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What's the trick to feral kittens?

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  • What's the trick to feral kittens?

    I have 3 baby boys, 4-5 weeks old. This is my first time dealing with ferals. I got the first two on Monday, the third on Wed.

    The first kitten has a BIG personality, and is coming around the quickest. He's the boldest, bravest and first to check everything out. The second kitten is very timid and I think a bit of a chicken. Third kid seems to be a mix of the two in personality, but he tends to hang back and be more of a loner. Takes him longer to join in playing, and seems happy enough to do his own thing. He's also the pain in the butt one, because he is definitely vertically-oriented, and getting into all kinds of places I don't want him in yet!

    The first baby is most comfortable with me, is starting to think that maybe getting petted feels good, but no purring yet. Timid tiger still will shrink away from me if I move too quickly, or as soon as he realizes I don't have food for him in my hand. Third baby is a few days behind in socializing, still will hiss at me occasionally, but is getting better about letting me approach him and pick him up. He like #2 will immediately shrink away from me at first opportunity- both will happily play with/near me, but as soon as they realize they're too close they'll scoot away.

    I have them for 2-3 more weeks before they go to the adoption center. How aggressive should I be with them in terms of cuddling? I've instituted a "cuddle toll" when they come out of their crate for play time- if they want to play, then they have to submit to a minute or two of being held and petted. I've put #2 and 3 in a towel in my lap for 5 minutes here and there, but neither will relax yet. They start to panic if it's too long, and I don't want that to happen. I also randomly pick one up as they're playing, pet for a minute and release again.

    I want some purring and cuddly babies, dammit! I really want to make sure I get them to turn the corner on the petting/cuddling idea. Do I need to just suck it up and make a kitten burrito and force them to stay in my lap for a longer period of time? Or should I give it a few more days? Advice please!!

    And photos of each of course!

  • #2
    I find the ear rub is the way to their hearts. I rub with my thumb at the base of the ear. I tamed 8 last year, 6 this year. Only one is still a bit standoffish, of the ones I kept. One, I can't beat off me with a stick, he thinks I'm his momma.


    • #3
      I feed them nasty crap like canned food or tuna out of my hand until they see a hand coming towards them as a good thing. The real key is to get them early. After 6 weeks is almost impossible to make them anything but people tolerant so it is good yours are younger. Play a lot.
      McDowell Racing Stables

      Home Away From Home


      • #4
        We had a large breasted, very sweet employee at the shelter who loooved to take kittens home and fuss over them. Whenever we'd get a litter of feral's in we'd always joke "Oop, those need to spend a weekend in so and so's bosom." Seriously, ignore the spitting and hissing and force some cuddles and purrs out of them.


        • Original Poster

          The rescue group feeds Royal Canin kibble to their kittens, which I am NOT thrilled with, but in the interest of not having upset tummies when they go back in I've been feeding them that. I did buy stinky wet kitten food, and have been hand-feeding that to them, along with tidbits of hamburger and bison from my plate a few times a day as a treat.

          I'm only getting a random hiss from the black one still, but he's only been here 3 days. The silver one hissed at first, but is over it and is the most relaxed with me. Poor timid tiger never made a peep from day one, but spent the first two days in shell-shock before he finally got over the trauma of his new surroundings. He will let me hold him for a few minutes, but if I go too long he starts to panic and chirp and whistle for his brothers. Do I make him suffer through that, or not? I don't want him to associate being held by me with panic and anxiety!

          Lots of play-time going on, and the peacock feather is a smash hit. I've been luring them close to me with it, and trying to encourage them to play on and around me on the floor.

          If I could convince them to fall asleep in my lap I think I could make some progress, but no matter how tired they are the second I pick them up for lap time, they're instantly awake and ready to vacate the area. I'm starting to take it personally.


          • #6
            Kitty burito in a hand-sized towel

            Baby food on your fingers


            • #7
              Put on the TV, grab a kitten, settle into the easy chair. Let the kitten get between your back and the chair's back (scoot your butt a bit forward and lean back and make a space for them. Just chill out right there, hand feed them tiny bits of meat and enjoy a movie. They WILL relax and purr, you just have to wait it out.

              Think about it like this, if a bear came up to you, you might not be too terribly scared, as long as otherwise it left you alone.
              If you found yourself living with one, after you'd lived with it for a while and it hadn't eaten you, you'd stop freaking out every time it touched you.
              But if it picked you up and held you, you'd panic and struggle, and if it then put you down, you wouldn't get less scared, you'd just learn to struggle until you got away, and think about what a narrow escape you had every time.
              But if the bear held you gently and gave you chocolate until you relaxed and ate it, you'd probably figure out that it was an awesome, exceptional bear, and this whole deal isn't so bad.


              • #8

                I can't even stand it. I have problems.

                A friend of mine just carried them around in his coat pockets while he did chores (easier in the winter)

                It looks like they are inside & have a crate. When they have to be in the crate, keep it where people are & let them hear you talk constantly. The more exposure the better.
                Last edited by Hippolyta; Aug. 5, 2012, 06:23 AM.


                • #9
                  You are doing fine. The younger they are the easier it is to tame them to be real house cats. I don't think you'll have any trouble with that bunch.

                  Just ignore the hissing and keep patting and cuddling. Lots of playing. kisses.


                  • #10
                    I adopted two ferals at 6 months. One was the braver of the two, but oddly the quieter one was the first to 'make contact'. There was a lot of sitting on the floor, just waiting, with some kitten treats.

                    When they were coming to me on the floor, I'd move up to the furniture, and they'd follow. Now,they don't leave my side!

                    Oddly enough, they both love spinach and peas. So cute!


                    • #11
                      Hand feed them when they're sleepy, hold them while you watch tv or sit long enough that they fall asleep with you, have open topped crates so they can see human activity all around them.

                      I've tamed feral kitten of all ages and stages, some maybe don't come running to meet new people at the door but they all learn to enjoy their own people. I have one right now that wasn't even picked up a day in her life until she was 8 and I can't get away from her, she loves me to death.

                      My mom has some now that are 4 weeks old; she wraps them in fleece little baby blankets and hand feeds them the "chunks" from TOTW canned food, they love it.
                      “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


                      • Original Poster

                        Ok, OPERATION SNUGGLE will commence this evening. The hard part is when the one being held starts to struggle and calls out to his brothers, and they in turn panic and start hollering back. The whistling and chirping gets very frantic!

                        They do stay in a large dog crate, and since I live in a very tiny studio, they are in the middle of things whether they want to be or not. I do put them in the shower at night, because the constant chatter from the silver tabby was driving me nuts. He talks non-stop, about everything. He's an absolute motormouth. At least with the bathroom door between us now I only hear faint meows at night.

                        The tiger and black are rapidly getting better about the idea that my hand often times has yummy treats in it, so I think I just need to be more patient and realize it hasn't been that long, and that progress is being made.

                        Now if I could just figure out a way to keep my cat from butting in and mauling me when she realizes I'm handing out goodies to the boys and not her. That's high treason in her book!


                        • Original Poster


                          I've made good progress with two, not so much with the timid tiger. The wrapping individually in towels and cuddling wasn't working so well, so I ended up just getting in the shower with them for awhile one night. It was a tight enough squeeze that they had to deal with me in close proximity, and I was rewarded by getting the silver tiger to purr for the first time.

                          Black kitten is almost to the purring stage- he is much more relaxed around me, and really thinks the petting feels kind of good. He'll come sit next to me now if I'm on the floor with them and isn't alarmed if I pick him up. I thought for sure he would be purring by now, but he's not quite there yet.

                          Timid tiger, however, is regressing. He is a little better for me to handle, but he's getting worse about me approaching him. He will happily approach me to eat out of my hand while sitting on my lap, and is the first one to notice if I have food, so getting close to me then isn't a problem. He will fall asleep wrapped in a towel if I wait long enough. But if he thinks I may be wanting to pick him up, or if I get too close while I'm doing other things he skitters away. Once I nab him, he'll put up with me, but wants to get away from me as soon as I let him. If I do get him to relax long enough to pet him, he does start to think it feels good, but definitely not relaxed enough for purring yet. It's like each good experience doesn't carry over and build into the next good experience- every time I try with him I feel like I'm starting at step one again. I'm going to keep forcing the cuddling with him to see if I can get a breakthrough, but he's a tough nut to crack!


                          • #14
                            We were reading your thread as you can see in the background:




                            • #15
                              We found a feral litter of 4 kittens about 5 years ago. After much bribing and trickery, we managed to catch them, but never found the mother. The vet guessed that they were about 7 weeks old. His (the vet's) suggestion was to separate them as much as possible as they would continue to bond with each other and avoid human contact. We set up 4 large dog cages, each with litter boxes, beds and toys, so that they couldn't see each other. Then I would spend several hours a day with each kitten - one on one, with limited play time for them together. That is when they began to make the most progress. We ended up adopted two out to the same family and kept two. To this day, they are very friendly with us, but will hide if strangers come into the house. I suppose each situation is different, but it might work for you.
                              ~*Friend of bar.ka*~


                              • Original Poster

                                Cute kitten Macimage! Right after I posted about them, all three kicked in with purring within a day or two of each other.

                                The boys all went to the same home with one of my neighbors. SUCKERS! They've settled in well after a few days of freaking out over the move. I saw them a few weeks later, and they were all over me, purring and gazing at me adoringly. I'm still Mom in their opinion. Almost enough to make me want to steal all 3 of them back, until I think about the total destruction and havoc they will be unleashing on my unsuspecting neighbors over the next few years.

                                I had two feral girls immediately after the boys left, but they were much further along in the socialization process. They spent a week here, and are now at the adoption center. Hopefully not for long!


                                • #17
                                  (I love good endings! Thanks for being a foster Mom. I could never let them go, which is why I have 6. Hopefully you still have visitatin rights