Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have a female cat approximately 11 years old that has lived with me since her initial 12 weeks with her mother. In the last six months her sister (from the same litter of two) died. She was born in the back yard, where I take care of a small group of feral cats (all fixed). Her father is one of the remaining cats and is about 18 years old. He is old and getting frail, and I would like to bring him upstairs to live with me and his daughter. In short, is this a good idea? Would this reuniting after so many years even be possible? I think my cat would love some company and I would love to give some loving care to her father.
Siouxsie: Larry, we commend you not only on taking such good care of your colony that you’ve got a feral guy who’s lived to be that old, but for wanting to give that cat a safe and warm home.
Thomas: How well it would work out to bring this cat inside depends a lot on just how feral he really is. A truly feral cat would not be comfortable or feel safe indoors, and you might cause him a great deal of stress in trying to get him inside.
Bella: The other factor is that the younger cat probably will not recognize the older cat as her father, and she may have trouble accepting him inside unless you introduce the two of them very carefully.
Siouxsie: We’re not going to say you shouldn’t try to reunite them, but we definitely think the first factor should be, exactly how friendly is this old male cat? Does he approach you and seek affection, or does he back off or run when you try to get near him? If he does show some tendencies toward being friendly, you could slowly work him toward your door, by moving the food a bit closer every day, until you can get him to eat near you.
Thomas: If you get him to the point where he’s approaching you for affection and food, you can work your way toward getting him inside. Remember that if he’s been an outdoor cat all his life, he may never have learned how to use a litter box and therefore might require some extra remedial training in Indoor Pottying 101.
Bella: This Petfinder article has some tips on bringing a friendly stray cat indoors, including how to get your cat used to using a litter box.
Siouxsie: When you do get him inside, you’re going to have to introduce the two cats in a way that will give them the best possible chance of being able to get along together.
Bella: If, on the other hand, this cat is truly feral, the best thing you can do to help him get through cold winters is to build a couple of shelters on your property.
Siouxsie: Alley Cat Allies offers instructions on how to build a whole range of feral cat shelters, from the simple and cheap to the “you’ll need some carpentry skills and a bunch of friends.” The first shelters you’ll see listed on this page are pre-made shelters you can buy, but if you keep scrolling you’ll get to the DIY options.
Thomas: Thank you so much for caring about these cats, Larry. People like you play a huge part in controlling the cat population and ensuring that all cats, whether they live in homes or on the streets, get the best possible care and quality of life.
Bella: Please let us know how things turn out. We’d love to know if you got the daddy cat indoors, and if not, which shelter you built for him. Purrs and whisker-kisses!