Need encouragement and advice for scared stray.

WestCoastKitties

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I’ve been a rescuer of ferals and strays for over 20 years. Three months ago we moved into our new house and low and behold a beautiful long haired tuxedo cat arrived. Full of mats, thin and very skittish - to the point where I thought “feral”, but then he did a few things ferals would not have, such as flopping down on the grass about 8 feet away from me and over the past few months he’s allowed me to pet him (slowly) all over, brush him, remove the mats and he’s even started lifting his tail up in my presence. I found out through a small FB group for our very small village/town that this cat is considered “feral” - and a stray. Another post mentioned they fed him all last winter. But I believe he’s no ones cat that I can see after posting pics of him online and asking all our neighbors - and the feedback I got that “he’s a feral!” also made me think that this cat has a territory, but clearly has chosen our place as of late. Sleeping outside our door at night and coming for regular meals.
In the few months I’ve been working with him I’ve managed to deworm him with both strongid and tapeworm meds (not all at once obviously) as well as treating him for fleas.

My plan has been to slowly get him as comfortable as I can and bring him to the vet to be neutered and vaccinated and possibly microchipped. My plan has included the least amount of trauma I can prevent.

Anyway, if you’re still reading the past two days and evenings he’s been off the charts skittish. Like won’t come in to eat, bolts if I move my hand (normally I can pet him and he purrs loudly while he eats) and night before last just took off running as if there was some “monster” I couldn’t see - and this was different from his normal skittishness- the normal skittishness is he backs off a bit, grooms and comes back. This was bat out of hell run far, far away.
Fast forward to last night. I’m in bed and I hear a “fight” - my two other cats hear it as well and begin to growl and all three of us immediately go to the window - I see “Rux” he is by my car.
whatever I did scared the other intruder away. I bring out food for “Rux” and he starts to eat warily. I don’t know what came over me, but I picked him up and put him in the cat carrier I have been keeping by the front door where he eats. Then I brought him upstairs to a bathroom with a bed, a place to hide/feel safe without being out of my reach, a litter pan with a mix of litter and some dirt, a bowl of water and a Feliway diffuser. At first there was some crying, but then silence.
He went to the bed/safe area and meowed at me and let me pet him, but he was clearly stressed.
This morning I brought him wet food and he wouldn’t eat even when I put a bit on his nose and he licked it off.

I gently pulled the bed out from under his safe space and he starred panting. I gently pet him and slid the bed back.
He has not used the box.
My question is do I leave the food there or do I only bring it in when he is ready to eat? I’ve read different opinions on this. I also know this is a huge change for him - the fact that he’s not hissing or growling or really reacting aggressively is good. I guess I need some help -
The ferals I have rescued in the past have of course all had different personalities- many were kittens. My last two boys (which are my avatar image) were a few years ago. Earl (the gray one) was eating popcorn kernels In the middle of a winter storm with the squirrels in our back yard until I trapped him - he was feral - hissing, growling, spitting - no touching.
Blackie I trapped during a polar vortex and I would sit for hours playing this YouTube video (sound only) of a mother cat talking to her kittens - that was what finally got him out from hiding to eat.

anyway, sorry for the wall of text. I want to do right by “Rux” - I think he could likely “make it” on his own as he’s two years old - but my fears are: predators (we have coyotes), mean people, and of course cars and disease. Plus the last time we had a significant snowfall I didn’t see him for days - and when he came he ate an entire large can of food.

any suggestions? I’ve read a lot of your posts and they are all so helpful. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
 

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catapault

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Sounds like you have a new cat. jcat jcat will be along and share her excellent information with you. My thoughts - Rux may have been mistreated / attacked and that was what disturbed his behavior two days ago. I think you did absolutely the right thing to bring him inside. It's a big change for him and he needs more time to adjust. Patience is the key.
 
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WestCoastKitties

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Update: went up to Rux’s room and he did use the box for a #2. Im going to take this into my vet for a stool sample.
Also, he was out from under his “safe space” and meowed at me when I introduced myself before entering. He also licked a bit of food off my finger.
I left the bowl of food in the room with him.
 
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WestCoastKitties

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Sounds like you have a new cat. jcat jcat will be along and share her excellent information with you. My thoughts - Rux may have been mistreated / attacked and that was what disturbed his behavior two days ago. I think you did absolutely the right thing to bring him inside. It's a big change for him and he needs more time to adjust. Patience is the key.
Thanks a bunch. Yes, intuitively I felt like someone or something happened. He’s usually ok with my husband petting him too, so for him to be so extra wary was unsettling.
Looking forward to hearing more from the community.

thank you again!
 

tnrmakessense

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Such a lucky kitty to have found you. I'd leave the food. Just being inside is an adjustment on top of whatever was scaring him outside. Let him eat at his own pace. You don't have to rush the socializing. And try not to take it personally if he backtracks (I'm really talking to myself since I still do.)
 
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WestCoastKitties

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Thank you! Yes, I know I need to back off on the socialization. I get too excited- but in the past when I let my cats do it organically it always works out.
I did leave the food for him and I’ll continue to let him have his quiet space and check on him at the normal feeding times we kept when he was living outside.

thank you again!
 

jcat

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It's great that you've managed to bring him inside! From the sounds of it, he had a home at some point, i.e., he was socialized, but was abandoned or lost and has been fending for himself. He probably was scared by another cat or animal and was therefore acting skittish.

I'd leave food out for him, but not be surprised if for the time being he does most of his eating and pottying at night. That will change as he settles down.
 
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WestCoastKitties

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Yes, that makes sense! He did use the box and left me a #2 which I’m going to take to the vet and have checked for parasites. He just ate about half his food - I went in and sang a bit to him and put some food on my finger. He licked that off and when I offered him the bowl he ate about half. Still scared and that’s ok. He has a lot of adjustments to make. I’m thankful he’s inside away from the cold, wind, snow, predators and not nice humans.
 

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I think you can tell we're ALL glad that he chose you - -because yes, I think you've got yourself a new kitty! He's a gorgeous guy (you can probably tell from Bowie --- my avatar and apparent long-lost cousin of your new guy----that I'm a sucker for long-haired kitties - especially ones with sweet faces who've been abused or had a rough life- and Bowie checked off all the boxes - - hence yet another failed foster!)!

Anyway - I'm in complete agreement with jcat jcat . From what I read, it sounds fairly likely he's not a "true feral" (although in the long run - that doesn't really matter much - he is who he is, and he's someone who thinks you're pretty cool!). In my too-many-to-count years of experience, he sounds like a kitty that, at some point, had a home (whether fully indoor or indoor/outdoor, who knows) and that his fear stems largely from being very mistreated at some point and summarily tossed into the street (since you've worked with ferals before - - I'll likely say things you already know). He showed trust in you more quickly than most ferals do - - his reaction sounds very much like a combo between being treated badly (to the point of abuse) and having been out alone so long that he's virtually gone back to "his roots" (a more feral, wild side). And his appearance (being all matted and rail thin) also backs up the idea of him having a home in his past. It sounds as though he didn't have a very good concept of how to take care of himself/find prey/feel comfortable enough to groom himself/etc. It sounds like he was living in fear - - -until he met a wonderfully caring person willing to help him!

I agree with all who've weighed in - his behavior is very typical of a kitty who's out of his element and scared (I always remind myself that a feral/semi-feral kitty's fear is what's kept them alive!). And it sounds like he's already starting to trust you and his new surroundings a bit more - that's fantastic! You're already doing most of the things I advise to do when bringing in a new feral/semi-feral - - - the announcing at his door, etc. Keep talking to him in a gentle high-pitched tone (hearing my husband do that when we're working with new fosters is pretty hysterical!). We also leave a radio or tv on in their room - - -it serves as both something that kind of covers up "house noises" that he wouldn't be used to, and also helps him learn not to be afraid of human voices. And you probably know about "kitty crack" already (Gerber Stage 2 Chicken baby food) - - - we use it on an extendable spoon to work with getting new, frightened fosters to come closer. It smells to high heaven but kitties can't resist it!

I think you're doing a great job - - -and very glad you came here - - we're full of people with soft shoulders and ears that love to listen!

Keep us posted!
 

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I am so glad that you have been able to help him. He fits the profile of several male cats I have rescued over the years....more than likely abandoned pets who will make a transition to living in a loving home. Despite the fact that he has survived on his own, the outdoors were scary to him which is why you had that little blip in your relationship.
 
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WestCoastKitties

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Thank you all so very much for your insight and kindness! Rux is starting to relax a bit more this evening. He was lying stretched out on his side on his bed making “air biscuits” as I sang to him and gently stroked his chin. Unfortunately they didn’t have any “kitty crack” (stage 2 chicken baby food) at our little store in town. So hopefully he will keep relaxing and eat a little more tonight.

Can anyone tell me when I can replace his dirt/clay litter mix to just litter? My other rescues just went straight to the box without needing dirt, but last night I decided not to chance it and mixed in some dried potting soil over the regular litter.

Also, by this evening I felt like someone removed a huge weight off my shoulders knowing he is safe and with me. I had no idea how much I worried about his safety day in and day out.

I don’t usually think about the fact that some people will go out of their way to hurt animals, but seeing Rux so “off” those few days really made me fearful for his well being not knowing if there would be that one person who might poison him or be physically aggressive to the point of possibly injuring him. He’s wary, but he’s also incredibly sweet and loves to be petted. Anyway, I don’t want to dwell on that, but I was really surprised at how much more relaxed I was today. Like I could breathe. I can only hope Rux is starting to feel that way too.

I hope my next post will be that he’s a lap cat!

Again, I so appreciate everyone that took time to message me!

Kind regards,
Rux, Blackie and Earl and their mom
 

jcat

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Since he's already used the litter box and proved he knows what it's for, you can probably safely switch to litter only any time you want. Some true ferals need the potting soil or leaves to get them on track, but most don't.

It sounds like he's very happy to be out of the scary outdoors.
 
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WestCoastKitties

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Thank you for the advice on the box. One thing I have noticed that is unusual (at least for me) is that Rux doesn’t eat unless I am in the room with him and giving him affection. I’ve not encountered such a thing before- normally my rescues will eat freely when food is left out for them. I’ve been surprised to see his food untouched in the mornings - then when I start to pet him I’ll bring the food bowl near him and he really digs in.
Anyone have an experience with this with a shy cat? Also, he’s a sink sleeper lol - I came into the bathroom and twice I’ve seen him in the sink.
He also is definitely done with the confinement of the bathroom and is quite adamant about being let out -
His fecal came back negative today - I have wormed him and his change of life surgery is scheduled for Monday morning.
Would really appreciate some insight on the eating issue.
Thank you!
 
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WestCoastKitties

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Edit: *I HAD wormed him - not have as in have again -
 
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WestCoastKitties

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Hi to everyone who read the story of “Rux” - the little tuxedo cat who I just took in from what was likely well over a year living outside- very scared.

Since then, Rux has transitioned from the small bathroom to the main house. With lots of encouragement from me, he has finally decided that he doesn’t need to hide (today) and was eating this morning with my other two cats and as I type this is laying on the floor with his new favorite toy.

My conundrum- today is the day he is scheduled to be neutered and I don’t know if this is too soon for him. He still “scatters” when he is startled (mostly by my husband- I think it might be a “man thing”) but this is the first morning he was up before me and out acting relaxed during the morning. Usually he has a hiding spot that I coax him out of several times a day to come eat and drink.

I have had cats before that went to the vet and bounced back just fine- maybe I’m over reacting. When I scheduled the appointment the receptionist asked me if the appointment was too soon or ok - they’re a cat only clinic so they understand. I for some reason felt at that time he would be ok with the appointment being just over a week from his transition inside. Now I’m not too sure.

He definitely trusts me with new experiences- and I don’t want to ruin that.
any advice would be helpful.

Thank you!
image.jpg
 
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WestCoastKitties

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I should edit that last sentence to read *he‘s been amazing to trust me with new experiences that take him out his comfort zone - like onto my lap and onto the bed. He’s still not there yet with those things, which is fine. I had two rescue kittens many years ago that spent most of their time curled up together under my couch before they felt ok with the “lap” and “cuddling“, etc...
 
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WestCoastKitties

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So, I talked with the vet this morning and she said that she felt it was ok to wait on his change of life surgery bc he was just starting to relax and get comfortable being out of hiding during the day.
we are going to wait another two weeks.
 

kittychick

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SOOO happy to hear he's handling the newly wide open world of your new home as well as he is!

Did I miss this - the two other cats in your home are fixed, correct? And where did his name come from? You might have mentioned and I missed it - but it sounds like the kind of name with a story behind it!

(And I will certainly never complain about the lengths of your posts - - I can't seem to say "hello - how are you?" without turning it into a five paragraph post! :) )

I might have missed this too - - -did you do a slow intro with him and your other kitties? Since it sounds like now he's got the run of the place (or at least part of it) - - are the three doing ok together? (and by your photo of him - you can tell he's just miserable ;) ). The only reasons I would have said to neuter ASAP is if either of your other two aren't fixed (and I'm guessing that's not an issue), if you were seeing marking behavior (spraying, etc), and/or a huge desire in him to dart out the door bc he senses a cat is in heat in your area. It doesn't sound like any of those are an issue for you at the moment - so I think if it makes you more comfortable, wait the two weeks. Either way - he will "forgive" you - but since he's right at that moment where he's really starting to stretch his legs and feel more at home, I think waiting a few weeks isn't a bad idea at all. Just watch the door to make sure he doesn't dart out - - since I see you live on the west coast, which has a much more "year round" breeding season then my part of the US.

You've definitely become Rux's "alpha" and safe space combined ---- he trusts you, and he knows you'll keep him safe. Which is a big reason he hasn't wanted to eat much without you to protect him. Don't forget - - his fear is what kept him safe until he found you. He's probably spent most of time outside eating only when he felt as close to sure as possible that he wasn't being watched by a predator. I've always been SO happy when I have a very frightened or abused foster/feral/semi-feral that finally feels comfortable enough to eat in front of me. You'll probably notice that (if they did before) his eyes won't dart about when he eats (to make sure he's not snuck up on), and as he feels safer, he'll likely stop raising his head periodically to look around (if he does that now). For my big scaredy cat socializations - - - that's always been such an amazing moment, when I realize they trust me enough to know they can eat and sleep without one eye open to their surroundings. Trust like that is often hard to build - - -but so wonderful when you can! (again - judging by his photo, he's feeling pretty comfy already!).

I think he's coming around VERY quickly - - - - and he's very, very happy. So glad you found each other! :catlove:
 

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Nothing to add to what has already been said, except how wonderful it is that you found him and have taken him in. It sounds as if he is settling in really well, he must be so happy inside, but probably fearful now that this wonderful life will end, so I agree that delaying the surgery is a good idea. He will get over it, of course, but it can only help for him to feel more trust with you and your husband. I am so happy for all of you!
 
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