Welcome to The Cat Site
your cat community
Interact with our community

Need Help Taming a Feral

varsettie

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Apr 12, 2013
Messages
161
Reaction score
22
Location
Ottawa
I've had a really interesting experience recently where I've been saddled with two extra cats turning my household population to 4. I've been dealing with the cat problems as they come but I've very recently been given news that one of the two cats I took in for my friend is Feral (and she apparently 'forgot' to tell me this which was really nice of her -__-). If you're interested in reading the whole situation start to finish about all four cats you can check all my progress with the other three cats here:

http://www.thecatsite.com/t/287058/whole-house-smells-like-cat-pee

Dora is the feral cat, at first I thought she may just have been extremely skittish and so have been working with her like one would with a domesticated cat. I believe I may have done more damage than any good doing this. I've never dealt with trying to tame a feral cat before so I'm completely out of my comfort zone here and don't really even know what information to provide to you guys, but I'll give you her cat basics:

Dora is a four and a half year old spayed female short haired torbie. She was given to my friend Brenna from the Virginia Animal Control after they captured her and the other feral cats in her colony when Dora was approximately 6 months. Dora is extremely affectionate with Brenna (And sometimes the other cats) but hides from anyone else, and when she runs to hide she gets extremely frantic. She'll bowl over anything in her path. This is a big problem as Brenna is back in the US right now trying to find a way to apply for a Student Visa so she can eventually move here. Brenna has no home to go back to as she had family issues and had to leave her house immediately and take her two cats with her. Her two cats however are here in Canada with my Fiance and I. 

What I would ideally like to eventually have happen is to gain Dora's trust enough that I could pet her and give her treats and affection. Right now because she trusts no one she spends all of her days hiding and will brutally attack you if you try getting her out from under the bed. She's got no one to show her any love right now and it breaks my heart to see her so miserable...
 
Last edited:

shadowsrescue

Advisor
Staff Member
Advisor
Joined
Apr 27, 2011
Messages
6,270
Reaction score
3,271
Location
Ohio
Dora is very lucky to have you.  You may have to start fresh with her, but give her time and lots and lots of patience.  When working with ferals its often a slow pace with one step forward and 2 steps back.  Fortunately she seems more semi feral now since she lives inside and once had a human companion.  I will offer a few suggestions:

1.  Get a feliway diffuser and/or spray for the room she spends the most time in or get a couple for the house.  This will help to calm her.  You can find them cheapest on Amazon.

2.  Composure to help calm her.  These come in treat formula or liquid.  I love the liquid as it can be mixed into wet food.  You can double the dose to start and give it 2x a day.  It helps the cat to feel calmer thus allowing the cat to let its guard down a bit. 

3.  I would visit often.  I always sat on the floor so not to loom over her  I would talk quietly to her or read aloud to her.  Have you tried any of her favorite toys or catnip?

4.  Gerber stage 2 Baby food is your friend!!  It's in the small jar with the blue label.  You want the chicken or turkey.  Make sure it is just chicken or turkey and water with no added spices.  I get it at Target for $1.  Cats love it.  You can offer a bit on a small plate for him to taste and then move to him licking it off a spoon and then to him licking it off your fingers.  It is known as "kitty crack"! This is just a training tool and not a meal replacement.  Plain cooked chicken/turkey work well too. When you are visiting with her you can offer a special treat.  She may not take it at first in your presence, but gradually she may want the yummy treat so badly she will!  I always left another treat when I left the area.

5.  Remember to keep your gaze down, if direct eye contact freaks her out.  Look over the top of her head or keep your gaze low. 

6.  Does she have a safe space of her own?  A special place to hide when she is feeling stressed?  Possibly a cat tree hiding hole or even a simple box with a cozy bed.  Try to keep her from hiding under beds or other furniture where it would be difficult to get her out if needed.

7.  Rescue remedy is another product that helps cats with stress.  You can put it into wet food, drinking water, on their fur and even spray around the room.  I have never had great luck with it for  my pets.  I prefer the Composure.

Thank you for helping Dora and wanting the best for her.
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #3

varsettie

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Apr 12, 2013
Messages
161
Reaction score
22
Location
Ottawa
Keeping your gaze down is a new one for me. I was always told to try blinking at them. I can give that a try for sure and see if maybe I've been accidentally intimidating her. Currently I'm absolutely broke as I spent $300 on new litter boxes, calming collars, and enzyme spray to clean cat pee because of the problems we had with Odette peeing outside the litter box. That being the case I will get a feliway difuser and some new calming treats when I have the money but I could use advice on things I can try changing around the house or tricks to get closer to her at the moment. 

Currently Dora hides under the bed in Brenna's room. I can see her every once in a while when she comes out but if you so much as look at her she skids right back under the bed again. She will not budge for toys or cat nip unless humans are not in the room. She does come out for food and gets very excited for it but she is also still extremely paranoid about anything touching her. I got pretty badly scratched the last time I tried. 

Under the bed seems to be her 'safe spot' and I'm not sure what I can do to stop her from going under there. I'm thinking about taking the metal frame apart and just putting the mattress on the floor. We tried using cardboard and tape to block off under the bed but she just chewed a hole in it and kept going under there. The thing is there are lots of other things for her to use. We have a wicker cat basket/house and two 6 foot cat trees both with built in 'houses' and hiding spots as well as a 2 foot cat tree with a tunnel on either side and a 'house' made out of the center. She just won't go anywhere that's not under the bed.

When I visit her, because she's under the bed, I often try lying on the floor to talk to her. I've been clued in by how fast she runs away that she does not like it when I'm standing anywhere near her. She doesn't seem anymore impressed by me lying on the ground though if I'm honest ...
 
Last edited:
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #4

varsettie

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Apr 12, 2013
Messages
161
Reaction score
22
Location
Ottawa
An update:

My cats are fed on a schedule, they are not choice fed because two of them would easily gorge themselves. This being the case I went to go and feed the cats before bed and Dora refused to come to me for her dinner for some reason. This has not happened before. She refused to go in to her/Brenna's room to get her food and instead made me follow her all over the house to 'chase' her (meaning walk in to the same room as her) around the entire house until she finally went back in to her room to eat. 

As another note, at first she refused to eat anything and simply stared at me like I was the devil. I laid on the floor and blinked at her a few times and she seemed to relax and started eating her food. Better than her not eating at all, right? I hung around and pretended to be asleep on the floor until she was done her food to make sure Odette didn't try to steal any.
 

ondine

TCS Member
Veteran
Joined
Nov 20, 2008
Messages
5,312
Reaction score
773
Location
Burlington, North Carolina
Blinking is fine - it is a way feral cats let one another they are not angry with one another. Even when you blink, though, avoid looking straight into her eyes. Look at her forehead or off to the side. A direct stare is a feral cat's way of challenging another cat.

If you can find a little space for Dora alone, she may calm down some. She might be a little intimidated by all the new creatures - human and feline - in this new place. Anywhere where she can eat (and perhaps pee) in peace without worries about the other animals may help her adjust. This is going to take a long time and the fact that's she's out and about at all impresses me.

Please don't feel as if Dora is not feeling loved. She is scared, intimidated, unsure of her new surroundings. But she does realize that you care for her, really! You feed her, you change her litter, you tend to her. At this point, if you go about those chores every day in the same way at the same time, she will soon realize she is safe. She may warm up to you, she may not. But let it be her choice. Chasing her - or even following her with food - may make her nervous and anxious. That's why she might need a space of her own for a bit. If the other cats have a shot at her food, she may not even bother. And if it take you standing over things to make sure she eats, that may frighten her a little, too.

Thank you for taking on this challenge. You are a very good friend.
 
Last edited:
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #6

varsettie

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Apr 12, 2013
Messages
161
Reaction score
22
Location
Ottawa
All points noted Ondine!

How concerned should I be when she refuses to  come for her food though? If I let her have her way she won't eat anything. I'm worried she's so scared she'd rather starve than come to me for food.
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #7

varsettie

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Apr 12, 2013
Messages
161
Reaction score
22
Location
Ottawa
I rolled her a treat just now and she took it! No fussing, no evil eyes, nothing! That's a good thing, right!?

Since locking Dora in Brenna's old room there has been no other cat fights. Odette seems fine with our cats. I think Dora was just making them all act out because she's 'so' scared. I also took the metal bed frame apart and put Brenna's mattress on the floor. It was the only way I could keep her from going under the bed. She has three other 'hiding spots' that are cat tree/huts so hopefully she chooses one of those as a better place to hide. I also sprayed two of our mouse toys in cat nip and put them in Brenna's room for her. 
 
Last edited:

ondine

TCS Member
Veteran
Joined
Nov 20, 2008
Messages
5,312
Reaction score
773
Location
Burlington, North Carolina
This might just be the ticket. Dora can eventually be re-introduced to the rest of the cats, once she realizes this new arrangement is OK. She may need a week or two, maybe more. You can get a screen door or two stacked baby gates for the room door and let them see/sniff one another through it.

But first, give her time to adjust. She should start to calm down soon, now that she doesn't have to worry about the other cats. You should still go in there and spend time with her - feeding, scooping, etc. You can also go in and read out loud. It will get her used to your voice and your presence.

I think being in Brenna's room with be helpful because she will probably be able to smell Brenna on things. This will comfort her.
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #9

varsettie

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Apr 12, 2013
Messages
161
Reaction score
22
Location
Ottawa
Will do! I have to clean the litter boxes every day or Odette pees outside the boxes anyways. I was in there cleaning after taking the bed apart today and that's when I was talking to her and rolled her a treat. I'm just so excited that she took it!
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #10

varsettie

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Apr 12, 2013
Messages
161
Reaction score
22
Location
Ottawa
Another update!

As I was feeding Dora this morning she finally slowly inched out of her hiding place and came up to me for her food! On top of that while she was eating she finally let me pet her head! She didn't flinch or try to move away from me when I touched her either! She seems to be progressing much faster than I expected. I didn't think I'd be able to pet her for at least two weeks.
 
Last edited:
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #12

varsettie

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Apr 12, 2013
Messages
161
Reaction score
22
Location
Ottawa
A sizable set back.

While I was feeding her today she did what she's been doing for the last two days. She'll slowly inch up and get her food, and normally she'll let me pet her if I'm slow about it.

Today when I tried to pet her she flipped out, bit me, and took off. :c
 

ondine

TCS Member
Veteran
Joined
Nov 20, 2008
Messages
5,312
Reaction score
773
Location
Burlington, North Carolina
Sometimes, I just think they don't feel like interaction.  Given her level of socialization, she responded in the only way she knows.  Don't try petting her for a few days, but do keep the routine.  Sit as close as you can but wait for her to feel more comfortable before you reach out again.  When you do, make sure you reach toward her with a fist, not your open hand.  The fist will look like another cat coming in for a head bump.  She will be able to decide if she wants the attention.  The open hand may look like a predators outstretched claws.

With ferals, its like two steps forward, one step back, then sometimes two steps back.  Hang in there!
 
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #14

varsettie

TCS Member
Thread starter
Adult Cat
Joined
Apr 12, 2013
Messages
161
Reaction score
22
Location
Ottawa
Just to catch everybody up it's been a long couple of weeks on my end.

I broke my toe, one of my pet mice passed away, and I've been having financial problems out the rear end. 

But all of that aside I've kept to routine as best as I could and Dora seems to be responding. She will now eagerly come up to me and demand food when she knows its food time. She will let me pet her and I've learned whet cues mean 'back off'. All in all I think everything worked out well with her.

Unfortunately border services got involved again and they're demanding we send Brenna back her cats so our situation just got twice as interesting. Brenna's found a friend to stay with who will allow the cats, but these poor animals are about to be uprooted once again. I'll be sending all of the calming items with Brenna's cats to her and giving her the same instruction I received here on how to help her cats settle in again. She's got a job so for the time being at least she's going to try to accommodate them but they may end up in a shelter now because of the border.

I really hate Border Services...
 

Latest Posts

Top