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Need advice for wild-ish kitten

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
My mom found a litter of feral kittens in her yard several weeks ago. Two of the five were sickly looking, pussy eyes sealed shut, very thin, etc.

We left them alone and the mother came back for four, but left the sickest. We waiting all day and into the evening and she never came back. Eventually the kitten started to cry and fumble around.

My mom took it in, bottle fed it, antibiotics and drop for the eyes, etc. Kitten became healthy as a horse.

However, my mom didn't socialize it at all, despite my instructions to. She's now brought it over for me to try and 'make friendly' and find it a home.

It's not going well.

It hates the dogs, hates the cats, hates the other kittens (the ones I raised are very friendly and sweet). I have to take it out of the carrier because it refuses to come out on it's own. It growls almost constantly, hisses at everything it sees and hears, and hides 90% of the time. I can get it to come out sometimes, and it crawled into my lap today. But then once it was there if I tried to pet it, it would hiss and bite me. So I left it alone and it just got more and more crabby. Eventually I took it off of me because it was growling, hissing, biting all up and down my arm, my chest, stomach (through my shirt) and swatting at my face. It's hiding under my pillow now.

It's a very curious kitten, and when my mom had it, very very VERY playful. But it was hissy/growly and bitey then too if you tried to hold it and pet it.

It's only been here two days, obviously it will take longer for it to adjust, but it seems a bit excessive in the aggression department.

It stays in my bedroom with me during the day while I work, and my kittens are in the rest of the house with the cats and dogs. At night when it's time for my kittens to come back into the bedroom, the wild kitten goes back over to my mom's. Then she brings it back in the morning. I keep her separate from my kittens because I don't want someone to lose an eye.

Any advice to help speed things along? Will she ever be able to find a home or be relegated to a 'barn cat' life?
post #2 of 10
The first thing you need to do is give the kitten time and space to get used to it's new environment. Moving it back and forth between you and your mom's place right now is probably not helping.

Also, do NOT force the cat out of the carrier (or anywhere else for that matter) - that's not the way to earn it's trust. The best thing to do is to keep the kitten isolated from the other animals with it's own litter pan, food and water. Visit and speak calmly or read out loud to the kitten and let it come to you when it has learned to trust you. You will also need to gradually introduce it to your other animals and can find more information on how to do that in this forum under the stickies.

We had a cat behind the headboard of our bed for 6 weeks before it trusted us enough to come out to us. You'll need a lot of patience but the reward will be great. We had one lady here who had a cat named Pengy that lived under her bed for a year before even venturing out.

I assume the cat has been to the vet to ensure it is healthy and it's bad temper is not due to an illness.

Give the baby time to adjust to all the new things it has had to endure in it's short, sweet life.
post #3 of 10
Terrific advice! The back-&-forth thing is very disorienting, and it will be necessary to keep her in a relatively small area where she can begin to feel safe, with her own 'stuff' for some time (wks at least). Go in and just talk to her quietly, not trying to physically interact, and make up little foil balls and little knotted strings for her to chase (tho' never leave string around when you're not there). Just let her get comfortable and feel safe. Gradually intro. her to others but always on her terms - don't let them into her space (until all are friends.. in distant future :0) and maybe keep dogs and even other cats away when she first wants to explore outside of the room - she'll smell them anyway and may take a while to really relax out there. Do everything slowly and gradually.
post #4 of 10
I completely agree on the transporting it back and forth. It's probably making your kitten even more bonkers. They don't like change, much.

I'd try keeping it in one area. Associate in it's mind that you're a "good" thing.. by giving it treats, and using a toy to engage it in play. Sit with it while it eats it's food, and talk to it. Praise it when it comes to you, praise it when it does something you want it to do. You want to try to make all the associations it has to you positive. If it scratches or bites you, simply ignore it. You don't want to punish it... it'll make a bad connection between you and being punished.

How old are these kittens, do you know?
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
If it has to be in it's own area I won't be able to have it here. It will have to stay at my mom's all the time. The kitten has it's own giant room full of toys there, and it runs willy nilly all over the place. I have only one small room that is separated from the rest of the house, the laundryroom (it's off the bedroom) and it has my eight kittens in it. They run the rest of the house during the day, so I thought it was a good opportunity to have my mom's kitten here in the bedroom/laundryroom area. The rest of the house is like one big room, and the bathroom is where the other cats have their boxes. My house is 534 sq/ft, one bedroom, not a lot of room.

My kittens are 3.5 months, I'm not sure how old my mom's is. Maybe 2.5-3? She's had it since it was just 3 or 4 weeks old. Makes me so mad she let it get so wild. If I didn't have my kittens, I'd take it and work with it. But I'm stressed enough trying to find good homes for them.

It's back at her house now. She won't visit it except to feed it because it attacks her legs when she goes into the room (it's very playful), and I can't spend much time there, either as I'm super busy with paintings right now.

What a situation, poor kitten.
post #6 of 10
What you are describing about the kitten's behavior doesn't make sense. Every feral kitten that I had to intervene in and bottle fed became the most loving kittens that I've ever met. The fact that she had to bottle feed him for a few weeks to ween should have been more than ample time to socialized him to humans. She became the kittens mom for that period.

How does the kitten act at your mom's house? Is he simply stressed because of a new environment?
post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Momofmany View Post
What you are describing about the kitten's behavior doesn't make sense. Every feral kitten that I had to intervene in and bottle fed became the most loving kittens that I've ever met. The fact that she had to bottle feed him for a few weeks to ween should have been more than ample time to socialized him to humans. She became the kittens mom for that period.

How does the kitten act at your mom's house? Is he simply stressed because of a new environment?

At my mom's house she is very very active, always on the move and very clawy and bitey. She is the most curious and most playful kitten I've ever seen, and I've had some playful ones before! But we had to wrap her in a towel to clip her nails when she was about 6 or so weeks old due to clawing/biting and she growled and hissed then. To pick her up and hold her (if you can catch her) she growls, bites your hands, swats at your face. She used to purr a bit when you picked her up, but she hasn't done that for a long time.

Despite what my mom tells me, it's obvious she never spent any time with her other than to feed her. I imagine it was feed her, leave. Feed her, leave. As soon as she got so she didn't need to be on the bottle, she probably just dropped the food and left. My kittens went through the mouthing stage as well, but since I was with them all the time, they learned I was boring to bite since I didn't wrestle back. My mom's kitten hasn't figured that out yet. It's hard to tell sometimes if her bites are in play or anger, because she doesn't usually break skin, but she does growl and hiss while she's biting you.

I'll keep working with it at her house and see if it gets any better, perhaps take her into another quiet room, so it's still the same house and smells, but a few different sounds
post #8 of 10
Does she seem to attack you the same way that she attacks your mom? It may be, if she doesn't, that she's now associated feeding time as the progression... well, in other words, I know there's a term for it, but basically.. cats have a mentality where.. they look at a series of events, and once they have that in their heads, they continue think, okay, this series of events leads to this conclusion. For instance, if you come home from work, go to the kitchen, the cat's on the counter, you pick the cat up off the counter, put it on the ground, the cat sits there and meows at you while you fix it's dinner, it paws at your leg while you're fixing it.. and then winds around your leg until you put the dinner on the ground, this series of events has to happen *every* time in order for the cat to get his dinner. That's how the cat sees it. The cat thinks, okay, when my human comes through the door, I must run to the counter and jump up, wait for human to put me down, meow for three minutes, paw at human's leg, wind around legs, and then human will put my food on the ground... it sees each one of those events as significant to getting it's food.

So it may be that one day, kitty attacked the leg, and has been doing it that way ever since, and sees the leg attack as being routine in order to get the food. Perhaps try breaking the "chain of events" by walking in the room with a toy in hand, and tossing the toy when you see the cat is on the move toward the leg, and redirect the "attack" to a toy.. hopefully the cat will engage the toy, or have her walk in the room with a thick pair of jeans on that the cat can't do any damage through and then let the cat do it's thing and *don't* feed it so that it breaks the pattern.

I actually think if you have a carrier or a kennel of some sort that you can "section" her off from the other cats in your laundry room, that it might be better to have her in there, with a cover over her kennel, maybe up higher or something, or even putting her in a kennel in the main part of the house, and kenneling her when the others come out, and letting her out when the others are in the room.. it might be better to have her around other kittens. They learn from other cats, and I think it might be better for her if she's learning that humans aren't bad from the other kittens. I think it's probably crucial to use the time you have with her as much as you can right now to socialize her. If she gets much older before she's socialized, it's going to be a lot more difficult for her.

I don't know what else to suggest. I'm definitely not an expert on it, but these are some of the techniques I'm hearing from the behaviorist books I'm reading, so hopefully they'll be helpful. Good luck!
post #9 of 10

Here's a few articles that might help. There's a bunch on that site that may be useful.
post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
After seeing my mom trying and 'handle' the kitten I decided to bring her back over here permanently. No wonder the thing is so wild. I was holding her at my moms, and she was actually not being toooooooo bad about it (mild growling and hissing but no biting or screaming) and my mom came over to pet her. The kitten swatted at her, so my mom starts teasing her and poking her, getting the kitten screaming and biting at her! No wonder the thing hates to be touched.

So we brought her over here and she's doing better. She stays in a large carrier in the room with the rest of them at night, and during the day they're all loose, usually the wild kitten is in the bedroom/laundry and my guys are in the rest of the house, but I give them time to visit with each other as well. You still can't hold her without maniacal screaming and biting, and we had to do her nails last night as they were getting caught in things and making us bleed (and I worried about her hurting the other kittens). That wasn't fun for anyone involved, but she didn't seem to hold a grudge against us afterward.

She's extremely playful and likes to attack us without hurting us, just don't try and pet her. It'll take time. Jeremy and I have accepted that she will probably be here for a long time trying to get socialized. As the very least we'll get her spayed and she'll be an outside cat with our other three.

Fingers crossed that she'll calm down eventually!
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