Trying to figure out if this cat is feral or not

Antonio65

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No, I don't think she's feral. A feral cat wouldn't make eye contact with you like that, she's either an outdoor cat that is used to being fed by someone, or a pet that has got lost or been dumped.
I've been thinking of these words for days, literally.
I am the carer of a rather large colony, around feral 25 cats of different ages, though not all of them show up daily. Well, I like to take photos of them, very often, and it is not unusual that they pose for the photo and look straight at the lens of my phone, sometimes for multiple shots too. They are ferals, never had a physical contact with a human unless for the spaying/neutering, and none of them allows me to touch or to go closer than three feet from them, some stay at 6 feet away or more, they often run away if I move quickly and I don't see them anymore on that day, but they all let me take pictures of them and look at me regularly in the yes.

So, I don't think that making eye contact like the cat in the photo might mean that she's used to people.
 

Norachan

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So, I don't think that making eye contact like the cat in the photo might mean that she's used to people.
Maybe not, but if they are used to you coming to feed them they're not totally without any human contact. This cat has started rubbing up against the people who feed her. I think that suggests she's had some human contact before.

How's she doing now Q QueenofWinter ? Any updates?
 

molly92

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I suspect that yowling is actually a good sign. In my experience, domesticated cats make the biggest fuss, whereas ferals will hide and be as quiet as possible, and ferals are the ones that take longer to gain their trust.

My approach is very much to do all of the terrible trust-destroying things as quickly as possible (trapping, isolating in the bathroom, medicating) and then focus on gradually building a relationship so you don't have to stop and start the process with lots of little "betrayals." The first days are the worst, and then it gets better from there. And do not underestimate the power of feeling healthier and cared for! When they get trapped inside and get a dewormer they hate it, but then all of the sudden they feel warm and safe and their healthier and the fleas go away...and they get a bit more faith in the process. Cats can tell when they're being taken care of!

Rescue groups are an amazing resource. Often they can lend you a trap, teach you how to use it, hook you up with some dewormer pills they get in bulk so you don't have to make the vet trip, and they know which parasites are common in your area (and almost all strays have some kind of parasite).

However, all of this is work and a commitment, not to mention sacrifice of a bathroom, so if you cannot do it, please try not to feel guilty!
 
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QueenofWinter

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Update: I’ve been trying to spend some time with her everyday. If it’s not too cold, I sit on the step with her. She rubs her whole body on me multiple times. She loves to be scratched on her head and neck. She purrs and kneads me with her nails. She never hisses anymore. Just meows. We feed her twice a day. She always acts like she’s starving. If it’s too cold for me to be outside, I’ll sit inside with the door open. She’ll sit next to me for a few minutes while I scratch her. Then she’ll go back outside. We haven’t tried bringing her in and closing the door since last time. I’m scared about what might happen. I don’t want to betray her trust and I don’t want to hear her yowling for hours because the sound breaks my heart. When it gets really cold, we leave the heat retaining pad on the step. For awhile she wouldn’t get on it. I finally decided to just take off the shirt I was wearing and place it on the pad hoping my scent would entice her to lay on it. And to my surprise, it worked! She loves her pad now. It keeps her warm enough to curl up and sleep on even when it’s freezing cold. She shows up everyday, after dark usually. She doesn’t like other cats showing up though. She has started attacking the white male cat that shows up sometimes. I guess she considers this her home and she doesn’t like trespassers.
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tabbytom

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I finally decided to just take off the shirt I was wearing and place it on the pad hoping my scent would entice her to lay on it. And to my surprise, it worked! She loves her pad now.
Ah............this is a good sign! She's already associating with you by laying on the mat with your scent on it. With this, it's easier for her to gain trust in you. From here onwards, you should be the one dealing with her.

Work on her trust and then slowly bring her into the house.

Keep us updated please.
 
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QueenofWinter

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Update: Forgive the lateness of this reply. So my little kitty still shows up everyday. She has discovered our porch so she has been sleeping and eating there. I think it’s a safer area for her to hang out. She’s protected from the rain and their are chairs for her to sleep on, which she does for most of the night. Because it’s warmer I’ve been spending more time with her outside. She gets very excited to see me. She loves to knead me and rub her body on me. I do have a small concern. While I’m glad she has gotten so comfortable around me, she has started to give me little love bites on my hand, elbow, kneecap, and anywhere else she can reach. I call them love bites because she doesn’t bite down. They don’t hurt much, but I don’t know why she has started biting me. She never used to. Also, when I start to leave and head for the door she swipes at my ankles and stands in front of my legs to prevent me from leaving. And recently I went to pick up her nearly empty food bowl, which she wasn’t eating from anymore, and as I lifted the bowl she hissed at me (which she rarely does anymore) and she bit my hand as if to prevent me from taking the bowl. Anyone know what these actions mean? I don’t really know the usual behaviors of a tortie, so I don’t know if this is typical for her breed.
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Norachan

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Oh, she's looking great! I love to see a nice, round tortie. I'm glad that she is so comfortable with you now.

I don't know if the bites and hissing are tortitude. I have four torbie/calico girls. One is a nightmare, one is an absolute dream, the other two don't really act any different to the rest of my cats.

I have one male cat that likes to give me "love bites". I just make a high pitched "Meow" sound when he does it and he usually looks a bit bashful and stops.

I think she probably enjoys your company and doesn't want you to leave. That's why she's being possessive of you.

Have you tried coaxing her indoors recently?
 

Antonio65

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As of lately I have fostered a few kittens, and most of them developed the same behavior, that is biting hands, kneecaps, arms, out of the blue. It never happened before, I thought it was a thing of this new generation of kittens, I don't know why.
I can't explain why your kitty does this, the only thing that comes to my mind id that she's getting possessive towards you, something that I think is typical of torties.
 

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It sounds like normal behavior to me and she is just bonding with you. She's just giving you love bites. As long it's not out of aggression and she's not breaking the skin I wouldn't worry about it. As far as swiping at you when you try to walk away again, seems normal to me. Manny will do that sometimes if I'm rubbing him and he doesn't want me to stop or, sometimes if I just walk by him he'll do it. It's always with claws in though.

As far as the bowl thing. It may be that she's just afraid you taking her food away and scared you won't bring it back. If she's been fending for herself in the past it could be a real fear for her. I wouldn't call it abnormal behavior. I would try either letting the bowl go empty and see what she does or, bring the food to the bowl and let her see you put food in it. Either way I think that will go away on it's own with time once she realizes that the bowl comes back full of food. In time I think she will start letting you know when the bowl is empty or close to it and try and tell you it's time to fill it up.

Sounds like she's coming along well. I would try letting her come inside and explore at her own pace if you haven't already. Since it's warmer you can leave the door open with an escape route.
 
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QueenofWinter

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I have tried letting her inside. She‘s still hesitant and only walks in a little bit before running back outside. But we’ll keep trying.

I have a new concern. I was touching her when I felt what I thought was a scab on her neck. On closer inspection, I believe it’s actually a tick. It has a round light brown body and the head is embedded in her skin. I don’t know how long it’s been there. She’s acting normal. I already ordered a tick removal tool, but I don’t know when it will arrive. Should I be worried? And does anyone have any advice on how to remove the tick with the removal tool? Or is it simple?
 

molly92

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I have tried letting her inside. She‘s still hesitant and only walks in a little bit before running back outside. But we’ll keep trying.

I have a new concern. I was touching her when I felt what I thought was a scab on her neck. On closer inspection, I believe it’s actually a tick. It has a round light brown body and the head is embedded in her skin. I don’t know how long it’s been there. She’s acting normal. I already ordered a tick removal tool, but I don’t know when it will arrive. Should I be worried? And does anyone have any advice on how to remove the tick with the removal tool? Or is it simple?
I have no idea how well tick removal tools work. It should be pretty simple to get the tick out with tweezers if the cat allows you to handle her that much. You don't want to leave anything embedded in the skin, so grab it close to the skin and pull gently. To avoid spreading disease, you shouldn't crush the tick to kill it and should instead submerge it in alcohol or seal it in a plastic bag.

If that does not sound doable, another option is to get a flea and tick topical. Bravecto and Frontline are the only ones I know that kill ticks as well as fleas. They're expensive, but the advantage is they're easy to apply and will protect her from more fleas and ticks.
 
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QueenofWinter

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If that does not sound doable, another option is to get a flea and tick topical. Bravecto and Frontline are the only ones I know that kill ticks as well as fleas. They're expensive, but the advantage is they're easy to apply and will protect her from more fleas and ticks.
Will frontline kill the tick that’s currently embedded in her skin? Should I use that instead of the tick removal tool? I used frontline on a different stray cat a few years ago and she got a little sick for awhile. She eventually got better, but I’m a bit nervous about using it on this cat.
 

molly92

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Will frontline kill the tick that’s currently embedded in her skin? Should I use that instead of the tick removal tool? I used frontline on a different stray cat a few years ago and she got a little sick for awhile. She eventually got better, but I’m a bit nervous about using it on this cat.
It should kill the tick in a day or two. It's possible but not common to have a reaction to Frontline, and most of the time it's just skin irritation. It's important to apply it where the cat can't lick it, because ingestion probably causes the worst reactions. You can ask your vet for their opinion on the safety and efficacy of Frontline, and they'll know better than I do.

If you have tweezers, I would go ahead and give it a try if you think she'll be calm enough for you. The sooner you can remove the tick, the less chance there is for disease transmission. If the tick has a white spot on its back, I would especially encourage this, because a disease from the Lone Star Tick, cytauxzoonosis, is very dangerous. Other possible infections are usually treatable with antibiotics, but of course, it'd be easier to avoid having to give a feral cat pills. The likelihood of a tick transmitting a disease is low but within the realm of possibility, especially as tick populations are growing these days.
 

Norachan

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On closer inspection, I believe it’s actually a tick. It has a round light brown body and the head is embedded in her skin.
A tiny drop of Frontline directly on the tick will kill it within an hour. Put a drop on the tick and the rest of the vial on the back of her neck, as the instructions on the Frontline packet show. My cats pick up deer ticks in the summer and this is the easiest way to get rid of them.
 
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QueenofWinter

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A tiny drop of Frontline directly on the tick will kill it within an hour. Put a drop on the tick and the rest of the vial on the back of her neck, as the instructions on the Frontline packet show. My cats pick up deer ticks in the summer and this is the easiest way to get rid of them.
Thank you for the advice. I just did exactly as you said. I put a drop on the tick itself and the rest on the back of her neck. The tick is a lot bigger than it was a few days ago. And it’s full of blood. I hope the medicine works soon. My poor kitty must be so uncomfortable with that thing on her neck. 😢
 

molly92

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It's pretty likely she doesn't feel anything. I had so many ticks as a child and I never felt them at all. Their saliva has anesthetic properties. Disease is the real concern (although I also never got sick from a tick either, thank goodness). Good luck!
 
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QueenofWinter

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Update: Kitty still shows up everyday. She sleeps on her chair on the porch all night. I feed her breakfast in the morning and she leaves afterwards. We still don’t know where she goes, but she crosses the street to get here. We worry about her crossing the street. We want to keep her inside, but I don’t want to force her to stay. She’s very trusting of me now and I don’t want to betray her trust. I’ve opened the door for her and left it open so she can come and go as she pleases. She comes in and sniffs around a little, but she sticks pretty close to me. She doesn’t mind our dog, but we keep our cats away from her. I don’t think she wants the door closed when she’s in our house. Even when it’s open she stares at it as if someone is going to close it. I don’t know what that’s all about. Does anyone have any other advice for keeping her inside without traumatizing her?
 

molly92

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It feels harsh, but trust can be rebuilt, whereas there's no coming back from a bad enough accident.

I think you should trap her inside. She will be freaked out at first, because cats do not like sudden changes, but there's no good way to go about it. She will learn that nothing bad is going to happen to her inside, even if it takes time. "Forgiveness" isn't really a cat concept. It's more about the cat continually asking "Am I safe? Will this hurt me?" Prove to her that she is safe, and then she will relax.

Keep her in a small room like a bathroom at first with a safe hiding spot and block off unsafe areas where you can't reach her. Work with her slowly using food and toys as incentive to get her to interact with you again, and when she gets curious, start introducing her to the rest of the house/other animals bit by bit. If she still yearns for the outdoors, you can eventually train her to go out on a leash.

If she needs a vet visit (which is probably a good idea, at the very least for a check up, shots, and tests) schedule that as soon as possible so you get the worst part over with, and then you have a whole year to work with her uninterrupted before you need to go back to the vet again. Plus you'll want to know if it's safe for her to interact with your cats.
 
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