Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cats: Fostering Semi-Ferals

Originally published February 20, 2009

My boyfriend and I picked up Remy on the first weekend of my winter holidays.

Upon entering my apartment with the cat carrier, Kiki knew something was up. I opened the door of the carrier: Kiki gave Remy a couple sniffs, hissed and retreated to a higher locale. Remy slowly exited and then ran under the desk.

Semi-ferals feel safer in enclosed areas. When taming them, rescue organizations often start the cat off in a cage, sometimes with other cats. The cat then gets moved to a small room, usually a bathroom, with other semi-ferals at the same stage or slightly more advanced. This arrangement gives the cats room to move around, litter box and food areas, and allows for easy cleanup. A small room also makes it easier for the cats to get used to people on account of close proximity.

I placed a fleece kitty pillow underneath an occasional chair that sits near a corner; I hung a blanket over two of the three outer sides, leaving the final side open with a full view of the apartment. After a little chasing around, and a little swatting, I got a hold of Remy and showed him his new little cave: he took to it immediately. That evening, after he had seemed to relax a little, I pulled him from his cozy place. I showed him the food and water, and the litter box; he quickly rushed back under the chair. He resided there almost constantly over the next few weeks.

The Accident

On the second evening, Remy had an accident.

My boyfriend and I were watching a movie when Remy came out from under the chair: we we're very excited that he had decided to venture out into the apartment and decided to leave him alone. Moments later, he started making strange meowing sounds. I discovered him in a dark corner behind a plant taking a poop. He quickly finished and ran under my desk.

I didn't want to scold him, as I was concerned about making him feel threatened, but I did need to show him what was good behaviour. I gathered up the mess, moved it to the litter box and thoroughly cleaned the area. I retrieved Remy and told him everything was okay (he was shaking quite badly); I took him to the litter box and showed him his poo. I alternately held his paw to scuffle the litter and petted him telling him what a good boy he was; I then carried him back to under his chair repeating positive phrases. Instead of cleaning the litter immediately, I decided to leave his smell in the box for the night in hopes to encourage future use. He's used the litter regularly ever since.

Kiki

Kiki was somewhat perturbed that there was another cat in the house, but couldn't help but show some curiosity towards him... especially as he didn't seem interested in her at all. This was one reason I chose a semi-feral as a companion cat: they tend to be more concerned with their own safety and comfort than with playing with or dominating another cat.

There were a few instances of Kiki giving Remy a nose kiss and then hissing at him, but those have stopped completely. And she'll give him a swat if he gets too friendly at the wrong time or decides her tail is his new favourite toy. But on the whole, Kiki seems to have decided that Remy's an okay kind of cat and now let him sleep right next to her; she even cleans his head a little, if he's lucky.

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