Our Feral Cat Renny

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.

Renny My Feral Cat

Renny My Feral Cat. Photo and collage by Elisa Black-Taylor

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?

Elisa

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Comments

Our Feral Cat Renny — 9 Comments

  1. Well, you did it again. You love ’em enough to make them feel safe and at home. And they have a home with you. You showed great patience and gave Renny the time. Laura did her bit too. It seems to me it is about food and time! Give nice food, say gentle and nice things, make them feel safe and gradually, over a long time, you turn a feral cat into a domestic cat. Renny eating raw chicken reminds me of Martin Stucki feeding raw chicken to kitten Savannah cats at their farm in Oklahoma. He feed dry cat food and raw chicken. Even little baby cats loved it.

    • Renny doesn’t play with the other cats. Possibly because they’re always wide open. He enjoys visits from Lucky, Midnight and Mandy. Cujo has made him play some in the bedroom. The more active cats make him nervous.

      He and Sealy are very well suited to each other. Renny looks like Sealys friend who didn’t survive his car fan blade injury.

  2. I would like to caution anyone who offers raw chicken to a cat to please be careful. Study food handling and be sure to disinfect the eating surface as well as the prep area after the treat is eaten. Raw meat can be very dangerous.

  3. Monty was feral when I caught him at eight weeks. He was hissing and trying to bite and scratch as I picked him up, but he was too small to do anything. He wouldn’t eat or use the litterbox the first day. He is doing well today in both those departments. He snarls at the vet, and he will growl at company. He hates people staying overnight. But yesterday we had a salesman here for adding some downspouts to our gutters and as we spoke with him on the front porch, up pops Monty’s little head at the screen door. The salesman got a kick out of a little black cat popping up next to him right around Halloween. I liked that Monty was curious, but not afraid. He also didn’t growl at him, which was nice.

  4. What a wonderful story and what a beautiful cat AND what fantntastic photos him. What an amazing job you do caring for any and all sorts of cats from a variety of different situations. You are a lifesaver and a total angel and I have no doubt that the cats totally appreciate that fact.

    • The secret is to give them time. We never dreamed it would take this long with Renny since we got him as a kitten. We just left him alone until he was ready for us. I was a professional photographer for 12 years and have a degree in photography. But my best pictures are made with my android phone. I use the free Craft Artist software from Daisy Trail. They offer lots of add on kits for $2.

      • You probably get your best photos with the phone because it is always handy. That is one of the secrets to getting the shot – having a camera 🙂 And time is certainly the big factor in domestication it seems to me. You’re good at it though.

  5. I love the photos of Renny! His name is great too– Renny the Renegade! Monty sleeps under my bed too. It used to bother me and I’d keep putting him on top of the bed, but he’d go back under there. During the day he will nap out in the open. At night he is always under something– under the futon, under our bed or in his little enclosed cat bed. Maybe that’s the feral in him to seek cover at night because it’s safer. It actually took Monty a long time to lie on top of our bed at all, but now he will sometimes sleep there during the day. He brings his stuffed doggie up there, so sometimes Jeff and I wake up and realize we spent the night with Monty’s stuffed dog.

  6. What a beautiful tabby boy – and so lucky that you found him, Elisa. Working with feral cats takes lots of love and patience, but I’m sure Renny have already proven he was worth it.

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