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Cats/working with stray or feral cat

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Question
Hi,

A stray or feral cat had 3 kittens in our garage several months ago. We trapped the cat and kittens, (which were about 5 weeks old), and got the mother spayed so she wouldn't have more litters. She tested negative for feline leukemia.
A friend is making good progress fostering & socializing the kittens, and we hope to adopt them out soon.
We made a shelter for mama cat in our garage, and winter is coming soon. We feed her twice a day & are getting worm meds in her food. (from the vet).
We kept her in our house in a spare room after the spay for a few days - I was able to reach in to change food & water & litter box, she stayed at the back of the cage.
After a couple of days we put her loose in a spare room, thinking we could socialize her and keep her indoors. She meowed a lot, and hid. When we entered the room and talked to her, she meowed for a while and would eventually go quiet.
She didn't seem too happy, we came to the conclusion she was pretty wild and released her outdoors, still providing food and shelter.
She comes at mealtimes, often when we call, and will come to within 5 or 6 yards of us, meowing. Sometimes she will allow us to stand or sit at this distance while she eats. She seems to be relaxing a little, though she is very skittish. Several times recently,  she rolled over on the walkway when coming for her food. (new behavior). It's been about 4 weeks after the spay. I wasn't sure if this was greeting or a false heat?
We installed a pet door in our basement door, and are working on feeding her closer to it and possibly getting her to use it, so she can shelter in our basement for the winter, since the garage is not heated. We'd like to adopt her into our house if & when she's ready, so could you give any advice on how to continue working at gaining her trust and eventually handling her? We don't know if she's feral, or a stray that got abused.

thanks for any advice,

Jan

Answer
Jan,

If this kitty is rolling over to expose her tummy to you then she was greeting you. It's quite likely that she is a scared stray that has been subjected to abuse rather than a feral cat. Time, love, persistence, patience and more time and love will help to gain her trust. Typical true ferals don't exhibit the behaviors you described of meowing and seeming distressed the way that she was - feral cats learn early that silence is the key to survival even in terrible situations and they will also defend themselves ferociously with claws and teeth if you get too close. That being said I think that the way you're doing things - allowing her to choose you, your home and your family - is probably the best way provided that this kitty is safe from predators, cars and cruel people. I wish you the best of luck, it sounds like you're doing all of the right things, so keep doing what you're doing and hopefully she'll realize, sooner rather than later, that she has won the kitty jackpot. If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me again at any time - I'm more than happy to help in any way that I can.

Kind regards,

Ali

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Ali

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I am the proud guardian of 5 mixed breed cats ranging from 12 weeks to 13 years old and one purebred ragdoll. I have 20+ years experience working with mixed breed cats from a variety of different situations. I have fostered cats/kittens with special needs/behavioral issues. I have rescued/rehabilitated/re-homed a variety of stray/abused cats. I can offer advice on managing feral cat colonies, rehabilitating strays and finding them forever homes. I can help you to determine whether a cat is stray or feral, there IS a significant difference. Improperly introducing a new cat/kitten can result in aggression between newly introduced cats because cats are territorial by nature and they don't like sudden changes in their environment. To learn more about a peaceful way to introduce a new cat into a home with other cats please check out my previous answers on this subject. Proper nutrition for cats can be confusing, I recommend checking out catinfo.org which was created by a veterinarian (Dr. Lisa Pierson) who takes a common sense approach to explaining feline nutrition. Cat behavior and instincts are different from those of humans, I can help you understand your cat's needs so that you can meet them adequately and have a balanced, psychologically and physically sound kitty. Cats vary in personality, energy level and intelligence, different approaches may be required to achieve results in terms of training and interaction with your feline companion. An intelligent, high energy cat must be kept busy or they will make their own fun. I am NOT a licensed veterinarian and I can't offer medical advice. If your cat is ill/injured my advice is always the same: get prompt medical treatment provided by a veterinarian. If finances are an issue I will try to find resources in your area that can help with medical costs or make other choices to ensure the welfare of your cat.

Experience

I have fostered feral and stray cats, rehabilitated and homed cats that many people recommended euthanasia for. I am willing to make an effort to do the research and ask questions because I care enough to find solutions to behavioral problems rather than giving up. I have an interest in the use of alternative therapies to help provide the best possible care for all cats and I can say in all honesty that I've seen some incredible things happen for some incredible cats and their human caregivers when the right alternative therapeutic modality is used by a qualified veterinarian with expertise and experience in the field.

Education/Credentials
I've earned my diploma as a veterinary assistant with honors.

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