Step 10: Romeo & Juliet - how to tame wild cats

My daughter named Homer's mom Juliet and the tom who was his dad Romeo. Juliet was a wild feral cat. I don't even remember the first time that I saw her, she was just another wanderer that ran away as soon as she saw me. I have no idea how old she was or where she might have come from. She would show up and sneak food when the other cats would let her. Slowly over time she began to get used to me and stopped running away. So I decided to try and make friends with her.

The best way to approach a wild, or semi wild cat is -- don't. As soon as you make a motion toward them they will run. So what you do is get them to come to you. Sit down or get on your knees and hold out your hand to them. By getting low to the ground you come down to their level and are not so intimidating to them. Also they seem to know that if your sitting you can't jump up and grab them as easily as you can when standing. The best thing is usually to offer them food. Get upwind if you can so they can smell you and what it is that you are offering them. Talk to them softly and quietly and if they are hesitant to cross those last few feet, put the food down and back up a little. Don't throw it to them because they will think you are throwing it at them. Once they get used to taking food from your hand they will calm down and let you touch them. This might take a while, just go slowly and let them set the pace.
Once Juliet accepted me as a friend she was around all the time. She really liked being petted and scratched. She got tame enough that we could pick her up and she didn't struggle. For a wild cat this was pretty amazing. She had a special personality and it showed in how she reacted to me. She was very sociable and actually liked people. Many wild cats will never reach this point and will always run away from you. That is just the way they are.

I knew that Juliet had been having kittens but I never saw any of them. Then one spring she decided to have them in one of our buildings.  If you want to find where the kittens are hidden, and they will be, watch the mom closely. She will usually stay fairly close by. When she goes to visit them you can listen for them and then figure out where they are. If the mom trusts you she won't be bothered by your looking at her kittens. The mom will usually move them to a different place within the first 2 weeks, this is just what they do, they move them from the place where they were born. Juliet moved her batch and we never saw them again. Later I heard from a neighbor that Juliet had been there with a bunch of kittens hidden in a pile of old lumbar. They said some dogs found them and killed them all. That's the hazard of living in the wild. 

Romeo, the tom,  was a very large and stout bull's eye tabby. There is no doubt that he is Homer's dad. He too had been living wild for years. I used to see mostly his tail as he ducked under a building. He didn't trust anyone and would not even let you get close. Then he started watching me from a distance. When I was working in the garden he used to come out from his hiding place and just sit and watch. If you even started walking toward him he was gone. Then he got tired of doing that and I finally got close enough to him to get a good look. My daughter was right about them being an item. He often hung around where Juliet was and not because she was in heat. He stuck around even when she was expecting kittens. After Juliet became friendly with us he started to move in closer. It was a long slow process but eventually Romeo became friendly, taking food and getting scratched. He was a very strong cat, just all solid muscle. No wonder he did so well on his own. He even let us pick him up finally. We couldn't walk with him or carry him but if we just picked him up he was OK with that. So they became regulars at the food dishes.
One thing about Romeo that amazed me was that he only was friendly  with certain people. He was fine with me and my daughter and a few others but if a stranger showed he was GONE. I had a UPS driver pull into the driveway and Romeo had been sitting quietly with the kittens. He was up and gone before anyone knew what was happening. He definitely recognized different people and if he didn't know you he would not show himself.
An interesting thing I have noticed about wild cats is they will not go into a house, at least not the ones I have dealt with. There is something about it that really scares them. Possibly its the lack of  a way out, but whatever it is I can always tell the difference in a wild one and a cat that was raised by someone. If a stray has no problem coming through the door then it was not born wild. I have had people dump cats  here or along the road. People decide that they need to get rid of them so they take them out someplace and just drop them. We had one cat show up that wanted in the house so bad it was painful Apparently that is where she was raised. After she had kittens she brought them onto the porch and refused to leave. She stayed there with her kitten pile even when it started to rain. She finally got her way and we let her and her wet kittens in. 
I looked through years of pictures but I cannot find any of Romeo. Maybe he was camera shy also.

<p>Thank you so much for posting such a beautiful story. Made me cry, I felt so bad! It's so nice to know there are people like yourself out there. Being a person that bought an acreage that had 6 or so strays/outdoor cats that hung out here, I felt I had to help these poor cats by providing them a shelter from the harsh winters and the predators, (built an entryway/door to our heated garage), food, water, and a safe warm and cozy place to sleep at night :) In the end, all of these cats have shown their appreciation tenfold, as they're no longer feral and love affection from us :)</p>
<p>This was such a bittersweet story! I loved it!! I had 5 kittens that used to go off and to call them in I would holler &quot;Babiieess&quot; and shake dry food in a plastic cup. One day none of them came home and I walked around our &quot;neighborhood&quot; ( miles and miles of gravel roads) shaking food and screeching &quot;babies&quot;. Like you, we only recovered 2, Lil bit and xy (pronounced Zy) They were unharmed but ever since I have wondered why in the world they didn't stay with scarlet, aka: Mom has baffled me ever since. Reading your story though has made it a little more clear. Scarlet had also been getting a little more aggressive with them to get them to leave her alone. I didn't think she was trying to lure them out then abandon them though...but she too ended up having another litter not too long after that. In the back of my mind I like to think that scruffy, bonkers, and ringo were all thought to be super cute and someone took them in :) I dont know if you still keep up with this but I would LOVE to hear an update on you and your cat family!! See there...now you have me all invested ;)</p>
<p>I put up a new<a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-get-wood-and-make-lumber-for-projects-and-w/#step0" rel="nofollow"> instructable </a>this month that has some current pictures of Homer. He is on the first and second step. I didn't plan on him being in the pictures but he was very interested in what I was doing so he ended up on the front page. Homer has become the &quot;alpha&quot; cat. He keeps everybody in line. He is about 15 pounds now and its mostly muscle so he is one tough kitty. But one of his favorite things to do when he is inside is to lay in my lap and &quot;clean&quot; my hands. He takes good care of me. If you view the last video on the 5th step of that instructable one of the others (MiniBlue) is in it a number of times. As soon as I started talking they came to find out what was going on. </p><p>I have always been concerned about loosing some of them on the road since it is a real hazard for them. In fact there have been 3 strays that I know of that have been run over this last year. But mine don't even go out on the road. I discovered that they have been going through a culvert under the road to get to the field on the other side. I have watched them disappear on this side and reappear on the other side and then run off into the field. I have no idea how they figured that out but its what they all do. </p><p>I have only lost one of them, one from the last batch of kittens, and I believe that was to a predator as no sign of her ever turned up. They have each manifested their own personalities, Two are homebodies (Jet and Arrow) and don't really like being outside that much. One is a real explorer and often disappears for days at a time. The others prefer being outside but come in whenever the weather is bad and often at night. Homer and Snoopy (the only 2 boys) have a rivalry going on. I have to keep them separated as much as possible as Homer keeps trying to put Snoopy in his place. But other than that they are all pretty peaceful and happy. I have not seen a mouse in years, so they are doing a good job of keeping vermin away. They did kill a few garter snakes this last year which I wish they would leave alone but I suppose they were fun to play with. One nice thing is they have not had an impact on the birds. Its pretty rare that they get those so I still have lots of birds nesting in the trees. So, all in all we are a happy family. </p>
<p>I know that it has been a while, but thank you so much for answering me. I plan to go check out your other instructables. :)</p>
<p>Homer's story is very touching, and I'm very happy that he made it throught... but... This is a How to NOT take care of your cat! If you had taken proper care he didn't have to go throught all these, and neither his brothers, mother and father would disapeared or died! How about reading about responsible ownership of pets?</p>
<p>Thanks for taking the time and thought to comment. It looks like you joined Instructables just so you could post a comment. Welcome. </p><p>On average they estimate a feral cat will live less than 3 years. Life in the wild is pretty rough on them. Just this winter there have been 4 roaming toms that have been run over on the highway here. One of them was really friendly, it was sad to see him splattered on the road. I have no control of that. If anything the fault lies with the people who just dump the unwanted animals with no care about what might happen to them. Homers mom and dad were feral, wild. I gave them as much care as they would tolerate. They were not inside animals and could not be treated as such. Most feral animals that get picked up by animal control officers end up being put to sleep because they cannot adapt to being pets. Even horses adopted from the wild can be a problem and require special care to get them used to being around people. </p><p>I did not expect Homer' s mom to run off with her kittens and abandon them. I did not know she would do that and I had no control of her doing that.</p><p>Now, more than 4 years down the road I still have all but one (who disappeared without a trace) plus an extra that was dumped as a little kitten only a few weeks old that I found in the middle of the road. There is a tom cat that has been hanging around on a regular basis who has a standing appointment at the next spay and neuter clinic if he is still around on that day. I feed all of them inside so they check in usually at least once a day. Some like being outside and with acres of ground and are at their happiest outside. A couple (Jet and Arrow) like to be inside and almost never go out. Its their choice. They are well fed and happy each doing what it likes best in a relatively safe place. </p>
You've got my vote for sure! This is an amazing an touching instructable. There is a stray black cat (used to be shy) and he wouldn't get near me and my siblings( we LOVE animals) eventually he came closer and closer (this was in the fall) and we gave him food, and when we had a bonfire, he would curl beneath it to keep warm. He started to get from a spunky kitten to an old week guy, and he got (most likely) attacked by something, but like Romeo, couldn't get rid of it, and it are him. I miss him..:( that was a while ago. Then again I think if he is still living and where he has gotten to. Your story was phenomenal to read and was very bittersweet. Thnk you for filling my mind, and bring back memories of Demon.
did catnip die?
wow that is sad
<p>Oh man *sniffle* What a bittersweet tale. They're lucky to have you around to take care of them. Fantastic read.</p>
That touched my heart!;)
what happened to the other kitten
Woooow, Nice story! I am totally in love with your kitty family now ;) You're a really nice person to adopt all those cats and giving them such a good life. God bless
Agreed :) Epic story
I love that homer is an amazing cat I love animals
What a wonderful story, it's 4:19 am and I couldn't stop reading... I have 5 cats myself, all rescues :-) but in a New York apartment... <br>Getting the brother and sister fixed IMMEDIATELY!!!!! <br>You are a very special person ;-) <br>Cheers and carry on from New York! <br>
Great tail..... Having had to wash a cat off that was covered in shower gel at a party i totally get the warm water thing. I swear the cat lifted its paw up to show me i had missed a bit! It didn't struggle at all. Cat was not impressed at losing its smell. In fact it was so peeved it stole into someones car and ended up 150 miles away........ <br> <br>It is worth remembering that if you do have to bath a cat it will lose all the oils in its coat and until they are replaced it is a lot more vulnerable to bad weather.
Wow. I LOVE cats. We have 5 total. You are a very nice person for taking the kittens in. If you have any more cat instructables, plz list them!
You might like the pictures in<a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/Taking-E-bay-photos-that-get-attention/" rel="nofollow"> this one</a>.
Awwwww I love animals ur a good person. I am never going to get a job as an exterminator. I'm a cat person and I hate exterminators. They are destroying the gift of nature. They set poison traps everywhere!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Awww thats soo cute and sad but i did love it gid bless you and have a giid day !! :)
Cat people are good people and you are a very good person! This was a great instructable and bless you for it.
One of the best people ever. And I barely know you. Just that you are an animal lover, and that you've helped numerous cats. That's good enough for me
aaaawwwwww my smily face didnt work
there all so cute &lt; <br> ) <br> &lt;
Did you ever find the mom? <br> <br> <br>I LOVED THIS STORY!!! <br>I cried a little... ^.^
At the bottom of &quot;step 12&quot; in the last paragraph it tells what happened to Juliet, the mom. The one who disappeared and I never saw again was Romeo, the dad. He was getting pretty old and worn from living on the wild side. He used to visit often and then just didn't show up anymore. He might have died from old age but more likely something like a coyote caught him and he wasn't strong enough anymore to fight it off.
Did You Ever Find the mother?
I can vouch for what you say about vets being realistic. Two Christmases ago, my vet put my dog on medication for seizures. Within three weeks, my dog's pancreas was shutting down. On the day I finally realized he needed professional help, my vet's office was closing for the afternoon, so they recommended me to another vet in town. A vet with a reputation for being expensive. With my dog fading and the day passing, I took him there. The vet we saw was obviously very compassionate and she was totally up front about how much it could cost to try and save my dog's life. She also offered to put him down, if that was my only affordable option. My daughter was with me and made a plea that whatever we did, the dog should not be allowed to suffer a minute longer than necessary. Then the vet asked me what my budget WOULD allow. I gave her a figure I could live with and she said, &quot;OK. I'm going to take him back and give him a drip and see if we can stabilize him. You two go grab a cup of coffee down the street and come back in 45 minutes. By then I will have some course of treatment worked out that will fit your budget.&quot; When we came back, the vet asked me how I felt about needles. I said I had no qualms giving a stick if I had to. She had worked out a treatment plan that let me take my dog home and administer IVs to him there, thus saving the facility costs involved in treating him in-house and coming in just under my budget. Then she called every day to check on him until his treatment was finished! It restored a lot of my faith in vets, I tell you.
Wow. That's remarkable. Encouraging, too.
After seeing many of your comments, I've come to think of you as the human version of Optimus Prime. Even though I am a Decepticon, I have to say, good work.
Lovely story.. I needed that for strength as I am homeless in 2 weeks and about to be living in a tent.. :) <br>I will find my way home.. when I have one that is...
I am a little surprised that no one commented about your comment or your predicament . Usually it's the type of thing that starts a conversation going. I thought about starting a a topic in the forums to address it but I don't want to start a political debate. The simple fact is that things are pretty bad in a lot of places right now. I think its worse than what most people realize. So, if you are one of the many who's life has been made very difficult by the current circumstances you have my sympathy. I think it has been caused in part by the fading away of what used to be communities. People used to care about each other on a community level but true communities are disappearing, being replaced with housing developments that are built with the main intention of making money rather than creating a place for people to live. <br>Anyway, you have my sympathies and I hope things work out for you for the best.
Very true. Now a days, it doesn't really matter to some people if their neighbor is suffering or not.... <br> <br>Maybe we could make a forum or website where we are all neighbors and care about each other.
I too hope that things have worked out and that you are well. I agree with Vyger that living in a community/family setting, in these distressing times, is best. I have been encouraging my family to move to a property in the countryside, houses close together - commune-like, for many years. They are at least listening to me now. My heart goes out to you dwilkinson1.
Lovely story! My hubby and I currently have two fabulous cats ... at one time, we also had a feral. He was a doll. Alas, we did have to put him down ... all his years of fighting it on the outside just took their toll on him. Ferals don't tend to live as long, due to disease, fighting, the outside elements, etc. Our feral, called &quot;Him&quot;, finally succumbed to FLV. It was tragic to watch him deteriorate. In the end, we did the merciful thing.<br>Thanks for the fun narrative, Vyger ... I enjoyed it!
Thank you for your narrative and photos. You are a very nice man. &quot;A man who knows the love of a cat is a rich man indeed.&quot; I have had the pleasure of caring for over 40 cats and kittens thus far. My husband became entranced by them only 10 years ago, when we married, and the above quote is his. Again. Thank you.
passed it along to my mom as well as to the facebook page for the shelter I volunteer at.
Beautiful, bittersweet story. I am at work and trying not to tear up - this really made me miss our big, old, goofy, nip-head tabby, Bertie.
That was a truely beautiful story. I even shed a few tears. Your next instructable should be how to write a children's book from a cat's perspective. I'd buy a copy!
Very beautiful cats! <br><br>And a nice (although a bit sad) history. I will vote you.
Great story and adorable kitties, you got my vote!
This is a tail of two kitties .... sorry couldn't resist :-)<br>Beautiful story and beautiful cats, thank you so much for sharing, you have a real talent and I really enjoyed this.<br>5*, more if I could.<br><br>Cheers,<br>R
Good story, thanks for sharing!<br><br>Once my friends dog got covered in crude oil. First vet washed him then we washed him at least four rounds with dish detergent. He got much cleaner but not clean. But another wash or two few days later with dog shampoo did the trick. So if someone reading this should ever have similar situation - repeat the washing after some time if the first isn't too successful.
A dog type am I, still read your cat tale twice !<br>Great adventure, gave you 5.
Aww. At first I was a bit worried by the picture in the Living section. A picture of a mauled cat was like &quot;Oh jeez what kind of Instructable is this?!&quot;<br>But once I started reading I got really into the story. My cat Smudge is a bit of a terror and we are sure he might have been half feral (Or maybe he is a pest). <br>I'll read this to him when I get home and he will probably love Homer's story!
Thanks for sharing this Instructable! I really enjoyed your story! So happy he found a good home! Amazing story!
Aaaawww .. ^_^*

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Bio: The name comes from the First Star Trek movie, that pretty much says it all.
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