Feral Cats – Can you make them into pets?
Written by Elena Barnard | Wednesday, July 20, 2011
The answer to that is a definite yes, I should know because I share my home with a lovely feral cat called Girlie.
It must have been around 2004 I noticed that one of my neighbours’ cats was coming to the front door crying. I had known the cat for many years and knew this cat to be around 20 years old. The cat was quite thin (not unheard of for such an elderly cat). Still, the cries told me that she was hungry. As I share my home with 5 cats, there was plenty of food so I started to feed her.
I live in a very rural area and, whilst this neighbour was not a cruel person, she was not the sort of person that would have readily taken the cat to the vet. I tried to introduce the subject of her cat saying that she was coming down to the house to be fed. I said that it could be a number of things such as worming (that drew a blank face!) or possibly a thyroid problem as starters. I knew that she would not readily do anything.
I was getting quite worried about her but, to cut a long story short, I wormed her and fed her Royal Canin Hair and Skin and she ended up living for a further year and was unrecognizable as she had such a lovely coat and started to fill out.
All the while I was feeding the cat, I noticed that I was having to put out 2 or 3 bowls of food a day yet I didn’t really see much of her after she was wormed. I went to the shed one day and, when I opened the door, I saw a very frightened face looking back at me. It was a fully grown cat. That was the first time I met Girlie. Clearly, I was now feeding her and not my neighbours’ cat!
I started feeding her inside the shed each evening but she was still extremely nervous. If she was in the back garden and I looked at her from the window, she would run off. She was totally wild!
As she was tortoiseshell I knew that she had to be female. As I believe so strongly in neutering cats I contacted my local Cats Protection Officer who immediately came down with a humane trap. I had previously warned my vets that I would be bringing down a fetal cat to be neutered (oh joy I heard them say).
Thankfully, she came into the trap the first night so I could ensure she had not eaten from midnight. She was extremely angry and frightened about being caught. She managed to get her claws through the bars and have my husband a nasty gash on his leg. She was not a happy cat.
The vets kept her in for a further day just to be sure before they operated. They called me to say she was ready to be picked up but they agreed with me that she should be kept in for a further day to make sure she had gotten over the operation. At this stage, I didn’t know whether she was going to hand around and I was also concerned about the stitches getting infected because of the shed. My husband Chris was convinced she would run away as soon as we got home but I knew better. I have shared my home with cats since the day I was born. I knew Girlie would stick around. She had a nice warm shed (we had put a heater in) and she was getting fed twice a day – she wasn’t silly. We also made sure the vet wormed her and have her inoculations. Whilst having her operation they checked her out and thought she was around 3 years old. I still wonder how many kittens she would have given birth to in those 3 years.
I put an advert in the paper but no one claimed her. I just wanted to be sure she wasn’t someone’s pet that had maybe gone wild.
When summer arrived I started to feed her outside to encourage her to get to know us. We started putting toys around the garden and we would often watch her playing on her own each evening. We could see she was quite a character.
As the summer progressed, when I put the food out, I would walk away but remain in the garden sitting say 20 yards away. I would then start to play with her toys and talk to her. As the days went by she became more interested in what I was doing. As this happened my walk away from her got shorter and shorter. It wasn’t long before I was able to sit right by the side of her whilst she ate.
I was given a good tip by an animal behaviorist that I should start stroking her but with a feather so it is very gentle and light but she gets used to it. I was able to purchase a large feather from a pet shop. I can’t have used it for more than a week when I was able to stroke her with my hand.
It must be seven years ago since Girlie came into our life and we now have one very happy and content cat. She is still feral and lets us know that from time to time. She loves our company and is quite a lap cat. Being feral for all those years she still treats each meal as though it will be her last. I suppose old habits die hard and she must have gone for long period without food. I think that will never leave her. She absolutely adores cake and will come up and take it out of your mouth if you will let her. Sometimes, you don’t have much choice. Her favourite thing is to sit in the garden and watch our tortoises, Dave and Vic. For some reason she is really captivated by them. Perhaps it is because she is tortoiseshell!
When people come to our house they can’t believe she was once feral. She knew what she was doing when she started living in our shed. She certainly knows a sucker when she sees one!
I would love to hear from anyone else that has given any feral cats a home.
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