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Husband brought home a feral kitten...

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 
Those who has read my posts before know I am no stranger to helping animals in need.

Well, yesterday my husband was at work (he's doing a construction project at the local dump) and managed to catch a feral kitten. I can't get close enough to it to tell if its a male or female. Its somewhere around 4 months old... Right now s/he is in a large dog crate in the spare bedroom. Its eatting well, and appears to be fairly healthy...

Here's my concerns though... we just saved another cat from the same dump site that was FeLV postive. So I know there is a greater risk that she may have it as well. The other issue I have is that she is certainly feral. I have never had any expiriance with feral cats before, so this is all new to me.

I would be all for TNR her, but she is so young that I don't know if I should or not. I would like to try and socialize her, but I have never done it before.

What do you all think I should do? I have no idea which route to take. I just want to do whats best for the little one...
post #2 of 43
Thread Starter 
After posting, I was looking at the little one through the cage and noticed her tail looked odd. It seemed shorter then normal and was crusty looking at the end... So I got my husband to help me get a hold of her so I could look at it.

She may not be completely feral. She hissed at my husband when he reached in the crate, but she didn't swat at him or try to bite. He managed to get a hold of her by her scruff so I could look at her tail more closely. She is missing about 1/4-1/3 of her tail. It looks like something bit or ripped it off. It seems to be mostly healed. It doesn't look infected so I don't know if putting her on antibiotics would be worth stressing her out. I also looked and found out that it is a little girl. I put some advantage on her while my DH had a hold of her.

She might be a good canidate for socialization. But like I said, I have never had to socialize a cat before...
post #3 of 43
You have her already inside, so I think you should go on and work with socialisation. Especielly as she isnt specially aggressive.

Observe, her not biting doesnt need be her once tame. Being docile may also be a survival strategy. Besides, most shy ferals arent much aggressive once they cool down and realises nobody wants to hurt them.
But who cares? survival strategy or once tamed, in both cases she will be easier to foster. Patience and lots of time - you must have whatever you do, but it is not nice to risk to be bitten...

I agree with you. If the tail is almost healed now, dont overdo it. Ferals are usually survivors and manage quite bad wounds (these who dont copy dont survive...) . If she did make it so far, she will make the rest too.
Is my belief.

You may have her in the crate some more time. After this period, when you let her be out in the spare bedroom, she can have the crate as her own shelter-room ("panic room").

Good luck!

Tx for helping the little one.
post #4 of 43
Hi Shorty. I am by no means an expert with feral kittens, but my husband and I have just recently rescued three from our neighborhood. We had been working with them for about three months before we took them in, but they have been living in our house for about two and half weeks now, and the strides they have made are just awesome. They were about four and a half months when we adopted them, so similar age. Again, our kittens, like yours, were very docile for the most part - no hissing, scratching or biting.

Semi-ferals just require patience, from what others have told me and from my own experience thus far! If you think she is prime for socialisation, then give it a shot, in my opinion. There are lots of great tips on here as to how to deal with feral kittens - people have been so helpful and I have employed nearly all the tips given to me. I just wanted to say good luck and that in my experience these sorts of little guys are frustrating, but at the same time, so rewarding - they more than make up for any frustrating moments! Good luck!!
post #5 of 43
Thread Starter 
She seems to be a little more trusting already. She is no longer hiding in the back corner or in her litter box. She has been very slowly exploring her crate. She will let me place her food bowl next to her without hissing or showing any aggression.

The problem I seem to be having though, is that she has no idea what to do with the litter box. She pottys on the bedding and sleeps in the box .... I put some of her poo in the box so she would get the idea that poo goes in there... Any other idea? I do have some cat attract I could use.

I'll keep you all updated. I think I'm going to give her some time before I take her in for FeLV/FIV testing. I dont want to stress her to much in her first few days.
post #6 of 43
Hopefully some other people have litter box tips, but here are the ones I have heard. Luckily, we haven't had any problems - all three of the kittens took to them like pros for some reason (though, of course, we have had an occasional accident).

Someone told me that ferals sometimes go better on soil - they are used to going on soft ground - fill the box with sterilized soil from your garden (essentially cook it to sterilize) and then as she gets used to that, gradually mix in litter. If you do some quick research, you can find out what exactly to do (I saw a few sites that recommended this). Also, are you using clumping litter? They don't like that, from what I have heard.

That is great that she is getting less and less timid though! That is one of the things I have found so rewarding - you really see progress all the time. My husband and I regularly have long discussions about what small little steps the kittens have taken each day.

I totally understand about waiting for a bit before taking to the vet! We have spoken to ours about the kittens, and he gave us worming medication, but told us that because they were semi-feral to wait until they were a bit older and more trusting/comfortable.

Good luck! I hope the litter problem gets solved....and she is absolutely adorable, it must be said....
post #7 of 43
About her hiding in the corner: I forget to mention, she must have somewhere to hide. Very essential, in fact.
Cat igloo, a aside turned cardboard box, or if you lay something over the crate so she has some "privacy". It is nice and cosy, and she will feel safer and not so stressed.

The litter. Many exhibition-cats like to lie on the litter during exhibition when in exhibition crate (when unsoiled of course). If it is a nice change for them, or if it is something with the crate itselv, I dont know... But at home they very seldom lie in the litter.

I agree with the advice to use soil or common sand for ferals. Or possibly a classical sand-alike cat-litter.
No fancy stuff in any case.

People taking in a feral are usually adviced for seeing vet as soon it is conveniently possible. But you will not do TNR - you will keep her for fostering. You dont have own cats, and she herself seems healthy, save the healing tail. In your case, it is thus no great hurry. You can wait if you want with the vet check up and neutering, I think.
post #8 of 43
I think with a little time your girl is going to be a wonderful pet. I've been through this before.
post #9 of 43
I don't have much to add. She is absolutely beautiful.
post #10 of 43
Thread Starter 
She seems very food motivated. Is there a way I could use this to my advantage?

I have a black sheet over the crate so it stays nice and cave like for her.

She seems to groom herself more then any other cat I have ever seen. Is that a feral trait or just her?

Sorry for all the questions guys, I just have never cared for a feral before.
post #11 of 43
RE the Grooming.

From what I have been told, this is very much a feral trait! The are very scent aware. For their protection, they have to make sure they are clean, clean, clean so they don't attract predators or any other unfriendly things. My feral kittens groomed obsessively when we first took them in. Now, they are a bit more 'normal' about it. They groom after meals and occasionally other times, but when they first moved in, they groomed just about as much as they slept! My husband has had lots of cats in his life and he noticed it too! One of their cats -Rosie - was an abandoned feral kitten that they took in, and she never really outgrew the obsessive grooming, so you never know if that trait will continue.

Keep asking questions - I had tons when we took our kittens in and through talking to people on here, talking to my vet and just basic internet research, I feel like I have learned a lot. People here are great about answering questions and giving encouragement!

I really hope the litter training goes okay - I hope someone else has some suggestions. I know with our kittens, we just praised them to high heaven whenever we saw them using the litter box, but like I said before, they started using it almost right away. I am sure you will get this sorted out though! She sounds like a real sweetheart.
post #12 of 43
To potty train the total feral - use STERILIZED potting soil, put in the oven, and heat it on high till it is sterilzed.

Then you put in a SHALLOW pan the cat can climb in = a large low sided foil container for cooking (disposable of course).

You can also used torn up news papers sometimes that works, and transition them onto Yesterday's news...

Hum, anyway my feral needed the low sided pan on a tarp, and kept
peeing/pooing outside box for a bit, but I scooped up stuff and put in
in the box, and she got the hang of it that way...

As to socializing she may be too hungry tired or non energetic to struffgle
this is GOOD. Use baby food on your figners if she doesn't hiss/swat
and also use cooked roasted chicken ... almost irristible...

feed her from you hand if you can, engage in play with string toys...

Keep her caged for a bit, using a radio on low to have noise in the room, so she gets used to that. Talk to her while you are in the room with hyer, doing stuffl ike typing on computer or reading outloud. It works to get them used to you and seeing yo as non threat.

Okay gotta hop. Others will post w/ better/more solutions. i have to go now so can't type (can't tyupe when not in a hurry either, LOL!!)

Kudos for excellent good hearted work!!
post #13 of 43
Originally Posted by Shorty14788 View Post
She seems very food motivated. Is there a way I could use this to my advantage?

She seems to groom herself more then any other cat I have ever seen. Is that a feral trait or just her?
Oh yes, food motivation is a very strong tool here.

Thus, you come with food at regular times. So you and your hub = food, ie you very nice people. Half of taming done!

Food can also be used for traits - ie giving plus for desirable behavior and such. = positive reinforcing.
Positive reinforcing is almost always better then negative reinforcing.
You will surely find own examples with time going.

The classical hissing isnt so good yet (the negative reinforcing which is OK fostering cats), as you arent her Ma and Pa yet. If you hiss you are only showinig you are enemy...

Her cleaning is a feral treat as someone said. Here it is a positive sign: It is also a sign she is in OK shape and feels OK. Cats being ill or feeling really bad edit: DONT wash themselves.

You know about this not looking (staring) directly at the cat longer moments?
Short looks, look rather a little aside. Blink slowly if you look a longer moment.
Home cats are used people do look at them, not ferals.
Raised hands likewise. (hand getting to edit: PET, f.eks).

How is it, in your signature you DO have a lots of cats. You are apparently cat lovers, you and your hub.
DO you have own cats?

If not, you dont need overdo the quarantene, as I said before.

If yes, she must be in a rather strickly quarantene before the vet done hishers check up, and all shots working.
She is in an own room, good. You should wash hands after being with her, soap, but preferably also in some suitably antibacterilogical agent. Virkon, or similiar. Alcoholgel is also ok.
Perhaps you also should change clothes if you want to be entirely safe...
post #14 of 43
She looks llike a nice Calico. I have saved lots of Ferals and some have turned in to the nicest Cats I ever had. It takes time but it is worth it in the end.
post #15 of 43
Thread Starter 
I do have 10 of my own cats. I am very strict about the quarentine. Particularly since some of my cats can not be vaccinated do to health problems. (I take in mostly special needs animals. AIHA, Diabetes, hyperthyroidism, cerebellur hypoplasia, osteogenesis imperfecta, etc) This is just the first feral cat I have dealt with. She is in her own room, in a crate, on the opposite side of the room from the door. I have disinfectant hand soap right by the door. Call me paranoid but I'd rather be safe then risk infection to my cats.
post #16 of 43
Thread Starter 

She just ate some food of my finger.... I was a little nervous that she may chomp down on my finger, but she did good!!!! I have another question though, after she ate her fill, she backed away, hissed and gave me a small growl.... Is that normal? Did I do something wrong? She was acting like a domestic cat when she was eatting, then its like she realized what she was doing.... I dont get it...
post #17 of 43
my only suggestion - if the potting soil alone doesn't do the trick, mix in a little of the CatAttract. Firefox was feral [altho only about a month old] & she would poo in the regular litter, but not pee. the CatAttract made her start peeing in her box, too.
i think her reaction sounds normal enough. she's just nervous.
BTW, you might also get a coverall to use so your clothes stay sanitary, too.
post #18 of 43
Thread Starter 
HOLY COW!!! that food trick worked really quick. I just opened the crate to change out her bedding and she walked straight up to my hand and sniffed it for food. Shes a fast learner. I think this food thing is going to be key to getting her use to people. Of course once she realized I didnt have food she backed away, but still. I got her some more food since she seemed hungry again and she sat within inches of me, eatting it off my fingers.

I think I found a good one for a first timer!! She is warming up more quickly then I thought. I was expecting weeks and weeks of slowly gaining her trust. Maybe she isnt as feral as I thought....
post #19 of 43
What a wonderful thing of hubby and you to do! Thank you for rescuing this baby kitty!

BTW - she looks like a calico in the pic, which by definition means she's a girl. I don't get the genetics of it, but there are no calico males.

There are LOTS of things you can do to help socialize her. (And food IS your friend!)

First of all - here's a good article that should help you: http://straypetadvocacy.org/html/soc...feral_cat.html

A really regular schedule will help. Change her litter, clean her water dish, check her food dish, etc. all at the exact same time every day. Knock gently on the door before you enter the room and say something like "Cali (or whatever you're calling her), I'm coming in" gently once you open the door a crack - let her know you're coming. Use a gentle voice.

I'd put in a night lite and I'd either get a radio set to a classical station or bring in a CD player and buy some harp music: http://harpist1.tripod.com/id32.html (very calming to feral cats/kitties).

Do give her a box or something in which to hide in her crate. Feeling safe is important.

Hope everyone's litter box suggestions have helped. They should work.

Other than the scheduled routine stuff, spend as much time in the room as you can - down at her level, ignoring her. Read out loud, work on a laptop, sing, sew, knit, whatever. Just get her used to your presence (hubby and kids can do this too, of course).

I am NOT familiar with crate socializing - but it exists, and I'm sure you can find out more by searching on the web or at the Yahoo Feral Cats group. Maybe at the resource center for Alley Cat Allies (http://www.alleycat.org) or at the library of Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Campaign: htpp://www.bestfriends.org).

Forget what everyone else says about how old cats have to be to socialize them when they're feral. Many people at TCS have proven that ferals up to three years of age can successfully be socialized - and your little itty bitty kitty can't be more than 12 - 16 weeks old (not too young to be spayed if your vet will do it. It's safe to spay as young as 7 weeks old, though most vets just aren't familiar with the studies or on working on cats so little).

Stretching, blinking slowly, yawning at her - all good things to do. Don't look directly at her - this is a sign of aggression. Look at her forehead or over her head. But "looking" at her with your eyes closed is really good. And USE THE FOOD. When you offer it to her on your fingers, do it palm down (opposite of dogs).

But spending time at her level will help a lot.

Also, to help her associate you with good things, get a couple of t-shirts or something really good and sweaty. Put one under her food dish. Leave treats out for her on another.

Also, you may want to consider purchasing Feliway and/or Rescue Remedy Flower Essences. Both are stress-relievers and are available here: http://www.catfaeries.com

You can read some of the other kitten/cat socialization threads here.

Just remember - the most important ingredient is time. And movement WILL scare her, so move the hand that is offering food REALLY slowly.

And with ferals, it is often two steps forward, one step back - so yes, the eating nicely off your fingers and then remembering she's supposed to be scared and growling is very normal.

for what you're doing!

post #20 of 43
And with ferals, it is often two steps forward, one step back - so yes, the eating nicely off your fingers and then remembering she's supposed to be scared and growling is very normal.
YES! Remember this! I was just thinking about this last night when I had a raging headache and our feral kittens were just not in very good moods.

The food thing is a great way to gain trust, as others have said. I feed the kittens dinner at the same time every night, and over the past few nights, they have started coming to me around that time. Funnily enough, I was on the phone with my mom at our appointed time on Sunday, and I had three little feral kittens attempting to mew at me (still finding vocalising difficult) so I had to get off the phone.

As everyone has said, develop a routine. This is so important in gaining trust. She is probably not fully sure as to what is going on right now, and is probably really stressed out. Making her comfortable with the knowledge that you are there to feed her and keep her happy will make her more trusting. If it is done sporadically or at random times, she won't learn to associate. I found this to be super important. She will start depending on you for food and other necessities and then the trust can only develop from there!
post #21 of 43
Thread Starter 
(Sorry for the long post)

What a great morning!!!! As I approached the crate, she gave me a low little grumble but did not back away from the front of the crate. I offered her the food on my finger like I had been. She ate it without any problems. After about half a can into it, I placed some in her bowl. She ate from the bowl but kept coming closer to where I was sitting. I decided to try and touch her. With one finger, I gently stroked her back 3-4 times. She turned and looked at me so I backed off. I did not get any grumbles for it though. She looked like she enjoyed it but wasn't sure. She was sittting there grooming herself, and as I was watching her, I decided to mew at her. Just a little, "mewmew" She mewed back at me. It took everything I had not to laugh for fear that I may spook her. I cleaned up her crate. (She is still going to the bathroom on her bedding so today I'm going to be baking dirt) Then she kept coming to the front of the crate. I think she was trying to sneek past me to get out, but it was gutsy of her none the less. I thought I'd try to touch her again. I slowly put my hand out, and sratched by her tail. She then rubbed against my leg. So I brought my hand foward and scratched her cheek. She just melted.... She was loving every second of it. I spent about 2 mintues just loving on her little face. It was like she finally decided that I was ok and surrendered completely. I was so happy that I started to tear up. After the 2 minutes she went back to grooming herself, and I didn't want to push it. I took the toy mouse I had put in her crate and tried to get her to play with it. She hadn't even so much as swatted at it before today. So I was dangling it and moving it around the crate, and she finally swatted at it. Then it was like the kitten flood gates opened. She was having a grand ol time. She was batting it around and throwing it in the air. It was like she was just a normal little kitten. It was great to see her enjoying herself.
I still have been getting low little grumbles from time to time, but no hissing so far today. What a great way to start the morning!
post #22 of 43
YAY! That is fantastic! And gives us other feral kitten owners a lot of hope! I am so happy for you and the little lady.

Keep us updated....
post #23 of 43
Oh my!! She looks like Trinity when she was a baby! So cute!
post #24 of 43
It sounds like things are going really well! She is a pretty little girl Very lucky to have found you.
post #25 of 43
Thread Starter 
So much for her being feral...

I have been loving on her all day! I get head butts and purrs now! The only time I get grumbled at is when I stand up or move to quickly. She was just rolling around in my lap, purring and rubbing on me. She even nuzzles my face... She was even trying to wrestle with my hand. (I didnt let her since I dont want to teach her that hands are a play toy) But still, she trusts me. Now when I put her back in the crate she starts crying for me to come back. It looks like the only thing we have left is the litter box issue!

So thursday I am going to take her in for FeLV/FIV testing and to have her tail looked at. I'm going to try and socialize her with as many people as possible so I can adopt her out. (Lord knows I don't need 11 cats)

So if you all can send some FeLV/FIV negative and potty in the litter box vibes, I'd appreciate it. Things are looking really bright for this little girl...
post #26 of 43
Originally Posted by Shorty14788 View Post
(She is still going to the bathroom on her bedding so today I'm going to be baking dirt) ...... I was so happy that I started to tear up.
So did I. So did I.

How is it with the bathroom things. Does she do it in the litter? Does she sleps in her bed?

Ie. Does she soils everywhere, and sleeping in it?

IF she sleeps in the clean litter, and making nr 1 and 2 on the bed = using the bed for bathroom not sleeping, it is really not a big problem.
She must be reinlearned, but the problem as such is really not big at all.
post #27 of 43
OMG the headbump! I can't believe it came so fast. What a little darling.

Yup. Bake the dirt. If your vet carries the additive called Cat Attract, I'd get that and add some of it to the dirt - it should really help. (There is a Cat Attract litter, but I wouldn't recommend that as she's not using litter yet).

I was having a really crappy day, and was hoping for some smiles at TCS. You really lit me up!

for all you're doing!

post #28 of 43
Thread Starter 
More good news....

WE POOPED IN THE LITTER BOX! YEAH!!!! Who would have thought poop would be so exciting. Now we just need to learn to pee in it.... She is just moving foward in leaps and bounds today. I just hope the vet visit on thursday doesnt set us back too much.
post #29 of 43
Thread Starter 
Well she is completely trusting of me now. No hissing or growling. No apprehension. Just a normal little girl. She was just pawing the tar out of my leg...

She is still unsure about other people. When my DH came home last night he visited with her a little. She would allow him to pet her, but at times would get nervous and come running back to me. I dont know if that means she thinks I am her momma now or what. But she certainly came running to me like she thought I would protect her.

She is a LOVE BUG. Thats all she seems to want. I open the crate door and she just start rubbing on me and crawling all over me. She will run up to my hand and just start rubbing like there is no tommorrow. She also likes to just flop onto her back and have me pet her chest and chin. She is certainly a charcter. Who would have thought that she was a grumbly little pistol a few days ago...
post #30 of 43
Oh Shorty! That is so great! Thank you for keeping updating. Been a bit of a tough few days with my feral kittens, so it is so lovely to hear about the successes - keeps me going! Any name for the girl yet?
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