How to care for cats (formerly feral)?

Discussion in 'Community' started by ecblues, May 29, 2005.

  1. ecblues macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2005
    #1
    Hey need some advice for I know little about them...I'd never thought I'd have feelings for furry felines, but things have turned out different the past year

    It seems wild cats have a particular affection for my roommate and vice versa. Don't know if it's pheromones or not, but as you'll see with the rest of the story, this is not a one time thing. We adopted a very cute orange-striped tabby after it followed him for almost 5 miles by foot from New Jersey, on to a bus (without being handled!) across the GW bridge and into my apartment by foot in NYC (no kidding). Only then did we pick him up by hand because my roommate figured it would have clawed someone by now, and he surmised it was a sign that the cat wanted to live with him. He was very gaunt and had three long claw marks down his back. We got him vaccinated, neutered, loaded with Abx and now he's a well-fed, VERY tame, VERY mildmannered cat. Enjoys being petted, always sleeps with me (even though he has more affection for my roommate), and when playing around does not claw or bite us or our friends. Enjoys taking warm water baths too! And he doesn't know how to hiss or growl, which really allayed my fears of adopting a stray, he is quite a bit timid but will actually respond to any open hand (at least from my parents) by stroking his head against it, again does not hiss at them, and desires close proximity (but not necessarily physical contact) with any one of us. The only thing he doesn't like is being physically held, but he'll tolerate it for two minutes before politely crying out.

    Are we missing something about caring for him? He turned out to be a real blessing...also about cleaning the apartment or managing the fur shedding? Collar/leash? Is it also normal for him to enjoy sleeping/napping all day long on a boring day? Should we let him out once in a while (this is NYC, with lots of dogs on our street)? Our work-life is ramping up and we're going to be spending a LOT less time with him, so I want him to be happy.
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    Unfortunately, 2nd part to this---

    Last night, my roommate pulled his cat magentism voodoo again. I woke up to the sounds of a distant cry that did not sound like my cat. Strange I thought, since the cat was sleeping in my room. Strolled out into the other room to find another cat in the apartment. My roommate managed to get a local black and white cat to follow him into our apartment. Local, because even I've seen him late at night hiding under cars on my street, but I'm presuming that in NYC, domestic cats are not let out of the apartment building proper! Again, he never picked the cat up by hand. Problem...this cat sort of fit my stereotypical image of a wild cat. He can hiss and growl, and he cries a whole lot. When our first cat met him, the black-white cat growled a lot, but our first one was just very curious and tried to get close. I was a little fearful for a violent reaction, but there was no open hostile action taken by the 2nd cat against my roommate, me, or the 1st cat, but I think it's because we put ourselves between the two. I was hesitant about this 4AM surprise, and my roommate also agreed to send him out because well, we couldn't figure out what the cat wanted and if it would get along with our cat. The 2nd cat kept crying but was actively searching throughout the apartment and yet was even stroking our legs while we discussed what to do. He wouldn't eat Starkist tuna but we didn't know if he was hungry (yeah, we had dry cat food, but we figured, it's a stray). Afterwards my brother led him outside the apartment and said goodbye.

    Any ideas about how to tell what a cat is trying to say when it meows? I couldn't tell if it was happy or not, my only guess is yes because it did favor my roommate.

    Is there any way to know if these two cats can get along? Or improve their relations? They're not kittens anymore, and I worry that if we bring in the 2nd cat again, he would start a fight with ours. Sorry for the rambling, but I'm starting to feel a little guilty of turning away another homeless (presumably) cat. Any advice from other catowners with experience of adopting strays/having more than 2 young adult cats would be welcome...
     
  2. munkle macrumors 68030

    munkle

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2004
    Location:
    On a jet plane
    #2
    Sorry I haven't got any advice to give but just wanted to say, what a story! Your roommate must have some serious cat mojo going on, that's crazy that a cat just followed him home and onto a bus!
     
  3. iGary Guest

    iGary

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    Location:
    Randy's House
    #3
    Did you get the cat checked for feline luekemia?
     
  4. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2004
    Location:
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    #4
    Nice story. We adopted a stray too. Looks like you have done the right things with the vet etc. It can take a cat years to change its habits, especially if trained young - ours took 2 years until she was convinced it was all right to jump up on a lap and cuddle - and 10 years to come to a truce with the vacuum cleaner hose.

    Some breeds are naturally less vocal, some, like Siamese, will let you know everything, loudly. Understanding what they are getting at takes time with the individual cat. The key vocabulary is "I'm Hungry!" "Let me in/out!" "Ouch!" "Look what I caught!" and "MMM that's nice, keep doing it!"

    Hopefully you will be spared the "Hey Baayy-bee" and the "That &!*#^% hurt, Romeo" calls. Not nice, those two.

    If the cat is happy inside, there's no reason to let it out. Inside cats have less disease, fewer fleas and worms, and live longer. Leashes aren't particularly good on cats. A collar with an ID tag may be a good idea incase he gets wanderlust again.

    It's normal for cats to sleep during the day, they're largely nocturnal. They'll bed down for a 10 minute kip pretty much anytime (cat-nap). Make sure he has some toys to play with and a post to scratch on while you're gone, so he doesn't substitute the upholstery.
     
  5. iGary Guest

    iGary

    Joined:
    May 26, 2004
    Location:
    Randy's House
    #5
    Ditto on the inside cat deal..

    We had several outside cats as a kid, and they all had fleas, worms, ear mites and often came home beaten up, torn to shreds and lead generally unsavory lives (although we still loved them all to pieces). But they were farm cats, and that is the life farm cats live.

    My current cat has been an indside cat with outside jaunts on a leash occasionally since I got her at the SPCA. Much healthier and happier animal than my cats of earlier days. If they have enough stimulation (ours has a third floor window perch looking out over our condo facility with a bird feeder to keep her nicely occupied) and love, inside cats fare very nicely.

    Biscuit is 8 this August and aside from a tooth infection, she's (knock on wood) been in great shape her entire life.
     
  6. Zachariah macrumors member

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    May 10, 2005
    Location:
    Earth
    #6
    I agree -- you should always take a cat to the vet, first thing (and especially check for, then vaccinate against feline leukemia).
     
  7. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2004
    Location:
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    #7
    LOL, glad you said "occupied" and not "fed"

    Ours was an outside cat when she came to us, and gets unhappy being kept indoors. She used to regularly bring us rodents and birds as gifts, despite being "belled" She has slowed down a lot though and has cancer, so we have a few weeks or months left to pamper her and give/get lots of cuddling until the bell tolls for her.

    There's something psychically valuable in rubbing a cat's belly and watching her go into bliss, purring and making little "foof" sounds out of the side of her mouth. Reminds us to slow down and live in the moment.

    It's a simple life, eat, nap, get belly rubs.
     
  8. iGary Guest

    iGary

    Joined:
    May 26, 2004
    Location:
    Randy's House
    #8
    It's quite funny. A local house finch pair have gotten quite used to her and will only fly away when she blasts across the living room head first into the window after them. We occasinally get a mockingbird pair, and some house sparrows that visit, but she keeps most all of them chased away.

    Ours is funnly like that, too. Most cats don't like to have their belly's rubbed from my experience, but ours flips on her back like a back room hooker at the drop of the hat for a rub. :p
     
  9. Frisco macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2002
    Location:
    Utopia
    #9
    Yes please keep your cat indoor-especially in the big city. I live in a quiet area in Northern, NJ and my cat was hit by a car almost a year ago now. She broke her pelvis! But she is back to normal after a long recovery, but it's my fault for letting her out. How would I have lived with myself had she died?

    My cat has a million toys, but you know what cats love best: Boxes, bags and string. Any new box or bag in my house my cat is immediately in and is soon asleep inside. Be cautious with bags with handles so your cat doesn't get strangled. My cat also loves catnip spilled over the carpet. Not all cats respond to catnip, but if they do it's a nice treat now and then.

    It can take time for 2 strange cats to get a long. My Vet said 2-4 weeks. Give them both equal attention and don't show favoritism. It is also recommended that they each have their own litter-box. There is a natural pheromone you can buy to relieve the cat's stress during the introduction process--called Feliway.

    Any way thanks for sharing your nice story!
     
  10. ecblues thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2005
    #10
    Yeah, we're enamored with him! Superfriendly, but not cuddly friendly

    I guess I need to buy toys! He chews the open corners of the flaps to cardboard boxes strangely enough.

    "Minor" (roomie is in music engineer program) has this really curious cry (well it's his only cry), when he wants something/attention from somebody and a door is blocking his way. It has two syllables and starts off with "Hel--" which dips in pitch. At its nadir he says "--LO" which rapidly crescendoes and rises in pitch and ends with a bump. Put the two together and you'll see why I'm always amused. No meows or hisses.

    We did have a vet clean him up as fast as possible, especially with those nasty scratches on his back. Don't know about leukemia workup but I assume that was done.

    Any more advice with picking up that 2nd cat on the street? That one did show "friendliness" to at least the roomie, but not a whole lot to Minor. A 2nd kitty litter makes sense, but hmmmm space might be an issue...ok to put it elsewhere besides the bathroom?

    As for my roommate, he's a good guy. Let's just say he attracts more than just furry felines without even laying a hand (social scene) :cool:
     
  11. iGary Guest

    iGary

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    Randy's House
    #11
    Before you get really attached, please call your vet, don't assume anything.
     
  12. Apple Hobo macrumors 6502a

    Apple Hobo

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2004
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    #12
    You can pick up a pet brush/comb at your local grocery store or pet store. It is good to brush them everyday, but you don't really have to. It's probably more important if you have a long-haired cat, since they puke up a lot of hairballs. Just get used to having a little fur all over your clothes (get one of those sticky tape rollers for you clothes if it is too bad). Cats sleep a lot. Maybe about 20 or so hours a day, so don't worry about that. :D

    It would be best if you didn't let the cat outside (too many health and physical dangers in a big city). Therefore, you really don't need a collar.

    It's hard to say sometimes. It might take you years before you get a good idea of what the various complex subtleties between different meows mean.

    At first, they might fight and generally not get along, and after awhile, they might become good friends. However, they might not get along for years to come, if ever. Like people, cats have their own unique personalities and quirks.

    I know what you mean. I started out with one cat adopted from a shelter...now I have three more from when they showed up on my doorstep. I couldn't give them up. I had to give up two kittens from one of those strays I kept. My sister once brought home a stray that gave birth to four kittens. It's hard to give up kittens and loving strays, but with four cats of our own, we had no choice. Try not to feel too guilty.

    Some other general tips:

    • Keep the litter box clean.
    • Get a scratching pad of some sort.
    • Take them to the vet regularly (maybe once a year for a checkup).
    • Catnip is lots of fun. :D
    • Don't ever use tinsel if you set up a Christmas tree (also, don't leave things like strings, ribbons or rubber bands lying around).
     
  13. Nickygoat macrumors 6502a

    Nickygoat

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2004
    Location:
    London
    #13
    I've got one set of "indoor" clothes and then normal clothes - it cuts down a lot on the hair - and the stares from people you work with :D
    Definitely keep it indoors - far safer and cleaner. And yes it's normal for them to sleep a lot
    Like the others said -toys and catnip are great but you'll discover that normal things are fascinating to a cat like plastic bags, shoe boxes. Mt two love the box for my G5 - the walk across the open lid and it sags under their weight - then wheeee a slide into the box. Hours of fun.
    Empty the solids every day and don't be too precious about your stuff :p
     
  14. iGary Guest

    iGary

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    #14
    Mine loves old paper towel rolls.
     
  15. Nickygoat macrumors 6502a

    Nickygoat

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2004
    Location:
    London
    #15
    The female loves all types of glue, particularly sellotape, and soap and the male loves dirty feet and freaks over olives. Thick as 2 short planks the pair of them :D
     
  16. Gwendolyn macrumors member

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2005
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    #16
    What a cute story! My in-laws tend to take in strays, so they had 10 cats until my husband and I adopted the two declawed ones, so I've been able to watch a lot of "cat politics" when we were over to visit. So if you do take the second cat in, be sure to have it tested by the vet (feline leukemia and feline dystemper were both recommended to us), and know that some hissing, growling, and swatting (especially at first, but it can persist) is normal--it's how they establish their hierarchy. It might not be a great idea to leave them together unsupervised for quite some time. And if the cats do start to fight, it's probably a good idea to try to break it up without picking either of them up--they can get very anxious when there is aggression and can take it out on you in fear. My father-in-law once ended up in the hospital for a nasty, very deep scratch on his hand from when he tried to comfort an edgy cat. Some people have good luck squirting the pair with a water bottle to drive them away from each other when they're in a tussle.

    And if you have houseplants that the cats might decide to eat, then check to see if they're poisonous--I've had to put all my old ones out of reach, but then I grew some untreated grass seed in unfertilized soil, and the cats love to nibble on it. In my research it was also recommended to keep even indoor cats on the full group of vaccinations--rabies, dystemper, and so on, so you might ensure that your cat(s) is/are vaccinated. Our vet offers a discount on checkups for multiple pets if we take them in together.

    About cleaning the apartment--I'm allergic to cats, so it's something that I try to be aware of. We try to vacuum at least once a week, including using the attachment to vacuum the furniture, since they sit on the chairs and the couch. I also put some throw-blankets over the back of the couch, since they like to sit there--and then I can throw the blankets in the wash instead of vacuuming the back of the couch. I put some rags (like folded dishtowels) in their favorite places to sit, and I wash these every week, too. Since I'm the one who's allergic, I also wash my hands after petting the cats to cut down on my own allergies. (Also about cleaning: I try to wash the cats' food and water dishes regularly since bacteria can build up on them.)

    Since you're going to be spending more time away, pay attention to your cat when you are home so you can give him love and attention when he wants it. One of mine follows me around when I come home for 10 or 15 minutes until I sit down so she can climb into my lap, and they'll both make a big production of rolling around on the ground when they want me to come over and pet them.

    I never thought I'd own cats either--we just adopted our two in March--they are so amusing and so affectionate, we couldn't ever give them back. I agree that they're a blessing! :) It sounds like you have good instincts overall, so good luck!
     

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