

    ads3j TCS Member Young Cat

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    Jun 29, 2017
    Boston, MA

    I'm so happy you have them in your life and rescued them. Each of these stories help me cope with my feelings and anxiety(?) about the situation. My heart breaks for the street/abandoned cats.
     
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  17. ads3j

    ads3j TCS Member Young Cat

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    Jun 29, 2017
    Boston, MA

    Thank you. I have been feeling really sad today, but really we've made amazing progress so far. I feel that Lilly is doing so great with Millie that she (and Millie) are becoming more close and are more interested in each other than my and my husband. I also wonder if giving Lilly access to the entire house (just this past few days) had overwhelmed her a bit, she's not as confident as she was in just the one bedroom where she was staying put allowing us to get really close to her. Now, she is scurrying off under the bed or chair as we approach - it's a little bit of a regression. However, I need to stay focused and be so grateful for the progress we've made in 5 weeks. I will try to be patient :) It's hard though.
     
  18. ads3j

    ads3j TCS Member Young Cat

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    Jun 29, 2017
    Boston, MA
    Wow, that's a tear-jerking read! I made the same promises to Lilly when I had her in a cage so afraid that we were going to hurt her. I told her her babies would find a good home and be taken care of (they've been placed in a loving home on Cape Cod) and I also promised the non-profit that helped me trap her that I didn't' care if she never let me pet her, as long as I didn't have to worry about her anymore (they warned me she may not make a great house pet). I lied about that part though, I find myself longing to touch her and love on her, but am trying to really celebrate how well she's doing - coming downstairs now to eat breakfast and dinner in the kitchen, exploring the house with (albeit skittish) curiosity and making herself at home. I was downstairs playing with Millie a bit (who was periodically looking for Lilly to come down, and eventually left to go be with her) when I heard the squeak of her mouse toy that is under the bed where she now likes to hide. Poor thing wants love and attention, but still lacks the confidence to really come and interact with us.

    I found Millie (her then kitten) at 7 weeks, starving, covered with fleas and wasting away (somehow she got separated from Lilly) and didn't see Lilly again all last winter, as soon as spring came, I made my plan to trap and give her a home here. I have done that and she's been amazing. I really just want her to be comfortable and feel at home. She will never be cold, pregnant, looking for food and running from cars and coyotes. She will always be safe and fed so that's really all that matters.
     
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  19. ads3j

    ads3j TCS Member Young Cat

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    Jun 29, 2017
    Boston, MA

    So one of the women who helped me trap her told me I sorta messed up not keeping her in a cage which would have helped me in petting her, but because I had her "loose" in a bedroom where she could hide under a chair I may never be able to pet her. I hope this is not the case, maybe it will just take longer, but I really hope someday she'll let me touch her or pet her. Also, how do people trip their nails and brush them if they can't even pet them?
     
  20. kieka

    kieka Snowshoe Servant Top Cat

    Rocket lets me pet her, but brushing is too scary and nail trimming wouldn't happen. Flea medicine is usually sneakily applied while sleeping and I have to plan a good 30 minutes to catch her for the vet. But she is indoor/outdoor so the nails aren't an issue (she likes scratching rocks). She sheds like crazy in the spring so she gets extra petting before coming in and I get fluff covered. It works.

    I workwd really hard with her over the course of 7 months to go from crate, to indvidual room, to multiple rooms, to house, and finally outside. Each step I constantly said her name and would reduce her space again if she wasn't coming when called. The crate really was an asset in the first month or so because it taught her that I wasn't evil and a source of good things without really allowing her to hide. I almost wish I had used to longer to get her more comfortable with holding. But I think that is a total lack of control issue for her. She is probably my best at coming when called... unless she has a lizard. But they are used to coming in at night so usually just before dusk they are waiting to come in.

    I should mention that a routine is really important with under or unsocialized cats. What timw you wake, get home, feed, play etc. It all really helps them feel secure and adapt.
     
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