Seeking help weighing decision to bring feral cat(s) inside

Margot Lane

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I am very excited for you & you’ve come so far! This all reminds me of The Italian Job, with Michael Caine. (I can just see all of your kitties with minis!). Seriously though it does seem as if at least getting them there is a cinch, and perhaps, who knows, there are neighbors who will be on your side, who love cats. I am sure there are ways you can dress windows. You all sound like a team now: I can sense the group dynamic. “Operation Sneak ‘em In“ here we come! :)
 

fionasmom

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There is definitely window film that blocks anyone from seeing inside. At night though, most of is does not work once lights are one. There is one called ContraVision that supposedly works at night. Many manufacturers make this kind of film, so you can probably find what you need.

The cats cannot just be released, as you say. There could be some territorial issues and certainly a fight with yowling would not be a good thing. Opening all the crates at the same time would probably not work, so you still have to do this incrementally. I would stick to the mindset that you only have three cats though and if any noise is heard, just admit to three cats who are settling in.

Are you required to let someone in from the HOA if they question you? Personally, I think that with planning this will work. The cats may be happy to have the option of some additional freedom and everyone will find a favorite spot and stay there for the most part.
 
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ChirpySquirrel

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I am very excited for you & you’ve come so far! This all reminds me of The Italian Job, with Michael Caine. (I can just see all of your kitties with minis!). Seriously though it does seem as if at least getting them there is a cinch, and perhaps, who knows, there are neighbors who will be on your side, who love cats. I am sure there are ways you can dress windows. You all sound like a team now: I can sense the group dynamic. “Operation Sneak ‘em In“ here we come! :)
Ha, your Italian Job comparison sure makes it sound exciting! :lol:

My understanding is that the HOA can send someone and they have the right to entry if they have sufficient evidence that a violation is taking place. I don't know exactly how they enforce that but my assumption is that they would get the animal control law enforcement involved if I refuse them entry. I've have read that HOAs are certainly very hesitant to enter a home because if they are somehow mistaken, they could be liable for a number of things such as trespassing and privacy rights violations. So, the risk of that all happening seems fairly low, but it is there. Also, I found that the rules specifically state that non-domesticated pets are not allowed. I don't know exactly what the legal definition of non-domesticated is, but I presume feral = wild = non-domesticated, at least in terms of how this rule would be interpreted. If that's the case, I'm not allowed any of the 4 since I suspect that even Lippy would not be very tolerant yet of other strange humans coming into her area and would likely be deemed "wild". Ugh. I am going back and forth now as to whether the much needed benefit of the extra space for them is worth the risk and potentially horrible outcome if things go awry.

It all certainly has me thinking about how long the process will take to get to the point where I can at least have them all out of crates/catteries/enclosures and just sharing the open space. I had another supervised visit between Lippy and Tuck last night but it did not go as well as the previous time. This time I guess Tuck decided she wasn't loving Lippy sniffing around her area and after a few moments of peace, they all of a sudden locked up and started wrestling aggressively. Tuckie is small but can be pretty feisty. It got a bit out of hand rather quickly and I was wishing I had a tennis racket! I just keep wondering how this will all unfold with trying to get them out of their enclosures. I certainly can't baby...err, kitty sit 24/7 to supervise and referee. Will this sort of behavior subside quickly after a few "sessions" or would I expect ongoing encounters. They showed no signs of letting up without me intervening. In fact, the "fights" seem to escalate rather quickly. I don't know what my process or approach should be either. I could just let Lippy out full-time now, but she'll be climbing up all over the other's enclosures which is actually not all that safe for her to be doing. Even while I'm in the room, she's tried things that make me a bit nervous. Once she was up on top of Tuck's playpen area (4 feet off the ground) and apparently thought that a shadow on the wall was a shelf or something so she leapt off towards it, smashed into the wall and crashed to the floor down into the small space between the wall and the playpen. She also likes to use the wooden cattery frame as her scratching post and has already done a fair amount of damage to the outside of Tuck's cattery (sigh). I think I would have to kitty proof the place as much as possible, blocking off access to small spaces behind the enclosures up against the walls, and add boards or something on top of the crates and playpen "roofs" (which is not difficult but blocks off a good amount of the view the others that are inside have). Anyway, so what would be the logical way to proceed here? Let one get used to being out alone and then let another one out? Do I remove their current enclosures as I let them out so they'd be less likely to be territorial? Or would that be too big of a change? Should I keep doing the supervised visits over and over to see if eventually they'll allow each other's presence without brawling? The fighting, even if it is presumably 'mostly' play, is sort of stressful for me. Again, I believe they like each other but clearly there is going to be some territory disputes. Or am I maybe getting ahead of myself and should just be focusing on efforts to be able to handle Milly and Tuck more and more individually and get Stormy out of hiding? I guess it's just that getting them all out of their enclosures would solve multiple issues if it could be done sooner than later. Stormy, certainly still presents a problem as far as that goes. Even if I'm able to let the others out sometime soon, I'm not sure I should let her out. I guess the argument could be made that at this point, what could it hurt? She'll presumably hide when I'm in the room either way. Anyway, sorry about so many questions. Just trying to think through things and it actually seems to help me to put them in writing even if there's not necessarily definitive answers. Certainly any thoughts and advice are always appreciated.
 

fionasmom

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I am sure that since people own units in an HOA, a mistaken entry or, even an unpleasant one, is something that they try to avoid.

Know Your Rights: How to Talk to Local Authorities
What to Do When Animal Control Comes Knocking.

You may need to look up specific laws for your state, but generally AC cannot enter without a warrant unless there is some huge physical danger they are trying to prevent. Without hijacking your post, I have seen AC in this area NOT take action when animals are in danger, using the fact that they need a warrant as an excuse as opposed to a reason. A lot of these AC employees are not exactly crusaders.

As for domesticated animals, your cats are all domesticated. The legal definition of domesticated is cat, dog, cow, chicken, horse or any other animal that has been adapted, one way or another, to human use or companionship. You have unfriendly cats. They don't like others which is not at all odd in the cat world. If someone comes into my house, one little flame point boy will come out to see who it is. The other 4 are under furniture hiding.

I would not remove enclosures, but would continue with the supervised visits. Let one or two out and see what happens and try to repeat the interaction. Personally, I brought a stray (unclaimed) young male into the house on June 11. Jamie, also a male, reacted more aggressively than I have ever seen a cat do. Got the newcomer fixed about 5 weeks ago, and it is just now that they are able to be in the same room, supervised, for a brief period of time. After about an hour, Jamie goes back into attack mode, not as bad as it was, but clearly still on his mind. So we keep working on it.

Play fighting makes a lot of people nervous and is a fairly popular question here in the Behavior forum. I do think that you are making progress, not to mention how much you have done for these cats.
 

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Many cat rescuers live, “under the radar.” There is an upside to feral or semi feral/shy cats. Once you integrate them and have them out of enclosures, they often hide when people enter your house until they get to know them.;) I have had people come here and wonder how many cats I have. Lololol I am not having to live with the concern of an HOA so, if I choose to I can tell the numbers. I always get that shock factor. “How many? Where?!?!?” Some are quick to want pets and some stay hidden from strangers. What I always, always trust is instincts. Until you do your research and “feel good” about moving, wait.
I still have enclosures everywhere! They are always open now except for Precious. He gets nervous and some days he just prefers his own space and since some of the cats are nosey, I close the door until he wants out. Lol The above advice is great. Just keep working your way through. It is a gradual process but you’ll see changes that are the clues you need to move forward. I have complete confidence in your handling of these kitties. You’ve done an amazing job in a short time. I have talked people through this process and it took them years to get this far with one kitty! You’re doing great! Having feedback here does help but you are far along on the right track.:clapcat:
 
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ChirpySquirrel

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fionasmom fionasmom you always have such great info and insight. Thank you so much for your continued help.

Jcatbird Jcatbird haha I can just imagine your kitties all scrambling for their various hiding spaces to make themselves scarce when a visitor comes by :lol:

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I was reading about your Banjo having such a scare and all you've been through trying to figure out what was wrong. I just wanted to say I was really glad to hear of the miracle treatment you found and so glad Banjo is doing so much better.
Until you do your research and “feel good” about moving, wait.
This really sums up my thoughts over the last few days. I've been hesitating for a while now and it's becoming clear that I don't "feel good" about it right now. I had pretty much all but decided the move was the best thing to do not only for the cats, but for me (mostly from a financial standpoint, among other factors). Of course, there are a lot of unknowns as far as the financial thing goes...selling my home now may be better, it may not be. What has become fairly clear is that I'm not comfortable with the possibility of the neighbors getting annoyed and the HOA getting involved. It's also feeling like maybe it's just not good timing for the cats since it could still be a while before they are all ready to come out of their enclosures. I'm still trying to sort out my thoughts about everything overall but I'm definitely starting to backtrack on the move idea right now. Like you said, it all comes down to feeling good about it and I can't quite get there. Maybe it would be best to keep working with the kitties to get them to the point where I can have them (especially Stormy) out of the enclosures. A couple of options come to mind for expanding their space to 2 bedrooms instead of just the one. That still wouldn't be as much room as the basement of the other home, but at least it would double their space and I wouldn't have to live with the constant nervousness and anxiety that the neighbors are hearing the cats, getting annoyed, and could complain. To do that, I'd need to get creative and do some catification projects. Creating a pass-through between rooms or building an enclosed "skywalk" from one bedroom to the other are two possibilities I'm mulling over. I've been looking around the web at a lot of amazing things people have built for kitties. My carpentry/building skills are fairly basic but I could manage that.

This would also assume I can find a home for Marshmallow which would free up the bedroom he's in. I hope it's sooner than later, but it will likely be a while before the kitties will be out of their enclosures so I'll have time. Speaking of which, the lady with the shelter I've been trying to work with has been telling me she has a foster for Mallow (but so far I'm not holding my breath). I'm pretty attached to him so no matter what it's going to be hard to see him go. My dream is that he'll have a quiet, comfortable place with a cat lover who has time to shower him with all the love and attention he wants.
 

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I just :flail:at these cat clips! Yes! I have searched for kitties and found them in drawers! Closed drawers!:headscratch: Oh, they got in through the back gap of only inches! The cat that did that is my Avatar. Bright.Ohhhh, I could show you pictures of invisicats! Secretly, I think they are laughing from their hiding spots. I don’t get to see them scrambling for cover, they just vanish. Lol
I am a big believer in trusting that little voice we have inside. I thought I picked up some hesitancy in your posts about moving. Maybe if they are all out of the enclosures where they could dash for cover, you might feel more at ease? IDK and only you can make these choices. Most people seem to be able to stay under the radar. I know of a couple that didn’t. One just picked up and moved with the cats. Maybe some adoptions would make it easier? I know how attached we get. I know it’s hard to let go. I also have been lucky enough to be able to visit some that I adored but adopted out. Shakespeare is one and he now owns his world! Lol I get Christmas pictures from some. I haven’t been able to follow every kitty but getting a contract in place can greatly help. You provide protection for the cat and have peace of mind for yourself. I actually set up some vet visits at my vet for some and prepaid the cost to make sure there was follow up for awhile. A “return only to me”, policy is also advisable if an adoption isn’t a good match or any difficulties arise. You can require updates, photos, home visits or whatever you feel is needed. I found that if anyone did not want to sign the contract, it was NOT a good situation. I also required the potential adopter to give their vet permission in writing (I had a copy too) to give me updates and to tell me of any previously owned pets and how they were cared for. I can tell you that getting a thank you note from someone who is the right match will make your year! A Foster may or may not give you a direct contact but you might still be able to get updates. Ask. I did use a few shelters and fosters and I was fortunate enough to be able to have Unadopted cats returned to me. Again, ask. I have one thank you note that was left for me via a shelter and it was so very wonderful! It let me know that the kitten got a home with someone very, very special.
 
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ChirpySquirrel

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Some interesting news from last night about Stormy. I had noticed on camera that at some point she had managed to tip over her kitty cave. It had landed with the lid still on and the entry face down so she had no way of getting in. It was also blocking her ability to hide behind it. I was fairly apprehensive about what she would do when I went in there. It was not what I expected. I thought she would hop up to the top perch, which seems to be the best option if she wanted to avoid me as best as she could. Well, when I was going to enter, as usual, I knocked softly several times and jiggled the doorknob to announce I was coming in. Usually, if she hasn't already hidden by then, this is when she would make her way in to her kitty cave. Well, I went in slowly and she just stayed put! In full view! She was not acting all that nervous or concerned either. In fact, she just laid down on her side next to the flipped over kitty cave. I had to really focus on trying not to stare over at her- this was really the first time I had seen her just sitting there in plain view after all this time of only being able to watch her on camera. I did my best to "ignore" her and go about my normal routine. I noticed right away though that Lippy had picked up on the fact that Stormy was there and not hiding. Lippy showed some excitement and Milly also noticed and kept looking over at Stormy while eating. Then, as usual, I let Lippy out of her enclosure. She normally immediately wants some serious snuggle time with me and will lay down next to me to get scratches and pets. This time she stretched and the went right over to Stormy, making some cute little noises that surely was communication to Stormy. Lippy was noticeably happy to have a chance to visit with Stormy....and Stormy responded in kind! They went from sniffs to little kitty kisses in no time. It was a happy reunion! I was quite amazed that Stormy was not only calm and appeared to have very little fear of being out in the open with me in there, but that she was so receptive to Lippy...especially since outside I had not seen them interact in any way for many months prior to trapping them and it has now been a few months since they've been inside but unable to interact directly.

I was able to reach in and pull her litter box out to clean it with still no sign of much fear or concern from Stormy. She still just laid there. I debated whether or not to set her kitty house back upright...I wondered if I should just take the opportunity to remove it so she no longer had a hiding place. I couldn't decide but eventually I concluded that she would probably still prefer to have the option if she got spooked or needed to feel safe. I managed to get it back upright and in its normal spot. This required me to be fairly close to her and reach in from up above to get the lid back on top. She did not react with too much fear and just moved away down to the end of her enclosure. Lippy then went over and laid down right next to her. I thought this was so great and had to take their picture.

Everything was going so well I couldn't believe it. Stormy seemed pretty content to just lay there and not even attempt to go back in her house even though it was now available. I finished up with getting Tuckie her squeeze up treat, replacing food and water, cleaning litter box and even playing with Milly and Tuck for a bit. Then I just laid there for a while to let Lippy and Stormy be close together for a bit longer. Eventually it was time for me to go. Before I leave, I normally toss treats into their enclosures. They seem to love that it engages their hunting instincts to chase down the treat and then they get the reward of gobbling it up. Once in a while, I have to resort to tossing treats into Lippy's enclosure to get her back in when I need to leave. Sometimes she goes back in on her own but sometimes she just wants to stay out and lounge in other spots so I need to motivate her a bit. This time, she was still enjoying the chance to lay there next to Stormy. So I tossed a treat into Lippy's enclosure. She sprang up immediately to pursue the treat at full speed into her enclosure and for some reason this caught Milly off guard. Milly reacted by bolting in a panic from one side of her enclosure to the other side, which in turn freaked Lippy out causing her to panic as well. She collided with a wall of her enclosure which spooked Milly again causing him to crash into a wall. It all happened super fast but I had time to have the thought that this was just perfect...finally Stormy is out of hiding and acting calm and content and now this is going freak her out and mess all that up! Fortunately, Stormy didn't bolt too but she immediately got visibly nervous, looked around for a bit, got up into a very low, crouched crawl and sauntered back into her kitty cave. I closed up Lippy's crate and left wondering if this would affect the chances and my hope that this was the turning point for Stormy to stop hiding when I'm in there. I haven't gone back in yet but Stormy came right back out after I left and has been quite active playing and doing her normal thing today.

In other news, I also wanted to mention that I've been able to increasingly give Tuck lots of chin, cheek and head scratches and the other day I heard her purring for the first time ever while I was giving her scratches. It was so cute...small but strong, just like she is. I can get away with quite a bit as long as I'm feeding her the squeeze up treats. :purr:

Stormy and Lippy laying together
StormywithLippy.png
 
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ChirpySquirrel

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Hello...yes, even Stormy seemed quite relaxed there but unfortunately she went right back to hiding in her kitty cave every time I've been in there since that time. I keep wondering if I should have just removed her kitty cave when I had the chance. The only glimpse of hope I've had is that a couple of times when I've gone in she's lingered for a moment before hiding. I hardly know what to do when this happens since I don't want to spook her so I do my best to "ignore" her hoping she will just stay calm and maybe decide she doesn't need to hide. It seems at least a little bit encouraging since I'm still knocking and announcing myself as I come in which gives her plenty of time to hide if she wanted to avoid me completely.

I've continued doing "visits" for the other 3....and they continue to want to "fight" every time. Maybe a little less than at first but still enough that I keep having to separate them. It basically goes like this: they'll fight, I'll break them up (or they'll crash into something which startles them into breaking it up), they'll go explore and sniff around for a bit, then soon enough they'll square off and start fighting again. I don't really get why they can't just give it a rest and get along. It's especially a problem if Lippy goes into Tuck's enclosure. Tuckie does not appreciate this at all and will get pretty feisty. Of course, Lippy won't back down (apparently she thinks she is owns the whole place). In fact, as sweet and snuggly as she is towards me, she is most often the instigator in skirmishes with Milly and and Tuck. :sigh:

One thing I've noticed is that the "fights" between Lippy and Milly often include some licking while they are wrestling so I feel like they are just having a good tussle and not any kind of serious altercation. I mean, I know they are very close so I don't worry too much about them but they can still get rather aggressive. The fights between Lippy and Tuck seem to be different. They will stare each other down, sometimes pinning their ears back while sizing each other up, and then they will lock up and start going at it. Things get less friendly from there and I usually have to break them up. There have been times in the "common area" when they will leave each other alone for a while so maybe that's progress. I will just keep trying to get them used to each other I guess but any recommendations would be appreciated. I have Feliway Optimum going in there again but it's hard to say if it's making a difference.
 
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