Fostering an Undomesticated Cat: A Diary

We started our foster cat journey with an undomesticated cat, which is a nicer word for feral cat. I decided to do a daily diary of how we went trying to gain his trust.

NameJefferson
Age5 years
Gender Male
Time Fostered 1 and a half months
Breed Domestic Medium Hair

Day 1

My Mood: Excited
Cat’s Mood: Scared as hell

We’re getting our first foster cat! I’ve set up everything for him in the bathroom. It’s going to be kitty heaven. I can’t want until he sees it. This poor guy has been living on the streets for five years. We’re going to tame him in no time!

Our bathroom set up for the foster cat
Our bathroom set up for the foster cat

He’s so fluffy and cute. I think he likes my singing.

Cat: Where the hell am I? Why have I been abducted? Why am I shut in this tiny room? WHERE ARE MY BALLS???

Day 2

My Mood: Pissed off
Cat’s Mood: Pissed off

The ungrateful bastard hissed at me three times. Why did we agree to take on an undomesticated cat. Does he even want to be here? How long is this going to take? On the plus side, he did eat in front of me, which is supposed to be a good sign. But the hissing makes me so mad. Doesn’t he know we’re trying to help him?

Cat: I don’t want to be here, but I’ll take the chicken. BALLS ARE STILL MISSING!

Day 3

My Mood: Less pissed off
Cat’s Mood: Hungry

I got so mad this morning when Jefferson hissed at me bringing his bowl of food in. I couldn’t let the ungrateful bastard get away with that sort of behaviour. So, I decided to shove a spoon in his face and see if he’d eat. And he did! So now I’m feeling less frustrated. Eating off the spoon is a big step.

Today I sat in there with him on the phone for a few hours. Later, I spoon fed him again. Then after I left, he started meowing, so I went back in. But he just hissed at me and looked scared. So I left.

Cat: Box is my life now. I’m never leaving this box. If I do, I will die.

Day 4

My Mood: Is rollercoaster a mood?
Cat’s Mood: Annoyed

Today we progressed to a glove on a stick. Jefferson swiped at the glove twice, but that didn’t deter me. We managed to get him eating off the glove, and I was able to touch his head a little with the glove while he was eating. He didn’t like it too much, but he tolerated it.

Jefferson with the hand glove

After a 15 minute feeding, he had enough and turned around, so we ended the session there. Plenty of growling and hissing happened this day. I found myself feeling really frustrated, so I had to give him some space to allow both of us to calm down.

Cat: Resigned to a life with no balls. But I will NEVER allow myself to be poked with a glove stick. What is this new hell I’m in? Still not leaving box.

Day 5

My Mood: Overwhelmed
Cat’s Mood: Is the devil a mood?

I tried playing cat purring noises to him. I’m not sure if it helped. I am feeling ready to give up on this cat because he’s so hissy and growly. He bit the glove and he seems worse than before. We removed his box because we couldn’t feed him properly in it. He then immediately pooped on the floor.

Our only good moment was laughing at how aggressively he ate food off the spoon. I’ve asked for someone more experienced from the rescue to come around and give us some tips on what to do with him. Feeling so overwhelmed today.

Cat: I. Hate. These. People.

Day 6

My Mood: Hopeful
Cat’s Mood: Hopeful

Today someone from the rescue came over to help us out with how to deal with him. She was able to pat him around the head with gloves on. I feel so much better and was able to hand feed him with gloves on today too after that. I think we’re going to give him another week.

Also, did you notice what a big boy he is? He’s massive! I am not ashamed of being afraid of this cat.

Cat’s Mood: This is more like it. More treats.

Day 7

My Mood: Calm
Cat’s Mood: Fine

Jefferson lying in his litter tray

Today Jefferson ate off the glove. He did hiss a bit, but he started eating off the glove pretty quickly. He also spent a lot of time on the bed on the bench instead of hiding beside it. We left the door to the bathroom open for a lot of today just so he could get used to us walking around past it.

Jefferson actually came towards me to eat from the glove, which was a good sign. I didn’t touch him much, but I did dangle my fingers around his head a bit.

Cat: I did a brave thing today.

Day 8

My Mood: Happy
Cat’s Mood: Confused

Jefferson lying in his bed looking more relaxed

I patted him today!! With a glove on, but he liked it. An awesome carer came over and helped us pat him and showed us how to do it. I was probably more scared of Jefferson than he was of me. So, her and I were both sitting in our tiny bathtub helping me to get the courage up to pat him. Finally, I did! So I’m going to keep doing that regularly throughout the day.

I can see a soft side to him. He seems to be enjoying the pats. I almost cried of happiness.

Cat: They TOUCHED me!! GRRRR! Don’t think know I’m a big tough street boy?

Day 9

My Mood: A little flat
Cat’s Mood: Blegh

Today was a bit of a backwards day again. Jefferson went into his box and wouldn’t come out. He did eat off my glove and make movements towards me, which was good. But I had a lot I wanted to get done, so I didn’t have the time to keep sitting in there waiting for him to come around.

I feel bad for him sitting in there on his own, but also it’s a lot of time spent on trying to get him to trust me. I did manage to pat his head a little at dinner time.

Cat: Can’t touch this. Hammer time.

Day 10

My Mood: Positive
Cat’s Mood: Chillaxed

Today is much the same as yesterday in our level of interaction. I’m a bit more confident patting him while feeding him. He’s eating a bit easier and spending less time hissing.

Cat: Maybe you can just pat my head a little bit.

Day 11

My Mood: Calm
Cat’s Mood: Calm

He’s starting to get used to the head pats. He also isn’t hissing at us so much when we enter the room. And when he does hiss, the rest of his body is still relaxed. He’s often lying on his side in his cardboard box when we come in, and he doesn’t move from that position.

He will still run to his cardboard box if he’s somewhere else in the room when we come in, but baby steps! I’m less scared of him now and he’s less scared of me! He came out of his room tonight and had a look around!! We’re so proud of him.

Cat: There’s more to this place??

Day 12

Much the same as the day before, except that he came out and meowed at us. We meowed back. He bolted for his bed again.

Days 13-14

Very much the same. But he meows at us a lot. Today he came out and curled up on the laundry bench for some reason. He didn’t hiss at us so much.

Later we went into the laundry and thought we’d lost him. We couldn’t find him anywhere. Turns out he was at the top of the cupboard. No idea how he got his fat ass up there. But now he sits up there and watches me while I work on my computer.

Days 15-17

Jefferson now comes out and sits at the top of the cupboard all day. He also meows a lot and loudly to us. We meow back sometimes, and sometimes we get sick of it and tell him to shut up or tell us what he’s meowing about.

I’ve now patted him without the welding glove while feeding him. I’ll try to get a video of it. He comes out at night and runs around the house while we’re watching TV. When he sees us, he always freezes and stares and then runs off.

He’s still very hissy, but not swiping or biting anymore. I feel more comfortable putting my hands close to his face. I haven’t fed him off my hand yet because I’m not sure if he’ll be able to tell the difference between my hand and cat food. I don’t fancy being eaten.

Days 17-20

We can now pat him WITHOUT the welding glove! Honestly, we probably could have done that earlier, but I just wasn’t brave enough. I have also fed him roast chicken from my hand. He’s pretty gentle, but he does seem a bit confused about what’s hand and what’s chicken.

This was me feeding him his breakfast and patting him.

He also meows to us a lot and comes out to peek at us at night time when we’re sitting on the couch. Each night he’s getting closer and closer. Last night I thought he was actually going to come right up to the couch and jump on it, but he turned away at the last minute.

The rescue has asked for his adoption profile, so I’m not sure if he’s going to go up for adoption soon! I hope he gets the best home.

Days 21-22

We’re getting a lot more confident patting him at feeding times now. Earlier today he was meowing, so I meowed back and he came out to check and got frightened and ran away when he saw it was me. Made me laugh so much.

I’m starting to see a sweet side to him. My partner has started feeding him sometimes because feeding him is more interesting now we can pat him!

Days 23-24

Last night we had a bit of a breakthrough. Well, we hope it’s a breakthrough. When it was dinner time, we couldn’t find Jefferson anywhere. We kept looking and looking, and eventually found him crouched in a corner in our closet. We accidentally left our bedroom door open and he apparently liked it in there.

Me being allergic to cats, didn’t really want him to sleep in there. But we didn’t know how to get him out. So, we had to feed him dinner in the closet. He seemed a lot less hissy there than he does when he’s in his bathroom space. This time, we were even able to pat him without food!

Weeks 4 and 5

This week we got another foster cat, Toby. He’s super friendly and is showing Jefferson how to be a nice cat. Jefferson also had to go off to the vets for his vaccination and THAT was an experience. Turns out Jefferson is terrified of cat carriers. He ran into the shower to get away from the carrier and almost scaled the shower walls. Then he ran repeatedly into the window trying to get away from the carrier.

We’ve left the carrier in the bathroom now, and he and Toby are both sleeping on it. So I hope next time he’ll be okay getting in it. I’m sure we can lure him with chicken.

2nd Month

Toby was with us for about three weeks, and then he got adopted. Jefferson made a lot of progress while we had Toby. But as soon as Toby left, he reverted back to his old self again and started hissing at us again.

We also tried moving him around the house in the carrier. He’s calm when he’s in the carrier, but as soon as we opened it to give him a piece of cheese for a treat, he just took off and hid for the rest of the day.

We weren’t sure how to progress him at this stage, as we didn’t want to take on another friendly cat due to my allergies, my partner wanting to foster a dog, and us wanting to potentially go away for a holiday soon.

I think as a foster carer, it’s important to take care of your mental and physical health and not let yourself burn out. Foster carers have huge hearts and it’s often hard to say no. But I think sometimes we just have to and give ourselves permission not to feel bad/guilty about it.

Sometimes it’s okay to give something a try and admit that it’s not working for you or the animal. After all, if one of you isn’t coping, the situation isn’t going to be the best for anyone involved, and we all want the best for the cats and dogs!

So we decided it was best for Jefferson and for us and our health to find him a new foster carer. I missed him so much after he left, but I knew it was for the best for him.

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