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

koolimy

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I also understand that feeling when a feral cat starts to show signs of trusting you more! It is absolutely wonderful, a feeling of elation and gratitude.

I think she is starting to trust you because of the way you treat her (not going in for pets, trying to play with her, providing her with good food, giving her space, etc.). My feral cat who I've been with for 6 months still is quite jumpy when I get close to her. To get to your level of trust in 3 months is pretty remarkable!
 

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That is awesome! Just goes to show, feral cats can be tamed! I have a long story about coco in my profile. Most of it
 

Mrsty1203

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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.
I was trying to tame an outdoor kitten I had done TNR with... what she liked best was chasing the laser mouse up and down the sidewalk every evening. Even after we tamed her and she became our indoor outdoor cat, the only thing she played with was felted cat balls.... or the laser pointer. Outside she liked it if I picked the longest piece of grass I could find at the end of yard and we’d play with that like you would a feather stick.
 
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anticus

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Well I have undone my work. Pumpkin and Midnight came by early for breakfast (5:30am) after which they both came inside and made themselves comfy. After an hour it had become freezing in the kitchen and the wind was picking up so I had to close the exterior door. About 15 minutes later she wandered back and freaked out that she couldn't get outside. I opened the door for her as soon as I could but now she doesn't trust me again nor does she want to come back indoors. Ugh. I have asked Midnight to convince her to come back in, so we'll see.
 

koolimy

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With ferals I think there will always be setbacks. However, if you show consistency and patience, I think she'll ultimately come around. I would just keep doing what you do and let her get back to exploring on her own terms. It may take a few weeks but with Midnight helping her along the way she'll probably come back inside.

This is totally anecdotal but it seems like setbacks happen the most when a cat is gaining confidence and beginning to open up or explore her territory more. We get excited and try to overstep the cat's boundaries or they spook themselves. Even I had a setback yesterday where my feral cat of 6 months, who had started rubbing against me every meal, gave me a good swat when I was trying to train her to boop my hand! I have trained her to boop my hand before every meal or treat and she has not given me a swat in months, but for some reason she gave me a good swat yesterday. Just to show you that setbacks can and will happen all the time, it's part of the journey.
 
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anticus

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That's a great story! She was probably just letting you know who's boss. :) I appreciate your encouragement. Midnight has been inside with me all day - probably because he knows I'm upset. I have a super strong bond with him - and you're right - he has been a big help with Pumpkin. Thanks, Koolimy.
 

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Sorry I'm so late to the party on this one (not just day-wise, but hourly-wise too - so just a short note since I see you've already gotten some good advice) - but I loved reading your tale of two kitties! And the pic of the "evening indoor stroll" is gorgeous!

Love that you've "become a cat person" - - my hubby was also "not a cat fan." I love both dogs and cats, but when we met, I had several cats. I let him know we were a "package deal" - he's also now quite a cat fan! Like many non-cat fans, he thought all cats were alike, without distinct personalities or any real affection for their human housemates. After having eleven kitties over the years now, many TNRs, and at least 130-150ish foster kitties later.....he's officially a cat guy!

I couldn't tell for sure from the pictures (the one she did look pregnant, but in another shot she didn't?), you are SURE she's pregnant, correct? Just had to ask. And I may be confused re: Midnight - - but he actually "belongs" to a neighbor? And they're ok with not seeing him 95% of the time? Doesn't sound like they care about him much! I'm generally not a fan of doing things to a cat that's not yours - - - but perhaps he "disappears" for a few days to be neutered, sounds like they wouldn't even miss him! Obviously I don't know your situation, but Midnight's life (not to mention yours and all unspayed females for almost a full mile radius) will be greatly enhanced (and likely be much longer!) by being neutered. You've likely heard the "two cats pyramid" - - - two cats can produce (when you include their offspring, their offspring's offspring, etc.) over 370,000 cats in seven years. Shows what a difference just getting ONE cat fixed can make!!!!

I feel your pain re: trapping your sweet girl. The feeling she'll never trust you again. I promise you - she will. All of us who do TNR, no matter how long we do it, 99% of us STILL feel pangs of guilt when we hear them in the trap. You just have to tell yourself it's for the best. And when you're ready to trap, we'll all be here w/advice to make it as easy as possible!!!!

I also think she may not even be fully feral. For her to trust you like she does, laying with her belly exposed so quickly is rare this early in the game for a true feral (I know - feels like you've been working w/her forever, but it's actually short in "feral time!").

I'll also throw this in about outside shelters. First - ferals (cats in general) can be a bit like kids on Christmas Day. Give them an expensive toy they've begged for for months....and then they play with the box. Ferals often go through a "Goldilocks" period with housing - - one's too exposed, one's too near a barking dog, etc. Location - even orientation - can make a BIG difference. I noticed you mentioned two exits, which is usually best. But some ferals (like ours!) hate anything with a second opening. And never put food in an outside shelter - - - it'll draw everything but the cat inside. :lol: Make sure the food and water are away from the shelter. The catnip's a great idea. I usually put a fresh catnip mouse at the door of a new shelter, and put second inside. You also might watch her when she's outside - does she gravitate toward a certain place? If so - put a shelter right there.

Ok - sorry so long. So much for my try (for the 500th time) to be brief. I actually had more I wanted to offer - but was getting so embarrassed by the length I just had to make myself stop! :) PLEASE keep us updated - - I think you're WELL on your way to making amazing progress with her. More pics too!
 
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anticus

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Thank you, Kittychick! I would have read more! It has been a few days since my last update and a lot has happened. So this will be pretty lengthy. First, Midnight. He in theory belongs to a neighbor - but they say "he's a roamer" - we know it is irresponsible to let an unneutered male roam the neighborhood but we are not willing to invite a feud by interfering with his physiology. He and I have a strong bond. The day I thought I lost her trust I was upset and he spent the entire day with me indoors. He has helped convince her that it is safe inside (he is special).

Yesterday it was storming outside. Both Midnight and Pumpkin spent several hours indoors. He on the ottoman of my wife's reading chair and her on a dining room chair under the table. She never got fully comfortable but we feel she was happy to be dry and warm. On rainy days I move the food into our laundry room (which has a door to outside and one to inside) and there is no issue. Yesterday as I was placing the food down on the floor, she slalomed between my legs and I thought she was going to rub against me, but she didn't. However she did play with me by knocking a treat out of my hand several times. I suspect it was play, because her claws weren't out and she didn't run.

Yesterday I moved the outdoor shelter onto our back porch, where she sometimes lays. Last night after they decided they wanted to go outdoors after their visit, she poked her head into the shelter and I told her "It's for you, girl," which is what I say when I put food down. And she went inside and laid down! I put a food dish inside of it (oops) and we know she was there for 3 hours at least. She was still in it when we went to bed.

I don't know if other neighbors are also feeding/working with her, but she spends 75% of her time in our yard. I appreciate all of your advice. She is definitely pregnant. We noticed her pinking yesterday and have switched her to kitten food.

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Pumpkin & Midnight crossing the streams (Ghostbusters reference)

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Pumpkin telling us she wants to come inside.
 
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anticus

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Pretty much all I do is take pictures of her. Sometimes she tires of my shenanigans.
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Mrsty1203

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Well I have undone my work. Pumpkin and Midnight came by early for breakfast (5:30am) after which they both came inside and made themselves comfy. After an hour it had become freezing in the kitchen and the wind was picking up so I had to close the exterior door. About 15 minutes later she wandered back and freaked out that she couldn't get outside. I opened the door for her as soon as I could but now she doesn't trust me again nor does she want to come back indoors. Ugh. I have asked Midnight to convince her to come back in, so we'll see.
She’ll get over it... use food... feed her right at the door consistantly .. pull the bowl just inside if you can.... use treats. Next time... can you block off the room from the rest of the house and just let it go a little bit before letting her out again. She might settle down quicker than you think. Is there a window she can see out of in the kitchen... she’ll probably want to get to it.
 

Mrsty1203

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She’ll get over it... use food... feed her right at the door consistantly .. pull the bowl just inside if you can.... use treats. Next time... can you block off the room from the rest of the house and just let it go a little bit before letting her out again. She might settle down quicker than you think. Is there a window she can see out of in the kitchen... she’ll probably want to get to it. Another good idea is getting a bottle of Comfort Zone spray and use it on something in the kitchen, spray a rug or towel spread out on the floor..
 
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anticus

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Thanks Mrsty! A lot has happened lately. She recently discovered our large, covered front porch and slept there last night. She was pretty confused when we attempted to lure her through the house to the laundry room in back, which has the exterior door she normally uses. We have been feeding them in the laundry room this week because it has been stormy.

She has developed a habit of spending several hours indoors in her favorite chair in our dining room. This helped her today when she felt she had to escape - she instinctually knew the route. She's still a little bamboozled though. And a few nights ago I cut my hand while cooking and we had to disrupt her relaxation abruptly while we considered a trip to the ER. She was upset at me the entire next day.

Yesterday she allowed me to touch her. Midnight was rubbing on my legs while I gave him pets and she came over to get in on the affection action. While her body was against Midnight's I put my hand on her head and softly stroked her back to her tail and she was not shocked. I felt like won a major award, but one based on merit so not like an Oscar or Grammy. I've read that pregnant cats seek more affection than normal so it may be an opportune time to build a stronger bond.

She has spent a lot of time in her outdoor shelter on the back porch. We are thrilled!
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Pumpkin & Midnight rehearsing the balcony scene from "Romeow & Juliet"
 

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Mrsty1203

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What an accomplishment! We took care of an outside feral for 16 years.... she was very wild but would hang around us. Had a nice house, with heating in winter. It took every bit of 15 years for her to begin to let us pet her, then she couldn’t get enough. It was like she finally realized what she had been missing. We also had a feral kitten we tamed. She became an indoor outdoor cat and couldn’t be more affectionate with us. I think it all depends on their age and personality, and how wild they are.
 
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anticus

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She is pretty wild, but Midnight helps quite a bit. She's braver when he is around. The thing is, Pumpkin is his side piece whereas he is her true love. Seems crazy to type that, but it's true. We have never seen her bond with another cat. It was surprising the other evening when she strolled confidently into the dining room and lept into her chair without Midnight here as well - and an exit was not in sight. She is a lot less skittish than she was four weeks ago but still wary. You would think that she would be able to figure out that since we feed and protect her reliably that we don't mean harm.
 
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anticus

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Well, we're back to this. Midnight must have hidden from her last night because she was looking in the front yard and under the cars in the driveway - I presume for him. He hasn't shown up at all today and she has spent most of the day in her house. She only nibbles on food when he isn't around - she doesn't feel safe enough to eat - so she has barely eaten today. I have tried to play with her but she is still to wary of me. She has some catnip filled mice - she'll play with them for about a minute, then look around for Midnight, then give up. I filled a box with leaves and she's not interested. I wish I could think of a way to engage her brain so she can escape the sadness for a while. It is breaking my heart and I hate this helplessness.
 
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And it is even worse. On my camera feed I use to monitor the back yard, I saw a brown enemy cat stalking the porch. I RAN downstairs and pulled the doors open but by then the offender has run off. I have experience with this predator and figured he would return soon. While I was trying to apologize for scaring the bejeezus out of Pumpkin, I saw her go to alert mode. I walked over to the brush where she was looking and I saw a dark movement - so I lunged and yelled. It was Midnight. He ran away and I tried to call him to apologize but he wasn't listening. He ran out of the yard and Pumpkin followed. I have never felt so sick in my life.
 
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Another update: My wife convinced Pumpkin to return. I apologized and gave her treats, but she is super wary of me. I wish I knew how to communicate that I was trying to protect her and made a mistake. She spent the night in her little house, had breakfast, played with a toy and returned to her house. Still no sign of Midnight.

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anticus

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All is forgiven. Midnight would have spent the night indoors last night if we had let him. He accepted my apology and understood. It has been a terrific day for Pumpkin because they both curled up together in her house. This morning before breakfast, Midnight was his usual affectionate self and was bunting my hand for head & cheek pets - Pumpkin saw (and heard him purring) and ran over for the same! She bunted my hand and I pet her head and cheek! I stroked down her back and she looked at me like "What the heck are you doing?" but then repeated several times! Midnight has been an immense help in her socialization.

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