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Anyone have experience with semi-feral kittens? UPDATED VIDEO

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  • Anyone have experience with semi-feral kittens? UPDATED VIDEO

    I had a stray cat who gave birth before we could manage to trap her. She had 5 kittens and hid them for several weeks. Once they started coming out of hiding, I would sit and feed them and try to pat them as they ate. Any noise and they would run, any movement they would run - very skittish. Over time ,as I was trying desperately to get some help to trap them, the momma cat did move them to our shed. I have been hanging out with them as much as I can, and 2 of them let me pat them and even get on my lap and let me pick them up as long as I put them right down. 2 of the others let me pat them while they eat, but are far from tame.

    Problem is, they are now getting pretty big, and I have a feral cat organization coming to trap and spay/neuter them, and then the kittens will be coming in my house to get tamed. The plan is to put the 5 kittens in my spare bathroom at first and I will spend some intesive time in there with them and my husband will too. I am worried that they have gotten too big and are past that 8 to 12 week window to domesticate them - time has just gone by too fast. They have really sharp claws, so will ask the vet to trim them while they are under anesthesia. Honestly, I've had cats all my life and have 5 of my own in the house (which will be fun to deal with when the kittens are ready to come out of the bathroom!).

    Long winded, but basically I am asking for any advice as to how to tame these guys. I plan to put a box in there so that they can hide a bit at first - 2 of the 5 are REALLY shy and scared, so I want to give them a safe haven.

    HELP! They are beautiful kittens and I want to do the best I can for them and give them a good chance to be pets or barn kitties.

    Here is a rather dark video I took of them this morning - all 5 came out. Shows how they interact:
    Last edited by witherbee; Dec. 21, 2011, 03:26 PM.

  • #2
    Not an expert here but I have had some experience. Can you put them in a room that's bigger than a bathroom, with a place/places for them to hide in and feel safe?

    I'd say to continue to spend as much time with them as you can. Maybe even just hang out in the rooom, read, or watch TV so that the wilder ones can observe you. The tamer ones' interactions with you should make the wilder ones feel safer.

    I adopted two feral (VERY feral) kittens for my BO, she wanted new barn kittens to keep the original guy company. It has been over a year now and finally the shyer one will let me pat him. But these guys didn't spend time in a house. The less shy kitty is very affectionate with me but no way could I evven try and pick her up without getting hurt.
    What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!


    • #3
      I think you'll be surprised how fast they come around. Don't worry about older than 12 weeks. I've done older kittens than that.

      Get a lunging whip - or maybe a smaller one for the bathroom but with a popper on the end. Play "fish" with them. They find it irresistible. I have trapped totally untouchable kittens before by fishing them out of their hideyholes. Talk to them. Take in a book and read aloud. I'm sure they'll come around quickly once they are in the bathroom and get you all the time.


      • #4
        Laser pointer


        • #5
          I adopted two feral kittens and their mother when the kittens were about 6 months and the mother was about 1.5 years. I kept them in a fairly small crate for 4 weeks, during which I fed them lovely smelly tuna twice a day and petted them ... with a glove stuffed with paper and tied to the end of a stick (my patented "Kitty Petter".)

          By the time I released them in the barn, the two kittens were reasonably tame, but the mother cat vanished immediately. The kittens are now three years old and still fairly friendly ... I can pet them and pick them up, though they do not like to be held for more than a few moments.

          "Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit."
          - Desiderata, (c) Max Ehrman, 1926


          • #6
            Someone left an abandoned mother and her two kittens (4 months old at the time) at our barn in one of the spare stalls. The kittens were more the run away types than the hiss and scratch types, and while the mother and one of the babies ran (still had a better chance than they did elsewhere...) the other stuck around, and she follows us, comes when called, etc. She just loves attention. She doesn't like to be held, but loves to climb on our laps. She was the more feral one at first, too.

            We just got a 3 month (approx) old who people have been working with for a while, and he wants no part of people. He'll eat food out of my hand, and has let me pet him while he was eating, but in general he just wants FREE! He's in a dog kennel in the barn after a few days in the house with our barn cat free around him, and we're hoping he will want to return for food and stick around after we let him out. The kennel is staying where it is in the hay room, with a pillow and food bowls kept inside w/ an open door in the future.
            If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


            • #7
              Someone threw a 6 weeks old female kitten in the alley way behind my house. I fed her and tried to catch her but to no avail. I borrowed a "Katch them Alive" trap from the animal control officer here. I caught her but she was wild and could hiss, spit and growl very well. I put her in a crate and gave her canned salmon. Fastest way to a cat's heart is canned salmon. I could hold her for short intervals but not for too long. My Granddaughter came and loves cats. She caught her and carried her all over the house. After that she was very friendly and of course knew immediately when the can opener hit the salmon can. I tried other cat foods on her and she liked the dry cat food for after the salmon.
              Her name is now LuLu and she is Momma's girl. I have another cat named Cry Baby. She came to have her kittens in my workshop. She has always been shy but same trick worked on her. I gave her salmon and she decided this was a great place to live where the eating was good. She has been here 9 years now. I did get her to let me pet her and I caught her and took her in to be spayed. I didn't get her in fast enough and she had a second litter. Those babies are at my daughter's house now. But this is the first year she would come in the house, and the first year to come and sit beside me.
              Feed them wonderful stuff like chicken livers and canned salmon and you will have a friend for life. Little Lulu has been here 5 years now and she is much different than the "Hiss and Spit" kitten I caught so long ago. Love and bribery will get you everywhere with kittens and cats. I cooked a turkey last month and I had all the cats waiting for the feast they wanted. I cut up the skin and heart and liver,and some of the dark meat and they were in cat heaven. They all were full and purring and sleeping it off on various chairs and sofas. Nothing happier than a cat with a full tummy and a warm place to sleep.
              It works on kittens very well. I think if you sit out there and read stories to them and when you finish you give them tuna or salmon or something irresitable to cats you will win them over.
              This works with horses to but not with salmon. Corn , oats and barley in a small bucket and set out near you while you lean on the fence and read stories to them usually works. One gal had a Mustang from the BLM rehome sale that was wild. She would go out and read the comics out loud to him and leave a small bucket of grain near her. He had to come near her to get the grain. He figured out that she would not kill him if her came close. So after 2 weeks she put out her hand to see if he would sniff it. He did. So each day she would put out her hand and after about 2 weeks she touched him. He snorted and ran but she did it again and again until he decided it was OK. He is a great reining horse now. Loyal and faithful to his loving friend who gave him a home. These things take time though. So with the kittens take your time and offer them canned salmon and see how long it takes to turn them around to being YOUR cats.
              Wishing you the best with them.
              Kind regards, sadlmakr


              • Original Poster

                Thanks for the insight and some encouraging results. I only have the small bathroom at this point - I think they would tear up my guest room and I do not know how litter trained they are (I have a litter box outside for them). Also, I have 4 dogs and 4 cats in the house, so not possible to let the kittens roam. I'm also afraid they'll hide behind the washer and dryer or the furnace or something. My plan is to keep them close and feed them and get to know them and then let them out into the hall area and then my office - I can keep the other animals separated for a while and maybe introduce a couple at a time.

                I don't want to keep any of them, so need to make sure I can find good homes and that means they need to be somewhat friendly!


                • #9
                  Kittens are pretty easy and will come around. Just spend time with them etc and you will be amazed.

                  Once they figure out, human means food that helps too.
                  I love cats, I love every single cat....
                  So anyway I am a cat lover
                  And I love to run.


                  • #10
                    i've managed to get cats and kittens of all ages to be freindly enough to catch and hold for vetting or transport........FOOD FOOD FOOD...........lol....just as everyone has said.......i generally kept kitten litters in my bathroom as well, just sat in there for ages with smelly food........some cats come around faster if confined and "forced" to endure your attention, others will be less terrified if not cornered, so they feel they have an easy out if needed.....hard to tell what will work til one method fails.......lol...amazingly enough, the ones thqat seem the most wild arre often the ones that you cannot get out of your face once they are aware of the good things humans can provide.......
                    'good luck


                    • #11
                      I did this last year with two that were 4 months old, and were as wild as any wild animal can be. I put them in a small bathroom at night but for hours during the day I put them in a large crate and let them take in all of the activity in the living room. I then moved them to my dining room that has doors on it for another month or so, spending as much time as possible with them and holding them on my chest and petting them. For all of the scary spitting ect they became surprisingly docile to be held, I scruffed them at first and never held them down, most cats hate that. After about two months I let them have the run of the house. There were some things knocked over at first but they learned very quickly not to climb on counters ect.
                      They are still completely skittish with strangers and are only really affectionate with me at 18 months old. They like my husband just fine but only want to snuggle with mom/me.
                      If I had known what I do now I would have grabbed them when I first saw them at about 5 weeks old. I feel like they are never going to stop having that feral streak but they are very sweet and great cats.

                      Oh and they used the litter box immediately. Not one accident.


                      • #12
                        Dark and places to hide. And FOOD. And string! My sister brought home 2 of our barn's feral kittens (mom was tame, kittens were NOT.) And they grew up to be lovable pet cats, but they needed some adjustment time first. Make sure if/when they're transported that they're in something secure. We used a cardboard box, stopped at the store, and while she went in the store I stayed in the car and one got out of the box and tried to crawl into the hole behind the gas pedal.
                        It's a uterus, not a clown car. - Sayyedati


                        • #13
                          Time, food and patience. Last year my semi-feral momma made a bid for housecatdom and succeeded. She had one enormous lilac point kitten, who, when she came out of hiding, was wilder than her mother ever dreamed of being (at least I could touch momma gently). That baby ran and hid, hissed and growled, and finally, last fall, at around 12 weeks of age, started paying attention to the other cats interacting with me, not just her momma. She sat in the doorway, confused look on her face while Da Lip and Da Magpie sat beside me or on me. After ta couple more weeks, she came and sat beside Da Lip and allowed me to pet her; next step was jumping on the bed then crawling under the blankets. The point of this ramble is to make sure they see you interacting with your other cats and soon curiosity will take over; they DO learn by watching and they will get used to your scent because it is all over everything including the other cats.
                          Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

                          Member: Incredible Invisbles


                          • #14
                            Here's my very recent saga with a dump kitty:


                            My very best friend here has been my jumbo-size dog crate (as in large enough to comfortably hold a Doberman/Labrador-sized dog. Room enough for a small litter box, towel for sleeping, food & water dishes. Kitty has/had plenty of room, but nowhere to run/hide/disappear. Got to meet the household cats & dogs through the crate door without fisticuffs, & quickly got used to me very gently & quietly providing food, water, etc.

                            Of course, this was just one kitten. With 4 you most likely need to go the bathroom route. I'd give them the comforts of home, but in a situation without hidee-holes so they have to start looking to you for security.


                            • #15
                              Witherbee I think you have a good plan. Small space is good. You can sit on the toilet and read a book .

                              My success story: I had an older feral I trapped from a colony. I tried the dog crate routine: every night she would break out and hide in the basement. NO idea how she did so without injuring herself!! It was like she was teleported. I would re-trap her and crate her again. Eventually I gave up, fearing she would injure herself escaping the crate. I felt like I failed.

                              My sweet dad started hanging out every evening in the basement with a cup of tea and handful of chicken. After weeks and weeks, she started sneaking upstairs when the house was quiet. Then the chicken only appeared when she was upstairs . Gradually she spent more time upstairs when there was activity.

                              The end result was the most affectionate, relaxed kitty I have encountered. She slept on my dad's bald head like a living fur hat . Toasty! She laid on the keyboard while I typed so she could not be ignored. Oh, and she went to the bathroom outdoors, so she was indoor/outdoor with a strong preference for wherever her people were. Damn I miss that cat.


                              • Original Poster

                                Originally posted by anna's girl View Post
                                I put them in a small bathroom at night but for hours during the day I put them in a large crate and let them take in all of the activity in the living room. I then moved them to my dining room that has doors on it for another month or so, spending as much time as possible with them and holding them on my chest and petting them. For all of the scary spitting ect they became surprisingly docile to be held, I scruffed them at first and never held them down, most cats hate that.
                                They are still completely skittish with strangers and are only really affectionate with me at 18 months old. They like my husband just fine but only want to snuggle with mom/me.
                                If I had known what I do now I would have grabbed them when I first saw them at about 5 weeks old. I feel like they are never going to stop having that feral streak but they are very sweet and great cats.

                                Oh and they used the litter box immediately. Not one accident.
                                This is what I am afraid of and I too wish that I had just scruffed the ones that I could reach earlier - they are getting so big now. I was just afraid they'd never come out again if I scruffed them. I am also worried that they will be too skittish around other people - even my house cats can be that way (well, one of them is).

                                The other thing that bothers me is that they will be trapped and then go immediately for surgery. Going to be very traumatic for all of them. I really want to find them good homes, but if they are scaredy cats they will only be suitable for barn cats and that does not mean a long life around here...

                                Bacardi, I do have a large dog crate and I guess I can use that when I start acclimating them to the other animals - maybe put a couple of them in there at a time. My chihuahua and possibly one or 2 of the other cats will be the problem. The 3 larger dogs won't bother them at all and they are used to them from seeing them outside.

                                UGH - STRESS! I know there are much bigger problems to have, but this has been such an ongoing saga and is going to be a lot of work in the house. I am not sure how quickly I can rehome them either - hopefully the "flashy" ones will go fast and that will leave the 2 "plain" tigers. One of the tigers is super friendly, so that should help. Honestly, I have too many, but if I were to keep one it would be him or the gray,

                                Thanks again for all of your stories - it has helped a lot and made me a bit more optimistic.


                                • #17
                                  I have some well bred feral cats. Really. Purebred Siamese from a breeder. Unfortunately, I didn't get them until they were 3 months old. My parents had bought them for me when they were 6-8 wks old and didn't want them to get attached to anyone in the family (I had moved out), so they stayed in the breeder's pet shop, in a floor to ceiling cage. They saw people, but no one played with them. When I got them they were a mess; I've seen wild barn cats that were more sociable. They were well litter trained though.

                                  I played with them when they would play and bed time was their time, especially for the little one. She was less threatened with me prone, and would sleep on me. Picking them up was completely out of the question. I was able to push the issue with the older one (2 wks apart) and after 9 months had her convinced that petting felt good. They liked me around, but didn't want me to touch them. One night, Kitty got b/w me & the door and cried; I had my uniform on & was working 12 hour shifts. She had figured out the difference.

                                  12 years later, they are both great lap cats. One will usually let you pick her up. The younger one, still won't let me pick her up without a 10 minute chase. She is the most affectionate of the 2, and is lap cat extraordinaire - on her terms only.

                                  Provide them with someplace to hide. If you don't they will find one - under the refrigerator, under the tub, in a box spring or couch, in a wall, or on shower curtain rod bracket. Ask me how I've come up with this list. Be there, but don't be too pushy.
                                  Visit my Spoonflower shop


                                  • #18
                                    There is nothing like trying to fish a half wild kitty out of a boxspring, either

                                    My latest was probably the offspring of a barn cat at the big TB farm on our road-- she was actually retrieved from IN the road, skinny and covered with fleas, at about six weeks. She is currently in bed with me, under the electric blanket. She's definitely a cuddler, but only on her terms, and she does still try to hide, which is much harder now that she's an extremely long and mildly plump 13 pounds. Unfortunately she's still convinced she can hide in the same places she did as a kitten.


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Thanks again. They are used to me bringing the food - I feed them twice a day with kitten crunchies and smelly wet cat food (pate` consitancy). I pat them while they eat so that they associate that together. Will have to trap with the canned salmon that folks are mentioning - seafood seems to be their favorite. A friend said they could possibly take 2 for barn kitties, but they will be moving at some point and would plan to leave them. Also, that area is pretty bad for coyotes. We'll see - may be a last resort.