Trapped a stray! Plz Help with Socializing Winnie!

Blue950

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Hi guys!
I’m new here but have been reading the posts and really feel like I’m in the right place!

What tips do you have for socializing a newly neutered, semi-feral adult stray?? (He’s 2-5 years old). He’s not AS reactive as other ferals so I feel like there’s hope, but still a far way to go. I’d like to either adopt him if he can get along with my dog, or foster him until he finds a home.

SOME PROGRESS SINCE MOVING IN:
It’s been 2 weeks since Winnie has been caught, neutered, and moved inside my apartment. He eats and bathrooms in front of me, but hisses anytime I get close. I ignore him and feed him anyway.
He has been in an enclosed playpen the past 1.5 weeks. He hisses a lot but will eat wet food out of my hand. After me ignoring his hissing and petting him with a thick sock-covered hand, he still hissed but tolerates (tho doesn’t love) chin/cheek/body pets but prefers to be left alone. (Still progress!) He tries to hide in a cardboard box. If I remove the cardboard box, he looks for a place to hide and ultimately just panics and then just sits in his (uncovered) litter pan (ew, poor boy), which is why up until this week, I kept his box in there anyway. (It’s gone as today). For the past 4-5 days, he’s been coming out of his box (especially at night) and meowing, which is a new behavior for him. If I walk up to check on him, he runs back into the box and hides. I’m assuming he wants to get out of the playpen (cat jail) but I have other pets so I can’t let him out until his tapeworm is gone. (He got the first dose of Profender on 1/11/21, and finally the second dose 2 weeks later today on 1/25/21, so hoping he’s close but I’m not an expert). I also worry he’d urinate all over my apartment if I let him out since he’s been marking his playpen, and that it would be really hard to physically touch/pet him if he has more space to run away. The pet store recommended a cat plug and a few drops of CBD oil, but it’s hard to tell if anything is helping or not.

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OPTIONAL FULL BACKGROUND (in interested).
Haha a love story better than Twilight. :)

PART 1:
For the past 6 months, my boyfriend and I have been seeing an orange tabby boy wandering around our neighborhood (close to the restaurants across from our apartment complex). I have a soft spot for orange boys and tried to slowly approach him with food a few times only to have him run off.

PART 2:
Fast forward to 3 weeks ago when I looked outside and saw him on our back patio! I felt soooooo chosen. I tossed wet food and we did the cat and mouse game of him approaching for food then hiding them coming back for food then hiding.
Finally I had him eating about a foot away from me in the doorway as throwing the wet food closer and closer, but I broke him trust by trying to grab him (to get him inside), and he ran away.

PART 3:
I did not think I’d see him again after I broke his trust with my darn grabby hands (stoooopid, stooopid reckless decision!).
However, to my utter amazement, he was drawn to the wonderful, sweet odor of fresh Chipotle that very evening! The sky rained with chicken pate and orange boy ingested! He didn’t get as close to me as the first time so I knew all was not forgiven, but he was back, which is all that mattered!

PART 4: Orange boy returned another 1-3 times a few days later, and accepted wet food (not getting too close tho), while I pondered how to help him...He wasn’t necessarily friendly but he wasn’t AS reactive as other ferals I’ve seen and got a foot away from me on our first feeding, so I felt there was hope.

PART 5:
On Saturday, January 9th, 2021, orange boy was successfully captured in a live trap on my patio, falling for delicious bait of Fancy Feast pate. On Monday, January 11th, he was neutered at a low-cost rescue for TNRs and received his major vaccines. Since worms were seen in his stool, he was dewormed with the initial dose of Profender, and I planned to foster him at least until he received his 2nd dose two weeks later.

PART 6: Orange boy moved into our bathroom, and shortly after, into an enclosed playpen downstairs near my WFH workstation and near the kitchen so he gets lots of human exposure. We named him Winnie/Winston after Winnie the Pooh/Winston Churchill. (Either one, really).
I have another kitten (Benji) at home who’s friendly and curious and really wants to get into his playpen. I’m hoping the kitten’s affection towards me is a good influence on Winnie. :)

Winnie’s biggest hurdle is:
-social progress being very slow (after 2 weeks, I’d like less hissing when I’m trying to pet him), and
-urinating outside the litter box onto other parts of the playpen.

Never done this before with a stray/feral cat! Looking for tips/help/next steps! Really think this guy deserves a loving home! 🐱
 

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Blue950

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Ps. This is the playpen he is currently in, downstairs near my WFH workstation and the kitchen for maximum human exposure.
I’d like to let him have access to the entire apartment once his tapeworm is gone (he got his 2nd treatment of Profender today, 2 weeks after the first dose), but I worry he’s gonna keep urinating inappropriately, and I will have less control over his socialization if he has more space to run away.
 

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fionasmom

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Bringing Home A New Cat – The Complete Guide – TheCatSite Articles
9 Tips That Will Help Your Kitten Adapt To A New Apartment – TheCatSite Articles
The Five Golden Rules To Bringing An Outdoor Cat Inside – TheCatSite Articles
How To Train Kittens To Use The Litter Box – TheCatSite Articles
How To Get A Cat To Come Out Of Hiding? – TheCatSite Articles
How To Solve Litterbox Problems In Cats: The Ultimate Guide – TheCatSite Articles

I also love orange boys and have one I rescued as a tiny abandoned kitten. Two weeks is not that long in the life of a street cat who now has a home. I do understand that you want him to be near you, which is good, and that he has tapeworms so can't run all over the place. I wonder if the spraying has to do with the playpen which is absolutely necessary for now. If he is a typical orange, he might live up to his color and adjust nicely over time.
 
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Blue950

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I feel like I’ve done everything the internet is saying to do, and he’s eating from my hand but still hissing and mad at me :(
I feel like we made progress after the first week and now we’re stuck at “tolerating”.
Any tips from anyone who’s done this successfully?
 

di and bob

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There are many on here who have successfully tamed ferals, I have too, but they remained outside. You could look under Forums and find Caring for Strays and Ferals, I'm sure there are some good tips on there for bringing them inside. If he is marking, (it takes at least 30 days for his hormones to leave, and after that, it will help) I would start him out in one small room until he consistently goes in the box. I use Profender, and it states it is effective with one dose, so after two you should be safe. You could research it or ask your vet. You captured him and had him neutered at the beginning of the month, I think he is doing WONDERFULLY in that short amount of time. It usually takes months to get them to this stage, that is why I wonder if he isn't an abused stray that was dumped or at least a feral that had contact with humans.
Don't force him into anything. He will adjust quicker if he has somewhere to feel safe, like that box, so I wouldn't remove it just yet. Pet him when you can, but back off if he hisses, he is not happy. I would try to pet him when he is eating and has good feelings going, that is how I first petted my ferals. Having another cat in the house is making him more uneasy, but playing and petting that kitten in front of him will go a long way in making him feel more at ease. Sit with him several times a day, reading your phone out loud softly, and leave treats when you go. theses things take a long time, usually many months, but he is getting better already a little, so I think he will adjust well. Get a good enzyme cat urine cleaner for his marking, you spray and let it sit to 'eat' the urine. It works very well to stop them from re-marking. PLEASE keep us updated, and bless you for helping that sweet boy!
 
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Blue950

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Thanks for the tips!

di and bob di and bob I know you said not to push him and to back off if he hisses, but he hisses almost every time when I get close (and then mostly stops once I am touching him), so I almost have to mentally push him a little bit every time and touch to show him the world won’t end if I pet him.

The past day we had a bit of a “breakthrough” and I picked him up and put him in my lap for the first time for mealtime. The first time he was terrified and shaking. By the 4th time, he hissed and complained, but once he was situated and eating, he was unhappy but relaxed. I kept him on my lap and petted him for another 5–10 min after he was done eating. Then I gave him freedom to leave and avoided eye contact to show him he was free and make him feel safer. He stretched as he was getting up, went up to his litter box to pee in front of me, and afterwards, snuck back into his cardboard box i put back into his playpen. That’s progress, right????

He is still marking outside his box, occasionally. Granted, definitely less often since it’s been over 2 wks since neuter.

He also had a bit of dark gunk in his right eye yesterday. It’s not too bad right now, but I hope he’s not develop a URI. I will take him to the vet if it gets bad, tho i know antibiotics don’t help unless it’s a secondary infection as most URIs are viral. :/

He’s started yowling at night once the lights and TV turn off.... but during the day he’s pretty quiet except for the occasional meow. Is this mating behavior, even though he was neutered 2-3 wks ago? Or is he just complaining? It’s very loud and frantic.
 

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As long as you don't physically restrain him on your lap, it sounds good! If he struggles let him go. It sounds like you are making progress, I think he will come around soon!
 

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He is definitely coming around! As for the howling...it can take about 30 days according to my vet to allow hormones to leave the body.
 
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Blue950

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Update, i have been carrying Winnie around in a cat sling. He doesn’t love it, but I’m hoping the physical contact helps. He’s made some progress and hisses a lot less when I pet him. He even leans his cheek into my fingers a little when I give him chin scritches, but if you ask he’d deny it. 😊

Since Winnie is dewormed and vaccinated, I also let my other (younger) cat walk into his playpen. They have been sniffing each other thru the playpen for weeks and meowing at each other. I expected anxiety when the kitten approached his box, but Winnie immediately started licking/grooming the kitten 🥺❤ After weeks of seeing Winnie hiss and scowl at me, this was so touching it almost made me cry. ❤

Today, I let him out of his playpen. I blocked off the couches but I left lots of hiding boxes. He’s pretty “one with the box”, and I don’t know how long it will take before he will come out, but I hope he at least feels less like a prisoner as the playpen must have been driving him nuts.
If you guys have any tips on how to build trust and confidence in our relationship, please let me know! He already eats from my hand but it’s been 4 weeks and he doesn’t approach me for food or otherwise. He waits til I come to him or lure him by tossing a trail of food, then runs back into his box as soon as he’s done eating. 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭

Ps. So the night yowling is generally solved with neutering?
 

fionasmom

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If you are carrying him around in a sling, that is huge. I have never once carried any cat, even the affectionate ones, that way. With cats, it is not a straight line to the top. Their little personalities have lots of ins and outs like the sling is great and I love the kitten I also still need or even just like my box. My most easily handled cat who actually comes to me and asks for brushing and ear cleanings likes to sit by herself for parts of the day. The yowling definitely might be connected to a need to mate....it is still going on?
 

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Music For Cats!
Home | Music for Cats | David Teie

Don't accept a Relax My Cat substitute. Music For Cats is the best! The composer scientifically researched and tested it on his and other cats.

Poor Buddy/Blitzkrieg was singing his captivity song when I had him in a pen like that for his misadventure with the rescue the other week. (Turns out he wasn't a stray for the rest of you reading this.) I put Music For Cats on a Bluetooth speaker and placed it just outside the pen for him to hear along with a blanket he could curl up on and he calmed right down. There was no more singing for freedom. The only peep that came out of him after I put on Music For Cats was when he saw me. I peeked in on him to see how he quieted down so quickly and he gave me a "what's shakin?" meow.

Now I understand Buddy and Winnie are far different temperaments. But Music For Cats used to be Krista's vet soundtrack. And one of the times she had to stay overnight, a vet tech's dog had the cage beneath her. The tech told me that this dog normally howls all night if she has to stay overnight at the vet. This dog instead was calm and quiet the whole night. Likely because of the Music For Cats coming out of Krista's cage I was told.

I would find Winnie a box or a cat tree that is out of the way of the other human and non-human animals--somewhere he can go when it all becomes too much. The alternative is a cornered cat acting out. Krista had a tree that had a condo on the bottom, perfect for ground-hiding, and two platforms: one above the condo and one on top of a tower. This would be a great condo for Winnie. He can use the ground hiding whenever he feels like he needs to. But he will also have the option to graduate to the other platforms when he's feeling more confident.

I would also respect his desire to hide right now. Cats always seem to go for the person who wants nothing to do with them. So rather than pushing him towards your metrics of progress, I personally would back off, and let him acclimate to you on his schedule. It may take longer. But there will be less hissing. He'll likely become more trusting and grow into his own with time and space. You might be able to lure him next to you and get in some scritches with a lickable treat. But I wouldn't force anything just yet. The time he's spent with you is still just a blink of the eye in terms of how long it can take some cats to trust and open up.
 

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We listen to cat music all the time but I have to agree that Music for Cats is much more attuned to them. It is available if you have Amazon Prime.
 

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We listen to cat music all the time but I have to agree that Music for Cats is much more attuned to them. It is available if you have Amazon Prime.
It's also on Apple Music and Spotify. I still have it come on my Sonos soundbar as an alarm every morning. I have a smart home automation setup where the lights, TV, and my coffee cup warmer (connected to a smart plug) turn off at 10 am, and Music For Cats becomes my living room background music. I'm currently without a cat at home but still enjoy hearing it when I'm crossing through my living room.
 

fionasmom

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I just remembered that we had not been listening to it for a while and put it on. Jamie is lying curled up next to the dog, who also seems to love it, and is kneading their bed and sighing deeply.
 

daftcat75

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I wonder if some of his urine marking isn't just him trying to assert his scent among all the other strange animals scents in your home. Certainly some of it may still be hormonal. But something you could try is to rub his cheek with a towel or a rag to transfer scent from his cheek glands to the towel. Then rub lots of surfaces with the towel like door frames and any furniture in his cat jail room. The more that room smells like him, the less (hopefully) he will want to assert his scent in less acceptable ways.
 
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Blue950

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Wow I meant to post this last week but I guess it didn’t post:

Thanks for all the advice, guys!
Lots of progress this week! I let Winnie out of his playpen permanently!!!!! It’s been 3 days and no marking!!!!!!!!! I hope it stays this way, fingers crossed. He has also moved out of his box into the cat tree, and comes out to explore or stretch more frequently.

He has been communicating with chirps and playing with toys. :)
Winnie has also been playing with our foster kitten and grooming him. He is very fond of him, so it makes me sad that the kitten will be going to a permanent home probably in a couple days. I grew very fond of this kitten (who purrs and climbs into my lap and sleeps against me) and even made my boyfriend a long PowerPoint on why we should keep him 😂 Unfortunately, we travel a lot so we decided to wait another few years to get a permanent (non-foster) cat.
Since Winnie has been playing with the kitten and grooming him, I worry Winnie’s progress will deteriorate once his friend and role model for healthy human interaction is gone. Any advice?

Also, tomorrow will mark 4 weeks since his neutering. He is still yowling at night :( Which is different than his daytime chirping during regular cat activities. I like those chirps :) Any idea if it’s still testosterone or what’s going on? I slept downstairs yesterday to see if he was lonely at night, but no difference, still lots of intermittent yowling that kept me up.

He still seems to hate me and hisses and runs if I reach out to touch him, but he did approach me in the kitchen for food yesterday when the foster kitten was asking for food. And he ate the meal along with the kitten. This is progress, as previously we were on a rollercoaster of seeing if he’d come out if I placed food by his box, or I had to feed him by hand inside the box. Now he’s coming out and ASKING ME food, which is really good.
 
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Blue950

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Now update for THIS WEEK (rather than the old update I forgot to submit from last week):

Lots of ups and downs. He still runs if I approach and only comes over for meal times. But he’s sleeping on various chairs in the living room rather than full time box, and yowling 50% less at night, rather than all night.
Foster kitten is gone, and after the first day, Winnie stopped being playful with toys like he was with the foster kitten and mostly sleeps all day. Aw :(
He does lick Churu treats off my hand if I slowly extend my hand into his cat tree.

However, today I found THIS on his teeth! Same thing on both sides of his mouth. Stiff to the touch but I didn’t poke too much.
What is it???? If it’s dental tar, why isn’t it on all the teeth?
 

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fionasmom

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You are still definitely making progress. He misses the kitten, nothing you can do about that and it is great that you helped a cat find a new home. The yowling is down, he is sleeping on chairs, and he is licking food from your finger, so that is all very good.

Is the lump solid like bone, soft or squishy, slightly moveable or solidly in place? From the depth of the pic, it does not look like tartar but I could be wrong. With mouth sores or lumps I consult the vet to be on the safe side. Will your vet accept the pic at least and give you some feedback?
 

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You are still definitely making progress. He misses the kitten, nothing you can do about that and it is great that you helped a cat find a new home. The yowling is down, he is sleeping on chairs, and he is licking food from your finger, so that is all very good.

Is the lump solid like bone, soft or squishy, slightly moveable or solidly in place? From the depth of the pic, it does not look like tartar but I could be wrong. With mouth sores or lumps I consult the vet to be on the safe side. Will your vet accept the pic at least and give you some feedback?
Not sure what you're referring to - the black spots or the lump by his fang? If it's the lump, I saw same on one of my cats and vet said it was just the pad where his fang tooth goes - perfectly normal. I would ask you vet about though to be safe as fionasmom suggested. The black spots seem to be just the pigment color of the skin in his mouth.
 
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