Hampton has been back now for 5 months. His progress has been slow and steady. He follows the typical pattern of working with feral cats in that he moves one step forward and two steps back! Fortunately he does continue to move forward.
I was first able to pet him in August. He really seemed to enjoy light touches on the top of his head. Yet after a week or so he began to swat at me. He also would follow me to the sliding door and swat at my legs as I went inside. His fear was resurfacing. I did my best to remain calm and not afraid. After numerous scratches on my body and many wild looks from Hampton, I had to take a step back. I was starting to exhibit some fear and Hampton could sense my fear. I kept the food tray or a soft cushion close by me at all times in case I needed to push him away. Fortunately I never needed to use them. I decided to back off on petting him and concentrate on playing instead. I brought out the wand toy and he loved it. He also started to allow me to “pet” him with the feather end of the toy. I remembered from my early days of working with Shadow that I had made a soft tipped wand that I could use to touch him. I found it in the cat box and tried it out with Hampton. At first it spooked him, but he was then able to play with it a bit and then allowed it to touch his body. It has worked perfectly. I can keep a bit of distance between us and he is so enjoying the pets. He will even roll over to show his belly and allow a few pets.
After using the wand toy for a few weeks, I was able to pull the toy towards my body and replace it with my hand. He is much more relaxed and will allow pets on the top of his head and upper body for a few minutes at a time. I just have to be sure to remain very still. Most sudden movements will startle him which then startles me. He will continue to be a work in progress.
His behavior with Shadow and Stellar also has its ups and downs. Morning feedings are now done when it is still dark or just starting to get light. Hampton is his most active when it is dark. He is the first to greet me at the door and will rub all over my legs while I am setting out food. He then prefers a few pets before eating! After eating, he may chase Shadow a bit. The chasing is more playful, but Shadow is still afraid and will usually retreat under the love seat. In the evening when it is starting to get dark, Hampton comes alive again. I try to play with him then so that he doesn’t use his energy on Shadow. Fortunately his behavior is not aggressive, it is just fear based or he wants to play. It will take time for he and Shadow to fully understand and trust each other. Hampton and Stellar mostly ignore each other. I believe this is because Stellar has such neutral energy while Shadow just emits fear. Most nights between 9-10pm, all 3 cats are on the love seat sleeping together. So harmony resumes.
Last week we had some very cool nights. It dropped to 47 one night. Shadow is the one with not much fur and he gets so cold easily. I decided to put the heat pads out. All 3 of the cats loved them. Stellar was even sleeping on one during the day when it was near 70. As the week wore on, the temperatures rose and I unplugged them much to the cats dismay. The temperatures are to dip again starting tonight so I will most likely plug the heat pads back in for a bit of warmth.
I still go back and worth on what to do about an extra winter shelter. My husband and I think it would be best to start with two separate heated shelters with the option to combine them if all goes well and they all 3 want to sleep together. I just do not want Shadow left out in the cold by himself. I can easily see this as he is just too afraid to assert himself. The early predictions for winter are for a mild winter with less precipitation. That would certainly make things easier, but weather is unpredictable!