FERAL KITTEN SEEMS UNHAPPY ALWAYS BEING "INSIDE"

by Donna Greiner
(Riverside NJ )

This is a question involving the "mental health" (this is possible?) Of my feral kitten that I brought into my home 3 months ago today. I rescued 2 kittens in October. Smores seems happy, is loving toward me, seeks out my attention, sleeps with me, etc. SMITTEE, however, does not behave in this manner, but will stay nearby, for example, sleeping in the closet in my room, or in the hallway outside my room. She only allows me to pet her when I place her food down. Sometimes she meows very loudly at night, and seems anxious.....I try to make sure she is safe, has food, I talk to her softly, etc.

In trying to save her from the oncoming weather, feed her, love her, is it possible bringing her inside has harmed her natural instinct in some way?? Her daddy is now hanging around the house constantly and yowls loudly at night....So if I can hear him, I know she can. Their mother is also around the house all day. I just yesterday saw a NEW adult cat outside, sex unknown, and "Daddycat" chased him away. I have a real problem growing here. I was afraid for the lives of my wonderful kittens, and still am worried what would happen if I give in to SMITTEE' s seeming unhappiness and maladjustment at being "inside". I saw the animal control van outside my home last night, and am very upset at the irresponsible owners who let this happen to these beautiful animals. Daddycat is very friendly and social like Snores. Both of my kittens are females. I know my neighbor is growing impatient, doesn't realize this happened to these animals through NO fault of their own. What can I do, I'm very upset at this situation. I know what will happen if that animal control catches the cats. Sorry, it seems I have 2 questions here.

I am stressing over this issue very much. This is my second question tonite....have been unable to sleep due to my worry for 2 cats outside my home, and who roam my neighborhood. Mommycat, as I call her, and Daddycat, as I call him, are the parents of the 2 feral kittens I took inside my home 3 months ago. Mommycat had her kittens I am assuming in my shed in early summer. I had never seen her before that, probably because my beloved pit bull Bubbles was alive and roaming in the yard. (Fenced) I had seen Daddycat, and was aware he belonged to a family on the street behind me.

My neighbor across the street told me she became aware that Daddycats owners had become irresponsible and were neglecting him. She started feeding him treats, some food, and letting him in sometimes. (She already has a cat, I think). This was at least a year ago now. Daddycats situation has changed, he seems to be meowing and staying close to my home more and more. He can go into my shed, and I reinforced what was Bubbles dog house with a heavy nylon tarp outside, blankets inside, etc. I would gladly let him inside but am fearful for the reactions, interactions with the kittens. (They are now 7 months approx) When the kittens lived outside still, I saw them approach him playfully, and he was not accepting them very well, but it was a hot day.

Mommycat I don't think was ever a pet, and if so, couldn't have been long. I've been feeding her every day since July and she's just now warming up. I stand with the back door open and put her food on the floor. I think her poor little feet were so cold with the bitter cold, she finally came in and ate her food, and then went back outside. She hasn't hissed at me for awhile now, and I keep my distance in the dining room until she is done eating. This is so sad. She hides under an old car on my driveway...has the shed, and doghouse. Can I ever integrate these cats? I did this feeding while the kittens were sleeping in the afternoon. I leave the door propped open while she eats or she would never come in. Daddycat is a BIG cat, and I worry for the kittens. I have not yet been able to spay them, I was lucky to "catch" one for her shots and worming. The other is a challenge, but I have devised a way utilizing toys instead of food, she won't fall for that...she's so smart for such a little one!

What hope is there for these homeless cats...springtime?? We only have one professed no kill shelter in my area, and they can't promise it won't happen. I'm aware of the TNR programs, but must trap, and I'm honestly intimidated by Mommycats wildness.

Suggestions??? May I please add that I am disabled and only have partial use of my left arm.

RESPONSE:
Firstly, I commend you for caring about these poor critters (the parents) and also for rescuing the kittens. Secondly, I’ll try to point out a few factors that come into play such as whether they are ferals or strays.

“Feral” typically refers to a cat that hasn’t had human contact while “stray” refers to a lost or abandoned domestic cat. The kittens of stray cats can be considered feral if they are born in the wild without the benefit of human contact. So it sounds to me (by what you’ve described) that the mother is feral and the father is a stray who has been on his own a while and has developed some feral traits as he tries to survive. The kittens are ferals that are slowly adjusting, one faster than the other.

Self-defense behaviors such as hissing and growling can change over time as the animal starts to trust humans that feed them but it’s a long process with ferals and a shorter process with strays that already know human contact. Hence the wildness you see with Mommycat and the lesser display of wildness with Daddycat. It would be a wonderful world if we could save all of them but it’s not realistic.

You have saved the kittens and you have your hands full with the still feral-like SMITTEE while SMORES is becoming domesticated nicely. Stand your ground and don’t let SMITTEE outside again. Yes, she will have behavioral issues for a while and it could be months more…but eventually the care and love shown to her will win out. SMITTEE perhaps had a bad experience where a human yelled at her or hit her to make her go away and is still extremely wary. Perhaps you can get a friend to help you capture her so she can also have her shots and deworming. It is also time for both of them to be spayed.

Our feral kitten, Chanel, took 3 months segregated away from the other cats to become partly domesticated but she did escape one time for a couple of days and although she came back inside when I left the door open all day, I do believe that they never forget the outdoors. They seem to forget the hunger and dangers but there is some remnant of a memory that still seems to entice them periodically. Chanel is now 5 years old and very loving but I’m careful coming in and out of the house that the door isn’t ajar because I never trust that the impulse to escape is fully gone.

As for Daddycat…he is probably salvageable but he would have to be neutered before you could risk bringing him inside. Abandoned by uncaring people he has survived and could probably be fairly easy to get back into an indoor routine. Our cat Max was an abandoned cat that we brought in as a stray but he was already neutered and settled into indoor life quickly. He was around 3 years old at that time and wasn’t happy unless he was let outside in the morning for half an hour. He would return promptly afraid that he didn’t still have a home. He’s now 13 and his morning visit outdoors is down to 5-10 minutes. Daddycat may opt for a similar schedule if you opt to take him in.

With time and a lot of patience you might even get Mommycat somewhat tamed but unfortunately by then she’ll probably have another litter unless something changes pretty quickly.

I make an auto-donation monthly to an organization called Alley Cat Allies that I truly believe do good work in your type of situations. They specialize in TNR (but are not limited to it) and have involvement in numerous communities across the nation. They are based in Bethesda, MD. Go to their website, http://www.alleycat.org and on the top of the page click on “Get Help”. They may have a volunteer in your area that can help. On the help page there are links to their email assistance and they also have information on local resources such as discounted spay/neuter. They specialize in your type of dilemma. I hope that you contact them...and please let me know your results. I will be hoping for a successful outcome. It sounds like you have a lot of love to give these kittens and parents.


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