Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Feral cat taming

This post is a continuation of my last post about how we took in Benjamin the feral cat to get shots and fixed.  Benji is an all black cat except for a small tuff of white on his chest.  He has big golden yellow eyes.  His eyes don't turn out well in my photos as the pupil turns yellow in photos.  He's prettier in real life. 

Benji didn't do very well his first night and the whole process was more complicated than I expected.

After Benji awoke on his first day inside he wasn't shaking or stiff or breathing quickly anymore.  Or foaming from the mouth, thank goodness!

At first he wouldn't look at me, he kept his eyes down.  I think he was being submissive, or maybe scared.  If he doesn't look at the monster person, then maybe the monster person doesn't really exist?  I gave him lots and lots of pets and sweet talk, and brushed him with my soft hairbrush, and gave him lots of canned cat food, and then more pets.  Eventually he started purring and looking up at me.  He likes his bed, and when he's scared he lays down and looks down, refusing to look at me.  He happily accepts pets, even rolls upside down when he's feeling brave and lets me pet his stomach. 

That first day he didn't use the litterbox at all.  I was a little concerned when by 3pm he still didn't go to the bathroom.  We had caught him the morning before, now the next day, and no bathroom break?  I put him in the litterbox multiple times.  Each time he walked out and laid back on his bed, eyes down.  I scratched in his litterbox myself.  I put him back in the box and told him how good he was.  Nothing.  Finally I got a scoop of used litter from my other cat box and put that in Benji's box and didn't cover it.  Then I put him in the box.  He immediately smelled the other cat's poop and went to the bathroom himself.  I guess he didn't want to soil the clean litterbox?

He certainly doesn't eat much, he's all bones.  He eats only enough to survive, even though now he always has a full bowl of dry cat food available.  Our housecat Jack is very friendly and begs to go visit Benji, so we let him.  Benji immediately loved Jack.  Jack likes to eat Benji's food and drink his water, which encourages Benji to eat and drink.  If Jack eats, Benji wants to eat, too.  Jack is Benji's only feline friend right now.

Benji spent his first week indoors on his bed.  He refused to really go anywhere else.  He would walk around the bathroom if I encouraged him, but if anyone else came in he'd run back to his bed.  His bed is his safety net.  I encouraged him to leave the bathroom and go into the kitchen, which is the room beside the bathroom, but he refused for many days.  He needs constant praise.  He will do anything for me for praise and pets.  He'd rather be pet and loved than eat, even.

Finally, when Benji was ready, with a lot of praise, he walked into the kitchen.  Jack encouraged Benji to enter the kitchen.  Whenever Benji got scared he'd run back to his bed and lay down and look down.  If loud noises occurred, such as from the the TV in the kitchen, or if the dishwasher was going, he'd for sure be laying on his bed, looking down.  From then on he sometimes walked around the kitchen.

Once, during an episode of bravery, Benji started looking as if he may jump on the kitchen counters.  I do not allow cats on the kitchen counters.  My cats would never jump up, they know better, they would be yelled at by me.  Benji started looking up, nodding his head, anticipating the jump.  I said NO very loudly several times.  He had no idea what NO meant.  He was never told no before, so he ignored me and jumped up on the counter!  Before I thought, I hollered loudly, saying BAD, and Benji looked at me like I was a monster, and he flew off the counter and into the bathroom and onto his bed, which he didn't leave for 2 days.  He was so upset at me yelling at him.  I felt so bad for yelling, I really set him back.  He wouldn't lift his eyes to me for a day after that.  I praised him and pet him and brushed him, but it didn't matter, he was terrified of me again.  All he wants to do is please me.  I'm assuming this behavior is normal for a feral cat.  They just want to please people.  If I make sudden movements around him he jumps, thinking I may hit him.  Poor cat.  I wonder if anyone ever hit him? 

I showed Benji the window seat in the kitchen.  There's a cat window seat so the cats can look outside into the woods.  Benji is afraid of looking outside and will not look out.  Whenever I carry him to the window seat and put him down he runs back to his bed.  I don't know why he's afraid.  He's not shy anymore if I enter the bathroom.  He meows and walks around and rubs against my legs.  He seems to be afraid to do anything that doesn't please me.

Benji has a few toys on his bed which he loves.  He plays with them and sleeps with his paws holding them often.  Today I introduced him to a toy banana which had catnip.  He loved it and loved rolling around kicking it.  Then later Jack came into the bathroom, found the catnip smell everywhere, and immediately got a catnip high.  Jack rolled around on Benji's bed, then attacked Benji playfully.  Benji attacked him back and they rolled together playing, having fun.  But then Jack screamed and jumped up and ran away playfully, and Benji looked at me, terrified, and laid down on his bed and averted his eyes from me as if he did something bad.  I pet Benji and attempted to show him it was ok, as Jack was just being goofy and playing, but Benji was terrified that I was mad at him.  I put him in my lap and pet him until he purred, and Jack returned to see why Benji didn't chase him, as he was attempting to get a game of chase going on.  Poor Benji hasn't left his bed since.

I'm guessing it takes time to get a true feral cat to act like a normal housecat?  These wild cats have issues.  It's sad to think that someone may have been mean to this cat, he's such a good boy and would never do anything to displease a human.  Although I've asked around, I have not found anyone who wants a cat, so dear Benjamin is going to be let loose outside again soon, as I don't want anymore cats inside my house.  He's been in captivity now for 2 weeks.  He will probably be happy to be free, and I hope he remains somewhat friendly.


Carolyn Renee said...

Whew! Thanks for the Benji update. We've taken in two feral cats (black) and both have taken very well to house life but still LOVE to go outside (when I let them). Then there's the current feral cat (black again, imagine that....what is it with black cats???) and he's really, really shy. Been working on him for over two months and he still wont come closer than 5' to me and that's with me calling him for food or milk.
Good luck with Benji, he seems such a sweetie :)

Farm Girl said...

So glad he is doing better. You know what I have found with feral cats is they just have issues and will always be broken. I have the largest cat you have ever seen but you wouldn't as he has lived under my bed for six years. He comes out when it is just family but he is so neurotic. When I am outside I come in and every cabinet door in the house is open.
So it may be the same way, I think what ever happened that they can't tell you about is just apart of the personality. I feel so sorry for him. I am glad you have given him such a good home. He is a beautiful kitty. Maybe with time he will be normal. I only have one cat that wasn't feral. Now that I am thinking about it. They all act okay now but it was hard going in the beginning. They all still have some kind of issue which makes them unique. :)

Mary Ann said...

He's a beautiful cat, and it was good of you to take him in and have him vetted!

Shim Farm said...

My 2 cents' worth: Keep trying. I have no doubts you will win him over. It does take a long time, but it sounds like you have a nice cat on your hands. I hope he can stay inside, but I understand you have other indoor cats. Good luck with him.

Patrice said...

We've only had feral cats who were kittens, as house cats. I guess it's much easier when they're younger. We spay and neuter all feral cats who make their way to our farm. They are then welcome to live in our barns, and they usually do. You cat is beautiful and has such a sweet face.

Chai Chai said...

I am happy that he survived the foaming incident. Any idea why the foaming occurred?

Anonymous said...

Poor kitty. So glad he has you!