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Introducing Semi-feral Cat into existing cat household

Posted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 7:41 pm
by Fourcats

I would appreciate any advice regarding the following problem I have, please:

About three months ago I spotted a small, scruffy tabby cat in my garden. I assumed she was a stray so put food down for her with a view to trying to catch her and take her to the vet to see if she was microchipped. She wouldn't let me approach, hissing and spiting at me and so I wondered if she was feral. Anyway, after making enquiries I discovered that she belongs to a neighbour a few doors from me. He told me that he bought her as a small kitten from someone who assure him that, although she was in a cage at the time and not friendly, understandably, she would settle. She didn't, unfortunately, and managed to escape from his home a couple of weeks after he got her and has been living outside ever since ( she's just over a year old) . He did manage to trap her and take her to the vet to be neutered a few months back but, as the vet informed him she was feral, he just let her out again as soon as he got home.

He has been putting dried food out for her but he goes away a lot, so he has just been leaving a big pile of food out in the hope that would be enough but, of course, the local cat population soon got wind of the free-for-all, hence her poor state when I saw her. As she has set up home in my garden, he asked if I would continue feeding her, which I have been doing.

Over the time I have been feeding her, I have managed to befriend her to the point where she will sit on my lap and allow me to stroke her - until she's had enough, then I get rewarded with a bite or a swipe :) I have also managed to persuade her to come into my hallway to eat due to the flies and wasps that would go on her food if I left it out in the hot weather we've had and she comes in readily now. As her confidence has grown, so has her desire to explore and, whilst I've managed to keep her in the hall most of the time, occasionally she has got past me into my home. This is where my problem comes in as I have three black rescue cats of my own who are all terrified of her! They are related females, two sisters and the adult kitten belonging to one of the sisters, The girls are 8 years old and the "kitten" is 6 but still very much acts the baby as she's never left mum! My mother cat is finding the presence of another cat on her "patch" particularly stressful I think, as she is normally the dominant one of the group but has taken to hiding in the wardrobe to sleep recently. She is also a lot more grumpy towards her sister and her kitten than she normally is. I've been using a Feliway diffuser to see if that would help but it doesn't appear to have done a great deal so far.

The tabby cat's owner has pretty much given up on her, as he thinks it would be a good idea to rehome her. I can see his point but he thinks it would be best to take her back where he got her from and I really don't like the sound of that. I don't think she will ever be a domestic lap cat but why should she be! I do think that she would become a bit more tame with patience and kindness and feel she deserves a loving home where she will at least have warmth and shelter for the winter but my problem is that I can't see how I can keep her when my own cats are so frightened of her. They don't go outside very much but on the odd times they have interacted in the garden, Bubbles ( the tabby) has stared at them and they just turned tail and fled! Even when Bubbles got into the lounge the other night it was she who was the aggressive one, even though she was in an unfamiliar place. She is a very feisty little soul but then, living rough since a small kitten, on her own, I imagine she has had to be feisty to survive.

I have tried contacting local rehoming centres myself but they are all overflowing with cats at the moment and, as one lady said to me, they have enough trouble finding homes for the more biddable cats, so don't hold out a lot of hope for rehoming Bubbles.

I do apologise for the length of this post but if anyone has any suggestions of ways I can try and get my girls to adjust to accepting Bubbles, or any suggestions for a possible rehoming, I would be very grateful.

Thank you.

Re: Introducing Semi-feral Cat into existing cat household

Posted: Tue Aug 21, 2018 2:57 pm
by Ruth B
I will admit that I have never had a true feral myself but I have been watching a group in Canada that have been very successful in rehoming feral cats into homes rather than just returning them to the forest they came from. I once thought that once a cat was deemed a feral it would always be a feral, and while some will always prefer the outdoor life some do adjust to being house cats very well. You might want to have look at Tinykittens Facebook page and some of the stories they have for having rehomed feral cats (, it might help show what is possible.

Going on to your own situation I would treat it the same as any new cat introduction. Can you make a shelter box for her outside and line it with a cloth that you can then bring into the house for your own cats to sniff and get used to her scent being around the house. If there is anything yours sleep on that you could put out in the garden or exchange it in her shelter box it will help her accept their scents and understand that they are allowed in the area. If she will allow you to groom her then using the same brush on her and your own will again help spread the scents between them.

You say she will come into the hall for food, could you start putting food down for your own in the hall as well so they get used to eating together.

At the moment both your own cats and the stray are thinking that there are intruders coming into their territory and it is there duty to protect it and everyone with in it. Once they get used to the idea that there is plenty of food, sleeping areas and attention for everyone they will all probably settle down and accept each other. There might be a good bit of hissing while they sort out pecking order but as long as it isn't looking like it is going to turn to physical aggression then it' best to leave them to it.

As you say she has probably had to learn to fight for what she want, to get food and a safe place to sleep, so it will take a while for her to accept that there is now plenty to go around.

Re: Introducing Semi-feral Cat into existing cat household

Posted: Tue Aug 21, 2018 8:28 pm
by Fourcats
Thank you very much for your reply and helpful suggestions, Ruth. Thank you for the link too, what heart-warming stories :)

Although Bubble's owner said she was fine living outside last winter and found her own shelter, that didn't sound very satisfactory to me and so I've got her a wooden shelter with a porch arrangement and leave dried food in there for her where it's protected from the rain. Mind you, I'm quite sure she would be grateful for a proper home and I would be happy to give that to her if I can overcome my own cats antipathy towards her.

I have tried your suggestion of swapping sleeping blankets but my cats resolutely refuse to go anywhere near the blanket that smells of Bubbles. My mother cat and her kitten also refuses to sit on my lap if they smell Bubbles' scent on my clothes. Interestingly, my other cat is more accepting and will tolerate the scent to some degree, although I notice she has become more "clingy" wanting my attention more than she used to.

Anyway, I will persevere and hopefully in time will crack it and everyone will get on!

Thank you again for your help.

Re: Introducing Semi-feral Cat into existing cat household

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2018 7:34 pm
by Jacks
I've never introduced a new cat to the household (if I wanted to adopt them, that is) without starting them out in a bonding room. The advantage of this is that the little one can get used to being in close proximity to you and you can use scent swapping, etc. to let the members of the household familiarise themselves safely (and vice versa).

We recently took in a semi-feral boy who I'd got the point of trapping after we'd fed him outside for nearly two months. He spent a month in rescue being neutered and vaccinated and didn't come out of his 'house' for anyone during that time. I visited him nearly every day and put my hand in slowly to stroke him and fed him treats. To start with he hissed and shook like a leaf when I touched him, but over time only hissed on first contact. After 10 days at home in a little room with all facilities, he came out of his house and sat near to me. I started rubbing him with my head, like another animal - and he purred and rubbed back. Over the next 5 months we bonded really closely but the others were not ready to deal with him, so we had a chicken-wire type grill fitted in the bottom of his door, so he could see and smell the others and they him. The door was a 'dumped' door which fitted our room and a kind neighbour did the carpentry. After 3 weeks of this we opened the door. He was very shy at first, but he's actually dealt with other cats better than he has humans - and it wasn't much of a shock for them to have him actually around. Things are getting better all the time. I thought I was going have to do TNR but he was so gentle I decided to take the chance to tame him - and I'm so glad I did. He goes back in his room at night at the moment, but he doesn't feel entirely separated as he can still see and 'talk' to us.

There is lots of advice on the forum about bonding and hierarchies and it's really good advice - but at the end of the day cats are a little like people - they have different characters and make different relationships within groups - you have to work with what you've got. It sounds like there are serious dominance issues and this might mediate against success for you. I've incorporated an aggressive alpha male (who loved me and all people but felt it his duty to hunt and kill other cats) but I spent a year only bringing him downstairs on a harness in the evenings so that I could change the dynamics between the cats as he learned to live in a home. It worked, but it was hard work and needed a lot of patience. Only you can decide what you can do and what your girls can tolerate, and if you find that your girls cannot accept this newbie then it might be a good idea to put her on a waiting list for a rescue - so that someone else can give her the love she needs. If Bubbles will sit on your lap she sounds like she would take to a home eventually if she was shown patience and care. x