By Elisa Black-Taylor
October 16 is National Feral Cat Day. In honor of this special holiday, I’d like to tell you about our cat Renny.
Renny came to us as a six week old kitten back in July of 2011. He was one of the few we didn’t lose to the panleuk outbreak. We believe one of the reasons he survived is he went into hiding for the first two months he was with us. You see, Renny was a feral kitten. So feral that we had to obtain special permission from the shelter manager to rescue him. Feral kittens aren’t thought highly of in my area. It was believed that due to his wild nature, Renny would never be suitable for adoption. I was told if I didn’t take him, he’d likely be euthanised. Most people looking for a new kitten don’t want one who bites and hides. Renny had escaped at the shelter and it took the staff two days to catch him and return him to a cage.
We gave our new arrival plenty of time to adjust. He earned the name Renny the Renegade because he would only come out long enough to eat and to use the litter box. We’d see him creeping along the wall edges when he thought we weren’t paying attention. Should we acknowledge his presence, Renny would take off and hide.
We began making progress after the first month, but we had to make the first move. After being bitten a few times when trying to pick up our terrified little kitten, Laura got the idea of wrapping Renny in a towel while we petted his. This gave us a layer of protection should he try to bite.
We eventually won Renny over with food treats. He loved raw chicken gizzards and would stay on the bar to eat his share. He loved his treat more than he feared us. It was during this treat time we would make eye contact with him for short periods of time. Any sudden movement still sent him into hiding.
Here’s a short YouTube video I made of Renny when he was still very feral. We’d had him about a month when this was made.
Renny soon decided it was safe to join the other cats for a nap together. In the beginning, he’d wake up and run should we get too close to him. Over time he came to sleep with the cats who slept closer to Laura and me. We made few attempts to touch him during this phase of his taming.
It took over four months before Renny had progressed to the point where we could hold him and pet him. One day I accidentally stepped on his tail and this sent him back into hiding for a few weeks. He had the most betrayed expression on his face before he disappeared on me.
After a year, Renny has become a snuggle bug. He lives in my bedroom with Sealy. Sealy was also a feral before we rescued him. Both cats live in my bedroom, with controlled visits from the other tamer cats. Sealy and Renny crave quiet. No loud noises and no sudden movements. It’s like the feral in them is buried just below the surface.
Renny likes to sleep draped over my shoulder at night. I put my hand under his little butt to hold him upright while he naps. When I’m ready for sleep, I move him beside me on my pillow. When he’s not sleeping on my bed, he’s sleeping under it. Sealy has the same sleeping preferences.
Renny never meows. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sound from him. The suspicious look is mostly gone now. He follows me from my bedroom to the master bath and back. Like Sealy, he doesn’t want me out of his sight.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this story of Renny. I know a lot of you work with ferals and know how much hard work goes into taming them. I want people to understand it’s not impossible to win the trust of these cats. It takes lots of time and patience with a little cat psychology thrown in for good measure.
And that’s what National Feral Cat Day is about. Education and understanding. Plus tons of love and patience.
Do any of you have feral cat stories to share?