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Update on kittens and getting discouraged

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Hi all, its been a while since Ive been able to post ...hope all is well with everyone. Background: I took in four feral kittens on Dec. 5th.(two males, two females) At the time, we thought their age to be about 8 weeks old but turns out they were more around 12 weeks. They were so tiny due to malnutrition and worms. They are doing much better now, healthwise, and growing by leaps and bounds! This Sat they are due for the next set of shots, deworming (again) and to get fixed. They are now about 19 weeks old.

My problem is I dont think we will be able to re-home these guys. They have been living in my studio, which I spend much of my time in. Each one is unique in how they interact with me, ranging from one that will occasionlly voluntarily come into my lap, to one that still barely lets me touch him at all and everything in between these extremes. They are VERY attached with each other, not liking to be separated at all. Its amazing to see in them a pack-like mentality, where there even seems to be a leader that sort of looks out for the others. I have occasionally allowed them into my bedroom which is attatched to my studio. When I do this, they love having the room, but barely let me anywhere near them and will hide under the bed when I come in. They do this in every new enviroment they may come into. Its like they revert right back to pure feral behavior. Nobody else in my house, despite seeing them everyday, can really touch these kitties without being firm and not letting their hissing scare them away. For instance, when my son or husband gently goes to pet one, the kittens will hiss and run and my son or husband will let them be. My daughter though, while still being gentle, will just ignore the hissing and gently pet them till the purrs come. But, if she where to walk away, come back and do it again, they are right back to hissing. And again, theres only one kitten, Zaria, that will sit in my lap. (We decided long ago we were keeping Zaria)

I cant imagine how they would react to being separated and put into strange homes. As a matter of fact, I fear it would be so distressing for them, that they could possibly get sick and really distrustful of people. I dont know anybody, (besides people who already have homes that are filled with cats), that wants a cat that is so unsociable. So, hubby and I have resolved to keep them all ourselves ...unless we do find someone who will be VERY caring and sensitive to their situation, and will take the time to make the kitty feel comfortable while realizing kitty may never be a *lap kitty. I honestly have no problem giving them the care they need and a safe place to stay the rest of their lives, even if they never let me touch them again. So, what I am thinking of doing, since these kitties seem to prefer each others company over peoples company, is moving them downstairs to my husbands large office, till they are big enough to roam around the house with all the other kitties and our one small dog. See, at this time, I have three adult cats in hubbys office, that still need to be vetted (we had to vet the kittens first cause we felt it was more of an emergency and should be able to afford vetting the three adults (all fixed) next month), so they cant just roam the house, but they are very loving and really WANT human contact and attention and would like it better in my studio. I sure hope Im not confusing you all with my many kitties in many *isolation* rooms of my house ...lol.

What I would like some insight on is, do you think Im giving up too soon as far as having hopes that these kitties will get more socialble? It has been almost 7 weeks they have been with me. Is that enough time to assume the way they are now, is basically the way they will stay? If I put the kittens in hubbys office,(again, just till they are bigger and then can go anywhere in the house they want), they wont have nearly as much contact with people as they are having now. Of course, they wont be neglected in any way, and I would visit them during the day, and hubby works down there often, but they will be alone together more then they are now. Im not sure if this will make things worse for them, but then again, if this is gonna be as good as it gets, it might be what they prefer and they maybe more comfortable with not being forced to deal with people too much. So, what do you more experienced feral kitty people suggest? Any insight and advice is greatly appreciated.

Thanks, Kali
post #2 of 11
I think you are doing pretty good with the Ferals, We have had granet since may and he still shy's away. I JUST got to hold him for the first time last weekend. Ashton will let me pet him if I stay very still and sit on the ground. With my guys I have found it is best to give them some alone time. When granet is by himself with me he is SO much more friendlier. Since the kitties can not roam the house yet it might be good to put some "dirty" laundry in there with them. Since they are in your office maybe they are more used to your scent then anyone elses, so if you put an old tee shirt that you hubby had on all weekend in there that might help them get used to his scent.
post #3 of 11
Bless you for being willing to keep these kittens! You are a true feral hero!

Believe it or not, what you are describing is not at all unusual for feral kittens. But...there's hope! With time and patience, they can become much more sociable.

If you haven't yet read the thread about socializing a feral cat, please click here to read the story of Lucky and how he changed from a cat that sounds just like yours to a happier and comfortable house cat!
post #4 of 11
Even tho your husband's office is larger, if it means less human contact, I wouldn't move them. Its the contact that will change their attitude toward humans. Increase your family's time spent in the room, but spend the time ignoring them. Have your family read a book or do homework. Eventually the kittens will come looking for attention. (I learned this from Hissy!)
post #5 of 11
You and hubby are complete angels! Don't give up hope! First of all, if you do find someone along the way that may take all four (I wouldn't break them up either), in the rescue resources section of www.SaveSamoa.org (link in my signature lines) we have a really stringent adoption agreement. If anyone is willing to sign it, they have to care about the kitties. Obviously interviewing them and a home visit are in order, but using an adoption agreement can really help.

Re: living space. I agree. This behavior is completely normal for feral kitties. I agree that human contact is far more important than space. At some point, their watching you interact with the other cats in your home may help. But for now, worry more about the contact than the space. Cats are very territorial, and changing space is difficult and stressful for them.

I don't know how large your studio is, but hubby and I live in an RV. It's 40 ft long and 8 ft wide. We work from home a lot so are here 4 - 6 days out of every week - and we now have five in here! After the first two we said, "we can't have another one!" - but with each rescue/foster that became attached to us (or that we became attached to) - there seemed to be room. We decided based upon their behavior more than anything else. And it works for all of us. No doubt about it - we have created "cat" space everywhere we can - and because it's designed for it, there's lots of vertical space. We also took out the "dining room" section and put in three pieces of cat furniture. They have lots of beds, hiding spaces, tunnels (we use 10" and 12" forming tubes from HD cut into various lengths) - we emptied out several cabinets for them to hop up into, emptied off two shelves of a bookshelf (that has open sides, so it's a passageway as well as a place to hang out). My point is - since you seem so wonderfully dedicated to these guys , just take a look at the room with a cat's eye, so to speak, and see how you can help make them more comfortable. It works!


post #6 of 11
Something that I learned with my Humane Society group that is a little contradictive of some of the advice given thus far on feral cats is that they recommend separating the litter. Feral kittens that stay together can sometimes retain their feral traits by interacting with each other rather than socialized cats. The last litter of ferals that came in (there were 3 of them), were separated into 2 homes - the most feral in one and the other 2 who were a bit friendlier in another.

The fosters were asked to take the kitten with them in a kennel when they visited places. I would see them at meetings and the adoption clinics - just places where there were other tame cats and human contact. They became more familiar with humans that were non-threatening to them and observed socialized cat behavior.

I have found that when I take ferals in, they learn BEST from observing the behavior of the other cats in my household. If THOSE cats can jump in my lap and be happy, maybe they can take a chance and do it themselves.

I'm not sure if any of this advice will apply to you, as each cat is different and will learn in their own ways. The Humane Society does this to socialize them quickly, so that they can get them adopted and make room for the next homeless cat in the foster homes.

You are an ANGEL for going thru all of this!!!!!
post #7 of 11
Roscoe was one of a set of rhree feral kittens I got from a shelter to foster. He was very withdrawn from people but was well bonded with his litter mates. Whenever I was in the room he would cower in the litter box.

Due to them coming to me with 'Feline Distemper' (see previous post for entire saga) I had seperated them in hopes of saving them. After a few days in isolation Roscoe became affectionate and would even play with me.

After having to reunite Roscoe with his littermate because of his not eating he has retained much of his new socialization skills. While his bonding is still primarily with V8, and Roscoe is a bit more shy than average, he readily accepts attention and will even cuddle up on the bed for a bit.

So, while I do think in some cases there may be benefits to seperation to help with socialization, caution should be used as well.
post #8 of 11
Originally posted by 2tame
So, while I do think in some cases there may be benefits to seperation to help with socialization, caution should be used as well.
I agree with that! You have to judge them individually and their situation as a whole. In the case of the 3 fosters, separation did help, but they didn't need to separate all of them. But it is good to consider it as an option.
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the ggreat suggestions and encouragment!
We are gonna keep them in my studio with use of our bedroom as well during the day. I went and got my sons favorite blankie today and put that on the bed where they like to sleep in the sun spot, so they can get use to him more.

Ive thought about separating them, but Im really not able to due to not having anymore spare rooms. So, we are just gonna have to see what happens once they are allowed to roam around and see how the other cats in the house are. I will still keep the studio as a safe place for them in case they feel a need to retreat from the other animals and people. Im really hoping that the other cats will *teach* the kitties that peoples are good.

Again thanks so much for the encouragement ...I have hope now that they may tame up some more


Shoot almost forgot to ask. Based on some of your responses, for the kittens that are more *scittish*, would it be better if I stopped trying to force the issue and somewhat ignore them, or do I continue to try to touch and pet them?
Also, I threw up this page to show my sisters the kitties and wanted to share here too.
Kalis Kitties
post #10 of 11
Generally speaking, I would stop forcing the issue and try to ignore them, especially if they still have trust issues.

Try to see it from their perspective: You are a LOT bigger than them, and therefore may be a predator. Their natural instinct is to hide or try to scare away predators, i.e. hissing at your daughter. So basically, the best way to get them to trust you is to show them that you aren't a predator, that you aren't going after them. They probably trust you more than the rest of your family, in part, because you spend a lot of the time in the room with them without approaching them, whereas they mainly see your family members trying to catch them (regardless of gentleness and good intentions ).

It's really hard to do, ignoring such beautiful little miracles, but it does pay off with ferals. Perhaps you can make some family time in the studio that doesn't involve the kitties? Play a (quiet - no uproarious laughter ) board or card game, watch a movie (if there's a TV in there), something like that.
post #11 of 11
We had three feral kittens taken at about 7-8 weeks, and they took awhile to socialize. We handed them off to a foster home, but I was told the shy calico didn't really come out of her shell until she was separated from her brothers. Otherwise, she always had the opportunity to hide behind them.

Cats are probably like people; they'll each have their own personality. But I tend to concur with the idea that feral litters kept together might use each other as a social crutch, because they instinctively look to the group mentality and hiding/running for protection.
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