Joan: I have read about — and occasionally heard of
— domestic cats who became feral and then returned to
domestic life. Do you think it can happen to Sweetie Pie
and if so, what is my next step?
Pie, the feral, has made a new step in domesticity. He
actually learned to let me pet him about three months
ago, and last night, for the first time, let me comb him
out with a flea comb.
started to try to poke his head into my house. All my
other cats would probably welcome him, except Alfred.
Alfred does not even like my other four cats and will
occasionally try to fight with them to assert dominance.
in winter two years ago, I put up a cardboard shelter
box with holes on all sides — one side open — and a
rug in it. Sweetie Pie started sleeping in it, or using
it as a wind break, every night. Now he sleeps against
my glass patio door with the light on above him.
He was in
a terrible fight about a year ago, probably with a
raccoon or a coyote. He was badly injured and I was not
sure he would survive. He came to my door for help but
wouldn’t let me touch him.
him some oral medication I had from my other cats and
vitamins, and he recovered. It touched me that he came
to me when he was injured and in pain.
year ago he started taking treats from my fingers, and
three or four months ago let me touch, then pet him.
Lately, he will let me pet him without food for an
incentive and he will purr like crazy and arch his back.
come up to me sometimes when I am on the stairs, but it
is still a stretch for his courage. I just don’t know
how to go about building trust to let me pick him up. Is
this too much of a stretch?
Arlynn: You are making excellent progress with Sweetie
Pie, and I’m confident if you keep doing what you’re
doing, taking it slow, that he eventually will let you
have more and more contact with him. You might not ever
be able to pick him up — even some house cats can balk
at that — but you can work on having him sit near you
and then climb onto your lap.
try to rush it by grabbing him or trying to force him
into your lap — that will undo all that you’ve
accomplished so far.
as Sweetie Pie are not true feral cats. They were pets
until they were abandoned or lost, and while they take
on some wildness, they remain domesticated. Feral cats,
on the other hand, are much harder to tame because they
have had limited, if any, contact with humans.
Pie is frightened by his surroundings, making it
difficult for him to trust you. By feeding him without
asking too much in return, you’ll eventually gain his
trust. Actually, I think you already have it. You just
need to keep building on it.