By the time Forgotten Felines puts a feral-born kitten or cat up for adoption, that kitty has been tamed – touched and loved by human hands, nurtured and supported in a foster home, and finally assessed to be ready for a permanent home with an adoptive parent. But just as we humans are products of our backgrounds and childhoods, a tamed feral kitty is still connected to her feral roots. And, just like humans who sometimes regress to childhood emotions when they’re stressed or frightened (did you ever have a bad day and want to crawl under the covers or eat “comfort food” for dinner?), a stressed and frightened kitty might instinctually return to feral behavior in the face of a threat.
What does this mean for you, the new adoptive parent? Firstly, it’s important to prepare yourself for a different and possibly challenging experience when you first bring home your new kitty. If you’ve previously adopted non-feral cats who walked into your house and just made themselves right at home, you need to erase those images. It is the rare feral-born kitty who will acclimate right away, and it’s not fair to the kitty or to yourself to have unrealistic expectations.
The key to a successful transition is PATIENCE, PATIENCE and more PATIENCE. You need to accept the fact that this process will be governed by the kitty’s schedule, not yours. Kitty will let you know when she’s ready to move to the next stage — you can’t force it. Always try to keep in mind that the reward for your patience, and for what can feel like a frustrating, exasperating process, is an enduring, loving, and trusting bond between you and your new cat. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for your first days and possibly weeks with kitty:
The basic rules of introducing pets to the new kitty still apply here – keep them separate, let them smell and hear each other through the closed door, give it time. With a tamed feral, however, we recommend that you invite your other pets, one at a time, into the kitty’s room. Don’t just rely on the new kitty to leave the room and introduce herself. In some cases, you may find that the kitty is more comfortable and outgoing around your other cats than she is with you! Remember, that’s feral instinct at work – their first companions and neighbors were cats, not humans. Patience is important with this process as well. Depending on the personality of your other pets, there may be hissing or growling. Monitor the two animals to make sure no one gets hurt, but give them the space to explore each other. Try short sessions and then repeat them as necessary.
If you follow the above guidelines, hopefully that day will come when kitty is now an integrated member of your household. Maybe you wanted that day to come earlier, but at least it’s finally here! She’s playing in your living room, she’s in your lap or sitting next to you on the couch, she’s eating in the kitchen, she’s sleeping in your bed. She may always be a kitty who does a fifty-yard dash when the doorbell rings or lightening strikes, but remember that this is just part of what makes her special!