Living with domestic and semi-feral cats

by Elf alias Joy Lynn Rosser
(Benton Louisiana USA)

A moment of tenderness between the two half wildcats.

A moment of tenderness between the two half wildcats.

A moment of tenderness between the two half wildcats. The gentlest of my cats yawns and displays his fangs.

I have three cats. One was abandoned when I adopted him. He was neutered when I got him. His previous owner threw him out to fend for himself when she moved. She left vet records and asked the neighbors to feed him and and find him a home. I did get some information on him from vet records, and apparently all he ever got as treatment was the neutering and rabies shots.

He has had regular vet treatments since I got him, mostly an annual exam and regular flea treatments. He does not seem to be interested in play or hunting, though early on he did attack a few insects. Later, when he knew he would be fed regularly, he abandoned any pretense of hunting.

He's difficult to work with because he is so anxious and crazy that he still doesn't feel safe even after living with me for over 5 years. He runs when I try to take a picture of him. He sometimes comes to me for love and attention, but other times he will strike without warning or apparent provocation.

He also bullies the other cats. It's as if he feels he must set himself up as top cat in order to feel safe. He usually eats dry food by preference, but sometimes wants canned food when I feed it to the other cats. This seems to be just another way of expressing dominance over the other cats, because he will only eat a few bites and walk away. He also likes to climb to high places, another way to establish himself as top cat.

The second cat has been with me for 9 years. His mother was a feral cat in the neighborhood. She was collected when people came and trapped a colony of wild cats in an abandoned burned-out trailer. Apparently he couldn't be trapped. He wandered the neighborhood for many months, scavenging what he could. Finally he discovered that there was food behind my cat door and he came in to eat. Eventually he domesticated himself as he became comfortable in the house and around me. Now he is very friendly and often comes to sleep on me.

His father was some kind of wildcat that the vet cannot identify. There have been several kittens in this area fathered by the same or similar wild cat. They are all black and white, mostly tuxedo coloring. They also show the same characteristics in the first generation of breeding with house cats. These include unusual intelligence, back legs that are about 3 inches longer that the front legs, teeth that are very thick and fangs that are unusually long (the top ones dip way down into the lower jaw in a manner like a saber-tooth tiger), and a very large belly.

My cat has all these. His normal weight ranges around 23 pounds. He is very gentle and he avoids violence. The worst thing he has done to another cat is to sit on it! He has never attacked me deliberately, but like all cats he will strike out if something or someone moves in a way that his instincts identify as prey. He will attack a string if I dangle it for him.

He has been injured badly several times when he wandered into the woods. I don't know why he kept going in after he was attacked, but this persisted for several months. Many times I had to take him to the vet for his injuries. Fortunately, he had become accustomed to vet visits before this because I would take him in for annual exams, shots and flea treatments.

My vet says he doesn't know what he is because he is obviously not all house cat, but he shows no characteristics of the bobcat/lynx family and he doesn't know of any other North American wildcat species that would mate with a house cat instead of eating it. I would love to hear from anyone that might help me know more about this kind of cat.

He has lost a lot of weight since these attacks. This winter he reached a crucial stage because he started having difficulty walking and jumping. He also was throwing up a lot. I took him to the vet and they kept him there while they treated him for a systemic infection. They tested him for all the possible dangerous diseases and all the tests came back negative.

When I brought him home after treatment he responded well to canned food. He never gained back his full weight and lately is losing weight again. I am very concerned because he is so skinny despite being given good-quality canned food 3-5 times a day and having dry food available all the time.

The third cat came from a family of semi-feral cats. The woman that claimed them had fed the cats, but many of them were too wild to touch. She fed several feral cats that had similar coloring that she said were descended from one female cat who had mated with a bobcat. Apparently he is one of those. When she moved, he was one she could not catch or trap in order to take him with me.

The second cat brought him home when he was about six to seven weeks old. Since then the two cats have been very close and often share the same food. This cat often imitates the black and white cat and seems to look up to him. As a young kitten, he had bright orange and white stripes. As he got older, this turned into a sandy-red mottling with a tuxedo pattern. He is very intelligent, strongly muscled, has a large wide head and tufts between his toes.

He is very wary, but has become a little less so over the years. He comes into the house for food, shelter and company. He will approach me if he is hungry and some times stroke my legs while I am preparing the food. He will also come wanting to be petted, but he only does this when I am sitting on the toilet! Because of his wariness, I have not been able to have him neutered or treated an any other way. He is too smart to be trapped and will not let me pick him up.

He is openly aggressive to cats that are not part of my household and is usually the winner in such situations. When the abandoned cat attacks him he will back down. But if the other cat persists, he will eventually fight back. He has never attacked me. He will attack a string when I dangle it for him.


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Living with domestic and semi-feral cats

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Jan 26, 2012 continued cat tales
by: Elf alias Joy Lynn Rosser

Squire is getting much more approachable since I started giving Thomas canned food. Now he comes to me several times a day asking to be fed when Thomas is getting fed or even if he is hungry (Thomas is always ready to join in when Squire is fed).
Squire still doesn't want me to pet him except when I'm on the toilet. Today he took an new tack. He came up to me in the living room and then walked into the bathroom, where he waited until I came in and sat down. Later he tried coming in when I was dripping water in the tub for Thomas to drink. He didn't like me sitting on the tub transfer bench. He wouldn't come near me until I sat on the toilet!
Even though Thomas is getting fed canned food several times a day and he is getting some of his old pot belly, I can still feel his backbone when I pet him. He also seems to be having some trouble seeing out of one eye. I suspect he is getting a cataract. I can't get him to the vet right now because my car broke down and I haven't been able to catch a ride.
Silver Boy is very nervous of late. He wants to sit on me more than usual. He lashes out unexpectedly. Sometimes he gives me an evil look if he doesn't get his way (like when I have to ask him to move because I have to get up). I am continuing to try to reassure and comfort him. I pet him whenever he is near me and tell him he is my good boy.
I am trying to find out if there is something happening outside the house that is upsetting him.He just now came in and is sitting on me while he makes biscuits to relieve his stress. He is wet because even though he he doesn't like being wet, he goes out whenSHRANK it is raining.

Nov 15, 2011 continuing adventures with my three kitty sons
by: Elfalias Joy Lynn Rosser

I've made a breakthrough with Silver Boy. I have really been making an effort to praise him more, especially while I am petting him. I will tell him that he's a good boy and I love him, etc. Now he is acting more like a "good by". He still can be prickely some, but he comes up and sits with me more and doesn't starts fights as often. it's like saying he is good makes him good!

Thomas never regained his weight, but he seems to be healthy despite this. He looks fairly normal from the side (If I just don't remember how he looked before. When he escorts me by following ahead, I can still see the ridge of his backbone and how tiny his waist is between his huge ribcage and his hips. My daughter Melody commented on this when she saw him like that.

She said you have to feed him! He looks like he's starving. I let her know that he was getting canned food 3-4 times a day and always had a dish of dry food available. I also leave out a water dish and let him drink from the tub faucet whenever he asks for it. (He lets me know he wants water by jumping in the tub and looking expectantly Once the water is dripping, he won't drink until I give him permission. I wish I have a video camera to film this, because it's quite a show.

Squire has discovered the wonders of cheese. Thomas had been demanding a sample when I was eating from a cheese ball. I got some from the center so he wouldn't have any nuts to upset his tummy. I try to only give any of them protein because they are necessary carnivors, which means they get sick if their diet isn't at least 90% meat and other proteins.

Squire decided to imitate Thomas and ask for some. I gave him some. He wouldn't eat it foo my fingertips like Thomas does. But when I dropped it form him, he gobbled it up and asked for more. This worked fine until I tossed a bit too close to him. That sent him scampering out the cat door.

Jul 11, 2011 To Joy
by: Gail (Boston, USA)

Joy, please come back with more 'tales' of your 3 precious boys. They sound like a handful, but well worth all the love they give you. Cats have a way of inviting themselves to live with humans they know have a good heart. With your 3, that's a triple endorsement!

Jul 10, 2011 more about my adopted cats
by: Elf alias Joy Lynn Rosser

Love to Ruth and Susie

Since you expressed pleasure about learning of my cats, I thought I would tell you more about them.

I have given them all names that seemed to fit each of their personalities.

The abandoned cat had a name but I decided that he needed a new one without the bad feelings attached I did this once before with a cat given to my daughter when he didn't get along with his previous owners. He efused to answer to the name they had given them.

I call him Silver Boy because he is a silver-grey tuxedo. Another reason came from the lines from a song - "Sail on silver girl Sail on by. Your time has come to shine. Your dreams will all come true." That is my wish for him.

I also call him "My Jewish Cat" because he usually announces himself in a stressed voice. It charactures a whining Jewish person who is always unhappy with his lot in life. (This is also very funny to me, because all the Jewish people I know are strong, powerful and loving.)

The black and white tuxedo that domesticated himself is Thomas. He is such a complicated character that I use variations such as Thom-tom and Thomas a'Cattis, but never Tommy because there is nothing diminutive about him.

Sometimes I call him "My Big Boy" pr "Sir Thomas". I also call him Ouww, because when he first came to me the only thing he would say was "ouww". Now he has many other words that are variations of ouww. He says "nouw" when he want's something right away. When he wants to go out he says "ouww-ouww" - He cannot form the "T" sound. Only rarely does he say "Me-ouww".

He is very fluent in the unspoken cat language. His tail alone can express all kinds of things.He has a powerful two-tone purr that expresses happiness, comfort and pleasure. He sometimes purrs to relieve stress, either his own or someone else's.

The cat Thomas brought home and claimed is "Squire". Because he follows Thomas around, and imitates him as well. Often they are lying around using the same pose. If Thomas moves, Squire moves to match him. Sometimes he does a mirror pose so that he and Thomas look like a pair of living bookends.

Even though his is a grown and impressive cat, he will still ask Thomas to come do something with him. (Usually it's eating or curling up together.)

Squire has a soft kitteny voice that seems strange coming from such a muscle-bound fighter. When he pretends to be hunting it almost sounds as if he is in pain. The first time I heard that, I had to check him out to make sure he had not been injured. He was just checking out a locust to play with.

I've got to go now to take care of some business, but I may pop back in at times for more stories about me and my "kitty-sons".

Jul 10, 2011 apologies.
by: Elfalias Joy Lynn Rosser

I did not mean to be rude to anyone. i apologize to those who felt I had been that wa. i was just trying to say that the cats have blessed me over and over. I'm glad at least one person understood what i was trying to say. I was writing in the middle of my night and wondered if it didn't sound clear after I send ti because i was getting tired.

Jul 10, 2011 Rude
by: Anonymous

Well how rude a reply from the writer to 2 such nice comments!
I was going to comment too but I don't think I'll bother.

Jul 10, 2011 To Joy
by: Ruth

No I don't think that taking in the cats involved a sacrifice on your part, far from it, I feel the same as you do that we are honoured by the cats who choose to share our lives.
All I was trying to say was that you seem to love and understand cats as much as I do and that it's a refreshing change from so many people who treat them as possessions and consider them lucky to be given a home.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth

Jul 10, 2011 Appreciate your resonnses
by: elf alias Joy Lynn Rosser

You seem to think that taking in the cats involved a sacrifice on my part but the blessings these cats have given me is so much more than what i give. When i am sick, they are always there to comfort me. Somw are great companions and all are interesting and keep my life from being boring. They are company when i am lonely. It's so worth it for me!

Jul 10, 2011 Love love love...
by: Susie Bearder

Really enjoyed your recounting of how your cats arrived and their characteristics and behaviour. They all sound as lucky as you have been. You have a very open heart and I was reminded of this Beatles song

* I live in Spain in quite wild areas and never know what I might see or find... cheeky foxes, tails of wild cats disappearing, temporary visitations by unknown wary cats etc .

Jul 09, 2011 To Joy
by: Ruth

Hello Joy,I enjoyed reading about your cats and looking at the photos.
Your love and understanding of each cat shines through, that you accept them as they are and allow them to share which parts of your home and life they choose to, is wonderful.
I'm afraid as I live in England I don't know much about the wild cats over there or what your cats breeds may be, but I just had to comment to say how much I admire you for your kindness to and obvious love for cats.

Kattaddorra signature Ruth


Living with domestic and semi-feral cats — 1 Comment

  1. I have a black female cat who I initially thought was Siamese. I found her wandering as a stray. She is the strongest cat I’ve ever had and is really thin, despite eating well. She has really long fangs, (I mean, really long) and very tiny feet and paws. She also has a puzzlingly large belly. I’ve had several cats since childhood and she isn’t a normal moggy. The vet inisists she’s a normal, short haired cat but she’s like Spring Heeled Jack – (nickname for a 19th Century London killer)!
    She likes to sit on me when I sleep, for warmth and is not agressive.
    Can you shed any light on this?

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