DEAR JOAN: At the end of February, a darling tortoise shell (medium length hair calico) showed up at our home. You could tell she had been in a home at one time, as she was friendly but very aloof and skittish.
By mid-March, she would come to me when I called her and follow me as she knew I had food for her. Early April, we were able to catch her, take her to the vet, get her spayed and confine her to our family/laundry room to recover. She has free run of these two rooms, yet we cannot get close to her.
She is still skittish and runs from us. She is learning to play and be a cat. Is there hope for her? How long will it take her to trust us? Eventually, we would like her to be an indoor/outdoor cat, as we have 3 acres and would bring her in at night.
She so wants to get outside, as now that the weather is warmer, we open the screen door, and she sits by it. She is a smart cat and remembers her freedom and hunting days. We have named her Daisy.
Joan T., Palo Cedro
DEAR JOAN: You are doing a wonderful job of converting Daisy into a house cat, and I encourage you to keep going on the path you’re on. It will take time and work, although you should know that some cats never warm to humans, and you should accept Daisy for the cat she is.
Most cat experts recommend transitioning from outdoors to indoors gradually by allowing the cat inside, feeding it indoors and gradually lengthening the time the cat is in the house. You’ve jumped ahead, which is fine, but it could explain why she’s not yet comfortable in the house.
Move forward from where you are and make sure she has all the things indoors that she had outdoors — resting and hiding places, food, water, a litter box and scratching posts.
While being outdoors is fraught with danger and mishap, a cat that has been living outside might find the inside a bit boring. Be sure Daisy has places to run, jump, hide and scratch, as well as interesting textures and scents to keep her occupied.
Cats like to be up high, so installing cat towers that give her a few different levels for play and sleep is important, too. The best interactive toy is you. Get some cat wands that have dangling things that you can whip around and allow Daisy to chase and stalk.
In time, she’ll get accustomed to you and her new space, but you have to be patient and let her decide when she’s ready to crawl into your lap or allow you to pet her. Try to stroke her a few times a day, but if she hisses or swats at you, stop and try again later.
Once she’s transitioned into being a house cat, letting her back outside could be confusing and undo all the work you’ve done. You also have no guarantee that she’ll return to you each night, which is a cat’s favorite time to prowl. After all, that’s how you came to have her in the first place.
If you can’t stand the idea of never letting her outside, you can try leash training or build a large screened-in enclosure in your yard that will safely allow her to explore.
Good luck to you and Daisy.
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