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Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

Posted by alisande (My Page) on
Mon, Dec 3, 12 at 13:36

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.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

To catch her I would feed her some tuna/canned food in a small crate and leave the door open. Do this a few times to where she's not nervous going in, then close the door and take her to the vet.
Catching her within a large crate will not be an easy task, especially since she doesn't allow you to handle her.

What were you doing when she scratched you from under the bed, and at a later time bit you?
She's going thru a huge adjustment to be indoors, recently spayed, and now living with people and other cats, so I would let her do things at her pace. I wouldn't pet her unless she asked for it and I'd just give her all the space she needs.
My cat, which I consider to be perfect :), rarely wants attention. She talks to me when she wants to eat, and occasionally jumps in my lap.
Just saying your new addition may be a cat that doesn't need a lot of contact with humans.

Have to ask.....did you ever try to make Bonesy an indoor cat?


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

Bonesy was a very protective mother. She was known to stare down trucks as they barreled down our road, thinking they were a threat to her babies. She considered my inside cats, visible to her through large windows on the porch, to be the same sort of threat. Window wars ensued, and continue, though less often, to this day. I have to keep large (and ugly) pieces of cardboard covering the lower portion of the windows.

Bonesy recuperated from her spaying in the house (the same guest room where Sandy now resides), and I gave a lot of thought to keeping her indoors. But her reaction to the other cats was so extreme that I abandoned it. She has seemed very happy outdoors, free to indulge her favorite activity: hunting mice. She gets a lot of attention from me and from my son and daughter-in-law, who live across the road (near the shed).

When Sandy clawed me I was just standing there. She seeks me out when I enter the room, following me around and meowing. I was just up there, and when I petted her she kneaded her paws. But then she hissed--and came back for more. Something bothers her, and I wonder if it's related to her eyes.

Using a little canned food, I got her back in the dog crate. Now comes the challenge of transferring her to a carrier. First I'll make a vet appointment.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

Sandy is just very stressed. That's why she's lashing out unexpectedly. I took in three young adult, intact toms who showed up on my farm in 2005. One of them, Feather, was and continues to be psychologically volatile (his volatility has mellowed substantially over the years). He was tame but timid and emotionally VERY needy. A week after I trapped him and brought him inside, he ripped out a screen and escaped. It took a month before I was able to catch and bring him in again. He was so psychologically shaken by the month he had spent outside on his own that he was completely unpredictable for a while. He would hiss at me each time I entered the master bathroom where I was reacclimating him, then he would come roll and squirm and purr all over me when I sat on the bathroom floor with him. When I got up to leave the bathroom, however, he would viciously attack me. He was just so psychologically scattered and emotionally stressed that he didn't know how to control himself. Everything he did was an overreaction for a while. I had to wear tall boots and heavy clothes every time I visited him so that he wouldn't leave me shredded and bleeding. But eventually he regained a reasonable hold on his sanity and stopped attacking me. It just took time and patience and a lot of loving support on my part.

I will caution you NOT to rush Sandy's introduction into the rest of your household. Keep spending time with her, and just give her the time she needs to restore her mental equilibrium. Don't impose yourself on her. Let her come to you, and keep a watchful eye on her body signals that she's had enough petting. It's also helpful to try to tease her into play. Use a fishing pole type toy so that she keeps her distance while playing. Play is a great way for her to work out some of her mental angst.

I use baby gates to facilitate feline integrations into my household. I fill the doorway from bottom to top with baby gates so that the newbie and the residents can check each other out without risk of physical confrontation and injury. This also gives the newbie an opportunity to become acquainted with the sights, sounds and rhythms of the household from within her "safe harbor" room. It will also give you a way to gauge when she's ready to start coming out of the room (when she comfortably and confidently spends time at the gates during daylight hours).

Relative to her eye infections, it would be a good idea to start mixing 500 mg of L-lysine into a canned food meal for her every day. Her eye infections are likely caused by herpesvirus, and L-lysine inhibits reproduction of the herpesvirus in her system. Even if her eye infections are not the result of a herpes flare-up, L-lysine won't hurt her. It's just an amino acid. You can buy it anywhere you buy human vitamins.

Laurie


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

Laurie, you certainly explained Sandy's behavior. Thank you for the information. Don't worry--I've been in no hurry to introduce her to the other cats (although maybe my post sounded like I was). We've had many cat introductions over the years. I like the baby gates idea; it's one I haven't tried.

I need to think realistically about how much time and energy I can give to this process. I have not been well, and my energy is limited. Although I love the idea of giving Sandy a safe, warm home with lots of attention, I have kept two other options open. One is to return her outside, where she will most likely take up residence in the porch dog house again. (I would feel bad for Bonesy if that happens.) Another is to see if any of my animal-loving friends would like a spayed, healthy barn cat. Clearly, that is not an option as long as she has infected eyes.

I have a strong preference for keeping cats indoors, but my situation here for outdoor cats is better than most. I live on 31 acres, on both sides of a dirt road, and have four outbuildings. In any case, I don't have to make any decisions right now. But I do want to get her to the vet.

Interesting that l-lysine works on cat herpes too. I always keep a supply on hand for my own cold sores.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

alisande, you are a treasure for taking in these cats and sandy was lucky to find someone like you who would get her seen to by a vet and offer her a home. You've been given some great advice above, and it sounds like it may just take her some time to adapt. As laurie and annz have suggested, I think you just need to let her come to you on her terms for affection when she is in the mood and ready. When we took in our cat as a stray kitten, you couldn't even pat her without her tearing you to shreds and she would dash out and bite your ankles as you walked by. She was only about 4 or 5 months old and it took a long time but she learned to accept affection but it was a very gradual process and as much as I wanted to pat and cuddle with her, it had to be at her pace or she would just freak out and go wild at you. I'm sure Sandy will come around in time once she starts feeling a bit more secure in her surroundings but it can take more time with some cats.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

When we had a feral cat we fed & housed outside, we rarely saw other cats, except those 'passing through.' One of the advantages of keeping a feral cat is that it cuts down on other cat traffic.

It does sound like Sandy is unhappy indoors. I think your idea is correct, that Sandy will push Bonesy off if you let her back outside. But 4 indoor cats is a stretch IMHO. If you can get her eyes/health improved, perhaps it would best for her & you to find her a barn gig. I suspect she'd be happier.

Whatever you decide, thanks for caring for her & for Bonesy!


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

I have to disagree with an outdoor life being better for Sandy. Even with the accommodations and food she found on Susan's porch, the photo of Sandy looks like she's in very rough shape. Not only are her eyes infected (which, if herpes-related, will likely be a chronic problem), but her coat quality looks awful. She does not look like she is a successful outdoor survivor. And Susan, if I remember correctly, lives in WI, which is not an easy outdoor winter environment for a cat with questionable health.

I believe that Sandy will adjust to indoor living quite happily in time, and that she will thrive under Susan's loving care.

Laurie


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

I agree with Laurie about life in the outdoors with this cat is definitely not the best solution. Patience , patience and more patience without forcing the issue will more than likely turn this cat around and she'll adapt. Reading these stories, I consider myself lucky to never have had any real problems integrating cats. One cat who followed me home years ago in a snow storm was the only one I couldn't keep. She was a full grown stray who I turned over to the rescue group to have neutered and shots. I offered to foster her ,but it was hate at first sight and the others didn't like her, so she found a home with a pet-less couple.

But, jomuir, I have four totally indoor cats and all is completely calm and the cats are fat and happy, one too fat. They also get along fine with my two dogs.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

I adopted a year old cat who was never a feral cat but who was so extremely shy/difficult to adapt that she exhibited essentially the same behavior as Sandy for well over a year in my home. Slowly--very slowly--she came around. But she still is not a "lap cat" by any means: she'll tolerate some petting, on her own terms, but more often than not simply keeps aloof. I think the key is, as others have said, patience, patience, patience.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

I think Alisande said she is not up to the challenge of helping Sandy make the transition, not that it's better for her outside.

Whatever you do, the cat is better off for your care.

If you are "up to it," I think time and patience in the guest room will work.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

My last comments were in response to jomuir's post, not Susan's. I'm aware that Susan may not have the energy to see Sandy through the integration process, and if she does not, I'm sure she will do the best she possibly can for Sandy.

Laurie


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

The 'Have-a-Heart' traps are wonderful for situations like this. You can probably rent one. The kitty needs to get its eyes taken care of and maybe eventually she and Bonsey will get along outdoors.

We now have 6 outdoor cats who are allowed inside for a little lap time every now and then. None of them wants to stay inside at night which is fine with us but when it gets really frigid in winter, we allow them to come inside our guest house. We are on a farm and outdoor cats are very necessary. They are very affectionate with us and with the dogs and are definitely part of our family.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

laurief, my remark about 4 cats being a bit much was really in response to OP mentioning that she is struggling to care for this cat & may not be able to devote the time & energy this cat needs.

I will say, for me, 4 cats is too many. But I live in a small home with DH, 2 med size dogs & 2 cats, so we're a full house. Lots of people have more cats, not my business or litter pan to clean lol.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

In the past I've had more than four cats at a time in the house, plus a couple of dogs. But that was when I shared pet care with my husband and children. These days it's just me, and I'm reluctantly without a dog for the first time in over 40 years.

When I was refreshing my memory about trapping Sandy (I do have a Havahart trap--I used it to get her to the vet the first time), I read an interesting article on a cat rescue website. I wish I could find it again. The piece of advice that stuck out was that we should be careful not to impose our idea of the ideal cat life on every cat. Not every cat will adapt to indoor living with a family. I suspect most will, but it's something to think about.

For now, the main thing I'm thinking about is how to get Sandy from her crate to a carrier so I can get her to the vet tomorrow. I'm planning to put some canned food in the back of the carrier and place it, door opened, in front of the open door of the crate. How things develop from there is anyone's guess.

BTW, I live in Pennsylvania. Haven't been to Wisconsin since I accompanied my husband there on a business trip 41 years ago. :-)


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

LOL! So much for my non-existent memory! Are you SURE you don't live in WI???

I agree with the erroneous practice of imposing our concept of an "ideal" human life on non-human animals. That's why most of my animals have the option of going in and out. But I just can't, in any good conscience, relinquish a companion animal to a life without companionship outside, esp. in a northern MN climate. I want them under my roof where I can monitor their appetites and health on a daily basis, and where I can get them to the vet as needed.

When a new cat appears on my farm, my standard practice is to catch and bring the cat in, keep it strictly inside for a year to give the cat time to fully integrate and become comfortable and happy as a family member, then give the cat the option of going out during the day, if desired. As a result, I now have some cats who like to go outside occasionally, and others who have never shown any interest in going back outside after their year inside.

Laurie


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

I once had six or seven cats at one time for a short period. I will downsize to two when any present ones die which hopefully will be a long time from now. I have a big house and a husband but if it was just me, I'm liable to have just one dog and two cats.

A local story in the news today. In Lancaster the allowed limit of cats per household is 5 and this couple had 44. But remarkably they are nice people... not filthy hoarder types. Their house was clean and animal control people said the cats were all healthy . They were left with the couple but they need to get rid of 39 of them or they will be fined $1000 a day. They were very teary. They had shelves in their house and tunnels and cat doors to the porch and all looked very sweet. I hope many people watching will adopt one or two. Imagine the litter boxes they have. I have seven.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

alisande said, 'The piece of advice that stuck out was that we should be careful not to impose our idea of the ideal cat life on every cat.'

That is so true. I think sometimes when we disagree on this forum, it's because we are doing this, and our vision of what's right for a pet is going to vary from another's.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

Frankly, if my cats had to live indoors I would have to decide which ONE I wanted to keep. The days they all have to stay indoors overnight in the coldest parts of winters, the litter box (a medium sized baby pool) has to be cleaned several times a day. Four of them tend to come inside every day for an hour or two but none of them ever uses the litter box when they have the opportunity to go out. I like that about them!

Also, I feed all of the cats kibble but rely on them getting their best nutrition in what they can catch outdoors. An indoor cat would have to be fed better cat food and still I wonder if they would be getting the nutrients a cat should really have. So, we all treat our beloved kitties as we do because we feel that is best for them and for us. There is not one 'right' way.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

I just reread my last post and saw that I misworded it (must have been overly tired ... or just brain dead). I agree that many people impose a human concept of "ideal" cat life on cats. In fact, any human who has ever fed, vaccinated, or housed a cat - inside, outside, or upside down - has imposed that human ideal to some degree. It's up to each of us to determine what we feel is in a cat's best interest and what we are able or willing to do within the constraints of applicable humane legalities. Of course there is no one set way to care for all cats. Cats are individuals, just as we are. Within my own household, there are cats who would be miserable if I forced an exclusively indoor existence on them, and there are others who would be terrified if I forced them to go outside. Every individual living entity has its own recipe for its "best life", and we all spend a lifetime trying to figure out the ingredients.

Laurie


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

I have tamed many Feral cats over the yrs. and one is it takes time. "sandy" is Stressed that is one reason that she is actting way she is. For her Eyes there is this wonderful stuff You can buy at any Feed store and its called VETERICYN. for like 8oz is like no more then 30 bucks. You spray in the cats eyes and it will clear up any Infection . I used it on the wild cat that we took in few months ago. I put him in a towel and stray his eyes. from nasty eyes to clear in less time then all the meds the vet gave us that didnt work.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

I've made note of that eye medicine, Mountain Lady. I may need it.

I got Sandy into the cat carrier and to the vet this morning. Her eyes are very badly infected, and the ear mites they treated her for before are as bad as ever. The poor cat must be so uncomfortable. She tolerated being handled by the vet amazingly well. He washed out her ears pretty thoroughly and put ointment in her eyes. He also gave her another long-lasting antibiotic shot and treated the ear mites again. And he clipped her nails.

He told me my only choices were to treat her for these problems or put her to sleep. Of course I said I would give treatment my best shot. He also said she's not a mean cat; she's a good girl. I agree.

I thought about how to proceed with the treatment, and decided the best way for me to have access to her twice a day is to raise the dog crate up onto the bed so I can reach farther in. So I went to the hardware store and bought a tarp to protect the bed. I obviously can't deal with the little tube of eye ointment while wearing leather gloves, so I hope we can pull this off without injury--to me. I have severe Raynaud's, and even though we're not officially in winter yet I already have painful sores on my fingers, caused by a lack of blood flow. If they are opened, that would not be a good thing.

I sure hope she can be restored to heath. I can't help wondering why this cat contracted so many things: eye infection, ear mites, fleas. I hope one fed off the other, and this doesn't indicate an impaired immune system that can never be improved.

I've now spent $300 on her vet care, and that's a chunk of money for me. Between that and the report on her eyes and ears, I was feeling rather discouraged when we left the vet's. But then I saw a dead dog taken out on a stretcher, and his crying owners. I got in my car and cried, too--for them and for animals everywhere--but at the same time I realized how lucky I am.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

Well, he's a dooms-day veterinarian!
My cat came to me with an upper respiratory and eye infection that the vet couldn't get control of. I switched to a Cat Clinic after the first vet wanted to run $300 worth of tests that in the long run would not be beneficial to her treatment.

The Clinic prescribed a compounded antibiotic, gave me eye meds, and then put her on Revolution for the ear mites. She showed improvement in 48 hrs. and has been healthy since.
Look into Revolution for control of the ear mites. Kinda surprised your vet didn't recommend it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Revolution


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

I checked my paperwork. Yes, Revolution is what she got. Twice now. Let's hope she responds as well as your cat, Ann.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

Well, it's no wonder Sandy is cranky with the mites and the infected eyes. You are going the distance for her , and I'm sure it will work out. My cats never had ear mites, but one kitten I adopted got an upper respiratory illness mainly from being in a cage with many other cats. It was not fun putting ointment in her eyes, and she was tiny. But it did work after a few days. Maybe Sandy's immune system isn't up to par because of bad nutrition when she was a stray. Good food should help that. Good luck. I have Raynaud's too and blisters on my hand now, so be careful.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

Animals and people get all sorts of health problems when under severe stress. The immune system can't cope with a high amount of stress. This poor kitty has obviously had plenty of stress in her life and I thank you for caring for her.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

Update on Sandy--not as cheerful an update as I was hoping to give you. She was so stressed by the visit to the vet that she hardly moved that first day until I got her settled in the crate (which has worked out well on the bed). She allowed me to treat her eyes twice a day, but has gotten progressively less tolerant of this procedure--although she loves the treats I give her afterward, and gobbles them up.

The eyes don't seem to be improving, though. I guess my Plan B (which feels like Plan Z at this point) is to invest another 30 bucks in the spray that Mountain Lady mentions above. When I clean Sandy's food dish I find brownish deposits around the rim--some kind of bloody discharge from her eyes, I think.

I don't see her grooming, and she doesn't look like she's grooming much. I know cats will stop grooming when they're sick, and I assume it can also happen when they're stressed. I brushed her the other day, and she shed quite a bit. She has always sneezed occasionally. I don't know whether her confinement (which has been going on for some time now) is responsible for what I observe now, or whether she has a chronic illness that will never go away. She is very eager to get out of the crate. She's also still alternately seeking attention and hissing/attacking.

I think we're both tired of this, but I'm running out of ideas.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

I'm sorry that things aren't going well with Sandy's recovery. I know that you're trying everything you can to help her, and I know that keeping her crated is making it possible for you to medicate her. Unfortunately, that confinement may be making things worse for her instead of better. Cats are very susceptible to stress-induced illness, and confinement is undoubtedly stressful. The fact that she doesn't seem to be overcoming her maladies, and her continuing emotional and behavioral volatility may be demonstrations of that stress. You need to weigh the benefits and detriments of crating and see if it might not be better to give her free run of the room again, even if it means having to rely solely on L-lysine to hopefully and eventually help her eyes recover. Regaining a little bit of control over her environment might help her relax and give her body more of a chance to heal itself. Just a thought.

Laurie


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

I agree with laurie....Sandy needs to get out of the crate.

Since you're not seeing improvement with what the vet gave you I think you should let him know. If you don't have a veterinary eye specialist in your area then ask your vet to at least consult with one.
Did he check her eyes to see if she has an ulcerated cornea? I'm also curious as to what you're putting in her eyes.

If you choose to try the Vetericyn be sure to get the Ophthalmic Gel....not the spray made for wounds. I've never used it but since Sandy's eye infection is so severe I'd be wary.


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RE: Semi-feral cat: My plan is not proceeding well.

Was she tested for Bartonella? It causes a lot of eye issues, and Convenia doesn't work on it.

Are you giving her l-lysine at all? I would definitely add it. EntirelyPets.com has treats (my cats all loved the soft chews enough to sit on command for them, the hard ones only one really liked), or maple(?!!) flavored goop, or you can just smash up the pills from CVS/WalMart/wherever. The flavor is neutral to good (yes, I tried some of the smashed pills), it's not like an antibiotic where you really have to hide the flavor.

I'm not a vet, nor a chemist, but when I see a controversial celebrity endorser, and no ingredient information about a product, I get suspicious. If the Vetericyn doesn't have steroids, antibiotics, alcohol or tea tree oil in it, what are the active ingredients in it? More importantly, why aren't they telling me the active ingredient?

As for the biting/scratching, is she getting over stimulated? Is it possible she has an abscess or sore spot that's making her bite? I know when our "feral-failure" first decided that we were ok, we made sure that we just pet her in small bits, because she was still new at this, and a little unpredictable.

Her brother meows at us all the time too- we have no idea why. He doesn't want to be within 5 feet of us, but he wants to have a conversation!

Oh, about the ear mites/Revolution- the TNR vets told us it takes two doses to get rid of the ear mites.


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