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We have two spayed cats, Alice and Kesha. We took Alice in as a kitten born from a wild cat in a private house backyard. We received Kesha from her previous owners, who discovered they were allergic to cats.

Both cats have completely different characters / attitudes. Kesha is the most friendly and loving cat in the universe; Alice only seems to endure us because we feed her. We live in a 2-story apartment house, and for the last half-year, we've been struggling with Alice's desire for freedom. She runs away from home — wandering around in the garden, sometimes fighting other cats (a few times she returned with an injured thigh). She returns home to eat, sleep, rest, then tries to run away again.

We're afraid she's going to pick up diseases and fleas from the street, which she might pass on to us or Kesha. Having Alice feels like we are feeding a street cat with nothing in return (she just seems not to care about our existence). Closing the doors and windows doesn't seem to help, as she simply waits for me to come home with my bike, when I can't stop her from running away. On the other hand, she doesn't seem to want to live outside either; she cries to get back in the home when she's hungry.

I don't want to be simply feeding a street cat; I'm not sure what I can do with her, and could use some advice as to how to proceed with handling Alice's behavior going forward.

UPDATE: I guess I have made up my mind. I was quite under influence of my girlfriend, saying that it is unreasonable to keep such a cat that doesn't need home. Now I think I'll simply let her to go outside as little as possible, but if she runs... well, I'll open the net I've put on the window (to prevent her from running away), so she'll be able to return. Of course, this will follow a flea treatment. I think the best thing to deal with this is to accept her the way she is.

  • I'm also not sure what your actual question is. Are you asking "How do I stop her from running away?"? Your final line makes it sound like you're possibly asking for advice about whether to keep her as well. – starsplusplus Feb 21 '14 at 12:28
  • @j-unior : Did some refactoring; also not sure what "leg pillow" means, but I'm sure it is not relevant. Based on what was written, we are assuming you want to revert her behavior. Do you plan to get rid of her, or have her around as a pet, or have her like you more? What is your ultimate goal with Alice? – JoshDM Feb 21 '14 at 16:03
  • From the start, we never let our street cat out. Exception - if we lie in the garden in the sun, he is allowed to joon us, on a harness and leash, but never free. It may be too late for you, or maybe not. If you try keeping Alice in, you need to be consistent; never let her out, and never leave an opportunity. It might take a few months (and a scratched door), but she should eventually give up & get used to it. – Mawg Nov 20 '17 at 13:40
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Your Alice is, as John says, basically feral (although not quite, since she clearly sees you as her "provider" (the crying for you to feed her and coming back to your home when she's been outside)). Some things you can consider for her, particularly if she gets on well with Kesha, are:

  • Build her a cat run in your garden. This doesn't have to be sophisticated - you can build it out of wire and connect it to the house via a cat door. This will let Alice go out when she pleases and minimize the risk of her getting into fights with other cats. Kesha may or may not go outside as well.
  • If you haven't already done this, get both cats flea collars (or regularly use other flea protection) and make sure you treat the house regularly. Generally speaking, a healthy cat can keep fleas from being too much of a problem for them, but that's not going to make the humans happy - and you're not going to completely prevent flea issues.
  • Encourage her to accept you/your family as trusted humans. You're already partway there - but as long as you keep any petting to levels she's comfortable with and stop when she gives signs of being tired of it, she'll be more likely to tolerate your attentions.
  • Make sure you keep both of them up to date on all their shots. From your description you're not going keep Alice from going out, so you need to make sure both cats are vaccinated.
  • If you don't build a cat run, get one of the cat doors with magnetic or RFID locks and give Alice a collar with the key. Once she gets used to it, she'll be able to come and go as she pleases - which is something else that will make her trust you more. The lockable door means that you don't get other cats coming in (caveat: the locks do wear out over time)
  • When Alice does come back, you can consider giving her something she likes (a treat, catnip, whatever). Also give the same treat when she lets you pet her for a while - the idea is for her to associate being with you with things she likes.
  • Make sure you don't put flea collars on the cat inside if you think it might already have fleas! A surefire way to get the fleas to jump off the cat and onto you instead :) – starsplusplus Feb 21 '14 at 13:35
  • Good point @starsplusplus - you only do that if you've already treated the house so the fleas will have nowhere to go (and you're prepared to de-flea yourself) – Kate Paulk Feb 21 '14 at 17:21
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    @j-unior Adding to this (a little late) you probably want to get her microchipped as well; I don't know what it's like around your area but where I live animal control will often pick up strays and put them in shelters, but they'll return them to the owner instead if they find a chip. – Jason C Jun 28 '14 at 17:58
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You have a feral cat which is, basically, a cat that has not been properly socialized to humans. Generally domesticated cats have been socialized to both their fellow cats and humans (and potentially other animals, depending on source) during the earlier kitten stages by being around and handled by humans and that is what allows them to interact in a positive way with us.

What you're left with now is a cat that isn't naturally trusting or dependent on humans because it wasn't taught to be from the beginning. You're not likely to entirely break her of this, but you can take some steps to convince her that you are okay. Primarily, you need to do a lot of what I described with a similar question on a cat that bites unprovoked. Your problem is extremely similar, but the key difference is no human socialization as opposed to no feline socialization that that asker had.

However, in a nutshell, you need to look for reward behaviours with her. When she does something you consider positive, reward her so that you can establish that connection between things you want to her to do and things she may want. Recognize, however, that she really is essentially wild and only really sees your home as a part of a greater area of interest for her. You may have to accept the confinement to the house will never work for her

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