Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.
I have three indoor cats, and one outdoor. The outdoor cat, Bonesy (quite tame), showed up in the spring of 2011 when she gave birth to three kittens in my ice house. I kept one, got excellent homes for the others, and spayed Bonesy. The porch became her territory, and we set up a dog house on it for winter shelter. I heat it with pet warmers on cold nights. She does well, and we were all happy with this arrangement until last month.
Just before Hurricane Sandy, a pretty cat cat with horribly infected eyes showed up and took over Bonesy's porch dog house. Oddly, Bonesy--normally fiercely territorial--chose to stay away, and started sleeping in the shed. (We eventually set up another dog house for her there.)
The stray cat's eyes were so horribly infected that at first we feared she'd lost her sight. But she hadn't. She wouldn't let any of us near her, so I trapped her in a Havahart and took her to the vet. There, she tested negative for feline leukemia, had her ear mites and fleas treated, got a long-lasting antiobiotic for her eyes, got a rabies shot, and was spayed.
She recovered from the surgery in a dog crate in my guest room. My plan was to tame her, with the idea of integrating her with the house cats. I really didn't want another cat, but as so often happens I very quickly felt responsible for her.
While in the crate (a large space with room for a bed, food, water, and litter box), she got to the point where she allowed me to pet her, and even purred while I did it. I was encouraged, and proceeded to the next step: letting her out of the crate and into the guest room. I figured it wouldn't be long before she'd be snuggling with me on the bed (where I made a point of reading every afternoon), and from there it would be on to the rest of the house--and the rest of the cats.
But things are not going as planned. Sandy (so named by my son because of the storm, even though she doesn't look like a Sandy) has become very hesitant about human contact. She allows just a little petting before she retreats under the bed. She hisses often. She reached a paw out from under there recently, and clawed me. Yesterday she bit me. She didn't break the skin--and she could have--so I know she wasn't aiming to do damage. But can you explain this behavior? Was I simply overly optimistic? I've tamed feral kittens before, but not one this old--although she's not fully grown.
She meows at me a lot. I'm not sure what she wants, although I think her eyes need further treatment. I want to get her back to the vet, but in order to do that--in order to do anything with her--I need to be able to move her. I'm thinking I'll try putting a little tuna in the back of the dog crate and then closing the door (if she doesn't go zipping out first). From there maybe (!) I can transfer her to a large cat carrier.
One option has always been to return Sandy to the outdoors. My guess is she would go back to dog house on the porch, forcing Bonesy to vacate her territory once again. Before I do that, I'd like to make sure I'm doing everything I can for her in the house. I'd also like to understand her better.
Any thoughts for me? Thanks!
Here's Sandy when she first showed up.