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Befuddling Feral Behavior

This is a place to gain some understanding of cat behavior and to assist people in training their cats and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other cat owners and lovers...not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

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Purred: Sun Jan 16, '11 5:20pm PST 
I rescued a feral kitten 2 years ago. Her behavior doesn't seem to conform to any "normal" cat behavior pattern and I would be interested to hear if anyone else has had issues with feral cat behavior.

Isis hisses at everything, even when she appears to be otherwise happy. She often displays conflicting behaviors, for example she will hold onto your hand with her claws extended, but she will not break the skin- while she is doing that, she is licking your hand- then biting it while growling. She seems to have frequent "mood swings" if such a thing is possible. She will often seek out attention, and we will pet her until her tail begins to twitch, then leave her alone. She has formed an attachment to the older, male cat which also seems to be love/hate.

I often wonder if she is like this because we took her in so young- there was no sign of the mother who could have been any one of a large group of ferals that lived in the area that were sometimes taken by animal control.
We love her, and have learned to live with her moodiness, but I was always curious about this.

Any feedback?


Purred: Sun Jan 16, '11 5:38pm PST 
Have you taken her to a vet to rule out any neurological problems? Hyperesthesia is one neurological problem that can cause a cat to have apparently conflicting reactions to receiving affection.


Purred: Sun Jan 16, '11 7:33pm PST 
Reading over the information I don't think that it's a match for her behavior, but it is a possibility. Is this common with ferals? We just assumed that she hadn't completely learned behavior skills because she was separated from her mother so young.
I will look into this, thanks for the insight.

Any other suggestions from anyone?

TGM Gimli DB- #101a

Play Hard, Sleep- Hard!

Purred: Sun Jan 16, '11 8:43pm PST 
My moodiest cat is Tabi. She wasn't feral. We found her hanging around the cars in the parking lot of the apartment complex we were living in when she was about 3 months old. She was very friendly and sweet when we brought her in, so she must have lived with a family. Not sure how long she was outside, but her paws were dirty. Now she is very temperamental. She hisses and swats at all the cats and our dog. She loves being around Gimli and Isis, but she is also mean to them. She has calmed down quite a bit since my oldest cat Nigel got diagnosed with cancer in September and he passed away in October. I always said if Nigel weren't around, she would be the alpha cat even though she is the youngest.
Gimli's half-sister and cat-mom were feral cats. Kahlan was Gimli's half-sister. I finally caught her when she was 4 months old. She was sweet. Three years ago, she got out when I went to feed Charlie out on the porch and I didn't realize she got out. After two weeks, she showed up to eat on the porch. We tried to catch her but she would always get away. If I were in the kitchen and I looked out the window to check on Charlie and she happened to be on the porch and she saw me looking at her, she would bolt. I guess she always had those feral urges and she longed to be outside even after living indoors for so long. It's funny because she and Isis are the only cats in the house that do the "shaky tail" or "vibrating tail." It is when the cat sticks her/his tail straight up and vibrates it really fast from base to tip. It means that your cat really loves you. So it always confused me why she did this but she didn't want to come back to us if she loved me so much.

My new addition, Kenji, he is 10 weeks old and I got him when he was 5 weeks old. You can read his story on his page. So far, he is the sweetest kitten and has a great disposition. He has adapted very well to his new life.

kaya skye

not fighting my- demons-we joined- forces
Purred: Sun Jan 16, '11 10:29pm PST 
You have a genetic feral who you separated from momcat early? Yeah, my oldest resembles that remark. A gentleman took in local ferals, his brother thinks he started with three or four. He didn't take in more to his knowledge, but neither did he spay or neuter any of his refugees. Basically, an indoor feral cat colony was created...yowza. His brother stepped in to help him dismantle this disaster when it came to the notice of the city, and he removed the two dozen or so kittens, among them my Kaya...who was being ignored by her momcat anyway, other queens were feeding that litter of eight for the most part.
So I have a genetic feral whose mother pretty much had no interest and was removed from any adult cat influence before she was a month old....Lord of the Flies, feline version. And dear Bastet, is she weird...
For one thing, she literally has OCD. But the specific love/hate thing? Yeah, I see that with her. She's very needy, very sensitive, very anxious...much like an insecurely attached toddler. All I can say from what you've said so far is that yes, this seems familiar. It may interest you that the other two ferals in the house, born outside, had longer with their momcat, had very good mothering, and don't show this behavior. (The youngest, who came inside at almost six months, is somewhat high anxiety but his anxiety seems to be mostly related to real things...sudden movements, noises, etc. )
Don't know if this helps...feel free to pmail me. OH-a question that may seem odd...what month was Isis born in?


Purred: Mon Jan 17, '11 11:38am PST 
I found Isis in March, you can see from her photo how small she was so her birth month is anyone's guess.
I don't mean to make her come across as a harpy- she has calmed down quite a bit in the 2.5 years- she can be downright sweet at times, asking for attention and petting, which we do until that tail starts twitching. she still hates being picked up but she will tolerate it for a few moments now where she would hiss and growl before.
Sometimes she will hiss at us just for looking at her. Who knows?
I've just always been curious about her behavior as it is different from all the other cats I've met.


Purred: Mon Jan 17, '11 1:07pm PST 
I've done quite a bit of socializing of feral and semi-feral kittens that we've rescued from various locations. The younger the kitty, the more they seem to bond & become comfortable with humans; it's the older ones (older than about 3 months old) that stay aloof or frequently don't become as cuddly and lovable as kittens exposed to humans from earlier on. Really young ones don't learn "bite/scratch-inhibition" from their siblings, but can be taught it. If they don't have any other cats to interact with, they don't learn proper "cat" behavior and may not be willing to allow another kitty into the household when they're older.

The behavior you're describing isn't similar to any I've seen, so I'm not sure it's because kitty came from outdoors. Not sure what the cause - or the fix - would be!



Purred: Mon Jan 17, '11 6:45pm PST 
Her hissing rarely signals a preeminent attack--it seems to be just her way of saying "leave me alone", but the growling we take more seriously.
I guess I just have an autistic cat of some sort but we don't love her any less because of it. She'll always be "my moody one".

Miss Tiny- Burr Burr

Love and adore.
Purred: Mon Jan 17, '11 7:09pm PST 
I dont beleve cats can be autistic. But its possible she didnt learn proper behavoir while she was young. You said you found her as a kitten, its possible before you had her she was a stray and didnt interact with humans much.

Celeste(2009- -2012)

Purred: Mon Jan 17, '11 8:08pm PST 
Our mom, like Mohawks mom does rescue, She's seen much of what you describe in a wide range of feral, non feral strays. Kittens turn into velcro cats the sooner they have human attention but like Mohawk said at 3, 4 months their nature is already well set.
There are 3 'houseferals' with us, mom took them at 3 and 4 months because there was an epidemy at the colony, they were pretty sick but recovered, one did exactly what you describe,they will be six years old this year and still when they have to see the vet is high drama to catch them. Their feral behavior was already ingrained. Over the years mom took in feral kittens you'd never believe what sweeties they became but they were much younger and bonded with people.
Your kitten can modify his behavior overtime but it'll take years. Thank-you for taking him in

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