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Tue Jan 1, 2019, 02:10 PM

Has anyone here made a feral kitty into a pet?

Before I say anything else, let me say I live in Oakland, where it very seldom gets below 40F. Also, there is a lady who will come by and put out food for my ferals when I'm out of town.

I have two feral kitties (neutered) that I inherited when the lady next door had to move. One of them has become quite tame. He/she loves to sit in my lap. The other will let me near but isn't too keen on having me touch him/her. Although I've had other ferals overwinter in the past without any significant damage, I still feel bad when it gets in the low 40s at night. I do leave the crawlspace under the house open so they can go in next to the furnace.

I'm wondering if I should bring them in and make them indoor/outdoor pets. A couple of issues: I cannot have fleas in the house. I have a pet corns snake, and fumigation would mean he'd have to board somewhere for I don't know how long. Snakey has priority. I know cats and reptiles don't mix, but I'm pretty sure I could keep them separated.

My main concern is what to do with the kitties when I go out of town. I can't imagine a cat that was once semi-wild would respond to boarding well. I think they'd be terrified of the noises and hate being locked up. I suppose I could put them outside until I got back. Would that be stupid and/or cruel? My snake boards very comfortably at a reptile shop in Berkeley, but cats?

What do you all think? Am I worried about nothing? Are they perfectly comfortable and I should leave well enough alone? Should I bring them indoors and put them out when I go out of town?

Thanks in advance.

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Reply Has anyone here made a feral kitty into a pet? (Original post)
wryter2000 Jan 2019 OP
Big Blue Marble Jan 2019 #1
oldlibdem Jan 2019 #2
PSPS Jan 2019 #3
wryter2000 Jan 2019 #7
Arkansas Granny Jan 2019 #4
MuseRider Jan 2019 #5
wryter2000 Jan 2019 #6
fleur-de-lisa Jan 2019 #8
wryter2000 Jan 2019 #9
japple Jan 2019 #10
wryter2000 Jan 2019 #11
Boomer Jan 2019 #12
wryter2000 Jan 2019 #14
Boomer Jan 2019 #15
tblue37 Jan 2019 #13
Boomer Jan 2019 #16
tblue37 Jan 2019 #17

Response to wryter2000 (Original post)

Tue Jan 1, 2019, 02:39 PM

1. We adopted two ferals just over a year ago.

It is going fairly well. After having many cats who were either strays or adopted as
kittens, it is very different and takes patience.

They are very cautious and nervous when anyone comes to the house. They do not
like to be left alone. At first, one still went outside last winter, but when spring and
fleas came back, we decided both would be indoor cats. She still asks most days to
go out, but does not push the matter. Overall they seem happy and we are glad to
have them.

At first, one was very terrified of anything resembling a snake. I would definitely keep
keep your precious snake separated from your cats. And you might want to have a
caregiver come in rather than board, as it would be stressful for them to board.

Remember with patience, overtime their brains will to some extent rewire and they will be
much less feral. The organization TinyKittens has placed many former ferals with
great success. They are living as happy indoor cats and show great affection to
their owners. It is a joy to see them transform. Some though are not ready and are
returned to their feral colony where they are fed and watched carefully for any needed
medical intervention.

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Response to wryter2000 (Original post)

Tue Jan 1, 2019, 02:42 PM

2. I don't know if I would call him a "pet".

More like a living arrangement where as long as you didn't pick him up or get near his cat bed when he was laying there we were cool.
If strangers came over to visit he pounced on them like a mountain lion. But other then that he was Daddy's fury little bag of meow's, . He was born in a barn as was his mother, so I don't know how many generations of wild he was. when my ex. went and picked him out the woman told her that he was the wild one of the litter. He was hard to litter train too.

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Response to wryter2000 (Original post)

Tue Jan 1, 2019, 02:49 PM

3. They'll be fine

I've dealt with feral and semi-feral "barn" cats many times. The under-house crawl space fits the bill quite nicely. Just ask someone to leave food and water out daily in your absence. Cats are very resourceful but you have to interact with them on their terms. You're not going to turn a feral cat into a non-feral cat unless they want it.

Do any of them have "tipped" ears? Those will have been neutered or spayed. You might think about trapping any that have both tips and get them neutered or spayed. A very good resource for all of this information including help, if you need it, tending to your furry friends, is a local rescue group. Oakland has many and they're very experienced and anxious to help.

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Response to PSPS (Reply #3)

Tue Jan 1, 2019, 03:37 PM

7. Both cats are neutered

One has the nicked ear, but the lady who had them before got them all neutered. At one point, she had nine or so, but we're down to two.

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Response to wryter2000 (Original post)

Tue Jan 1, 2019, 02:51 PM

4. I have had mixed experiences with feral cats. I have managed to tame a couple

of grown feral cats, but I suspect that they had once been house cats that were abandoned in one way or another. I have also rescued a couple of feral kittens that turned out to be excellent house pets.

OTOH, for the last few years I've been feeding a small group of ferals who have lived on my back porch and have been fed twice a day from the time they were weaned, but they will not come close enough for me to touch. The cast changes as kittens are born and older cats disappear. I'm beginning to wonder if they have inbred themselves to insterility as there have been no kittens in nearly two years and there are only 3 who appear regularly and an older tom who comes by now and then.

As long as you are providing your bunchthey with food and shelter, they are probably acclimated to weather conditions and will be fine.

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Response to wryter2000 (Original post)

Tue Jan 1, 2019, 03:12 PM

5. Yes, quite a few actually

because I live on a farm they are always around. Some are easy, most take about 4 months of continual routine before they begin to trust (mostly those who have been out for a while) and some will go only as far as come into a room in my house where they are not around the others. Those cats come in, will usually rub up against my legs and maybe carefully I can rub along their back but they eat and go back out. Right now the guy that is doing that has been doing this for 4 years. He stays inside during really bad weather and entertains the indoor cats through a sliding glass door. The cat that showed up with him as been in for that long, he wanted to be in and loved. You just have to let them decide. As to leaving them I always have someone come to the house or live in it while away. There are also dogs, goats and horses here so there has to be someone. I would not put them outside if they are used to being in. Is there someone who can come in and leave them food?

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Response to wryter2000 (Original post)

Tue Jan 1, 2019, 03:34 PM

6. Many thanks to everyone

It sounds as if they're okay as they are. If we should get really unusually cold weather I might trap them and keep them in the bathroom at night. Otherwise, I'll keep doing what I am.

I knew I'd find help here.

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Response to wryter2000 (Original post)

Tue Jan 1, 2019, 03:57 PM

8. You can buy heated tents for them from Chewy.

They are all-weather tents that are activated by the pressure of a cat sitting in it. The pad at the bottom has an electrical plug. I live in New Orleans and have six ferals living on my property. I put the tents in the garage and prop the door open. I used catnip spray to get them interested in the tents. Now they love them.

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Response to fleur-de-lisa (Reply #8)

Tue Jan 1, 2019, 04:33 PM

9. Sounds interesting

I don't have an outlet anywhere they are.

I bought a plush, little house for my last feral. She finally came to love it. Unfortunately, she was trapped in it when a couple of roving dogs got her and killed her. I found her body on the lawn. I'd seen those dogs, and someone else in the neighborhood had seen them kill a cat. I think she could have gotten away if she hadn't been all wrapped up in the plush house.

I think I still have it around somewhere. It was a neat thing.

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Response to wryter2000 (Original post)

Tue Jan 1, 2019, 05:09 PM

10. Get in touch with CurtEastPoint. He has a feral cat project south of

Atlanta, GA. He has a lot of good info.

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Response to japple (Reply #10)

Tue Jan 1, 2019, 05:14 PM

11. Thanks!

I will if I have more questions.

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Response to wryter2000 (Original post)

Tue Jan 1, 2019, 10:15 PM

12. I've been feeding local ferals for years

I have two ex-feral cats, but we started the taming process when they were still kittens, not too long after weaning. It took several months to get close enough to pet them, then lure them into the house and finally convince them the house was their main base of operations. Taming older ferals cats isn't impossible, but it is challenging and can take years, and practically speaking, not all ferals are receptive.

I feed another 3 or 4 ferals who live outside all year round. It can get quite cold in my region, down below zero, and they do fine as long as they can find shelter.

We've built several cold-weather cat boxes for less than $20 each. You can find lots of construction tips online, but my favorite method is super easy. A rubber bin, with a smaller bin nested inside it. Pack straw between them, and cut entry holes.

Here's just one example: https://alleycatadvocates.org/communitycat-care-center/creating-winter-shelters/

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Response to Boomer (Reply #12)

Wed Jan 2, 2019, 05:32 PM

14. Thanks

One of them has tried to come inside. He's figured out that's where the food comes from.

It isn't practical to have someone come inside to feed them. I wouldn't feel comfortable leaving them inside alone that much. I do sometimes leave for a week or more. It sounds like they're okay outside. In warm weather I can cuddle with the friendly one in the backyard.

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Response to wryter2000 (Reply #14)

Wed Jan 2, 2019, 07:15 PM

15. Sound decision

Ferals with shelter and a steady food source can do quite well outside and live a normal lifespan. I don't think you should worry unduly, as long as you can arrange for someone to resupply a feeding station and freshen water.

Being trapped inside would probably be more stressful for a feral that's just now learning to trust you.

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Response to wryter2000 (Original post)

Wed Jan 2, 2019, 12:41 AM

13. Two of my very cuddly cats were ferals. One, Tango, was just 10 weeks when I got her.

Tico was 18 months to 2 years old when I caught him. He is 6 or 6 and a half now.

BTW, I also used to have 4 pet milk snakes and a lizard. I had three cats then (three different cats--it was quite a while ago). I never had a problem keeping them separate.

If you adopt them, don't just leave them outside when you go out of town. Have someone come in to feed them, water them and clean their litterbox.

You can use Revolution to clear up any fleas if they have them. It goes on their skin once a month. Talk to a vet about it.

My Tango is a fully indoor cat, as my other 2 female cats are, but Tico was too old to tolerate 100% indoor life when I adopted him, so as long as I am home I let him out one or two hours a day if the weather is clear. He stays close to home and comes when I clap for him to come in.

But when I must leave town, I hire a friend to feed and water my cats and clean their litterbox. Tico has to stay inside then, because I don't think he would come back in for anyone else who called for him.

Of course, I don't stay away for long--just 3 days and 2 nights over the weekend.

On Edit: My two former ferals were immediately affectionate with me. No taming required, but shy with outsiders, though Tico will warm up if he sees someone often enough.

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Response to tblue37 (Reply #13)

Wed Jan 2, 2019, 07:27 PM

16. Those don't sound like ferals

Just to be clear, there's a distinct difference between a stray cat and a feral cat. Your two were quite obviously strays -- cats that were handled by humans once upon a time, but who lost their homes. They still associate humans with food and safety, so it's just a matter of gaining their trust.

Ferals are basically wild animals. Kittens that are born outside and haven't been handled by humans at an early age will not be affectionate. They're not shy, they're wary. They have no trust to give. You're a danger to be avoided.

One of my two ex-ferals showed up in our front yard, raiding a cat dish on the porch. It was tiny, probably only about 5 or 6 weeks old, and it would immediately run and hide when it saw me. After a week or two, it would jump onto the feeding station even if I was still there, but the first time I picked it up the kitten turned into a snarling, hissing, spitfire of fur. The process of taming took MONTHS.

Even now, after two years of domestication, I'm really the only person that my cat responds to. I can pick him up, ruffle him, turn him upside down, and he loves it. But he's wary of anyone else, even my wife. There's still a wild streak there, just under the surface.

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Response to Boomer (Reply #16)

Wed Jan 2, 2019, 08:43 PM

17. No. Tango was from the warehouse district in Topeka, where there were many ferals. She was found

keeping warm in the engine block of a truck, just before the driver turned the ignition. Probably her mother had gone hunting and never returned. She had fleas, worms, and ear mites and weighed just 2.4 pounds. Once I got rid of the parasites, her weight doubled in one week, and she then continued to gain weight rapidly thereafter.

Tico was a TNR feral. I live near campus, where there are many ferals. Apparently someone puts food out--not uncommon in areas with ferals. Also there are a lot of rabbits and squirrels for hunting.

But Tico is a house panther--a shorthaired black cat. Those Halloween kitties are usually--perhaps even always--part Siamese. Certainly he is. He even has the guttural Siamese voice, though he mrrrs rather than yowls.

Siamese cats are notoriously people oriented. He used to come and visit my cats through the window, and he shadowed me on my walks, but I couldn't get close to him.

I went around the neighborhood to see if he belonged to anyone, because he was always outside, no matter how bad the weather. I wanted to find his owner and ask to adopt him.

Then on July 2, 2014, when I got home from my walk I sat on my porch steps and cuddle talked him for almost 3 hours until I got him close enough to make a quick grab and get him inside.

I knew of two people who had lost cats because they ran away from fear of fireworks, and people do shoot off fireworks around here.

I called the Humane Society to see if anyone was looking for him, but when I described the notch in his ear, they said that instead of taking off the ear tip as most TNR programs do, our city's program just cuts a notch in the ear. IOW, he was a feral.

He took a while to learn to play with me, because he hadn't played with toys before. Even now, years later, though he is a lovey cat indoors and comes when I call outside, even I cannot walk right up to him outside. He survived by being hyper alert and skittish when he was feral, so outside he is super cautious.

If I sit and cuddle talk him outside he will come and rub his face on my legs, but if I try to approach him directly, I can't get near him. When I clap, he dashes into the open door, though, so that's how he comes home when I call for him. Once inside, though, nothing I do startles him or makes him nervous. Though I have to be careful not to scare my three 100% indoor kitties away from their food or water by walking by them while they eat or drink, I can step right over him and he doesn't even flinch. Indoors he knows he is safe. Outdoors, though, he trusts nothing and no one.

Visit tinykittens.com. They run a massive THE program and also rehab ferals and find homes for them. If a cat is pregnant, they spay her once the kittens are weaned and then find homes for the kittens and either find her a home, or if she can't be sufficiently tamed, return her to the feral colony.

Some of the ferals they bring in are pretty easily tamed; others are not. It all depends on the cat's personality.

The OP has found that one feral he feeds will sit on him, but not the other. It just depends on the cat.

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