Feral Cat 6: Jack, A Caturday Case for Those "Untamable" Wild Street Cats


This is a series of Caturday posts on the topic of taking in feral cats

General information (from previous posts):

For a few decades, we have rescued feral cats. In fact, with only one exception, our "domestic" cats have been ferals that we brought inside to join other ferals, already domesticated, as part of a bonded cat family. Right now, we have five cats (alas, Murjan, the single non-feral cat we had, died from cancer last fall, and Intrepid, closely bonded to Murjan, died three years ago from the same kind of cancer, and, most recently, Snyezhka, who had been valiantly fighting three kinds of cancer, died from a saddle thrombus, probably related to her chemotherapy but, of course, no one is going to suggest that and it really does not matter since knowing exactly what caused the reason for her death won't bring her back). All five of our feral cats get along pretty fabulously -- and they also got along well with the three predecessors.

Of course, all of that is easier said than done, and the bonding took time -- lots of it. Here are some of the things we did to create our cat family, some of which is not at all typical of what others have done, but it has worked for us.

  • We don't trap the feral cats at all; we win them over and invite them in. We do this by feeding them a distance from the house and walking away, then moving the dish closer and closer to the house and walking less and less far away, until they are eating at our feet, at which point they will usually let us scooch or kneel beside them. To get to this point may take weeks. Getting to pet them takes additional days. And, then, like magic, they are almost always willing to come into the house if we leave the food inside the door. 
  • We have never trapped a cat with a cage, though we do have to put the cats into a carrier (some vets are unhappy about not having feral cats in an open cage because they usually want to sedate them rather than risk being bitten -- I always offer to hold them, and, when allowed, the biting does not happen).
  • Post vet visit, things can get interesting, especially if there are other cats; we are always careful in introducing a new feral cat into the family (that topic belongs in another post -- and we will get to that in the future).
  • Feral cats tend to be shy; they do not immediately become lap cats, but, with patience, most do become attached, seek petting, and often do became lap cats. The trick is not to force the relationship too quickly and to realize that each cat is different.

In this post, I introduce another feral cat rescue: Jack.

Jack was trapped by the SNIP bus, which scoops up street cats, neuters them, and puts them back on the streets but they are no longer able to breed and increase the homeless population of cats. Jack was different. He had a badly infected eye that had to be removed. Concerned that he would not survive on the streets with only one eye, one of their associates, who traps wild cats and finds fosters, homes, and shelters for them, took him in temporarily.

Unfortunately, he was very shy. He would let no one touch him. Clearly, finding a home for him would be difficult, and the shelter could not take in such a cat. The rescuer contacted me, knowing of our success with shy cats in the past. We adopted him.

Based on what I had been told, I assumed that he would be spending weeks, if not months, in the cat room, where we could isolate him from the other cats until he was somewhat tamed. However, Jack surprised me. He let me pick him up, and he let me put him on the sofa beside me (in the cat room). He lay beside me quietly for some time while I worked on the computer, then saw the cat tree withs cave-like houses and made a dash into hiding.

Since Happy Cat had been able to bring Bobolink out of his shyness in a day of playing together in the cat room, I thought Happy Cat, the nurturing beta cat, might do the same for Jack. Amazingly, it did not take a day of play. When Jack saw Happy Cat, he jumped down. The two of them quickly became acquainted, and then after only a few minutes, Happy Cat asked to leave the room. He headed for the catio. Jack followed him, and for the next few weeks, they were inseparable. Jack became comfortable with all parts of the house but would sleep nights on one of the living room loungers side-by-side with Happy Cat. 

Happy Cat (black and white)
on the lounger with Jack (black)

Happy Cat and Jack sharing a basket

Jack and Happy Cat sharing some sunshine

and my favorite picture - 
Happy Cat being protective of Jack
when he first ventured out into the "big world" of our living room

After a few weeks, Jack developed friendships with the other cats. He and Snyezhka would sleep together, often as a trio with Happy Cat. He and Bobolink would play with the toys. Simone and Wooper, the girls, have a slightly different relationship with the boy cats, and they developed the same tolerant-but-observe-my-territory-please attitude with Jack. Wooper will, at times, scamper around the house together with Jack. Simone, being the elderly dame (going on 17 now), does not scamper anymore because of arthritis, but Jack will come and sit with her.

Then, Jack discovered that humans were special creatures. They gave good back rubs and good belly rubs -- and they gave treats! Like with human men, food (especially treats) was the conduit to Jack's heart. 

Relatively soon, we were able to take Jack to the vet for an appointment (unlike Bobolink who took more than a year before we trusted him to be calm with the vet). There, the vet let him do what he wanted -- and he wanted to explore. Jack was certainly well on his way to being one of our most domesticated cats.

Today, Jack still loves his treats and began, on his own without teaching or prompting, to beg for them. It always works. He begs and treats are forthcoming. He plays with all the cats, and he plays with toys. More than any of the other cats, he loves to play with toys.

And he adores people. He rubs up against people he knows, kisses them, and wants them to pick him up, hold him, pet him, and play with him. Strangers at the door? No problem! He likes them even before he meets them!

The bottom line remains the same: Adopting "wild," "shy," street cats is a good thing. They do domesticate, and they become good pets. It is rewarding to watch the transformation -- and to know that you are part of it.

Jack's human is MSI Press author, Dr. Betty Lou Leaver, author of:

Available retail, online stores, and, at 25% discount with code FF25 from msipress.com/shop.

Read more posts and excerpts HERE.

Co-authored with Laura Dabbs, University of Alabama at Birmingham. Available retail, online stores, and, at 25% discount with code FF25 from msipress.com/shop. 

Read more posts and excerpts HERE.

Co-authored with Carl Leaver
Read posts and excerpts HERE.

For more feral cat stories, click HERE.

For more Caturday posts, click HERE.

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