Taming Feral Kittens: Is it Possible?
Some love, care and a whole lot of patience go into taming feral kittens. It isn’t an easy process, but thankfully it is quite doable. There’s a long list of factors that determine how easy or hard it will be to deal with feral kitten behavior. How long were they in the wild? How old are they? What type of conditions were they exposed to? These and a lot more are going to determine how the entire process moves along. The good news is that it is not impossible and once those furry balls of love are tamed, it makes for a highly rewarding process altogether. So, if you are thinking of taking in some strays or are already in somewhat of a predicament with a few feral kittens then the information here is perfect for you.
How to Tame a Feral Cat (kitten)
Just as it is with most processes, there is a method to this madness. Altogether, the entire process can last anything between 2 to 6 weeks. That is completely dependent on their individual temperament, the nature of their wildness and even their age. All in all, patience is key when it comes to these things since there’s really no definite time limit involved. Anyone hoping to embark on this journey should be sure to keep their eyes on the prize. Once these furballs are tamed, there’s a whole lot of cuteness and companionship to be enjoyed. There are quite a number of steps that eventually lead to the finish line, they are:
- Confinement in a Cage
- Brief Handling
- Confinement in a Small Room
- Exposure to Other Humans
Confinement in a Cage
In the beginning, all feral kittens are quite scared and this pushes them to act out quite violently. Try as much as possible not to take it personally, being in a new environment with a ‘big, scary’ human is nobody’s cup of tea. At this point, there may be a lot of hissing and spitting, even worse is the scratching and biting that may accompany it. Another thing to keep at the back of your mind is that the kitten feels pretty threatened at that point, and violence is a pretty normal reaction in that case.
So, while you’re thinking, ‘ I want to help you, I want to nurture you’, the kitten is following its most base instinct to either fight or flee. Isolating in this manner does not just give them a sense of security, but it also protects the occupants (human or animal) from any diseases the kitten may have tracked in. Based on this, it is highly important to have the vet take a look at the kitten before they are brought home. While waiting for that clean bill of health, be sure to keep them away from other pets and humans. Also, endeavor to wash your hands and change clothes after handling. This also helps to curb the spread of diseases within the household.
In the beginning, a cage or large carrier will be where your furry little friend calls home. While they are there, for the first couple of days refrain from physically handling them. Rather, speak to them, reassure them in soft tones and try to make them feel safe. Try your very best not to make any sudden movements because that will only startle and agitate them more. Here’s a neat idea, in order to get them more acclimatized with you and other humans, use some worn clothing as their bedding. Furthermore, all forms of food, as well as water, should simply be placed in the cage or carrier. Feeding time is definitely not a good time to get handsy, just sit back and let nature take its course.
After a couple of days keeping it nice and casual, the time to establish physical contact will come. About two days should do the trick, at this point, go ahead to pick out the most amiable kitten AKA the one least likely to claw your eyes out. Use a towel when lifting it up and if by some miracle it remains calm at the first go, proceed to pet it gently right on the head. Be sure to do this from behind because a giant hand coming right at it is sure to give it quite a scare. Then you’ll be back to square one with all the hissing, scratching and other forms of unpleasantness. If in all this, the kitten remains calm, then that’s a sign that they are ready for the next step.
Get a firm grip of the nape of its neck then put it on your lap, on top of the towel of course. At this point, proceed to stroke the kitten while speaking to them in a reassuring and soothing tone. As nice as it may feel to finally make some headway, do not linger, keep this interaction quite brief. With one kitten down, you can repeat the process with the others and hope for great results all through. With the handling out of the way, a treat is in order, pick something kitten friendly and that should get you on the route to a budding friendship.
If you really want to get in their good books, introduce a soft pet brush into the process. This results in a sensation quite similar to that of a mother’s grooming and as such will foster more trust. They will begin to see you more like a parent figure. A flea comb could produce the same results and as an added plus, it gets rid of a handful of disease spreading fleas. Continue to bond with and establish yourself as a nurturing figure. In order to do this, it is important to note that staring at the kittens for too long does not translate well in feline mannerisms. It is aggressive behavior and is quite threatening. Rather, look at them for brief periods at a go and endeavor to lower your head occasionally because that is considered submissive behavior among cats.
Confinement in a Small Room
A week should be ample time for your kittens to become a lot more well-behaved. But, remember, this could vary for each individual kitty and patience is key every step of the way. So, at this point, they should be prepared for a little more space and should only be placed in the cage when the need arises. One thing to keep in mind here is that one bad apple can definitely spoil the bunch and all that amazing progress made will be for naught. So, in the case that there’s one or two who are not making as much progress, put them in another cage in a whole other room. This way you can allow each of them to get comfortable at their own pace, it will equally give you more one on one time with the less sociable kittens.
In some cases, all the kittens in the litter have to be isolated, that way they do not encourage one another to exhibit wild behavior. Even with cats, having a partner in crime is a lot more fun than doing it all alone. There’s a reason why a small room is requested here, nothing is random in this case. If placed in a large room, the kittens may freak out. After all, they are just tiny little things themselves, this is another reason you should steer clear of bedrooms. You do not want your petite friend finding their way underneath the bed and out of reach.
Be well prepared if this happens, getting them out from under there may cause a whole lot of stress, both to you and the kittens. So opt for a small room that’s kitten proofed to the best extent. Attempt to seal off all crevices and openings your little one could hide in or get trapped in. Every room has its own risk factor, if you’re using a restroom, be sure that the toilet seat is always down.
Also, check the bathroom sink since they are usually designed with spaces between the kickboard. In any other room, seal off any spaces behind heavy furniture where the kittens could hide and even get stuck. While protecting the kitty from items in your home also protect some items from them. Put your clothes away properly as well as decorations and furniture the furballs can dig their claws into. Everything is quite new to them in your world so do not underestimate their curiosity.
Exposure to Other Humans
Naturally, there will come a time when your furry little friends will no longer resort to biting, scratching, hissing and other aggressive behaviors, as a defense mechanism. That just means all your patience, hard work and love have softened their reserve and relaxed them a bit. At this juncture, it is time to properly introduce them to the rest of the family. This is a key stage when it comes to socializing feral kittens.
So, now is the time for all your feline loving friends and family to get on board and handle the kittens as often as it is possible. This is simply because they need to socialize with other humans and learn that they also have love to offer. Up to that point they probably only bonded with one human, the person who tended to them initially and it could very well remain that way. Needless to say, it should not remain that way, they need to learn how to act around others, especially in the case that they will be put up for adoption after being tamed.
Even though adoption is not in the picture, it is still incredibly beneficial to have them at ease with more than one person. You cannot be there for them around the clock and as such, it is vital to have them learn how to depend on and interact with others. This is another stage where a whole lot of patience is needed to navigate through till the end. Explain these to the people you are getting on board so that they know no to get frustrated with the kittens as they get to know them. Since these kitties are feral, it will undoubtedly take some time before they become accustomed and ease into the socialization process. But, the fact that they have made it to this stage is proof that progress can be made, slow and steady.
Eight weeks into the process is a good enough time to start looking for homes for your newly trained kittens if this option is on the table. This will ensure that the new family gets them when they are young enough to get used to them easily. It will equally ensure that they have lots of time to spend with the new addition to the family. Note that the eight-week mark is not etched in stone if you sense that the kittens are not ready, then hold on to them for a little while longer.
One of the main things to look out for in a prospective family is whether they have little children or not. See, all the noise and heightened activity that comes with toddlers can undo all the good work you have done with your feline friends. Look out for a place that is calm and feed into the sense of peace and security you have already set up for them.
Also, try your best to push for the adoptive family to take at least 2 kittens at once, it makes it a whole lot easier for them to have a familiar presence there. There’s also the fact that it’s a lot more fun to watch two kittens at once, they really are adorable creatures. In the case that they can only take one, then ensure that there is an adult home at all times to watch their progress, after all, they are still babies themselves.
If you haven’t done so already, ensure that the adoptive families get the kittens neutered after as early as 8 weeks. This is an important part of the adoption process and should not be overlooked.