Domestic Cats That Turn Feral

Domestic Cats That Turn Feral

by Michael

What makes a domestic cat turn feral? I am talking about domestic cats that are well cared for.

I have two examples. They are very different. The first concerns my little old lady cat. She is at the end of her life at 19 years of age with kidney failure and possible cancer etc. She has lost weight but eats fairly well. She is loved desperately.

She has been a normal domestic cat all her life. She was and is allowed outside into a safe area. She used to go out a bit. For the past three months and more she has spent all her time – and I mean 24/7 – outside in the garden. She only comes in for food. I have been forced to put the water outside. Occasionally I walk food out to her. I have to, to get her to eat more. She has turned semi-feral. Her coat over her thin bony frame is now dense and it feels like a functional coat. It has to be. She grooms much better because she is thin and cat get to all parts of her coat. That has been the beneficial side effect of her weight loss.

Why has she turned sem-feral? She will have to come in soon as the weather, which has been quite warm, will turn and become cold. If she does not come in, I will have to lock her in and she won’t like that. She has dementia. I have lost her to a certain extent both mentally and physically. It is of great concern. I think she is reverting to instinctive behavior which is more natural behavior.

The second story concerns a person I knew well. She liked cats and always kept cats. A long time ago she kept a ginger cat. He was a tom. I forget if he was neutered. I think he was. After being with her for a while he disappeared. He went outside to live on the golf course opposite the house. He decided to live in the wild. It was that simple.

She tried to find him. She called out all over the golf course. No luck.

About 15 years later a ginger cat turned up at her house. He had a wild look and was clearly badly arthritic. The weather was turning cold. She tried to pick him up and he would have none of it. He was wild. She let him come in and she fed him. He would come in and curl up in a corner. She gave him space. It worked OK.

Then she decided to get a new cat. She was frightened that the wild ginger, who was the cat she once lived with, would upset things. Perhaps he would attack the new cat? She was unsure. She had the ginger boy euthanized.

End of story. A sad story. A story about human and domestic cat behavior that tells us a bit about both species.

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Domestic Cats That Turn Feral

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Oct 10, 2011
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I feel your pain
by: Dee

The number of cats in my lifetime are TNTC (too numerous to count). What they ALL had in common, with the exception of those who were too debilitated, is that each wanted to be outside as they neared their end. Even those that had NEVER been outdoors would go to the door and beg for me to open it. In most cases, I obliged as long as I could be out there with them and bring them back in until their next beg to venture out.
What I learned was that they want to proceed in their journey their own way. I had to stop making anything about ME. I had to stop feeling rejected if they just wanted to be alone or keep distance. They knew I was there if they wanted me. They trusted that I would do most anything they wanted, and I had to trust them that they knew what they were doing. Even the few that seemed demented (Spotty was 21 years old and nutty) got it together enough that it was apparent that they had a plan.
Binnie may surprise you some if the antibiotics keep the infection in check and she can feel better. A lot of my old ones rallied and rallied and rallied…
My thoughts are with you both.


Oct 10, 2011
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Sad for you
by: Ruth

It certainly does feel as if it will kill you Michael and you think you will never smile again but on the other hand the relief when an old cat chooses her old time rather than you having to choose it for her is enormous.
You never get over losing a loved one, be it a person or a pet, you just get used to it with time.
19 years is such a long time you are sure to be feeling dreadful.
The people who say ‘It’s only a cat, you can get another’ have no idea of our heartache when we lose one have they !

Kattaddorra signature Ruth


Oct 10, 2011
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One morning
by: Michael

Yes, I want to wake up one morning and find that she has gone over the rainbow bridge. It will kill me to see that but it is for the best.

I am actually losing her bit by bit every day as she becomes more ill and has more dementia. I love her the same, though.

Thank you for your concern and kind words.


Oct 09, 2011
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Hi, Leah –
by: Sylvia Ann

The English Sylvia’s memorial to Kizzy, and Ruth and Barbara’s to Poppy are outstanding for beauty and profundity, don’t you agree?

But your observations are certainly true.

Judaism (rightfully, perhaps) rejects the concept of the scapegoat: no innocent being deserves to be punished for the transgressions of others. And yet – this is a flawed analogy – one of the most noble aspects of human nature is the desire to bear the burden – if there were a way – of our loved one’s pain rather than see them endure it. As you yourself know, our heart is shoved through a meatgrinder, and the memory of the final days of our beloved is indelible. It tints our remembrance of all our happy times together.

Does any good come from this sorrow? If nothing more, it seems to prove we’re godlike in our small human way,if to be godlike is a relinquishment of self in the spiritual fusion with the sufferer

And at the risk of sacrilege, it’s a state of mind that God might aspire to, for He can look on impassively while some of his creatures are torn asunder to witness pain, not only of their loved ones, but any afflicted or dying creature.


Oct 09, 2011
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Beautiful, profound words from Sylvia
by: Leah

Its so true that in a way we are cursed because we feel empathy and compassion. If we did not we would only be concerned with ourselves which to my mind is selfish.

However, sadness, grief and concern are the price we pay for loving another living thing.

Yet in so many ways we are richer for it because we have gained so much joy and pleasure through that love.

‘Better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all…….’ I believe that is true.

I have had my heart broken, no not just broken torn out so many times at the loss of my darling companions.

Binnie looks very contented and happy at the moment and that’s because of you. I hope you both carry on for quite some time down the path you’ve shared for so many years but when its time for her to leave that path she will go knowing that you love her and she has you to thank for the beautiful, peaceful and safe life she has left behind.

My thoughts are very much with you.


Oct 07, 2011
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You’re Cursed with the Compassion Gland–
by: Sylvia Ann

–that leaves people who have it dangling upside down from a meathook. The fortunate ones are those who can let the sight of suffering roll off their backs like drops of water on a duck’s plumage.

Can’t find it and have forgotten the title,but Matthew Arnold wrote a beautiful poem about humanity’s silent ‘river of tears’…

Binnie is solemn and withdrawn, as people become when they’re near death. Have you ever read the death scene of Prince Andrei in Tolstoy’s War and Peace? (Don’t know how to underline titles.) In his last days he became stern and cold toward those who loved and grieved over him. As my father lay dying the tears streaming down my face were my heart’s blood. But hearing me cry, he told me ‘No. Stop it. Stop it now.’ And I did.

It’s pay-up time. This is the price for having been born and experienced love. You’ve said you have no belief in an afterlife. Most people, at bottom, probably don’t. If they thought it were real,some wouldn’t want it. These children of the earth would prefer sleep over Eternity.

Wouldn’t you rather die outside? It might be less agonizing if you could see the stars at night and feel the cool air.

Meanwhile, your suffering is probably equal to or in excess of little Binnie’s. Your love has ground your heart to a pulp. And yet you’ll survive when she has left you. But you’ll remember your Bininie-girl until you’ve left yourself.

Does suffering build character? It’s hard to see how. This won’t help you, but think, if you can, of Wangari Matthai. Or, if you haven’t, read Eli Weizel’s Night (probably misspelled his name). Two futile suggestions. Words of condolence won’t soften your pain, nor will anything else. You can only endure, and try to remember your years together, and how happy she was to have you as her Dad.


Oct 07, 2011
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Thank you
by: Ruth

Thank you for the update. I’m so sad for you Michael, knowing Binnie can’t get better and I do admire you giving her the treatment to keep her comfortable and are allowing her to spend her days as she chooses.
You are what I call a true cat lover, you put her needs before your own, instead of saying you couldn’t face it and having her PTS as many people do.
That’s a lovely photo and you can see she still has the spark of life in her.
She may slip away quietly one night, Ebony chose to be with us but another very old cat we had, Bert, left us during the night.
I knew the moment I woke up he’d gone, the room was so still somehow. I was relieved for his sake as he was so weary. The chances are you will find Binnie that way one morning.
My heart goes out to you.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth


Oct 07, 2011
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Went to the vet today
by: Michael

Hi Ruth

Thanks a lot for the concern. I went to a different vet today. I wanted to see someone who had more experience as this was about the end of a cat’s life. I was very stressed as I have been for months.

I had a tearful but good experience. The vet was much better. Binnie has anemia and a large mass in her body that appears to be attached to her right kidney. It seems to be an abscess. There is plenty of liquid in there, inside the mass. She is underweight at about 6 lbs (total weight) but a lot of that is the mass in her body. She is all bones.

She had a blood test. She has an infection and low white blood cell count. We won’t operate as she is too old. If she was five years younger we could operate. We are giving her antibiotics permanently to control the infection. But we don’t expect to rid her of the infection.

The vet took a urine sample and it was deep red (full of blood). I knew it would be.

The method is to control the infection and make her feel better. I have ten days worth of antibiotics.

When they run out I will get some more. She is outside as usual. She looks OK. But old. And she looks tired and she wants to be alone.

Conclusion: She is very ill but looks OK. We keep going for the time being.


Oct 07, 2011
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Thinking about you
by: Ruth

Thinking about you today Michael.
Please let us know how Binnie got on at the vets.
Yes it’s a very stressful and sad time for you.
Take care.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth


Oct 06, 2011
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Always sad……..
by: Leah England

I believe that cats just want to be at one with nature when they leave us. They love us but I think they are torn and the instinct that is in them from when they weren’t domesticated takes over and calls them.

Is it not after all true in humans too if we know our lives are soon to end ? I’ve heard of people wanting to visit favourite haunts and beautiful places a sort of hunger that has to be satisfied a kind of wild calling.

Perhaps I am wrong I don’t know.

We feed a stray feral cat ‘Mr Sad Cat’ we’ve named him. At least we still put food out for him but he doesn’t come for it any more but we just want it to be there for him in case he does. We wanted to catch him and help him with his obviously poorly ears etc before the winter set in but I fear nature claimed him first. I only hope he had a peaceful death and not a painful one.

I think all you can do Michael is just be there for Binnie whichever path she chooses. Its such a sad time for you and my thoughts are very much with you; I too hope she chooses her own time.


Oct 06, 2011
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Thank you
by: Michael

Love your advice and thoughts. They are comforting. Thanks Kattaddorra for telling me about Ebony. That is comforting to me. I feel that one morning I will wake up and find her having passed on…I want it to be that way. But my mind turns to it in the morning and I feel sad.

Tomorrow I am taking her to a different vet to see what I need to do. She still has cystitis after two courses of antibiotics. Not sure how to deal with that. Plus the cancer and the heart murmur.

It is very stressful losing a companion of 18 years.

I’ll look into that Nutra-Cal, Elisa. Sounds good. Anything to help. Thanks for the advice.


Oct 06, 2011
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Cold is OK but wet is not
by: Ruth

Most cats with true feral ancestors are happier living outside and grow extra thick coats to enable them to keep warm.
They can stand very cold weather but not very wet weather, so it’s essential they have some sort of shelter to go into if it rains or snows.
Also food and water left in that shelter incase the weather is too bad to hunt their own.
Having said that, many young ferals adapt nicely to living indoors especially if they have their rightful freedom to come and go.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth


Oct 06, 2011
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My Jake’s reason for moving out
by: tamylock

My Jake was born in the woods and always was more of an outdoor guy. I got a year old kitten last year and he refused to eat inside for a couple of months. Then this summer he just didn’t come in for breakfast or dinner. Since he is 14 years old I thought maybe he’d gone off to die. THen he showed up suddenly and my ginger cat Alex chased him away. I spoke to a communicator who I had spoken to before and she said that since I had been obsessing about how to get Jake to the vet(the last two visits he threw up and messed the carrier) that he had decided that the only thing to do was to leave. He told her that he thought he could not clear any more vaccinations from his body. He was happily living around the neigborhood, many of my neighbors call with reports, eating birds and chipmunks. REcently someone left 1/2 a chipmunk by the food in the basement. (The cats have their own door in and out of the basement). I am hoping that was him letting me know he’s still eating well. He has a really thick coat. (tuxedo) I told the communicator to let him know he can come in anytime in fact he can come in and I wouldn’t even know if he had come and gone!! I hope he will come to give me a snuggle.
I am in Mass. and worry about winter coming.


Oct 06, 2011
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Cats have the wild instinct
by: Ruth

I don’t think it’s a matter of turning semi feral. Even though cats have long been dometicated they all still have the wild instinct deep inside them.
In the wild when they know their life is coming to an end, they go off and find a quiet spot to ‘switch off’ and go to sleep and die.
Our old cat Ebony only wanted to be outside when she was preparing to leave us. She’d been used to her freedom as we live in a cat friendly neighbourhood, but we had to confine her to the garden for her own safety.
She only wanted to lie on the lawn in the long grass which we left for her without mowing it, as she seemed so peaceful there.
We were honoured that she chose to die indoors with us who loved her. After a last tour round the lawn and garden she came in and went into a deep sleep for many hours until just after my sister came in from work and we both sat beside her, then she quietly and peacefully left us.
I hope Binnie chooses her own time Michael, as heartbreaking as it is to lose a cat, it’s a relief when they choose their own time to go rather than you having to decide for them.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth


Oct 06, 2011
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Old dog did sort of the same thing
by: Ruth (Monty’s Mom)

My friends had a very old dog who at the end of his life just wanted to be outside all the time when the weather was nice– though he would come in to eat. His guardian said that maybe the dog knew his time was short and he just wanted to enjoy what he had left as much as possible.

Monty will do the outside all the time thing in our fenced yard (now completely fenced). He was out 12 hours yesterday and he’s begging to go out right now. He will come in to eat or for a hug. Sometimes he begs me to come out with him, so I do. It seems like all the outside time makes him very happy. He’s been more affectionate and is more likely to sleep on our bed– he never did that before. He used to always sleep under the bed, in his little tent bed or under a desk. Now he’ll sleep up on his cat tree. He’s not that little feral anymore, hiding as his mother probably hid her kittens. It’s odd that all the outside time allows him to live almost as a wild kitty, but he seems more like a true domestic cat at the same time.

I think Binnie also knows her time is short so she is enjoying it as much as she can. I enjoy being out in nature, so I understand that desire to be out there. I think the cold weather will drive her in with you (it did for my friend’s old dog) but only time will tell what her attitude will be. Perhaps she will also cherish you more in her twilight years. Surely her time with you is not something she’s forgotten, even with the onset of her dementia.


Oct 06, 2011
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It would be nice
by: Elisa

It would be nice if your old girl would enjoy a bit of Nutra-Cal. It comes in a tube and is a reasonable price on Amazon.com. My Marley (mother to the Whineybutts) was only 4 lbs. at 1 year of age. I was shocked when we took her to the vet the first week with the distemper. Turns out she was all fur and no cat. Anyway, she BEGS for the Nutra-Cal several times a day. Didn’t go for it all that well in the beginning. Misty, our underweight 10 year old declawed cat has decided she likes it also. Both have put on weight. Marley is close to normal size now. I just ordered 4 tubes of a generic (Nutra-Stat)
for $20 including shipping. At the vet its $16 a tube.

I feel for your old cat. We had Spot for 15 years. He was an outdoor cat the first 12 then came to live with me once mama was put into a nursing home. He got used to being an indoor cat. When mama was about to be released she moved us back to her property and Spot again got a taste of outside life. He had FeLV and died over a plate of his favorite canned food two days after we moved back. His weight had dropped from 15 lbs to 5 lbs at that time.

If a cat has lived a good life that’s all we can give them. You just have to take things one day at a time. My dog Dreyfuss is at the end of a long battle with cancer so I know how you feel.



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