So many questions - but how can I entertain a feral kitten?

anticus

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A feral kitten my wife and I have been feeding for 3 months hangs out on our porch all day waiting for her mate to return. She comes indoors every so often and looks for him, then appears to be sad and returns outdoors to lay on a blanket and wait. She is still 75% afraid of me, but she knows I bring the food 3 times a day. How can I entertain her when she is afraid to play with me?

So backstory with cat drama. 3 months ago I was not a Cat Person. Knew very little about them. Never wanted one. Two strays had been hanging out in our yard for a few weeks and one day my wife asked if I had seen the tawny cat - that she was the most beautiful cat she has ever seen and she worried about the kitten's safety and warmth. So I started feeding them. They used to hang out in the yard together all day.

We learned that the male, Midnight (our name), belonged to a family in the neighborhood, but they said "he's a roamer." Yes, and I feed him 3x a day. Pumpkin, the female, is 100% feral. Midnight is super smart, and feels comfortable in our house. Pumpkin enters only after he does and then tentatively. Gosh - sorry this is so long.

The last week of January she went into heat. I think it was her first time - she's only 9-10 months old. We assumed Midnight was neutered. He is not. These two cats have a strong bond, and it seemed like she only wanted to mate with him. She was terrified when other males entered the yard - Midnight would face off with them, and took a few battle scars. I helped when I could. One night he was so over it he came in and laid on my wife and went to sleep while we pet him.

Regardless of her wishes, we believe she did mate with other males because her body was telling her too. Since then, Midnight has not been interested in her. When he comes over, he eats, then wants to come indoors to visit my wife and I. She waits all day for him. She will only eat a little when he isn't here to protect her, then when he returns she shows him affection and he tries to get away. Is it possible that he is upset at her for mating with other males? They used to be so close and it is heartbreaking watching her scan the yard for him most of the day. She will now enter the house (if I keep the exterior door wide open) and mew for him while exploring the downstairs. Heart. Breaking.

So that brings me to my first question. She has toy mice that she plays with for a few minutes. But is there anything I can do to help relieve her boredom and sadness?

Yes - we realize she should be spayed. We intend to after her litter. She will hate us for trapping her but it is for her own good. We were sure about Midnight being neutered until we saw he wasn't. Yes, I know his family are irresponsible for allowing a non-neutered male to roam the neighborhood. We can't get involved in that. We intend to socialize her kittens and provide good homes for them. This is all brand spanking new to me but I love her and I'm committed to her safety and well being.

Thanks for reading.
 

Mr. Meow

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It sounds like he was interested in her BECAUSE she was in heat, and if he's no longer interested, she's either pregnant or no longer in heat. Cat's don't have the same jealous thoughts as we do.
However, it is possible that if she mated with a male that Midnight had been in fights with, she could smell like this other male cat, which would be a deterrent to him.
As for following him into the house, eating when he's around etc, she could just feel safe with another cat around (safety in numbers), even though cats are naturally territorial.
When it comes to ferals, time is what it's going to take to earn trust. Keep putting out food, talking softly to her, letting her advance when she's comfortable enough to do so. Don't force her to do anything she doesn't want to. If she's not ready to have you pet her, then don't. But over time, the constant feeding, warmth and safety will allow her to open up more. If she's only 9-10 months old, she's still a baby herself and she's still learning what's safe and what's not.
If you don't already have one, I'd recommend an outdoor cat house. Other members can help you build one with minimal effort that can keep her nice and warm in these winter months.
Just take things slow and take it one day at a time. Eventually she'll come around.
 
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anticus

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Thanks, Mr. Meow! I appreciate your quick and thoughtful response. Midnight was already very fond of her long before the heat. They were inseparable. But your response about her having the scent of a male enemy of Midnight's makes sense. I wish they would make up.

We are not forcing her to do anything. Everything is at her pace and for her comfort and safety only. We did buy an outdoor shelter with a front and rear entrance, put a heated blanket in it with food and catnip - she was completely uninterested. Midnight did go in to eat the food, though. Jerk.

What are your thoughts for engaging her mind and playing with her while she pines away here? I made a toy with a long piece of string and a toy mouse tied to a long pole. She didn't trust it. So I just throw her toys while she chases and hunts it. But she only engages like this for a minute or two. We do have high bird feeders in the yard and she likes watching the birds. Is that enough for her?
 

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Birds are always a good source of entertainment.
Since she's mostly an outdoor cat, you could try using outdoor stuff as toys and enrichment items.
For example, try finding a thick branch from a tree and lean it somewhere, or secure it to a heavy base do she can use it as a scratching post or an all natural cat tree. You can fill a cardboard box with leaves and see if she'll jump and hide in it. If you find a bird feather anywhere, try tying that to a string and a stick. The real scent of a bird could entice her to play more. Or, you could try growing your own natural catnip in a small patch in your yard somewhere.
Even things like paper towel rolls can be used as toys, since they'll eventually biodegrade.
 

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Keep us posted on how everything goes!
 

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New video by Laura Seay

Coco and her bff got tnr'd by a good friend of mine. She still plays with this even though she is 5 now. i have 2 other cats that no longer use that toy. So I took it outside. She is with me now. It helped that I would have my hand on the toy so she would get scent of me. Also rubbed against a chair i had my hand on. Squatting down at her level instead of walking towards her helped.
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her helped. Nothing changed after they were fixed
 
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anticus

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Yesterday I prepared for her a box full of leaves (and some catnip), a bird feather on a string, a toilet paper roll with treats inside (and the ends folded). She wasn't interested in any of them. She did play hide with me from a distance. An enemy cat came by while I was outside and I chased him away (she saw it). Last night she slept on our porch on a towel we provided. We think that is a huge step. Hopefully she is planning to nest in the yard and have her kittens here, so we can assure their safety - and good homes when they're ready.

Today when I was giving her lunch, she didn't run away while I sat the bowls down. I left my hand a moment after the food was down - and she licked my finger.
 

maggie101

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i am surprised she didnt go for the treats. most adult cats like to hunt and catch things. get a wand toy you can drag on the ground. sounds like she is getting comfortable with you
 
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anticus

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She was interested for about 30 seconds then gave up, which is her M.O. She loves to hunt and catch, but she doesn't trust me with a wand toy still. But yesterday was a watershed moment, I think.
 

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Do you have any long grass like bushes? You can try playing with her, using a blade of one. Here in Southern California we have lots of plants like that. You can also try peacock feathers. Plus for some reason cats go nuts for rabbit fur toys, I would buy her some rabbit fur poof balls or rabbit fur mice. Even feral cats like catnip & you can try the kind that has silvervine in it. I pay extra $ to buy them the good catnip. 😉

I would get on that cat house. So she has a safe warm place to raise her kittens.
 
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anticus

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Thank's Danteshuman for the suggestions. She loves the monkey grass in the yard. She will play in it herself. I did buy catnip with silvervine in it and put a mess of it IN the cat house. She is just not interested in going in completely. She will poke her head in for a moment then get spooked. Even when I am not around (inside watching her).

We plan to put several containers full of straw around the yard for her to choose from. I don't know what more I can do about the cat house. I removed the front flap - maybe I should remove the rear flap as well but that won't keep her terribly dry when it rains.

I had a heart to heart with Midnight yesterday and told him to be nice to her - that he didn't have to love her if he didn't feel it but he did have to protect her and be kind to her because he led her to expect it. So yesterday evening and this morning he was not as much of a jerk to her. At breakfast they were eating in adjacent bowls and I was softly petting Midnight to show her that I provide the purrs. We'll see if that helps her trust me a little.

Thank you everyone! I am learning every day.
 

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You could try washing a sock without scents. Then petting Midnight & the girl with the same sock, right around g ty he cheeks. The goal is to transfer scents, to get their communal scents smelling the same. cats have a communal scent that identifies friend/family.


I would try catnip outside the house to see if she likes it. You can also try feeding her closer and closer to the cat house. Move the food slowly, like an inch closer every week. You can also try treats and see if she will eat treats right in front of the cat house.
 
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anticus

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There is no way I am going to put my hand on her anytime soon. I try to lure her into the house with food but Midnight eats it. He also sprayed the house today. Jerk. I tried placing a treat trail to it. She wasn't interested. We are going to get some more bad weather here the rest of the week so I had high hopes for today that have been dashed. However she did spend a while in the laundry room after Midnight entered after lunch.
 

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maggie101

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If you do decide to touch her make sure it's from the back
Scratching by the cheek is the best place to start once shes comfortable.
 
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anticus

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Last night was sublime. She put her little lady paws in my palm (which was on the floor). I won't tell the whole story because you'll think I'm a loon, but she entered the house and roamed confidently while I was on the floor petting Midnight. She came over and flopped onto her back! She stuck her head in my wife's slipper and laid on another one and purred. She scootched over to me while I was lightly rubbing Midnight's cheek and reached out for my hand. She tapped it at first, then placed one paw, then two on it. I did not try to pet her. She jumped up onto the ottoman of the chair my wife was in and laid down for a minute. This morning she licked my hand again when I was putting down the breakfast dish.
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Wow, that is wonderful! I think with feral cats the most important thing is consistency and time. As time goes on and you show her that you are going to be good to her she'll start to trust you more.
 
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anticus

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Thank you, Koolimy. Showing us her tummy less than an arm's length away from us was a pretty wonderful feeling. We know enough that it wasn't an invitation. But that she was comfortable enough to close her eyes and purr with two humans nearby was immense. Two months ago she was 100% feral.
 
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