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My 7 week old feral kitty rescue story

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Hi there, I've come here to share my story, as well as take any advice offered! I've been reading a lot on this forum and online about different ways to help socialize and interact with a feral kitten, which has been SO SO helpful.

Someone at my company found a kitten, and possibly a mother roaming around in the back of our manufacturing warehouse. A dangerous place for a kitty! Someone almost ran it over w/ a forklift! Someone called Animal Control to come out. They set up a few traps, and the next day, my little kitty was caught! I came into work and heard about this, and was told that Animal Control would be taking the kitty and euthanizing it. I had no idea AC did this! I thought they at least brought the young ones to a shelter! This made me SICK SICK SICK. So I volunteered to take her home, even though I already have 2 full grown adult cats and one dog. My small town home really isn't conducive to raising and taming a kitten, but I'm making it work. I thought about bringing her to a shelter, but my boyfriend and I who are both big time animal lovers couldn't bring ourselves to do it, knowing full well that most shelters are overworked and stretched for resources as it is. So instead of burdening another shelter with another stray - and one that needs taming at that, we decided to have a go at this.

The cat was very dirty and very scared and quite feral....it wasn't easy transferring her from the trap to a box to a cat carrier to get her to the vet, but with the help of a co-worker we were able to safely get her in the carrier. I took her to the vet on Thursday after work and told them it was a feral rescue kitty. The vet bill was...well more than I had anticipated but so it goes...I've saved a kitty and feel that it is worth it. She is 7 weeks old, and did not have fleas which surprised me. She is in perfect health, aside from a case of ear mites and round worms. My vet said he treated her for both of these. Do you think I would need to go back for another visit to be sure these are gone? I need to be super sure before I introduce her to my other cats (more on that one later pls).

Ok so I don't live in a very big home - and our second bedroom, which is literally the only room I could keep her in (other than higher traffic areas in the living room or my bedroom) is my office - it has computer wires etc. all over and I cannot have her getting into all that stuff. Easy hiding places as well...I could use ANY advice on how to "proof" that area and make it explorable...its pretty much an art and design studio if you can imagine...not a place for a kitten (tho my cats are very good in there and don't get into much). I was thinking about some light see thru netting/fencing around the area of her cage or something to keep her away from anything dangerous....but I'm not sure. I still need to explore this. She may not ready to come out of the big dog crate yet anyways.

She's been in the crate now since Friday. I am now able to open the cage with her not getting too afraid, and she will eat wet food off the spoon, and she has even let me pet her (though she does hiss when i come near her, and bring my hand slowly (and cupped of course) to her head. Right after she eats, I try to pet her head and stroke her back, and she seems to really enjoy it! She starts to purrr and then falls asleep. And wakes when I stop, lol. But she will still hiss at me...and i do fear the switchblade of death swapping but she hasn't done that to me yet. I am not sure if i should let her come out to me and come in my lap for food before I pick her up. I thought about using gloves..but a giant gloved hand seems like it would be scary to a kitty and may bring her a step back. I am hoping she will be easier than I thought to socialize due to this petting and purring only after a few days. I am pretty sure that she has not had much human (if at all) interaction. So thats pretty much where I am at. I just got some of the gerber chicken and gravy baby food so I am pretty sure she'll be licking that off my fingers by the end of tonight! I am really enjoying this experience...but have a few questions and concerns...

Such as her litterbox. Is it normal for her to want to sit in it all the time? She seems to be urinating INSIDE the box...but yesterday I found a poopy outside of the box...she has pooped in it as well but that was only on day 1. I would like to find a way to make her more comfortable OUTSIDE of the box. For bedding I have a thin sheet/blanket covering the whole bottom of the cage. Then I have a folded towel in one corner, and my tshirt next to that. The litter box is in one corner and the food/water in the opposite corner. Someone suggested I get a stuffed animal to make her feel more comfortable...would that be a good idea for a 7-week old? Any other tips on her comfort and transition would be greatly appreciated. I am hoping that I can get her to a point where she is adoptable - and I know I'm going to want to keep her but know I cannot - ok so there is a small 2% chance I might. If not, I was thinking of contacting Pet Finder, or possibly a local shelter to help in her placement. Strict screening is very important to me. Any other advice relating to this also would be helpful.

I am also not sure if or when I should move the crate out of my office and into a more higher traffic area...like right outside our bedroom where there is a constant flow of traffic. I am also not sure how soon I should introduce my cats to this sweetie pie. They are already curious and sit by my office door! I have let them peek in, but no close up visits. Someone I work with said I should introduce them immediately as it could help w/ socialization, I just am afraid that she will get scared and it'll be a few steps back....

Also how long should I keep her in the this dog crate? Its a LARGE one btw...

Thank you if you've read through all this, I know my posts tend to get really wordy and detailed! So thank you for listening! Meow!

Here is a photo of her....in a rare moment sitting on the towel...

And here is her in the Animal Control Trap:

post #2 of 20
she's so pretty! looks a lot like my Pixel.
sounds like you're doing well with her - personally, i'd probably keep her in the crate unless supervised, since there are so many 'kitten hazards' in her room. she might appreciate a donut bed - that's what i had for Firefox [my rescued feral]. since mine was about 1/2 the age of yours, i also had a heating pad under the bed, plus a few small stuffed kitties [had them around the house, anyway] in there w/her. Firefox stayed in my small bathroom for about a week or 2, unless i was supervising. you can read her story here, & see her 1st pics here.
she's all grown up, now - was a year old on 5/1/08.
post #3 of 20
I can't help you on your questions, having never tamed a feral before myself, but I did want to comment on how much better she looks after having been in your care! Thank you for saving her!
post #4 of 20
If the black and white cat your photo shows is the one you're talking about, she's closer to 7 months than 7 weeks, just for starters. If that is the case, you have a tough row to how in front of you.
post #5 of 20
Thank you for rescuing this kitty!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can't visualize your room at all, so I have no suggestions on kitten-proofing it. There is a whole school of socialization using the crate, so maybe it's best to keep her in there for now?

As to the litter pan, she isn't familiar with "comfy" inside things. Our feral rescues all preferred hard surfaces at first. Even today, Tuxedo (now six years old) still kind of hesitates to jump on the bed if the blankets are lumpy (or if the down comforter is on there). The rest of them now enjoy their soft squishy beds and tents - but she knows dirt, so it's more comfortable to her. Can you fit two small litter pans in there? One empty for her to lie in, and for the one you want her to use, I'd consider putting a layer of potting soil over the litter for now - at least until she's using it regularly. If she continues to have a problem after than, maybe consider purchasing "Cat Attract" additive to sprinkle in with the dirt.

Have you purchased Feliway? It's a synthetic hormone that mimics the friendly markers in cats' cheeks, and it'll help her feel more comfortable and it'll help your kitties feel more comfortable. I'd use it throughout the apartment.

As to the round worm - she will need another treatment, but can't pass it on to your other cats unless they eat her poop (or step in her poop and then clean themselves). But I'm surprised the vet didn't say anything - she WILL need another treatment, but you should be able to give it to her yourself. Drontal (a pill) sometimes works, and you might be able to give it to her in a pill pocket. But Strongid or Panacur actually work better (more consistently). They're both liquid, so don't know if you want to tackle it yourself. ANY dewormer is simply a poison that kills the adult worms, so it needs to be repeated in 3 week cycles to kill the eggs that grow into adults - so to take into the lifecycle of the worm. After the second treatment, take in a poop sample to see if it's clear.

I have more suggestions for you, but have to run for dinner.

for taking in this baby girl!

post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for the kind replies. LDG, what you said about the de-worming is why I asked because when I had gotten my charlie, he had 3 doses to get rid of his worms...I'll call the vet tomorrow I think!

I have no intention of ever leaving her out of the crate in my office...if anything I would as you did, let her roam in our small upstairs second bathroom. But I need to let her out WITH me in the room, thus still need to make it more cat proof...I think we'll figure it out.

I just read about the feliway...thought about getting that. Do I just spray it around the house where I DON'T want her to eliminate? How would that affect my other cats?

Plenty of room in her cage for a second litter box, I suppose it couldn't hurt to try and see. Do I need to fill them both up, and only put dirt on one - an interesting and good idea. Or if I leave one empty, would she sit in that? Seems like its the "yesterday's news" rolled newspaper litter that she may like the feel of? Just a thought!

Mr Blanche, I am not quite sure how you would assume this kitty is 7 months, and not 7 weeks....she's in my room, not yours! lol! Not to mention the vet gave her a very thorough exam and told me she is 7 weeks old. I would hope my vet would be able to tell the difference between 7 weeks and 7 months, wouldn't you agree? I do see where your coming from however. the photo definitely makes her look much older, but I assure you she is much smaller than she seems in that photo! I read that they can tell age not only by their teeth, but how large they are in comparison to womens shoe sizes..and she looks to be about a 7-8.

Laureen, thank you I may try that donut bed once she's more comfortable NOT being in the litterbox! :P And what a wonderful name, Firefox! Are you a web or graphic designer by chance?
post #7 of 20
You're right about the size...it's very hard to determine in a photo, without a comparison. But I was judging by the shape of the face and the size of the ears, as much as anything. No less than 10-12 weeks, I'd be very certain.

But that would be good; the younger they are, the quicker they can be tamed.
post #8 of 20
The vet should have at least enough experience to know kitten teeth from adult teeth! (They start to teethe anywhere from 3 - 6 months, usually at 4 months).

At 7 weeks, I think she'll socialize pretty easily. Even if she is 10 - 12 weeks.

I'd actually consider moving her crate to a more trafficked area, so she and your other cats can see and smell each other, and where she can watch them interact with you. I'm quite sure our rescues and fosters learned from watching the other cats that interacting with people can be a good thing. ....Unless your other cats are allowed in your design room - then if you've had the door closed, I'd consider opening it for a while while you're in there and see how it goes. If there's a lot of hissing, I'd send them back out and give it a little more time.

That said, if there's room for a small box (on it's side in there) where the top flap can hang down, so there's a pretty well covered "hidey" place in there for her, that might be nice.

And as to the litter box question, I'd see how it goes with one just empty (for her to lie in) and one filled with litter with dirt on the top (for her to get used to using the box).

Cats tend to gravitate to "defined" spaces. Like when our kitties lie on the bed - if there's a folded blanket at the foot of the bed, they'll lie on that. Or if there's a piece of paper on the bed, they'll lie on that. So maybe try folding the blanket you've got in there. But that's why I think she may go for just an empty litter pan to lie in.

As to the Feliway, it'll help all the kitties, which is why I'd spray it all over the house. For your kitty in the crate (what's her name?), I'd spray it from the inside out so it gets on some of the crate bars, and I wouldn't spray it anywhere near her litter box, but near her choices for hanging out or sleeping. So just on one side farthest away from her litter box, and only at the sides near that, not along the entire sides. Does that make sense?

In the meantime, to help your other kitties get used to her, I'd give her a quick rub with a wash cloth or something and put it under their food dish. If it didn't bother her too much, I'd do it another two times, and I'd leave treats out for them on the "new kitty" scented wash clothes once or twice a day. This will help them associate her scent with good things.

In fact, I'd do the same thing for her with their scent. Rub each of them with a towel, and put treats down for her at a regular time each day.

Another idea - if you let the other kitties into your design room, I'd have new toys (I'd go for interactive) ready for them. And I'd give everyone treats. The more they think good things happen when her scent is around the quicker it'll go. It's a party with her there!

Also, the more you can keep a schedule with her (in terms of feeding her, cleaning her water dish, cleaning her litter box, etc.) the better. It REALLY helps them.

It's great that you work in there - you can spend a lot of time ignoring her. Just letting her get used to you, and figuring out that you don't want anything from her. Too much attention usually has the opposite affect on cats - it leaves them wondering what the heck you want. In fact, if you or your boyfriend can spend time in there lying on the floor reading or working on a laptop, or whatever - just letting her watch you, that'll help.

But really - at 7 weeks, she shouldn't need a lot of time separated or in the crate. It's something you should just play by ear.

Also, she doesn't know what play is yet. It's something she can learn from watching you play with the other kitties. And when you're ready to try playing interactively with her, and you're reasonably confident you've gotten all teeney hidey places covered up in the room, try opening the door to her crate. Don't pull her out - just go back to reading or whatever, just ignoring her. Best to sit with your side to her, not facing her. And if she comes out, continue ignoring her. You're less threatening this way.

I didn't say it earlier, but the basis of socializing ferals is building trust. So - don't look her directly in the eye, it's a sign of aggression. Look at her forehead or over her head. Another thing to do is "look" at her with your eyes closed. Yawn. Stretch. Things to indicate you're relaxed.

Maybe at a regular time each day, open the door of her crate, and give a minute or two to tossing around a feather on a wand. Not at her - but just inside the door of the crate, or just in front of it. If she's scared, stop. Or maybe dangle a feather and see if she tries to grab at it through the crate.

But at 7 weeks, it won't take her long to want to play.

You can also try opening the crate door, and putting treats down for her. See if she'll come out to eat them. But again - don't look at her or reach for her. Just observe out the corner of your eye.

It's all about being non-threatening and gaining trust.

Does she have a couple of toys in there with her? A little mouse, or a little ball. She'll probably figure it out.

Just remember - with cats, if you must reach towards her (like for water, food, etc.) do it palm down, not palm up like with dogs.

But she's so young, it really shouldn't be long before she can't wait for you to come, open her door so she can pop out and play with whatever wand toys. And if your other cats take to her and she's not completely freaked (because she's so young, I doubt that takes too long either).

Honestly, we lived in an RV when we first began rescuing, and we couldn't separate new kitties or foster kitties. We just explained to the crew that there was a new little kitty in need, and they'd just have to deal with it. And it always went pretty well, and only twice did we have a feral kitty that young. It generally only took a few days or a week or so for the new kitty to become part of the routine, usurping play and purring up a storm and snuggling in with us at night - or sleeping on a kitty bed on one of the tables next to the bed.

The most important thing is for her to have her safe space - which will be her crate. So if the other kitties are allowed into your design room usually, just leave all the doors open so she's got her place to retreat.

Feel free to ask more questions, and we love updates!

And just remember - with ferals, it's often two steps forward and one step back, so try not to get discouraged. And some hissing is normal. Cats are territorial, and some adult cats find kittens totally not threatening - and some adult cats aren't into all that kitten energy.

A last thought. When she starts to teethe, make sure you don't let her become bitey with your hands or feet or ankles. Her mom would hiss at her to tell her "no." You can blow a short, sharp puff of air in her face and say "no" and she'll learn real quick.

post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 
wow thank you again for all the suggestions! Much of what you have told me, I'm already doing or have read online - tho don't get me wrong, you have mentioned a few new things too - and are offering wonderful suggestions - I'm very grateful. I'm definitely taking it slow...I could not possibly respond to everything you have said, but thank you so much, everything - it makes sense, and has been helpful.

Sadly I have not named her yet! I can't bare the thought of naming her, and then letting her go...but I really should huh...I keep calling her peanut and sweetpea and sweetheart - could it be any sweeter than that? lol...It'll come to me.

Anyways I just finished feeding most of a jar of baby food, and spent a good 45 mins or so petting her and now she is out like a light - in the litterbox, head down curled in a little ball. Still hissing slightly at me and i'm getting some glares, lol...but she has not swatted or bit me yet...I think it may be best to let her just come sit in my lap and out of the crate on her time when she is ready...just kind of feeling her out...but I do think she will come along really well. My boyfriend also had a positive experience w/ her when he got home from work a few hours before I fed her, he fed her...so she is starting to trust people, and associate the food w/ us.

Meantime, while I was feeding her the jar of baby food - off my finger..hee hee, charlie was cooing and whining on the other side of the door. My other two cats are quite laid back....i just watched my mom's cat Mickey (whos story is lost somewhere in the threads around here, lol - i should do an update)...and surprisingly they all got along fine. I am sure the cats won't be happy at first and may possibly hiss once or twice at her, but I think its more of a jealousy thing...I think I will let the little one sleep a while longer, and then later tonight I'll open my office door and see what happens. I DO often work w/ the door open and let the cats in there - they love to sit w/ me while I am working and I couldn't live w/ out their inspiration and company! Though charlie makes me crazy when he is trying really hard to get behind my monitor, lol...but i think he'll come in and eventually just ignore the kitty tbh...I don't see too big of an issue w/ it. I was more concerned about scaring the little kitty and taking 4 steps back! I have read everywhere about the one step forward, two steps back...patience I've got w/ this one, lol why I don't have the same for people is another mystery! :P

Anyways thanks again...better go give Charlie and Vegas some attention! And no worries on the cat toys they are so spoiled and know they are loved, believe me!

Thanks again!
post #10 of 20
Thread Starter 
ok i opened the door and the whole crew came in lol....first charlie...the kitty hissed and stood up in attack stance...charlie stepped back...then looked at me to be pet, kinda "shrugged his shoulders like a cat would", and walked out. The kitty just sat and growled for a few seconds. Then Sage our dog came in lol..and the kitty didn't really respond but I thought he would scare her, and I didn't expect him to come in....so i told him to go downstairs. And then Vegas came in sniffed and explored...no reaction really, and the kitty just followed her with her eyes...so a meh moment I suppose...aside from the initial on guard freakout.

I feel like this is going to go better than I had anticipated. I'm nervous, excited, overjoyed, and heartfelt all at the same time. sigh.

I can't keep calling it "The kitty" can I? lol...the people at my work want to call her cat5 or GepCat - (we make wire and cable, hence the cat5 ref), but neither thrill me for a sweety girl like her. Hmm yeah she needs a name...
post #11 of 20
Originally Posted by DesignVHL View Post
Laureen, thank you I may try that donut bed once she's more comfortable NOT being in the litterbox! :P And what a wonderful name, Firefox! Are you a web or graphic designer by chance?
no... i read a book w/a cat named Pixel, & liked the name. when i got Pixel & her littermate, it took a long time to come up w/a 'companion' name... i finally settled on Mouse [she was a blue cat, btw]. then i acquired Cable [who i initially thought was a male] - had to think of another computer related name... same w/Java, altho i had a 'naming' poll here for her. i then got Chip - was looking for an orange or blue boy [orange boy would've been Firefox] but ended up w/my sweetie - thought about naming him Port, but ended up w/Chip after someone here suggested it. when i rescued Firefox, i named her that for her orange blaze.
i find it's easier to name new kitties if you have a theme going, myself!
a long answer to your question, huh? actually, i'm an elementary special ed teacher.
post #12 of 20
I'm glad it went so well - even though unplanned!

I like the name sweetpea!

post #13 of 20
Wonderful story. Make sure the baby food doesnt contain any onion - that can be fatal to cats.
I can't wait to hear her name!
post #14 of 20
It sounds good. I'm surprised she had no big reaction to the dog.

Older cats seem to accept kittens pretty readily, for whatever reason.
post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 
I don't think there were onions in there - just chicken and sodium really...not real happy about the sodium though. I'm double checking that today though. This morning she didn't want to eat too much...i think she had snacked on the dry food I left for her though so thats ok....

Oh and she pooped in the box....i am now wondering if she only pooped outside the box when I was changing it...that makes sense.

I decided to try and pick her up this morning, just felt right. She started purring right away and had no objections. So I let her purr and sit in my lap for about a half hour. I can't believe how quickly she is turning around, its amazing to me. I think I'm just lucky, she is sweet and has a really calm temperament. Though she will still give a hiss at first when I go to the cage later. Now my boyfriend is calling me the Cat Whisperer, lol...just great.
post #16 of 20
Just read through the thread - sounds like things are going great! Your little kitten is so sweet - she reminds me of our little Conor when she was small. I hope the socialisation process continues as smoothly! One thing I suggest is once she gets a bit more comfortable with you guys, try and introduce other people to her - particularly if you are planning on adopting her out. Our kittens are all very comfortable with us now (after taking them in off the streets at the beginning of February), but they get very stressed out if we have anyone over. We are hoping to get them more used to other people over the summer, but the minute someone comes in the house who is not us, all three of our happy, playful kittens run under the bed. Ferals have a tendency to get attached to the main person who is taking care of them. Our kittens only got comfortable with my husband in May when I had to work long hours, meaning he did all the care-taking!

Look forward to hearing more about this little girl. And thanks for saving her!
post #17 of 20
Thread Starter 
ah yes i see the resemblance! Both my boyfriend and I are able to care for her so its a good start....she will definitely be introduced to people...I've already been doing that slowly...my mom comes and visits and pokes her head in to say hi...she seems oK w/ that.
post #18 of 20
7 weeks or 7 months - although the earlier, the better, it really is possible to tame older ferals. I brought in a brother-sister pair at 10 months. The sister was spooky, but she saw her brother getting lots of love & petting and stepped right up.
Outside I am feeding a mother cat I spayed some years ago. (I have her last surviving "kitten" inside.) She was over a year when I trapped her to spay and she was impossibly wild. We had to release her after a month of in-cage recuperation from the spaying. Now she is all over me outside and wants very much to come in 7 be my kitty.

Usually I confine new arrivals for at least a month, away from my resident cats, in case they have something contagious. But I did not do that with a litter of 4 whom I rescued and kept in first one, then two crates, with exercise periods in a 4'x4' cube/cage (with toys, scratching post, etc.) The big cats got very used to the kittens, prowled around the cages & exercise area, but no animosity. I found homes for 3 of them, then of course I had to keep the last one. I felt she was so sad, seeing her brothers & sisters all leaving her alone in that cage. I opened the cage and she barrelled out with joy. Every one of the other cats loves or at least tolerates her, maybe because they have known her since babyhood. (They are not always so friendly to each other and I now have to keep the oldest two isolated.) So if your other animals get used to your new baby in the cage, even if she spends time loose in your bathroom, they may likely accept her completely. Hope they do - little mite deserves a break.
post #19 of 20
Thread Starter 
Hi thanks for your story, that's so nice!

Things are going REALLY REALLY well with our little kitty. She's adjusting really well. I am now thinking she's closer to 11-12 weeks...but she is super sweet, calm, and playful...really just a wonderful temperament to her. My mom is so close to taking her home, lol...but if she decides she doesn't want another kitty we will keep her for sure. No doubt about it! Though, my mom has been over to visit us 3 times in 4 days...so thats gotta be saying something!

I've had her in the cage w/ my office door open so my other cats can come and visit - which I do not think they have because everyone just sleeps all day! I let her out and about when I get home from work and she's getting used to going from our bedroom to her "room"....today I decided to keep her cage open and leave her in my office - closing the door to the other parts of the house. So far she's just sitting in a corner, but I hope she takes advantage of not being bound up in a cage.

Thank you guys all for the advice. She'll be here almost two weeks now and I'm thinking that since either my mom or I will be keeping her at this point, that I need to start getting her shots taken care of.

Which brings me to a question about de-worming. My vet said that she was treated for roundworms and won't need any other treatments...yet my other kitty had worms and I remember treating him 3 times....I'm thinking of just bringing in a sample to see if she needs another round or not...but I am apprehensive because I recently read something about how poisonous these treatments can be....
post #20 of 20
I have my cats dewormed for all worms. Usually it is two doses spaced out between 2 weeks. They need the second dose to kill the larvae that remains after the first dose.
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