Thursday, December 1, 2011

Socializing Feral Cats

All  feral cats can be socialized, however you must respect them and not push them to be tame.   If you have the time and patience to work with the feral cat, to allow them to trust you, then in time the feral cat will choose you and will want to live with you.  

I have socialized 6 feral kittens and 9 adult feral cats. All of cats were trapped and crate trained.  To this day they all sleep in their crates at night with the door open. The crate is their safe area. 

I trap feral cats Monday through Friday and take cats immediately to my veterinarians.  The cats are tested for feline leukemia; they received all of their vaccines, wormed and are treated with dosage of revolution for fleas, ticks and mites.  Then they were spayed or neutered.  

When the feral cats receive their wellness checkup they are returned to me to be socialized.  I socialize all feral cats in a safe area which is either a small room with no furniture or a large cat crate.  

The room that I use to socialize all new cats is located by my laundry room. There are four bare walls, window, cement floors, metal desk, desk chair and a lazy boy chair with cover in the corner.  

This room will be set up for the socialization of a new cat.  In one corner I will set up a large cat crate.  The crate will house a covered bed where the cat can hide in, covered box with natural litter; pine or cedar, food and water bowls and a scratching post that is sprayed with catnip. 

The room will also have a cat tree by the window or on the other side of the room and some bouncy cat toys and plastic balls with bells inside. 

To comfort the feral cat and to provide a cozy safe room I will drape a fleece blanket over the crate so that the back, top and two sides are covered the front with the door will be covered half way the door that is open will not be covered.  

Before the feral cat enters the room I will spray the cats bed, fleece blanket, the rooms walls, floor, my desk and chair with Feliway behavior modifier, I will also treat 1 cup of water with 4 drops of rescue remedy for pets.  These two products will aid in calming the adult feral cat during this stressful time.  

When the feral cat is discharged from the veterinarian’s office, the cat will be transported in the trap.  The trap will be covered with a blanket on the way home.  The cat will be taken to the safe room and I will set the trap close to the entrance of the crate.  With gloved hands open the trap slowly. 

The feral cat will do one of two things; charge out of the trap like a bolt of lightning and run into the crate to hide in the covered litter box, or they will charge out and climb the walls, screaming, hissing and snarling.  They will continue to climb the walls until they are exhausted and then they will look for a place to hide.  The crate with the fleece blanket is dark inside and they will run into the crate.  

Once the feral cat is hiding I will allow them to rest.  In my experience, when it comes to socializing adult feral cats age 8 months and older it is best to let them be for 7 hours.  I will clear my desk by locking everything in the drawers; I then will set the ceiling light at dim and close the door behind me. 

 I usually check on the feral cat in 3 hours to make sure they are okay.  In my experience the cat will not eat or drink from their bowls.  They are always hiding, either behind the bed or in their covered litter box.  

Expect the cats to mark the room as well as their bed and the fleece blanket.  This is okay; they will mark everything that you give to them for the next 30 days.

The following day enter the room slowly with a large piece of cardboard by your feet.  This will prevent the cat from trying to dart past you.  Once inside the room set the cardboard to the side, otherwise it will scare the cat.  

Move slowly around the cat.  Fast movement will scare the cat and they will react by tying to protect themselves; bite or scratch.  Chances are the cat will be nowhere in sight when you enter the room. 

Slowly pull back the fleece blanket to check the food and water bowls.  With gloved hands carefully fill the bowls with fresh water that is treated with rescue remedy and cat food.  

While you are close to the crate you will hear the cat spitting, hissing and snarling from the litter box, but it is rare for the cat to confront you.  If the cat is hiding behind the bed, they may feel you are too close and may lunge at you, and show you their claws.  It is their way of protecting themselves they think of you as a predator.

Generally as long as you move slowly and not attempt to handle them you should be okay.  If food drops to the crate floor, leave it.  Trying to pick it up may startle the cat.  

Once the crate is stocked for the day you would treat the room by removing outlet security covering and plug in a feliway comfort zone diffuser.  Do not spray the room because it will frighten the feral cat.

Plan to spend a several hours with the adult feral cat.  Move your chair so that the back of the chair faces a wall.  Do not sit with your back to the cat.  Sit in the chair and read a book.  

Plan to read a book while you are visiting the feral cat on the first day.  The room needs to be peaceful with only sounds of nature coming from a nature CD. Leave your phone outside if it should ring or even vibrate it will be bothersome to the feral cat. Plan to read a book, take a break for lunch and go back and read more of your book.  

While you are in the room the cat will not leave their hiding place.  They are getting to know you by scent and movement.  Continue to move slowly.  Generally a feral cat will feel defensive when the predator makes eye contact with them. 

On the first few days lower your eyes to the cat.  You will lower your eyes to show that you are not picking a fight with the feral cat.  It is best to not look at them directly or make full eye contact.

Image Credit: Bombay cats in crate image credit
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