A few months ago, I noticed a young gray cat hanging around the house. He (or she?) spent his days lounging on the porch or deck. Unlike a lot of other neighborhood cats, he didn’t flee at the sight of me. Sometimes I’d bring a book out to the porch and we’d chill together.
In December, Bryan and I started feeding him. We set up a routine: around 6 p.m., we’d put out a food bowl. Gray the Cat (as he came to be called) learned the routine pretty quickly. It was almost like having a pet cat. A pet cat that wouldn’t let you near him.
“Let’s trap him,” Bryan suggested.
So we delved into research: Is it possible to socialize a feral cat? There are a two wildly divergent schools of thought. One says no, it is not possible to socialize a feral cat. Not only is it not possible, it’s harmful to the cat, who is a wild animal with its own territory and community. The most humane practice is to trap, neuter and release the cat– not try to adopt it.
But the other side says it is possible to socialize a feral cat with time, patience and a specific set of practices. Multiple people report socializing multiple cats with great success.
It would have been easier to go to the shelter to adopt a cat. But Bryan is smitten with Gray the Cat, and I too am susceptible to his charms. So on Wednesday, when Gray the Cat sauntered in the house expecting his dinner, I closed the door behind him.
Gray the Cat went batshit, jumping from window to (closed) window. Then he settled himself by the door and glared at me. I left to buy food and cat litter. When I returned, he was ensconced in a lair under the couch. For the first 24 hours, that is where he remained. He didn’t come out to eat or pee. (I’m pretty sure he peed under the couch, but you’re not supposed to disturb the lair.)
I trapped Gray on Wednesday. On Thursday night, when I was at flag practice, he emerged to eat and drink. This was a relief: Gray wasn’t on a hunger strike.
On Friday evening, he emerged from his lair while we were making pizza, but very briefly. That night, he shat in the kitchen and pissed on the couch. I’d read that feral cats don’t understand the concept of a litter box, and that it helps to mix dirt, leaves and some of their poop in with the litter so they understand, THIS IS WHERE YOUR CRAP GOES.
I did that and put the litter box on the couch pee-spot, and last night, he shat in the box like a good cat. Today, JUST NOW, he emerged from the lair and had a stroll around the house before retreating. This seems like a big step, because a lot of the cat socialization blogs report that it usually takes a couple weeks for them to feel safe enough to do that.
So, that’s where we stand on the Feral Cat Socialization Experiment. More updates forthcoming.
Lazy Lady says
I am looking forward to more updates on Gray the Cat. Wishing you the best of luck!
Thanks, Lyn! I can use all the luck I can get.
You’re definitely on the fast track with Gray Cat and socializing a feral or shy cat is entirely possible because I’ve adopted many. They’ve had varying degrees of shyness and have taken varying lengths of time to trust. Every little sign of progress is a celebration.
Don’t think your experiment is going to take too long. =^..^=
This is very promising! He/she has started tentatively hanging out while we are in the living area. The progress is quicker than I expected.
Melanie Page says
I’ve mostly heard the DON’T try to socialize them part of the story, but I know that Jackson Galaxy, of “My Cat from Hell” on Animal Planet fame, says that feral cats can be an awesome part of your life (while they’re still feral). My neighbor-lady has 6 of them, and I love seeing them lying around in sun spots in the yard, or their little feet prints in the snow in the morning. She also has a garage with hay just for them, so, no, they’re not freezing.
Also, you’re a flag girl? *want to know more*
Yes! There are a lot of feral cat colonies and caretakers around our neighborhood. The cats are cute to see, and I appreciate that they probably keep the rat and mouse populations down.
I do indeed twirl flags. Just did four Mardi Gras parades. In the process of posting about it now!
Melanie Page says
Cool! I hope it works out with Gray! 🙂