To those who have made a domestic cat out of a stray or feral one, I need your help! I know you’re out there, and I need your advice on whether this is possible in our situation, and how to best make this cat a domestic cat (even if he won’t ever be super friendly).
Here’s the situation:
Sir Busby has been around the neighborhood as long as we can remember. A couple of months ago, we noticed he was very skinny and missing patches of hair, so we started feeding him.
It turns out the neighbor, who used to feed him, had moved away. My husband subsequently talked with her about Sir Busby, and apparently she had fed him for about 8 years, since he showed up in the neighborhood as a young cat. He would come and go from her house, hang out with the other cats, but he had limited human contact. She never adopted him as her own, though, or ever took him to a vet.
So we decided to try to adopt him, and after feeding him for about a month outside, we finally caught him in a live trap about 6 weeks ago. We took him to the vet, had him neutered and vaccinated, and fortunately he was negative for FIV and FeLV. Other than being skinny and having some parasites, he’s pretty healthy. We had him in a dog crate for a few days after the surgery, and now he has the whole daylight basement to himself, with lots of low and high areas to hide, sleep, and wash and nice big windows to look out of.
But after taking him in and reading up on the literature, we realized he’s more feral than stray – he keeps his distance from people, walks around low to the ground, tail down, doesn’t meow, and hisses if we get too close. He was always skittish outside, so we never got close enough to pet him (hence the live trap). After 6 weeks in our house, he still hides when we come in the room, although he’s come out briefly a couple of times while we’ve been hanging out. We set up a wifi camera with infrared, so we can see what he’s up to when we’re not in the room. At night he likes to walk around, sit in the windows, wash, and play with the catnip toy a bit. He seems content with the living quarters, just not with us.
So we’re wondering right now how successful we can be at making him a domestic cat. We know that he’s spent (limited) time with people in the past. But because of his age (estimated 9-10 years old) and the fact that he’s never really been a house cat, we’re not sure if this is possible. I’ve read that other Mefites have been successful with their stray & feral cats, so we want to know – what’s the best course of action? And when will we know whether this cat is not going to take to us or household life? We know this could take a really long time, which we’re fine with, but we would like to know what we can do to make things progress. Right now he seems comfortable, but we’re not sure how to take it to the next level. Do we leave the door open to the rest of the house, and let him explore it on his own? Or does he need to get really comfortable with us being in the room first?
Give me all your tips – we’ve gassed up his basement room with Feliway, and try to spend time with him every day in a calm manner, talking with him so he gets used to our voices. I’ve read this
post, I’ve read the tips from Alley Cat Allies, The Cat Site, theluckyfew, etc., but I’m looking for more advice or anecdotes. Or if you think this guy’s not workable, we need that advice too. Thanks.