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Socializing feral kittens??

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
Some of you may have read my "NYers I need help" thread in the SOS section. If you havent, I am taking care of two kittens we rescued with mom who was TNRed. The kittens were supposed to be released but we didn't have the heart so we decided to take a shot at socialization.

There is a little tuxie female and an orange and white male. We think they are about 10-12 weeks old. I have some pictures I will post later. Right now we have them in a cage in our spare bedroom. We let them run loose for a little but I hate scruffing them to put them back in the cage. Plus, I don't really know if that is good or not. I had done a lot of research since we got them, which was Monday. We bought the beechnut chicken and chicken broth and they love it. They will lick it off of our fingers and even come right up to eat out of the jar. The little girl is much more outgoing than the male and I try to make sure we give them both equal attention.

However, they are still quite scared and do occassionally hiss. They don't bite or scratch but you can tell they are still scared. I found lots of great info on the web but am really looking for advice from experienced people. What worked for you? Are there any tricks? I want them to trust me and I know that is what it's all about. Obviously I have never done this before but I really want it to work. I would love to be able to keep one (or both ) of these

(This is from Monday, the first night we had them here.)
post #2 of 29
Well I am far from an expert but...

Lots of patience! I would not let them run around the house until they aren't fearful to humans anymore. Rounding them up to put them back in the cage can be traumatizing and can even cause some backsliding in your socialization process (having to corner a fearful cat and approach it to pick it up is not fun for the kitty!). Where is the cage located? Not sure how long you have had them but in the beginning you do not want them in a busy, high-trafficked area. This could frighten them more. They also feel a lot more comfortable in a smaller area. I keep mine in the bathtub initially with towels to keep them comfortable. I also keep a radio in there turned on low all the time to help get them used to and comfortable with everyday noises! In the beginning I will sit in or near the bathtub with them and just sing or talk to them, but I do not push them to their limit. If I try to pet them and they are too scared I will wait and try another time. Wait until they are ready. Once mine stopped hissing all together and I could pet and start playing with them, I moved them into the whole bathroom. I have also put some of my "dirty" clothing in with them too so they get used to how I smell!

Just the kitties being in the house helps socialize them as they can hear and smell everything that is going on! What you are doing with the food and feeding them is great. They will warm up to you faster when they equate you with food! Just don't let them bite or play with your hand to get the food. Yours are a little older than what I have dealt with so it will just take a little longer and a little more patience and love When mine were ready to be adopted, nobody could believe that the were once feral!! Good luck and good job with what you are doing. It takes a lot of patience but it is such an awesome experience!

Like I said, I am no expert but have had a little experience with it.

Let us know!

**Edit-I just saw in your post you already mentioned where the cage was kept and when you got them, Sorry! Also, they are cute!**
post #3 of 29
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much for your reply!! We have had the kittens since Monday night, June 30th. So it has only really been about 3 days with them here BUT they were previously staying in a trap/cage in the garage of the woman who runs All About Spay Neuter for a little over a week while they healed from having their spay and neuter (and their ears tipped, we thought we were realeasing them as I said previously). Is 10-12 weeks a good estimate on age?

We have them in our spare room which no-one ever goes in. Do you think this is okay or should we move them into the bathroom? We live in an apartment and only have one small bathroom so the spare room seems ideal BUT if they will do better in the bathroom, I think we can do some arranging. They seem comfortable in their cage and will come out to eat and run back in if they become too startled. I'm going to stop letting them run around the room until they are more comfortable with us. I thought it was probably not good if we had to corner them to grab them anyways.

It seems like they make progress but then they will hiss at me. I think that my boyfriend and I have been getting too excited and want to love on them that we may have been pushing them. Is it okay for us to be holding them? I thought that the more we handled them the better it may be. Usually we will each hold one and feed them some of the baby food off our fingers before putting them back into the cage. They don't bite our fingers at all, just lick them clean like hungry little muffins

I am going to give them a dirty t-shirt or something as bedding so they can get used to our smell more. We have been going in there and sitting on the couch and ignoring them whenever we talk on the phone or even just to talk to each other.

Also, I have been covering the top and front of the cage at night when we go to sleep so they maybe start to get the idea that it is sleep time. Is this okay to do??

Again, thank you sooo much. This website has been a life saver over the past few days. I really appreciate any advice and support you have to offer.
post #4 of 29
This article from Alley Cat Allies has been helpful.

Lots of experienced people here on the forum.

When my friend gets to the stage of taming where she trys to handle them more, she will loosely wrap the kitten in a towel (like snuggling in a blanket) and pet them while watching TV. She will also talk softly to them during this time. They usually start purring at this point.

I have not done this but have read somewhere on the forum of putting kitten in a sling made of a sheet or large cloth and moving about the house with kitten in tow. Good luck.
post #5 of 29
Again, I am no expert, but I would say closer to 12 weeks. I have 3 13 week olds that look about that size. Did they get their vaccines too? And tested for FIV/FeLV? Do you have other cats?

I think the spare room would work great(esp since that's all you have besides making them share a bathroom with you, which might be too much stimulation!!) and you can put the crate in with them there a lot of stuff that they can hide in? Although I guess if that's where they are staying there isn't much that you 'need' to get them out for (so if they hide that is ok).

Holding them is good to do, but as I said before, only do as much as they allow. If they seem like they are getting scared or annoyed with you holding them just let them go. It is very easy to get too excited and push it too far! (Just now I got home and walked in to see the 4 ferals I found last night. This morning I was able to pet 3 of them so I assumed I could just walk in and pet them again. NO! I had to almost start over again before I could touch em, but they warmed up quicker than this morning. ) So just take it one step at a time!! You'll notice less and less hissing...and it is exciting when you realize it has been 7 days without one hiss!!!
Are you feeding them kitten food too?

Going in the room and ignoring them is good too. It gets them used to human smells, voices, etc and it also puts the ball in their court and they aren't being forced into something that scares them (which is why I go sit in the tub with them, I just ignore them and sing or read or something, lol). Eventually they will want to start coming to hang out with you!

Yes, this site is a lifesaver! When I found the orphaned week old kittens this place probably helped save their lives!!

post #6 of 29
Thread Starter 
The alley cat allies article is one of the many I found when I did a google search and has been very helpful. Thank you for sharing the link!

We do have another cat, Roxie (as seen in my siggy ). I haven't let her get close to the kittens and she is far from thrilled that they are here. She has been hissing and growling at the poor things any time she sneaks a peek at them. I don't think the kittens have been vaccinated and they definately have not been tested yet. They were given one dose of wormer and I have another dose that I was told to give them on 7/13. Joanne (my All About Spay Neuter contact and savior) said that my cat would be okay as long as she didn't come in direct contact with them, which she hasn't. I have also been making sure that we all wash up extra good after handling the kittens so we don't spread anything.

I just got back from the store and I bought the kittens a fleece teaser toy and some canned pumpkin because they have loose stool -- I think from the food change. I have been feeding them Purina kitten chow and friskies wet food. Not the best, but definately better than whatever garbage they were eating on the streets.

I think we are making some progress. They used to hiss as soon as we walked into the room but now they usually don't. They still do hiss at us of course but it seems less than when we started on Monday. They have also started to sleep around us and even clean themselves or drink water and nibble on dry food. The little tuxie female will play with a toy mouse or ball and the orange male seems interested but not bold enough to go for it. I have a lot of hope for these angels.

We are definately going to keep one of them, maybe both. If not, my boyfriend's uncle just had one of his cats pass away and is interested in adopting the little tuxie girl. They definately have homes, now all they need is to realize how much we love them and that we're here to help not hurt.

If anyone else has any advice, tips, or even stories about winning over your own feral kittens -- I would love to hear it! Every little bit helps. Thanks for all the help and support
post #7 of 29
Sounds like you are doing an AWESOME job and they will be forever thankful to you!!!

Now, back to socializing mine!!
post #8 of 29
Saffron melted in a day but she was 5 weeks. Saachi hissed and spit like a demon child. I put in a little fleece house so that they could hide in it and inch out on their own terms. I would come in a sit with them. I held them if they allowed. I did not look them in the eye. I brought extra yummy food down.
I sat with them a little at a time all day. It worked quickly but mine were younger.
post #9 of 29
Oh, they are so adorable! Congratulations and thank you so much for saving these little sweet peas!

My typing might be full of mistakes, because as I write, one of OUR former feral kittens (Conor) is sitting on my lap, demanding affection. She is pawing at the keyboard (angry, obviously, since I am not giving all my attention to her).

Anyway, the husband and I took in three feral kittens about 5 months ago. Ours were a bit older than yours - and older than most 'recommend' for socialisation. This site has been my saviour as well - it gave us the confidence that we could do this, and the proof is in the kittens. Conor and Paddington are the biggest cuddle bugs in the world. We are still working with Steve, but he is getting better.

So, some tips. You will have one step forward, two steps back. There were many times I worried that I had screwed everything up because I got over eager or distracted, but as time goes on - as they get more and more comfortable - each of your mistakes means less and less! Phew. With our kittens, we started the process by just getting them used to us. Once they realised we meant no harm, the process really began. Ours were in our bedroom (we live in a tiny cottage - so really the only room!), so I would sit in there, sewing or typing with a bit of music on. Within a a few days, they were comfortable coming out and spending time with me (we didn't have a cage, so they essentially were isolated in our room...). Then, I brought out the toys. Paddington has always been our bold little fellow, so he played and the others watched. Soon, they started playing too. They learned from him. Conor and Paddington almost seem competitive with each other - Paddington would make some great stride, and then Conor would do the same BUT more.

Sounds like you are doing great with the feeding. Our kittens were much less friendly - it took us a good month before we could pet them during feeding, but once Conor and Paddington allowed it, I did it during every feeding session. Then, I started petting them before a feeding session. They knew what was about to happen, so they allowed it and even started purring and bumping. It was gradual - all this probably took place over a few weeks. Then, once they were comfortable with that, we worked on petting them outside of the bedroom. My husband almost died of happiness when one day he was napping on the sofa, and the two kittens hopped up and joined him. We regularly are amazed that these three little kittens used to live outside and wouldn't allow us anywhere near them!

In our experience, toys and food are the best way to get them to be really comfortable with you. We free feed dry (Steve has a funny appetite and is a bit of a pushover, so he doesn't always get to finish his wet), but the wet food is scheduled and for the first few months, I always sat with them while they ate (me=food!). Our kittens have always had the run of our house (like I said, small cottage), but since you have another cat, obviously this is not possible until they get tested and properly socialised. I would just try and spend some time in the room where they are. Ignore them - like others have said - but just get them used to you being around NOT harming them. The husband and I would spend a lot of time in our bedroom, just chatting and listening to music when we first took our little guys in. Even our skittish boy, Steve, is pretty comfortable with us now.

I have to say, getting them fixed helped as well. It was stressful -for us and for them - but obviously for the best. Our kittens were about 5-6 months when we took them in, so we did them pretty much as soon as we took them in. Conor was really sullen and moody for the first few weeks we had them, but as soon as she recovered from her surgery, she was a different cat (no longer focused on finding herself a mate, I suppose!). Once you can get them sniped, this will also help.

Oh, and setting them up with a bedtime routine is good, in my mind. We did this in the first week of taking our kittens in, and they are angels in the morning.

Will think some more on what we did with our guys. So funny - thinking about it, it seems like yesterday, but then I pet Conor on my lap and I remember how far we have come!
post #10 of 29
Thread Starter 
Thank you Wendy, for sharing your story. It is great to hear your babies have come so far!!

Both kittens are already fixed and even had their ears tipped so they may still be getting over the traumatization of it all. I want to get them tested and given their shots but I want to wait because I feel too bad stressing them out so much again.

Everyday we see improvement but as you said it is one step forward, two steps back. The little tuxie female, who I have been calling Dottie, was caught purring up a storm yesterday morning Our little orange male, who we've been calling Tank for the time being, still hisses but I guess less than when we first brought them home.

We've been having lots of friends over and we sit in there and talk while just ignoring the kittens. I think this has helped them a ton.

I do have one question however. My Roxie is some-what interested in the kittens. At first she would hiss and growl at the sight of them but now she seems to be getting used to having them around. She will still hiss or growl but only once or twice, which is a TON less than Monday when we brought them home. Yesterday I even caught her sleeping on the couch across from their cage! But like I said, she still does hiss, but the kittens seem very interested in her and I feel as if they were to be able to come in contact they would run right over to her for loving! Is it okay to have her around? Or will the hissing scare them and set us back in the socialization process?

Thanks again for all your replies, it is GREATLY appreciated!
post #11 of 29
First, congtats on your sucess with the new ones so far! Sounds like you are doing a great job!
Now, about Roxie, I would DEFINATLY wait till the kittens get their shots and are tested before any close contact meeting happens. Far better to be safe then very, very sorry. This time is also giving Roxie a chance to get used to them at her own pace, becoming more relaxed and not having two (albiet just wanting to play) fur balls decending upon her! I don't think they would be so upset by another cat hissing at them, cats are what they are used to being ferral after all. But again, wait till everyone gets a clean bill of health, this is where that patience things kicks in, lol, they will get to meet, when they are all ready.
post #12 of 29
It is so good that they are interested in each other. Again, for safety's sake, wait until they are given a clean bill of health. I know what you mean about not wanting to traumatize them further - after our initial vet visits, we were really hesitant to take them back. But, once they get that clean bill of health, it sounds like you are ready to start the introduction process.
post #13 of 29
I took in a stray kitty a little over a week ago and took him to the vet the same day. I am still keeping him isolated from my other 2 till I can have him tested. It's not easy but better safe than sorry. good luck with your new kitties. They are sweet.
post #14 of 29
Thread Starter 
So the kittens have been keeping me quite busy lately but I don't mind. They are sweet little things and once they get over their fears will be wonderful pets.

We have been making great progress. The little orange one seems much more comfortable around us. The tuxie is kind of oblivious to it all and has been much friendlier from the start.

I'm getting worried about seperating them down the road. We were planning on keeping the orange male and having my boyfriends uncle take the little tuxie. Is it okay to seperate them eventually? The thought breaks my heart esp. after all they have been through together. But, I just don't think my bf will let me keep them both.

Any other thoughts or advice are appreciated. Thanks everyone for all the help. I'm going to put some updated pics up later!!
post #15 of 29
Oh Roxie - this is hilarious! I was going to put up a post sayng "How to socialise feral kittens?". Your story is almost identical to mine, what you've done is almost identical to me (kittens in spare room, blanket over the top, feeding them Purina kitten chow, and Friskies tinned food...). This has been great for me to read through!

Mine are still with mum, who is a little socialised - definitely not feral. She'll let me put my hand in the cage right next to her to get food and water, but she looks fearful when I do it.

My "kids" are about 8 weeks old, and there's 5 of them (plus mum) and I've had them since Thursday of last week. They've just started getting stuck into the wet food as soon as I put it in their cage - a few days ago they would only eat once they were sure I was gone. There's 2 little piggies who love food, and last night for the first time licked baby food off my finger - yay! Where would we be without Gerber baby food? 2 of them are super scared, and stay close to mum, and the last one is shy, but likes his food - he'll be licking the baby food soon as well I think.
post #16 of 29
Thread Starter 
Sarah, I'm glad you could also use the wonderful advice in this thread!! For us, the babyfood was really the ice breaker. My kittens had been seperated from mom so were quite wary of any people since we took her away from them. But as soon as I put a little of the good stuff on my finger they were licking away!

It really is a great experience we get to have right now, isn't it? I was so worried at first that I would do something wrong but everything seems to fall into place and the kittens really seem to understand that we are helping rather than hurting!

I have had mine for a week now and they are doing well with socializing. They are 12 weeks old so it may be a little harder but we love the challenge! I found that the best way to get them used to us is to feed them the wet while you're in the room. This way they begin to associate you with food and see you mean no harm! I think this has helped them the most. They used to be too scared to even leave the far back of the cage but now as soon as I come in the room they are in the front of the cage waiting for me!

Good luck from one surrogate to another and please keep us posted on their progress!! Oh, and feel free to thread hijack as often as you need!!
post #17 of 29
Roxie- I think it will be ok to separate them. Most cats come from a litter where they grew up with siblings! They should just adapt to their new life with no cats or with a different cat mate. Of course, there are some who just have personalities that do better with other cats (you can usually tell..if you have one maybe suggest they get adopted with another kitty?).
I would love it if all the litters I take in would get adopted with a mate!!!

One kitty, SKeeter, from the litter of 7 day olds I raised just got adopted (by my I get to hear how he is doing) and was one I thought would do better with a littermate...but he has adjusted great (been 1 1/2 weeks) being an only kitty and has really bonded with my dad!!

Glad they are progressing well!!!!
post #18 of 29
I found that the best way to get them used to us is to feed them the wet while you're in the room. This way they begin to associate you with food and see you mean no harm! I think this has helped them the most.
I totally agree. This was the best advice I was given, in many ways. They need to know where their food is coming from - they have to realise it doesn't just magically appear
post #19 of 29
Thread Starter 
Okay so I need some help here!

The kittens are definately progressing well -- they are much better than last Monday when we first got them. But it is clear they still have some trust issues with people

The tuxie female is a doll and will purr on occasion or cry until you let her out of the cage to play. However, her brother is still very hissy. He doesn't hole himself up in the corner as much but still hasn't purred and like I said will hiss at you when you go towards him. Maybe I'm getting over excited and trying to rush the process but I am curious to know if I could be doing something wrong? Or is it just their age (12ish weeks)?

Also, they seem to like when we allow them out of the cage to play. They will chase each other and wrestle and have a good old kitty time playing with their wands or one of the other millon toys I have given them. They do seem to get upset though when it is time to be put back in the cage. Should we continue to cage them or allow them to run around the room? We have blocked under the couches so they can't get underneath them but sometimes they manage to find a way under BUT not as persistently as before.

Any help/advice is greatly appreciated!!
post #20 of 29
Haha once again, good timing of the questions! I have my love muffin, my little tabby hates me - hisses at me when I look at or approach him. The other tuxie, cream tabby and black kitten just shy away. The love to play outside the cage, but it's impossible to get them back in, and yesterday one of them had diarrhea on the carpet. Maybe if I just leave a couple of litter boxes out I'll be ok.
post #21 of 29
Thread Starter 
So the little kitters are keeping me quite busy!! I'll have a detailed update tomorrow but I just had a quick question. Do you think it is ok to clip their nails? They were clipped about 2 weeks ago when we got them by the woman at the rescue organization but are starting to get sharp again. They are doing soooo good on their socialization and I would hate to set them back! What do you think??

On a side note -- we gave them their second dose of wormer tonight and they actually did quite well. We gave them a nice baby food and pumpkin treat after and it seems they forgot rather quickly
post #22 of 29
Sounds like things are going well! Unfortunately, I have no experience socializing kittens while using a crate - so I'd say put out a number of litter boxes and let them run around the room!

As to the claw clipping? Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, and don't worry about how it's going to affect them. The problem we had with our kitties was that they weren't into it, and we weren't going to wrap them to get it done. So just by spending enough time with them that they'd stay asleep in our presence was the key, because we'd grab a paw, clip one nail and that was it. We'd do one nail every day. It took almost a year before they were finally OK enough with it to just sit there and let us clip all their claws - and kitties we fostered that were being adopted out we just told adoptive parents how many claws we could clip at a time, starting from when they were asleep, and let them take it from there.

I don't know if you're already doing this, but another way to help them associate you with food and good things is to get a couple of t-shirts really good and sweaty, and put one under the food dish, and leave treats at a regular time each day on the other. That way you don't have to be in the room and they'll still get the "this smell means good things" message.

post #23 of 29
You may have figured this out already since your post was a week are the only person who can really tell when they are ready to be out of the crate. Since you are around them everyday and see how they interact with you and how they are progressing, I say just use your best judgment to decide when they are ready! Mine went from the bathtub, to the bathroom and last night to an entire bedroom! They are much happier in the room now! But I knew they were ready for that but the way they were acting towards me (full of love!).

Also, last night I had to bathe 2 of them who were covered in poo (eeww!!) and I was SO scared to do it. It worked out fine though. They were mad at me for maybe 30 minutes but then they were back to purring!!

Oh, and mine got tested for FeLV and FIV yesterday and are all negative!!!
post #24 of 29
Yeah I decided to let them out, and turned the cage into a nice cave for them so they had a safety zone, and now they run around the room happily, but run into the cage when I enter the room, and come out again when they realise it's me, and they generally sleep in there as well.

They're turning into very happy kittens
post #25 of 29
Thread Starter 
Thank you all so so much for replying!! We clipped their claws last night and it went amazingly!! They didn't howl or hiss and didn't really squirm until we got to the back paws. I was so proud

As for the caging... Penelope (which is the tuxie female) will purr and purr when you come in the room in hopes you will let her out or feed her. Tank doesn't purr but he will come to the front of the cage.

They are doing really well from when we first had them. My only concern is that they still trot away from us when we try to pet them. Tank, the orange male, still hisses at my boyfriend on occasion as well.

I'm beginning to think it's my own fault Not really thinking about it, we would hold and pet them before putting them in the cage. Could I have made them associate petting with being caged?? I think they resent us for keeping them in there. They are really good when they get free roam of the room. They spend most of their time wrestling and playing. They don't hide from us. Do you think it's time to let them have free roam?

I know it takes time but I am getting so ancy and I think I may be rushing it. I want so bad for them to snuggle and love on me!! I know they have made great progress but sometimes its such a struggle.
post #26 of 29
I let mine have a whole room at around 8 weeks. But I never used a crate. I put them in a large bathroom. They went from the bathroom to a cat room and now a bedroom. In my experience kittens hate to be locked in.
post #27 of 29
HI !!
I am at work so I did not have time to read all of this but will as soon as I
get a chance....

first let me say YAY YAY YA !!!

I am so glad you took them in !! What a sweetie you and your boyfriend are !

Second let me say that all the cats Joanne has gotten fixed for me they
have always ALL been vaccinated. Not tested, but always vaccinated.
Sometimes she worms them sometimes not.

BUT please call her and ask her if they were vaccinated and if yes with
what vaccinations. She ususally gets them done with the rabies and the
3in1 shot for distemper etc. Please call her or email her otherwise you
may accidentally have them vaccinated again which I think could kill them
or at the very least make them sick.

If this was suggested I apologize.... separating them into two separate
cages will help you socialize them. The cages can be close to each other
but having them in individual cages helps alot.
IF you don't have a second cage, let me know and if you are not too far
or can meet me half way, even in the area of where Joanne lives, I can
lend you another cage and bowls and you would only have to get another
small litterbox.

Let me know.... I will check back here later and you could also email me
if you want but sometimes emails end up in my bulk folder.
My email is JLBA58@YAHOO.COM and I live in North Babylon.

Where do you live ?
post #28 of 29
OH YEAH LOL...... I wanted to add on the delemia you are having
about separating them.... yes you can separate them and yes I know
exactly how you feel which is why personally if at all possible, I would
keep both. I have 3 and my friend has 4 so it could be I am not the
one to be giving you my opinion LOL LOL !!

But if you don't keep both it sounds like you have a great and safe
home lined up for the second one.
post #29 of 29
Roxie how is it going ?
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