Idgy is the offspring of a feral cat, we were fortunate to have found her as a kitten. She was about 15 weeks when we captured her. During the process we watched her climb the side of a three story building to about 20 feet jump backwards, run across a field, and literally jump a 12ft chained link fence. We captured her inside the fence. At the time we thought she was a kitten that had been dumped. After having her vetted, which was quite an ordeal for the vet techs involved, we began to realize that Idgy was not a normal stray. When her feral behavior did not change over the course of a few months, we did some research and realized that she was most likely a 2nd or more generation feral cat. Meaning her mother was also born in the wild and never had human contact.
She is now nine years old and while she has tamed somewhat, and even makes eye contact (but still she seldom ever raises her tail), she has has very specific protocols for human contact.
After vetting, the young lady who first noticed the cat took her home. The next week I received a call from her asking me to “babysit” the cat. I agreed. Idgy had attacked her while she slept in the darkness. I took the kitten home. Idgy did not like being touched, so we just left her alone, making sure she knew where the food and water was located. A few weeks later we gave her to an older gentleman who lived alone and needed a companion. He brought her back within a few days, she had attacked him in the middle of the night.
Idgy is a cat with unmistakable and unyielding protocols. For instance, if you want to pet her, you must first hold out your hand. She will sniff and then bathe your fingers to get rid of other scents. When she stops, you may then proceed to rub her head and massage her neck. Any other action will get you soundlessly bitten and quickly. Idgy used to hiss and move away when someone would try and touch her, now because she knows us well, she no longer hisses or makes any sound when attack is imminent. Her bites are sudden and painful but she never breaks the skin and just gives a very stern warning (view a video of Idgy here).
Idgy is a complicated lady. She likes nothing better than to warm up either by your side or in your lap. She doesn’t want or expect to be petted. If your hand is near her she will groom your fingers to let you know it is ok to touch. If there is no grooming touching is at ones own risk. If not for her protocols she would be the perfect companion.
Idgy represents the reason why bringing home stray kittens can be a gamble. Like Tom Hanks said in Forest Gump, “You never know what you might get.” Children especially need to be taught that cats have personalities just like humans but have teeth and claws as defensive weapons. Punishing a cat for defensive behavior is useless and abusive. It will only serve to make them fear you, which may lead to even more defensive behavior or even vengeance. Yes, vengeance.
I have heard many people talk about how they have tamed feral cats. I have also heard colony cats being referred to as feral. The reality is that feral cats are not colony cats.. Colony cats who are fed by humans and live together in a large crowder, with regular human contact are not feral animals. A feral cat is not ever going to be what we think of as a house cat no matter what you do. They may calm down as they adjust to a domestic setting, but they will always be feral. They are also un-adoptable. If you end up with a feral kitten that cannot be tamed (usually beyond 15 weeks is too late), plan to keep it for the rest of its life. Adopting out a feral cat may become a death sentence for the cat, as most people will not understand their behaviors and eventually may put the cat down. When we adopted Idgy out we insisted that she be brought back to us if it did not work out. I am thankful we did this.