Taming a feral cat is a new experience for me. I make friends quickly with any cat usually. This article explains the joy we have experienced of our cat being happier and less feral. The progress is slow but celebrated greatly.
I am so happy as this week we have made progress with taming our feral cat, Fermi. She is only really semi feral as has lived in a home before but really doesn't like humans. Even though she isn’t cuddly, or even very friendly, she is the centre of our family. All four of us want her to be more relaxed, settled and happy. Slowly we have been building up trust and we all experience such joy with each tiny sign of her being settled.
The Story so Far
In a previous blog article, I mentioned how we got Fermi. I was told she was timid and preferred the other cats at the foster family. However, we found her to be extremely timid and did her best to avoid humans. Even accounting for moving home, she was more nervous than expected.
Last week, I talked about looking for another cat to help Fermi feel safe. This is still in progress as although we have passed the home check, the lady is deciding whether the blind kitten would be happy with us. As it turns out the cat is in Cyprus (not Chorley as it said on the advert), this is a concern I had. It is hard to know what to do for the best.
Fermi’s Behaviour at First
Fermi was very skittish and timid when we first got her. This was to be expected but we thought she would calm down after a week or so.
We’d put measures in place to help her and had checked out advice from behaviour books and the Internet. I believe in researching as much as possible as I wanted to make sure we did everything right. I did this before we were getting her as it had been 11 years since we last got a cat and I wanted to make sure we did all we could to smooth the process.
The Improvements in Fermi’s Behaviour
Despite our best efforts, Fermi is still extremely timid and nervous. Behaviour can’t change overnight. Who knows what happened to her before? Plus it is a huge life change moving to a new home. There have been improvements and she does seem happier than she was.
Each slight indication of improvement of her happiness is celebrated greatly in our family. Sometimes, it is a backwards step the next day which is met with sadness and disappointment from us. We know, if we keep trying, she will keep improving and then hopefully one day, there won’t be a backwards step.
Our ideal end result would be a lap cat that likes cuddles. Each cat is different so she may never want this anyway. So we have readjusted our ideal end goal to be that Fermi isn’t scared of us and is comfortable in her home.
Fermi will now take food out of my hand. Prawns are her favourite (and my least favourite to handle). Chicken is her second favourite. She isn’t fussed on Dreamies – weird cat not liking those! The first bit of food, I usually have to put on the floor or on her bed. Then once she has tested it, she will take the rest from me.
She does prefer to be in her bed when hand fed, I think she feels safest there. When I’ve tried when she is outside the bed, she is too hesitant. If she is in her bed upstairs, she won’t take food out of my hand. This is a covered box so it could be because she has no escape other than running past me. As she doesn’t use this bed as much, I haven’t tried to feed her upstairs very often.
She is fine with my hand going near her but she will hiss if she thinks my body is too close. This happens when I’m trying to get comfortable on the floor and accidentally lean forwards too much. She will also hiss the first time I go near her in the day.
I do hand feed her about four times a day. Only a few little bits each time out of her daily food allowance. This is the area with the biggest improvement.
Sometimes she runs away when I go to hand feed her. I settle down near her bed, show her the treat box and she comes back and sits in her bed. This is amazing progress even though I know she is only after the food.
Staying in the Room with Humans
It is really nice that she will sometimes stay in the same room and doesn’t always run off! She will stay in her kitchen bed while we eat meals. Sometimes she will eat her tea while we have ours then take the opportunity to go in the hallway to have a look – but she isn’t running off, just normally walking away.
To be honest, she only usually stays in the same room if it is the kitchen or if she doesn’t realise we are there. (I say this, but last night she came into the living room and stayed for ten minutes even though she knew we were there.)
I was over the moon when she licked my hand. She’d finished all the prawns and she licked the prawn juice. She was so hesitant and gentle. That was a lovely treat for me!
Made a Meow Face
I was so chuffed this week when I was sorting out her tea, and she had moved closer to me. She made a meow face and her mouth opened. No sound came out though. I think she will have to work up to that.
Stayed under our Bed
One night last week after we’d gone to bed, I heard her come into our bedroom and have a wash under the bed. Hearing her walk around and be active is so nice. She does walk silently and just appears most of the time. Occasionally she will thunder down the stairs which does sound like one of the children running. Typical hefty Norwegian forest cat behaviour!
Going Upstairs after Kiddies Bedtime
After the kiddies finally stay in bed and we are downstairs, Fermi will sneak upstairs. I’ve caught her coming out of my daughters bedroom. Apparently she goes in their bedrooms and has a good look around. Both kiddies stay still in the hope that she will stay there.
Let me Sit Nearby
This week Fermi has let me sit in the kitchen chair next to her bed. Every now and then, I put my hand down near her but don’t touch her. Sometimes she gets up to give my hand a sniff. At times, she has even stayed curled up, completely relaxed in her bed.
Played with Toys
Fermi has played more with toys. She prefers to play on her own terms and not with humans. However, we try with toys on sticks as it gets her used to interaction with us. She will watch them but not pounce.
While feeding I have accidentally touched her tail and she doesn’t mind, as long as she isn’t looking. If she notices I am too close to her, she jumps but doesn’t run away. I think stroking her is a long way off and I don’t want to push this with her as it may undo the progress we’ve had so far. This webpage emphasises the importance of taking things slow so the cat doesn't regress to withdrawn behaviour.
At first, Fermi’s ears were always flattened against her head. She does look like a grumpy cat when she does this. Nowadays, they are up in a normal alert position most of the time.
She now has more relaxed eyes. Every time I pop into the kitchen, I pop my head round to say hello to her and tell her how lovely she is. More often now, she will look at me, blink slowly a few times and put her head down. At least I am getting more steps in getting up to see her regularly.
Displaying Normal Behaviour
Fermi is a very quiet cat but I have such joy when she acts like a normal tame cat. Usually I wouldn’t like animals on the kitchen top but she got up there once this week and explored. I was pleased she was looking round while I was in the room.
She has started to use the scratching posts but only when we all go to bed. It makes me very happy to hear her walking around the house after bedtime. She is so silent walking around most of the time.
At the weekend, my husband fell asleep after his alarm went off. When he woke up he found she was nearby trying to see if he was getting up. She didn’t meow though. When he went downstairs, the cat ran ahead but kept stopping to check that he was going to feed her.
Our Next Steps
As I’ve said before, it is was love at first sight for us – obviously unrequited love. Hopefully one day she will realise we just want to be nice to her. Each time there is a glimmer of improvement, my heart fills with joy.
We are going to keep on doing everything we can to help her. Basically we will continue with what we’ve been doing. We aren’t going to rush it and hoping that for the rest of her life, she will be happy and content here. As she is 6 now, that is probably going to be over ten more years.
Hopefully by getting a friend for her, she will feel safer and will see how it interacts with us. The kitten we want to adopt is good with cats and people as had lots of socialisation at the rescue.
The children are really good with her. It helps that they are older, know to respect her space and understand that she needs time and gentle actions towards her. My daughter in particular, is great at telling me what Fermi is doing and will encourage her to play.
I’ll let you know how it goes.