How badly will this traumatize a cat?

I have three cats, all litter mates, living with me, former strays that my brother captured and neutered. I plan to keep two of them – the males – and give the female to my girlfriend.

They had been living on and around my brother’s porch for about eight months. He captured them and held them in his garage for another month or so, and they’ve been living at my place for the last month. They have adapted to my apartment pretty well. They are now each about one year old.

In all this time, they have not been separated. They hang out on the windowsill and play together. However, the two boys seem to be much tighter with each other than with Bella, the female. They sleep together on top of the bed while she stays underneath. Thor and Raul (I know, sounds like two male strippers) are like partners in crime. Bella tends to hang back and watch. But nonetheless, she does seek them out at least likes to be near them.

She is shy but not high-strung. She won’t let me come too close, but neither does she run and hide. She’ll just back away slowly if I approach. I have made several abortive attempts to capture her and get her over to my girlfriend’s place, and each time turned out to be a clusterfuck. However, after each time Bella didn’t seem too fazed. She’ll still eat food from my hands. I think her basic characteristic is caution.

My main question is, given the close nature of her relationship to her brothers, and the fact that she’s gotten somewhat comfortable in my apartment, will it really mess her up when I finally capture her and drag her to yet another new place to live, this time alone? Will this ruin the chance for a one-year-old, one-time stray cat who’s never really been petted to be a friendly housecat?

Hard to say, but some cats thrive when they’re an only cat. She is a year old, and by that time most cats are starting to mature, and have less need for constant companionship. It sounds like Bella may be a shy cat and might do well when she’s the only one getting attention. You can try it out and if she’s unhappy, think about (or have you GF think about) adopting a playmate for her.

What a good heart you have to take on three feral cats. Sounds like you’ve made remarkable progress with them. Feral cats are never as sociable with humans as cats that were raised by humans and handled as kittens.

Cats work out their own pecking order in a household. Sounds like poor Bella is on the bottom rung and spends a lot of time worrying about the two bullies (from her point of view) that keep her down.

I once adopted a stray (not feral) to give as a gift to a friend who lived alone and had been thinking of getting a cat for company. I kept him in my house for a couple of months until I coold get him neutered and fully immunized and wormed. I already had two female cats and they made his life a misery. Every interaction with him was used to give him the message “WE WERE HERE FIRST” - You can eat after we have had out fill. The big bed is not for you, ETC.

Now this was not a skittish cat and he withstood this hazing with admirable equanimity. However, after he moved to his new home he really blossomed. He loves being the center of attention and has rewarded his new owner with the many inventive games he created. They are inseperable and my friend adores him to the point that we think is quite amusing.

Now a feral cat won’t be that sociable, but I suspect that she will blossom in her own way once she settles in to her new digs. She will probably spend a week or two hiding and nervously checking out her new home. However, once she feels sure that there are no bullies there and her other needs are being met I am sure she will be much happier than she is now.

So fear not. This will probably turn out to be the luckiest thing that ever happened to her. Bset of luck to you all.

Some feral cats actually do better (that is, they are happier, less skittish, and become more tame) when they are separated from all other cats. It seems to make them bond more easily with their human “pack” than when there are other kitties around.

It would be much better for her too to be sure to go to a long-term home, not one where she’ll be moved or given away again in a year. Cats don’t adjust well to change. She could probably handle a move to another location as long as she stays with her people but a move to a new place AND new people might cause her to regress.

Don’t give up hope. I’ve had a feral - completely and totally wild, untouchable, can’t get near her - living on my third floor for almost 2 years. About 3 months ago I started leaving the door to the second floor open all the time. Four days ago she finally came downstairs. Still can’t touch her but I can sit within a foot of her without her running away. I’m hoping someday she’ll let me pet her.

What’s the difference between stray and feral? Because Thor is the one of the friendliest, most happy-go-lucky cats I’ve ever met. He constantly demands to be petted and when he’s not sleeping he’s playing with whatever he can get his hands on. He’s even started to meow to get attention, which I understand is something that only domesticated cats do.

The other two are still pretty uncomfortable around humans, though. It’s interesting that three cats from the same litter and with the exact same life experiences can have such different personalities.

Thanks for the responses! I feel a little more confident that she’ll adjust now.

A stray was once owned and then dumped or got lost or otherwise made it to living unowned in the outdoors. A feral was never owned; it was born in the wild, most likely to a feral mother. Not all ferals remain wild forever; I’ve got four cats to prove it at home. But usually, ferals who are not introduced to humans at a young age do not ever become fully tame. Sometimes they can become tame but it takes a long, long time. Or sometimes even if you get them as kittens, just enough time has passed, or they had just enough trauma, that they bond only to one person and don’t get really comfortable with anyone else. Then there are ferals who are caught early enough and for whatever reason become sweet and cuddly.

Adult ferals are very hard to completely tame. That’s why it has taken 2 years so far just to get the one I’ve got out of the attic.

Oh no, ferals meow plenty! Enough to wake the dead sometimes.