View Full Version : Adopting a Feral Cat - Advice?

Apr. 2, 2012, 02:09 AM
So in a fit of insanity, I took in a feral cat from a Seattle rescue group today. My barn cat George (a non-feral stray that moved in about 3 years ago) has been very lonely, and increasingly obnoxiously attention seeking, since I had to put my elderly garage cat down in January. He needs a friend, and I decided to do a good deed to get him one. :lol:

She's from a feral colony of about 15 cats, is 4-5 months old, was recently spayed, and is completely untouchable. She's been captive for 3-4 weeks total, but the rescue seems to have put no effort into socializing her. She's tiny - weighed 3lb 13oz when she was spayed 3 weeks ago - and terrified. The rescue rehomes the totally unsocialized ones as "working cats" so for the price of $20 and the time I put in to her, I get a new barn cat to keep my other cat company and help with the rodent population. The rescue installed her in our x-large wire dog crate on the table in the barn. She's got a heated bed, a hidey hole, a litter box, food, water, and a wool horse blanket giving her 80% privacy.

I don't care if she ever wants to be picked up or sit on my lap, but I would like to put in a valid effort to get her to the point that I can get near her, ideally touch her at will, and make sure she's okay going forward. Catchable for shots is a bonus, but I'll trap her if required to keep her current on rabies - required by state law. Right now, she stays as far from me as possible when I open the crate, growls if I get too close, and the rescue lady says that she will swat you hard if you try to touch her.

Here's my plan as it stands, I'd love to hear from anyone with any experience or advice.
I'm in the barn about an hour a day, spread over 3 times. I feed horses and hens in the morning; clean stalls after work; and put horses in feed dinner at dusk. I'm going to make sure to lift the blanket on the crate and talk to her whenever I'm out there
On the rescue's advice, I'm bribing her with canned food morning and dusk to get her to associate me with treats, she has high quality dry food at all times
George's food/water dishes are right next to her crate to encourage them to interact. I'm giving him treats and lots of love on the table to encourage him to make friends and show her that I'm not that scary. So far he's half-heartedly hissing at her while purring. He's been up to get food when I've been out of the barn today, so that's positive
As soon as she calms down - she's so terrified she's trembling at sight of me - I'll start working to get her to take treats from meThe rescue seems pretty confident that if I keep her in the crate for 3-4 weeks (since she's so young), and she makes friends with George (likely since she's from a colony and he usually likes other cats), and she comes to associate me/the barn with food and a warm bed, that she'll stick around. I'd consider that a success, but would love to get beyond that. Ideas? Advice? Thoughts?

Oh, and this is Polly (-Pocket, -Wog, -Soul Patch, take your pick). The rescue provided the picture, and I think it's from as she woke up from being spayed.

Apr. 2, 2012, 02:25 AM
You may get more responses if you post this on the Menagerie forum.:yes:

I also got a feral cat at four months from the feed store, many years ago.
Caught her with welding gloves after cornering her behind some sacks of grain.
She was a spitting fury kitten.:eek:

I kept her in the bathroom for some two or three weeks, went there with a book and sat on the floor and read every time I could.
I had a whip with a string and a feather on the end and flipped it slowly.
She decided to investigate that and then my shoes and the rest is history:


She was extremely sweet all her life and used to purr away at the vets and let them carry her around like a stuffed toy.
She was also very smart and learned by seven or eight months to use the toilet.;)

I don't know what yours will turn to be, but if you make an effort, she may become very tame.
in your situation, with her in the barn, I don't know.

Apr. 2, 2012, 02:36 AM
From a given litter of feral kittens, some will become very friendly, some will remain very "feral" (& eveything inbetween).

On the rescue's advice, I'm bribing her with canned food morning and dusk to get her to associate me with treats, she has high quality dry food at all times

I would actually just feed her quality canned 3 times a day, after a week or so, I'd introduce some high value treats (S loves loves freeze dried chicken - only 1 brand is worthy of her love - & freeze dried duck liver: these are dog treats :lol: anything marketed for cats is beneath her notice).
Once you've got kitty's attention with the treat (& she's no longer so terrified), introduce an interaction payment for the treats.

I'd be surprised if she comes around as much as you'd like in a few weeks, though she will likely remain at the barn IF she feels reasonably safe by then.

You might have more luck training her to "kennel up" than to allow you to touch her - of course after the first time you then take her to the vet etc, it will take time & patience to re-inforce the positives of "kennel up".

Apr. 2, 2012, 03:18 AM
Thanks Bluey - once she's calmer I may try to get her to play.

Alto - what is a high quality wet food? I've only ever fed dry and then used cheap canned as a bribe when/if needed. I'm assuming Fancy Feast doesn't count... :)

Apr. 2, 2012, 07:08 AM
Last summer I worked with some ferals and rescues to spay and rehome over 20 cats.

My local rescue recommends 5 weeks in the crate- not 3 or 5. It seems at 5 weeks chances of the cat sticking around (and survival) go up significantly.

One of the ferals- the oldest and more feral of the ferals- is sitting next to me on the couch. I trapped her on Halloween, and now I can pick her up. For a long time, she was in my basement (she escaped while I was transferring her from the trap to a cage), and I was just diligent about bringing her wet food and such. Usually even feral cats will let you touch them when they are eating wet food. I also discovered after a couple months that she LOVES toys. It's like her previous hunting instinct needed to be used or something- but she now dives into the toy basket like a swimming pool and cat toys going flying all over the living room. I pick them all up almost every day.

She is still a bit skittish, and will probably also run under the couch when a new person comes over and stuff, but I can pick her up now, and she licks my face and gives me nuzzles.

As long as you make an effort (think like a cat) at 4/5 months your kitten should come around in no time. Lots of love. Lots of treats.

Apr. 2, 2012, 07:26 AM
I've been feeding a feral for 3+ years. We've "progressed" from him fleeing, to his eating on the porch, to his eating inside. I can brush him...but he's definitely not an indoor cat. I got involved when he was 3-ish, so he was probably too old to be domesticated. Playing is not his thing...if he's in the mood, he'll swat at a feather-suspended-on-a pole. But he is fun...even when he gives the occasional swipe with his claws.

Apr. 2, 2012, 08:28 AM
I don't know in your area, but around here, feral cats without rabies vaccination are a real danger to our domestic animals and humans.
They mentioned in the news yesterday that they had a rabies case in a cat right now and several people on the shot series.
They think the cat got it from a skunk.

A friend years ago was feeding several feral cats in her yard, she had them half tamed, this one bit her hand out of the blue one day, animal control caught and tested and he was rabid and she had to go thru the shot series.
She also almost died of an infection caused by the bite, had to spend time in the hospital getting that treated.
They told her if she had waited to the next morning to come in, when her hand started swelling one evening, she may have died before she could get help, or at least lost her hand.
Those cat scratches can be really dangerous.

Just be careful, don't push the kitten where it may scratch you and if it does, tend to the scratches right away and see a doctor.

I am not sure it is too smart, if you have rabies around, to have any animals, in your house or barn, that are not vaccinated for rabies.

Just one more factor to consider.

Apr. 2, 2012, 08:38 AM
My three barn cats were feral TNR cats; trapped elsewhere and brought here immediately following their neuter surgery.

We attempted to keep them in a dog crate but the two smaller cats escaped after a day. We let the larger cat out so it was not alone in the cage.

The first six months I am surprised they did not hurt themselves how scared they were. When we came into the barn they would run so quickly that they would splat into things.

I fed them wet and dry food. I provided them with comfy beds in the hay pile and I basically left them alone.

Now they are pushy cats that get brushed and insist we give them attention.

I did not force attention on them. It just worked out. They slowly came closer at feed time which led to accidental touching, which led to getting petted, etc.

Apr. 2, 2012, 11:44 AM
I have a pair of ferals in my barn that have been there since just after Christmas. (so about three months)

They were also part of a TNR program, and were about 14 weeks old when they arrived.

I go to the barn to feed them canned food twice a day, but they also have free choice dry.

They are limited to one room in the barn and will be until they are less fearful of me. They still scatter and hide in the space under the stairs to the loft when I enter the room.

I don't force myself on them. I make my appearance, talk to them, feed them, and leave them be.

They have gone from "wide eyed terror" to "squinty eyed calm" when I peek in at them under the stairs. So I think they're getting more comfortable.

Time will tell. They don't need to be super friendly as I took them in to keep the rodents down, not to be cuddle bunnies. :) But I'm hoping to be able to keep up on their rabies vaccs, so getting them to allow touching will be a plus.

Good luck with your feral! :)

Apr. 2, 2012, 11:53 AM
At the BO's request, I got two feral kittens last year - brother and sister, both neutered. I have been the main one interacting with them. Little Boy is still very fearful and skittish, Little Girl (I know, what an imagination I have . . .) will come over to me and let me pet and scritch her. It helped that the existing resisdent barn cat is adored by both of them, and HE will beg for pats all day. So they saw me patting him and him obviously loving it. They were confined for several weeks in a large cage before being released, but didn't really start to get tame until later.

I love that Little Girl so much I would take her home if I could. She looks kinda like yours, too - so cute!

Apr. 2, 2012, 02:12 PM
I have two ferals that have access to my tack room and I feed them daily. I don't try to touch them, though one tolerates it.
Some ferals may become socialized, some never will. I don't really have a strong desire to handle these cats (I have house cats) but I am happy to give them a safe home.
Bluey is right about "beware of rabies". And inoculation does not cure an existing case. If you get bitten or scratched and can't quarantine the animal for 10 days, you will need post-exposure shots.
Not to be Debbie Downer..bless you for helping out some ferals.

Apr. 2, 2012, 02:56 PM
Thanks all. To be clear she's had all shots but rabies as she was too young. I'll get her a rabies shot before I let her loose. She's been captive for long enough that we'd know if she currently had it.

My other cat gets his shots, esp rabies, because he gets a neck abscess every fall that requires cleaning. When I take him in for that he gets his shots as needed. the only cats that haven't been kept current were my very elderly cat that didn't roam and the ferals that I've never been able to catch - they also don't have access to my barn.

I'm less concerned about keeping her rabies current - I can always trap her as required for that - and more wih how I go about trying to at least minimally socialize her.

Apr. 2, 2012, 03:46 PM
I can always trap her as required for that.

Once trapped, they are the dickens to trap again (with exceptions, obviously).

Do not assume that you will easily retrap her once you let her loose.

Do you live somewhere that rabies it not a concern?

Apr. 2, 2012, 10:01 PM
IMO she's too old to socialize well if she's really 4-5 months - you might be able to get her to stay around, but I doubt she'll ever be really tame....

Apr. 2, 2012, 11:44 PM
Trubandloki - I haven't heard of a case of rabies up here, well, ever, so aside from the fact that it's a state law it's low on my list of critical concerns.

Animaldoc - I don't need tame, I'll take socialized enough to be caught if medically necessary. Frankly, if I can't socialize her enough to get her to stick around and live in the barn, she's likely to get picked off by a coyote long before she'd be due for her next rabies shot. The rescue claims that about 70% of the cats they place in barns stick around for at least a year - I just want to get her in that group rather than the other 30%.

Apr. 3, 2012, 01:47 AM
She's gorgeous. You have lots of great advice. Have fostered some feral types...some come around immediately, some take longer, a lot longer. When they do, they seem to be one person types.

Am surprised she didn't have her rabies if she's 4-5 months. 16 weeks is the
age we vaccinate for rabies around here.

The petting heads while eating canned food worked quite often. It was really cool when one would push into your hand for more petting.

Apr. 3, 2012, 09:14 AM
IMO she's too old to socialize well if she's really 4-5 months - you might be able to get her to stay around, but I doubt she'll ever be really tame....

When mine were trapped the two smaller cats were probably just under six months old and the larger one was an adult cat. The paper work from the place that did her spay said she was 2 (assume estimated from her teeth and size).
She is our biggest attention whore. She follows us around and mews at us and begs for attention.

Maybe my three are the exception not the rule, but I would not assume that this cat will not allow pettings and such.

Apr. 3, 2012, 10:52 AM
You just never know. I adopted a "friend" cat for my barn cat. She's been very lonely since our other barn cat disappeared and her best friend, our collie, died last year. The new cat was more feral than I was led to believe. I kept her crated for 3 weeks, spent time petting her, etc. When I released her from the crate, she disappeared. We now call her the phantom garage/barn cat. I see glimpses of her from time to time, and she eats the food I put out for her, but that's it. She has a 3 yr rabies shot, so I imagine I'll be trapping her in two years for a booster.

Ambitious Kate
Apr. 3, 2012, 01:53 PM
I am really happy to see people getting feral cats - they make the best barn cat, because they will survive where as other cats probably will be eaten bycoyotes. A feral cat? Nah. Not a chance! One feral cat at my trainer's barn goes hunting for raccoons nightly. He just hates raccoons. Yes, all shots and fixed, etc. Nothing could catch him. He won't ever let you pick him up, but I haven't approached him, let him come to me, and he winds around me at horse feed time, which is when I fill his food bowl. Big honking cat who has a meow like a squeak which is really funny. I forget his real name, beause I call him Mr. Squeaks.

I think giving them barn cat homes is the best life for a feral cat. Around here, the rescues and 'pounds' won't take and rehome feral cats and I think that's a shame, because there are tons of horses and barn home opportunities for them.

That said, my BF adopted two cats, and the lady insisted the one was not feral, but there is no other explaination for this cat - he took weeks of patience while they lived in a crate, after 5 weeks they were out in the house, but the feral boy always retreated back to his open crate. He would let one person (we left him alone, let him bond with BF only) brush him while he ate, and our policy was not to move towardshim but wait for him to come to you. Now he sleeps crooked in BF's arm, bats his book away when he wants attention, and will let me approach him. He's still skittish at sudden movements, but has aclimated really nicely. Hes' a real joy to have a round.

Good luck and do report back about your feral cat!

Apr. 3, 2012, 02:06 PM
Yep, food is the motivator! We had a 10 year old feral cat living in our barn since she was a kitten. I trapped her and had her spayed and vetted after her first litter of kittens were born several years ago and hoped that would help her temperament but she stayed pretty feral, only allowing the occasional pat once in a while. She was an excellent mouser so we tried to make sure she had what she needed in the barn but she didn't seem to care. Anyway, last year she started looking horrible (skinny, wormy, infected) so I trapped her again, took her to the vet and decided to keep her in the house to either have her die in comfort and warmth, or possibly rebound. All these years that cat has been spooky and feral and now she won't leave us alone because my husband started feeding her kitchen food - chicken, milk, fat scraps, etc. You'd never know she spent 10 years in the barn hiding from anything that moved. Now she's in our laps, on the furniture - fat and happy (and I don't have the heart to kick her out). She has NO desire to go back outside so....another feral has taken up post so I'm trying to lure this one to do the mousing! This time I'll use real meat :).

Good luck with your kitty. Do post back!

Watermark Farm
Apr. 4, 2012, 02:19 PM
I maintain a feral colony at my farm. 7 years ago I trapped 4 kittens who were about 4 months old. Kept them in the bathroom and handled them daily using heavy leather gloves and a leather coat and I wore eye goggles. I would scruff them and restrain them and sit them in my lap. They HATED it at first, terrified and eyes twitching. I felt bad! I handled them several times a day for several months. They all eventually tamed down great.

A 10 year old feral female got hit by a car and broke her pelvis. I brought her inside and she is now a beloved house cat, very friendly, tame, loves to cuddle. I would never have thought this possible.

Good on you OP for taking on a feral and being such a responsible mama!

Apr. 4, 2012, 02:45 PM
I maintain a feral colony at my farm. 7 years ago I trapped 4 kittens who were about 4 months old. Kept them in the bathroom and handled them daily using heavy leather gloves and a leather coat and I wore eye goggles. I would scruff them and restrain them and sit them in my lap. They HATED it at first, terrified and eyes twitching. I felt bad! I handled them several times a day for several months. They all eventually tamed down great.

A 10 year old feral female got hit by a car and broke her pelvis. I brought her inside and she is now a beloved house cat, very friendly, tame, loves to cuddle. I would never have thought this possible.

Good on you OP for taking on a feral and being such a responsible mama!

They're all so different. We trapped a kitten who was 14 weeks at vet's estimate and was absolutely HORRIFIED by people and spit/hissed/yowled for one day. I was just a little kid and I remember my dad put a can of tuna in there with her and used a pencil to scratch between her shoulder baldes and whammo; the next day that little girl was curled up on my lap. Best cat ever; she lived to be about 15 and was just wonderful.
We had three ferals I'd put at about 4 months old that we managed to trap and speuter (some lowlifes left their two mothers when they left town and as cats do, kittens were had. Those two were also trapped, spayed, released). In one day the orange male figured it out: "Oh, man, they feed me AND scratch my head!" and we still have him, he's probably pushing 10 or so. Friendly to everything, beast or human.
One of the two sisters never let you lay a hand on her, ever, till the day she died (probably 2 or 3 years later; found her dead; hard to say what of; she never really looked 'right'.) The other female was just like the first one until her sister died..but when she lost her companion she suddenly became a complete lovebug. Never really liked to be picked up, but would sit in your lap all day if you let her. She kept my grandparents company (albeit as a "porch cat" mostly) but then something got ahold of her one night (prob a coyote or maybe a dog; they had a dog who was lovely with her and she may have been too trusting).

Anyway, OP, I find food and the need for companionship of some sort makes most kitties tame down. Good luck :)

Apr. 4, 2012, 10:36 PM
We have a feral cat that our old cat "adopted". We have moved twice with him now, and did the rabies at the same time, plus one other rabies. It took a while to catch him, and we had to withold food for a couple of days to catch him. He is not happy after being caught -after he is released you won't see him at all for weeks, then you will catch glimpses, then see him at feeding time, then he will stay near at feeding time, then finally let you touch his head at feeding time, then it is time for rabies again!:lol: The last move, the vet said she had never seen a cat as wild as him that was fixed.
I tried in the beginning to tame him, but it just was not in his nature, so I just let him be. He is DH favorite cat, never underfoot!

Apr. 5, 2012, 04:08 AM
I had a feral cat. Left him alone; let him come to ME at his own pace (slow!!!). Forcing yourself on them just proves to them that you're up tp no good. Let them learn who you are; they're SMART (or they'd be dead...

Mtn trails
Apr. 5, 2012, 06:13 PM
We had a feral cat that once we brought him home, I didn't see him for weeks at a time and when I did see him, he'd usually take off. However, I knew he was close by because the food kept disappearing from the protected kitty room. I went ahead and adopted 2 friendly kittens and they fell in love with Mr. Feral guy and he adored them. It was like he was their big brother. They really helped him realize I was one of the good people and not to be afraid and run off. He became such a mush and would lay around while the other kittens would jump on him and tussle around and I swear he would twitch his tail on purpose for them to play with. Unfortunately, one of the kittens and he disappeared one day never to be seen again. We had the other kitten for years until she too disappeared (coyotes).

Apr. 6, 2012, 12:16 AM
I've had several ferals, all obtained at about weaning age, 3-4 months old. My most recent one proved to be the most wild objectionable one I've ever had and I tamed him to touch within three days by "petting" him in the crate with a set of tongs. On the suggestion of a friend, I even named him Tong. He's now not quite a year old and is a big baby, loves to be carried around, loves his belly and chin rubbed, and even tolerates us clipping his claws as he is a house kitty. I'll post a few pics so you can see beginning to how he is now.

Right After Capture, Angry Little Kitten (http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2111579744960.2121279.1109628450&type=3#!/photo.php?fbid=2111580384976&set=a.2111579744960.2121279.1109628450&type=3&theater)

First Real Touch After Three Days with Tongs (http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2111579744960.2121279.1109628450&type=3#!/photo.php?fbid=2111580744985&set=a.2111579744960.2121279.1109628450&type=3&theater)

Getting Really Tame, Loves His Ball (http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2111579744960.2121279.1109628450&type=3#!/photo.php?fbid=2124814635824&set=a.2111579744960.2121279.1109628450&type=3&theater)

Tong Begging me to Rub His Tummy (http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1574455797197.2080188.1109628450&type=3#!/photo.php?fbid=2190234551281&set=a.1574455797197.2080188.1109628450&type=3&theater)

Apr. 6, 2012, 12:33 AM
She looks ...not little, ok,yeah...

Apr. 6, 2012, 02:14 AM
Thanks for the ideas and stories everyone. Just a quick update on Polly Pocket for y'all.

She spent Sun - Tues pretty much dashing into her hidey hole (box with a towel mostly covering the front) every time she heard me coming. I didn't see much of her except for the couple of times that I caught her up on the heated bed. Then last night she came out for dinner while I was dumping the manure wheelbarrow and stayed out eating while I stood and talked to her. Same thing this morning.

Tonight she kept peeking out to look at me while I was in the barn and readily came out for dinner while I was cleaning stalls. Then I heard the tiniest little meow and found her calling after George (barn cat) as he was leaving the barn. She stayed out while I finished, still looking for him (he isn't really interested that I've seen).

Still not touchable, but hey, that's crazy progress in the past 48 hours. Thanks to everyone that suggested I feed her at specific times. I think that's been key to starting to establish a routine and raport with her.

Miss Polly, trying to decide if the camera was worth dashing for the hidey hole while eating dinner.


Apr. 6, 2012, 09:17 AM
You are making progress already, good for you and her.

I think taming a feral horse, a coyote puppy, feral cats, it is all about doing whatever it takes to get them to know you are ok.
It helps tremendously when they quit being so scared and let you lay a hand on them, then the rest is history.

With some feral horses, I saw a trainer putting his glove at the end of the whip and using that to touch the horse all over.
May work with feral cats too.;)

Apr. 6, 2012, 09:25 AM
Awww. Like this thread!

Apr. 6, 2012, 09:27 AM
I'm glad she's warming up to you. She's cute as can be!

Apr. 6, 2012, 10:45 AM
I love the way she's marked, she's going to be gorgeous when she's grown. That skeptical look on a feral's face cracks me up - I love watching that wild eyed look slowly go away and be replaced with a trusting look and I'm sure your little girl will get there at the rate you're going.

Apr. 8, 2012, 01:28 AM
We have a barn cat the rescue we got him from named Will Feral. This was back around Thanksgiving. He would not adapt to being indoors or let people pet him, though his sister they trapped at the same time immediately loved people.

We kept him in a metal wire crate until he and our other cat started sleeping against each other regularly, and we'd catch them nuzzling. When we first got him he hissed any time we got near and any time she got near also because he was scared and going to fight himself safe. He still hisses and backs the dogs off! I think it was 3-4 weeks before we let him out, and he stuck around for the food and company of our other cat. We had him in the feed room (and kept the kennel in there with the door open any time he chooses to use it) and at first even with barn doors open he just wouldn't leave that room. Now he explored but comes running back to see us any time he hears us, and is often waiting by the front door for me when I get home from work.

He probably took about a week to get up the nerve to leave the barn, but in those two weeks followed me and kept an eye on me, slightly suspiciously, but like he wanted to be near me. Once he started leaving the barn, he almost immediately started running over to meet me when I went out in the morning, but stopping a couple feet away. I thought he seemed like he wanted to touch me, but was just scared. He would purr and purr though as he walked in circles around me. As others have said, it was all about the food I was giving him! I started giving him treats by putting them down in front of him and backing away. He learned they were so good he decided it was worth taking them out of my hand. He also started letting me pet him while he was eating, but no other time. One day about mid-February when I went out in the morning he ran up and started brushing against my legs. I put my hand down and he went back and forth under it, loving the feel of being petted. Now he lets me pet him, but pretty much always by me putting my hand down and he moves around me. He follows me all over, goes and sits by the arena to watch me ride, etc. He lets my mom pet him some, too, but he's definitely my cat. That's ok since our other cat is definitely Mom's cat!

It's almost like this cat has had enough experience to know there are many bad things out there in the world and has chosen to trust me as the safe place for food and good care. We have a few other cats who show up in our barn at times he doesn't like as much, but he and the next door neighbors' cat of nearly identical color enjoy going off on adventures together. Our other cat is part siamese, and really bonded with my mom like they do - she won't leave our property because that's too far from Mom.
Will, right about when he started letting me pet him, doing his normal watch me and see what I was up to stare:

Apr. 8, 2012, 02:44 AM
IMO she's too old to socialize well if she's really 4-5 months - you might be able to get her to stay around, but I doubt she'll ever be really tame....

Mine was at least two-three years old and it took two years, but she did go from drawing blood whenever you tried to touch to snuggling and purring.

Christa P
Apr. 8, 2012, 10:27 AM
I have one that decided to move with me in December by hopping on the trailer with the last load of stuff. He had been hanging around for ~2 years being fed on the porch and gotten to the point we could get within maybe 5'.

Once I knew he was in the trailer I managed to trap him. Within a couple of days he had been to the spay/neuter clinic and was living in a large crate in my dining room where he could see and interact with my 4 house cats.

After a few days he slipped out of the crate and moved to the basement, mostly in the ceiling for the next 2 months (He had food, water, and litter boxes down there). I would regularly go down and make sure he was ok, but generally ignored him.

After 2 months he started sticking his nose upstairs and quickly figured out that if he was around he would get some canned food twice a day with the other cats.

He has been slowly getting calmer and less afraid and in the last few days he has let me pet him, and acts like he enjoys it, when I give him the canned food. I still can't pet him other times, but I think that will happen soon.


PS here is a picture from before the move:


Apr. 8, 2012, 11:59 AM
For those of you managing cats, feral or not, if you have a bit of extra money, considering having one of those around for cats to lounge in and in a pinch, a new cat or injured one, they can live in there for a while, with a litter pan on the bottom.
Cat breeders use those, some have caster wheels so you can roll them from one place to another.
They come in different styles and sizes:


Apr. 8, 2012, 01:17 PM
Bluey - those are absolutely the best cat habitats and I have one for my oldest cat. She will not share with my newest one though. She shares all other things, but not her pen. For the time being, he has a smaller one that's only half the height of her's but I'm going to get another one that size soon.

Apr. 8, 2012, 04:50 PM
Great thread. Im new to kitties. Have had dogs and horses for years. Last fall, I started noticing a small black cat hanging around in our barn. She was VERY skittish and would run the moment she saw us. I started putting catfood in the hay stack and would occsionally see her up there. What I DID notice right away,is that our rodent population went away. Literally overnight those critters were gone!

I still see squirrels occasionally. And while they are cute, they can carry the plague up here so not a good thing to have around.

A friend down the road found a litter in an abandoned barn so we took two more. Those cats were more socialized than our black kitty so that helped her relax some.

We started moving the food into the tack room and one by one, we caught them, got them spayed/neutered and got shots. However that experience clearly set them back a lot in their socialization. The original black kitty was about a week pregnant when we took her in. So we caught it just in time.

We now need to take them all in for their follow up shots. (once a month for three months) Im concerned about catching them again. I dont think its going to be so easy to catch them in the tack room again - they are smart and learned from that last experience. How do you trap them? Other ideas?
We love these cats. They all have different personalities and its a lot of fun to have them around.

Fairview Horse Center
Apr. 8, 2012, 05:46 PM
I have quite a few ferrals that are totally mushy pets now. The most recent was an almost 2 year old male - totally wild.

We humane trapped him, and put him in a large dog crate in my living room with a round cat hidey hole inside. I would "reach" in several times per day to pet him with a human back washing shower brush. He quickly decided he liked it.

After about a week of this, I was able to first touch with the brush, and once he was getting into it, gently switch for my unprotected hand.

Within a few weeks, I removed the hidey hole, and continued the brush - hand petting.

After about a month, I was able to pick him up and pet him on my lap. I began to release him at night into a single room, feeding him in the AM in the crate to lock him back up for the day. After 2 months, I had him fixed.

At about 3 1/2 months, I have been able to let him peek out the door and then go outside. He comes back at meal time, and sometimes I hear him talking outside asking to come in.

He is a total mush, but still timid at new sights and sounds. I have trouble catching/petting him outside, but he readily comes in an open door, and then it is back to sprawled out across the floor letting family and my lab step over him. :winkgrin:

It is now almost 4 months since trapping, and he was definitely a mature male. I actually think I have his littermate that we trapped at 2 months old. They are twins, and both really cuddle bums.

This is the kind of brush I have and it fits nicely thru the wire crate. http://www.ebay.com/itm/New-14-Long-Bath-Sole-Shower-Brush-Massager-Pet-Baby-Body-Wash-Beauty-Body-Comb-/260998108714?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3cc4b3162a

Apr. 9, 2012, 02:15 PM
When we took in ferals from the pound, we never tried socializing them. It was just the way it was. They were spayed and given their 3 year rabies vaccinations.

Eventually they left, either skipped town or were eaten, which makes me sad, but such is life with an outdoor cat. The way I see it is that the life they had here was a thousand times better than living crammed in a cage in the shelter.

Apr. 9, 2012, 04:31 PM
I got a litter of three feral cats from NOAH in Stanwood. I locked them in my tack room for a couple of weeks and then they escaped. They lived in a bunch of logs that we had stacked by the barn. I trapped the female because she got a really bad upper respitory infection......she is now a super sweet indoor kitty :D I lost one and the other one is now so friendly that I have to basically carry him when I am outside. He will even come in the house on occasion but he is so wild that it makes him nervous. It took me three months of sitting on the logs everyday for hours. I would just inch closer and closer.

It sounds like you have a good plan. You should be able to touch her in no time!! THANK YOU for taking in a feral kitty :yes: Having had many of them I know how they can turn into a friendly useful barn kitty pretty easily!

Apr. 9, 2012, 04:47 PM
Quick update. Last night she almost touched me on her own, through the wire. In fact, I think she would have actually touched her nose to my hand if my ring hadn't hit the metal wire and made a clang. But she came back within an inch or two very quickly. Shortly before that she was on her backrolling and playing with a toy while I was talking and watching from right up against the cage. All feels like a whole lot of progress. Of course this morning she hissed at me again, so it's not all sunshine and roses...

Apr. 30, 2012, 02:21 AM
Thought it was worth coming back to update this thread, in hopes that someone else will take a chance on a feral cat.

Polly has been here 4 weeks. About 10 days in she'd discovered the joys of being pet. Another 10 days and she would beg for attention any time I came into the barn. About day 21 much puking and diarrhea commenced and I took her to the vet. Commence full feral cat behavior at the vet with no actual hands on her by anyone smarter than me. BUT, my small animal vet is fab and we talked it through and decided food allergy to a super high quality dry food I'd just introduced was the culprit. By the 27th she was feeling better and we moved her crate in preparation for letting her out. About 20 minutes later I accidentally let her out. :(

Two days after that? She's still here, she's only ventured about 50 feet from the barn, she's tormenting George by attacking his tail, she let me pet her this afternoon, and while obviously not fully socialized she seems skittish rather than fully fearful. I think she's a keeper and I have high hopes that she's going to hang around.

Apr. 30, 2012, 08:04 AM
:D yeah for the kitty and you.

Apr. 30, 2012, 09:10 AM
Yes....she sounds like a keeper!

Carol Ames
Oct. 27, 2012, 03:22 AM
our dear Tall Oakshad success with feral cats;

I have had some and 2 friends have done a a lot of socialization of ferals; I used a Tellington Touch wand, a long stiff white whip[ with
the set "TTOUCH of magic for cats will give you a basic understanding of the work; Use the stick of whatever sort to touch them while eating; I usually start with the chin and neck area usually just a touch or two and they come wanting more; I had a pair of very thick "rough out work gloves which I wore as protection from bites which, did not happen.you should be able to stroke as well as do Tellington Touch circles on her back, combined with long strokes, gentle tail traction; also work her ears inside and out; they really like that;) when you are able to get her on / in your lap or on a solid surface; w et your fingers in some tepid water then work on her head and ears; then take your wet fingers and work around her mouth; little circles with your finger tips; at some point you will be able to easily and gently be able to get a finger tip under under her upper lip onto her gum; be certain your fingers are wet;so they slide/ glide easily:yes: on the gums work your way around to the front of her mouth and do the upper lip;
Then put her down;) with some kind word I use cooing Linda calls it "toning" of course; Mouthwork is VERY powerful and can make major changes so, sit back and watch.:cool:

Oct. 28, 2012, 12:58 AM
A dressage whip works wonders! I was using mine to play/pet the front yard ferals. Began by petting them with it while they ate and inched my way closer! I can now hold one of them and the others are starting to come around to the idea of being handled. I've learned that having one feral on my side has definitely given the others a little more trust in me. Good luck!

Oct. 28, 2012, 01:12 AM
FWIW, this thread is 6 months old. My feral, Polly, is now the least feral feral cat I know. :)

She loves scratches and belly rubs and me, even if she doesn't let other people within 10 feet. She's turned out to be a great barn cat - more than keeping up her end of the bargain when it comes to rodent patrol.

No dressage whip required. Just patience, good intentions, and canned food on a strict schedule.