We have adopted out another cat! This one is not the run-of-the-mill adoption, it's the adoption of an essentially feral cat.
Last year after Edmund died, we agreed to take on another charity case. Gray Boy was a cat taken from a hoarding situation in the Bronx. He was born in the apartment but never socialized. So he was essentially a feral cat who had never been outside. This made him an especially tough sell; he wasn't adoptable but he also wasn't really a candidate for assimilation into a feral colony. So he stayed in a big cage for over 2 years.
The hope was that after a while he would tame down, but he didn't. If people tried to interact with him he would assume his usual stance, ears back flat, eyes narrowed angrily, perhaps a paw ready to strike. He spent a lot of time hiding under his cat bed; eventually a curtain was strung around half of his cage to give him some privacy (they do the same thing with the bunk beds in prison).
We decided that it would be better for him to try to learn to live outside as a feral than go on like this. We set him up in our yard and assimilated into our goofball colony. He stayed in his cage for 2 weeks and then we released him. He was a little wary of the other cats but he soon fell in with the gang. He had some growing pains, such as getting stuck up a tree for two days. But overall he adjusted well. Too well in fact.
Gaining his freedom seem to spark something in Gray Boy. He started getting closer to us, and eventually let us pet him! He could still be skittish but otherwise he became like a tame cat in a matter of months. We started thinking he shouldn't live outside at all anymore.
We let him inside and at first it was great. The cats all took to him instantly and he settled in rapidly. But suddenly, Jefe (our big wanna-be Alpha male) decided he didn't like the cut of Gray Boy's jib. He started stalking and attacking him constantly. Nothing could placate him, even weeks of isolation-introduction process didn't have any effect. Every time Jefe saw him, he would go completely nuts. Gray Boy hid under the bed or in the closet, he wouldn't come out … not even to use he litterbox in the same room. This couldn't last.
Sadly we decided to put Gray Boy back out into the yard. It was fall so he had enough time to adjust to the coming winter. We were very worried about him, especially since we had brought him inside we had augmented our colony with a whole new crew of cats. We now had something like 15 cats in the yard, and he didn't really know them.
He did have some initial problems fitting into the new group, and he spent a fair amount of time whining to come back inside, but he slowly found his place. He became friendly with some of the cats, took a winter shelter for himself, and became a real feral cat. Except for once again getting caught up a tree for a while, he did great on the outside. But we still wanted something better for him.
Enter our friend who has a magic touch for placing cats. A guy who had adopted a cat from her was looking for a companion cat, and she thought of Gray Boy. We knew he was still a hard sell: who wants to adopt a cat who live outdoors? It seems weird. But the adopter was well-versed with cats and understood his story. Gray Boy was in good form when they came over to meet him, letting us pet him and not even putting up much of a fight when I grabbed him to put him into the carrier. He wasn't happy about the carrier, but I know he will be happy to get back into a real house.
Gray Boy has to learn how to fit into another home again, but this time there's only one sassy calico to get along with, we think he will be a very happy housecat. It's hard to believe it's the same cat who used to recoil from the slightest interaction. In a way I'm glad he had to the chance to experience life outside; he's come a long way from that cluttered apartment in the Bronx!