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11-04-2021, 20:45   #1
Hontou
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Rehomed Cat Very Stressed

I rehomed a cat from an animal shelter. Picked her up from the vets where she was neutered. Had been a stray before she was picked up by the shelter. The vet believes she is between 1 and 2 years old.

Because she was a stray/feral, I was advised to keep her in a dark room in a cage with food water and a litter tray. We have the largest size dog cage for this so she has space to move around. She has cowered in the corner for 4 days now. She has only eaten a very small amount of food and drank very little water. (We have tried all different types of food). No other pets in the house and no small children.

We let her out of the cage today but she went crazy spitting and hissing when we tried to put her back in. Literally climbing the walls. Admittedly she is recovering from being neutered. She cannot be handled and is not using the litter tray, understandably. My gut feeling is to let her out of the house and leave food outside for her and let her decide. We live in the country and have a big open garage for her to shelter in but she is recovering from an operation too. Any advice on what is the right thing to do? She is clearly very unhappy.
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11-04-2021, 21:10   #2
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Yes, what ever you plan to do under no circumstances should you let her outside! I don't know what rescue you used but honestly they appear to be complete morons. What they have given you appears to be a unsocialized cat that appears to be a direct street rescue. The stupidity levels of doing that is staggering; that's a cat that should go to a rescue home for socialization and give the cat a chance to learn that humans are not scary after all.

Now what you need to do; first of all forget trying to handle the cat or put it back in a cage. The cat is in no way shape ready for something like that and all it will do is stress it out more and risk injuries on both parties. Secondly the fact it's eating is actually a good thing; I've had street cats who've refused to eat and that's a real pain in the ass. Now what you need to realize is that this is not going to be a one week turn around and all is ok, this is a cat that will need most likely months to get ready. If you're not ready to give it that time and care then you need to contact the rescue and explain that you can't socialize the cat.

For starters the cat is afraid because it's in a new place with new smells and all it's known has turned upside down, that takes time to work through. Normally you'd expect 4 to 6 weeks for a cat to settle to a change in routine. Hence what you now need to provide is just that, routine. Bring in wet food at the same time twice a day, replace the water every day. Put some leafs, sticks etc. on the litter (use unscented clay) to make it seem more natural for it and make sure the litterbox is not covered. Secondly put in an empty box in a corner where it can hide in; that will become a safe zone for the cat. Ideally you want to put in a radio or similar to play on low volume simply to get the cat used to human voices and sounds. You should sit in there for 30 min to an hour simply reading a book and completely ignore the cat but that will help the cat getting used to the fact humans are around and they are not trying to kill her. In essence what you need to do is to let the cat land on it's feet, get used to it's new place and give it time to accept you being there. This is not going to be a quick fix as noted; this is most likely months in the making. Once the association that you coming in = food things will start to progress faster but it needs to calm down first. There's are wall plug ins (Feliway) that you should get along with Zylkene (powder to mix into the food) that will help this along; neither is a magical bullet but it will help take the worst edge of and speed things along. The cat will calm down over time but you need to give her the chance to do so; chasing her, trying to force her into a cage etc. are all simply going to stress her up further. Don't let her out of the room either; if you let her out you will have no clue where she runs and hides, where she does her toilet etc. Hence the need to keep her in that one room.
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11-04-2021, 21:21   #3
Hontou
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Thanks Nody. Great advice. Seems common sense. I'll put the cat carrier into the large cage now to give her a hideout and make the meal times twice a day. I like the sticks/leaves/clay idea in the cat litter too. We've been annoying her constantly offering food. I won't return her to the shelter, they are volunteers and overwhelmed to be honest. I'm prepared to put in the time and see that means leaving her alone. Cheers for your time.
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11-04-2021, 22:47   #4
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Good for you op, you're clearly trying to do the right thing, and Nody's advice is great, and his is a real voice of experience when it comes to cats!
I'm no expert on cats, but I do think a good rule of thumb with new, scared animals is to do as little as you can with them. Provide all of their needs (food, water, hiding place, toilet place) and then take a back seat... let them come to you and give them all the time they need to do that. Never force yourself on them, as it only confirms to them that they were right to be scared of you.
Definitely get a Feliway diffuser for the room she's in. Loads of research to back up its effectiveness at reducing stress.
Best of luck! It'd be great if you could update us every so often on her progress? Loads of seriously knowledgeable cat folk here to help you along the way too!
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11-04-2021, 23:43   #5
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Thanks DBB. Will update her progress. Thanks to Nody's advice she has crawled into the cat carrier we put in the cage with some unwanted scarves for a bed. Looks slightly more comfortable.
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12-04-2021, 20:03   #6
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Excellent advice from nody there. Took us 6 months to get our rescue cat out from behind the sofa when we got her. We did all the things Nody mentions, strict meal times, sat in the room with her just reading out loud or singing (to get her used to our voices), gave her places to hide, not forcing the issue at all. It took a lot of patience but it eventually worked. If the cat isn't using the litter at all you could double check with the rescue what type of litter she was using in the rescue centre. Our rescue always uses wood pellets rather than the clay so that's what we used. Make sure to leave a scratching post in the room too and maybe a few toys to see if she'll play when you're not there. If you could get a cheapo nanny cam you can leave it in the room to see how she's getting on when you're not there.

Leaving the radio on in the room is an excellent idea also, maybe something low and not shouty like Lyric FM or Newstalk. Once the cat gets a bit comfortable in the room you can take it from there. But it's all about baby steps. Good luck.
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12-04-2021, 21:07   #7
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Patience is the key, and great plan per Nody's post. IT CAN BE DONE - Im sitting here surrounded by three snoring ex-ferals (and a dog!)
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12-04-2021, 23:45   #8
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Thanks all. Well I followed the advice above. Great news is that all her food was gone this morning. She didn't touch the food I put in today until after 8pm but at least she's eating. I just refilled her bowl now. She went to the toilet in the corner of the cage not the litter box and covered it with newspaper so she is trying to be clean. She spends all day in the cat carrier within the cage. That was a great tip to put that in with her. She is in the back kitchen which is very small so I think I will open the cage for her to move around more. I feel cruel. Seems like a rotten existence - more like torture than an alleged rescue. But small steps and hopefully her dreary life will improve.
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13-04-2021, 20:53   #9
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Just out of curiosity, why did you adopt a feral cat?

Good that shes eating and moving about more... keep us posted
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14-04-2021, 07:03   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aonb View Post
Just out of curiosity, why did you adopt a feral cat?
I was looking on my local spca's website for a cat, there were only a few and this was the only one that could be rehomed as one cat as opposed to two. In fairness, the details said the cat was a stray and very shy. It didn't dawn on me that stray meant all out feral. I picked her up from the local vet after neutering, so she was sedated. The spca said if it didn't work out they would take her back, but I'm happy to put in the time.

She is using the litter box now that I added some sticks, grass and moss to it. Still squashed up in the back of her inner box when I go in. Great appetite. Drinking very little water though.
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14-04-2021, 07:46   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hontou View Post
She is using the litter box now that I added some sticks, grass and moss to it. Still squashed up in the back of her inner box when I go in. Great appetite. Drinking very little water though.

Our cat won't drink tap water, but will drink filtered water and I've seen her drinking dirty rainwater outside, too - I don't know what's in out tap water, but she doesn't like it


So, if you have been using tap water, try rainwater, or filtered if you have it.
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14-04-2021, 08:49   #12
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If you are giving wet food she is getting plenty of moisture from that and wouldn't need to drink much. Also even if she is still scared her live has improved already with regular food and shelter. You are giving her the time and patience she needs. Look at the progress already made since you got her - she is eating well, sleeping and using the litter box. You will make a massive difference to this cat's life!
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14-04-2021, 08:59   #13
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Some cats wont' drink stagnant water, you could look into perhaps getting a cat fountain in the future if it's really concerning you but as morgana says, if she's on wet food there's a lot of moisture in that so she may just not need extra water. Alternatively you can mix in a little bit of water with the wet food (mix well) to increase her water intake a little. That's what we do.
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14-04-2021, 10:31   #14
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Good idea on mixing water with the wet food. Thanks for that. At the moment she is on wet cat food during the day and I was giving her dry food at night. Might stick to the wet food so.
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14-04-2021, 11:05   #15
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We've adopted 3 ferals over the years, all have been different but the one common thing for all was that it took patience and time.

We left them in the sitting room with food, litter tray an open crate and the sitting room also has a cat tree giving access to the top of bookshelves.

The idea of having them in the sitting room was to get them used to the new scents in the house and of the other cats & dogs - we'd leave them on their own while at work and overnight but we'd use the room as normal in the evenings and just ignore them.

They all stayed under the sofas and the TV unit for weeks when we were in the room, but gradually spent less time hiding and more time looking at us and interacting with the other pets.

We left a tablet recording when we out and when they were alone they were much happier to explore things!

After a few weeks we stopped closing the door and they would gradually explore elsewhere, sometimes running back into the sanctuary of the sitting room when we'd unexpectedly scare them.

The first one we had ended up turning into an absolute cuddle bug and would drool when purring as he was so happy getting snuggles!

The second guy loved wet food so we were able to pet him while he was eating after a couple of weeks, but it took much longer before he'd let us near him at any other point. He now comes over looking for pets (and mooching for human food!) every evening and is happy to petted when we see him throughout the house as long as we don't sneak up on him - but we can't pick him up at all, he panics too much. And he holds a grudge for at least 24 hours after each flea/worm treatment and vet visits are a total nightmare for him.

The third cat is still very highstrung but loves pets and occasional cuddles, but only when she asks for them - if you don't notice her she gently taps you with her paw to say, hey I'm here!

You know the cat best, but I would suggest leaving the crate open, especially at night or when you're all out so she can explore around and get more comfortable with her new home on her terms but she'll still be able to retreat to the crate & carrier when she feels threatened.

Also, try dreamies - every cat I've ever had, even one who refuse to eat anything but a particular dry food, were like crack addicts for them!!!
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