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any Tips on socialising feral kittens for me?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
I posted this in the kitten forum...
I'm not sure if we are allowed to double post like this... But here goes...

I have 4 kittens in my bathroom. I just trapped them today. They are about 3 months old. I'm really concerned as i need to get them socialised as soon as possible as younger cats tend to get adopted out faster around here.

They are presently huddled inside one of those furry tunnels made for cats to play in.

Please, if any one has any ideas as to what i should do to get them used to people please do let me know ....
post #2 of 24
I've never done it myself, but this is what I've heard:

Get them used to people's voices by leaving a TV or Radio on (not too loud) during the day.

Have friends come over and get them used to them as well, you don't want them to only be social with you.

It's sometimes best to work with them one-on-one. So bring just one out and pet them and try to talk to them.

I'm not sure how easy it will be at three months though. Good luck! I hope someone else with more advice comes along.
post #3 of 24
This site has great information regarding socializing kittens:

Thank-you for taking them in and trying to socialize them.
post #4 of 24
First of all, thank you for rescuing these kitties!!!!!!

Secondly - change your thinking. There is no such thing as "rapidly" socializing a feral. At 3 months, they're still kittens, but they were with mom long enough to learn everything they need to know as cats - and that is to not trust humans, because they don't trust anything, and they've been taught to survive.

Because they're kittens, they'll likely learn pretty quickly that humans are OK. But don't count on it. The most important thing when it comes to socializing ferals is patience. They do not operate on a schedule, and any sense of nervousness on your part will delay the process. Just having a sense of urgency will likely cause you to do things that could slow that process down. Forget the clock and the calendar, and things will go ever so much better!

A radio is good - but tune it to a classical station. It helps calm them. Or, put a small CD player in there with classical CDs. Harp music is best if you can find it.

Purchase from a pharmacy or something one of those old-fashioned tick-tock alarm clocks. Wrap it in a blanket and put that in their bed (which should be in a box with several holes cut in it so they have several avenues of ingress and egress). This will simulate mum, which will help them feel more secure.

Get a schedule going. Go in there at the same time every day to make sure they're food dish is full, or to give them a meal of wet food. Go in there at the same time every day to scoop litter. Go in there at the same time every day to give them fresh water. Go in there at the same time every day to just sit and read to them. Cats are creatures of habit and they LOVE routine. This alone will help them come to trust you.

Just ignore them every time you go in there. The more you ignore them, the less of a threat you will seem to them. Don't look them in the eyes - this is experienced as an act of aggression. Look over the tops of their heads (though at first it's best just to not look at them at all). Once they're used to you, they'll get curious. They'll peer out from their box. Let them look. After a couple days of this, turn to look at them - but look over them, or at their foreheads. Shut your eyes for 10 - 15 seconds. Open them up to make sure they're still there - and "look" at them again with your eyes closed. This really helps build up the trust factor - it communicates that you are not a threat.

If they approach you, do not get excited. Just keep reading or do whatever you were doing. Sitting on the floor - at their level, is actually the best thing. You're far less threatening that way. Put one hand down on the floor - palm down. If they come up to investigate, just leave it there. But the palm down, with cats, is very important.

They need to understand that they can approach you and you will do nothing. THEN when they get comfortable, you can try reaching your hand out (palm down) - they've learned that that hand won't hurt them.

Remember - they don't know what the love of a human is. They don't know what petting is. They don't know they want it. All they see is some big scary thing reaching out at them.

There's a great thread "stickied" up at the top of this forum. It's called "Socializing a Feral: The Story of Lucky." This is a fabulous thread to learn how to socialize ferals. Don't get discouraged given the months it took Lucky to get comfortable. These kitties are much younger, and they also have each other.

But if you're worried about getting them adopted out, put up your ads or posters or whatever you're going to do - and when someone calls, make sure you explain that they're rescued kitties, and they are scared and timid, but that with patience they'll become wonderful pets. Even if you socialize them, they'll still be terrified to go to a new home with new people, and the exact same guidelines will apply. As a matter of fact, this is good advice for bringing ANY cat to a new home! Cats are territory-oriented, so just moving out of the bathroom will be traumatic (though kittens are more adaptable than older cats).

And PLEASE use an adoption agreement! It will help ensure that whoever is adopting one of your kitties is serious about wanting to CARE for that cat. Even charging a little bit is best, especially if you take them to a vet to be spayed or neutered, which should be done as soon as the first tooth falls out (although they can be spayed and neutered now if your vet will do it. Some vets aren't aware of the research on it, and cats can be spayed or neutered as early as seven weeks old and it is the same as waiting until the usual 4 to 6 months that most vets recommend).

Have they been to a vet yet? If not, they need to go to be dewormed at the very least. Over-the-counter deworming meds do NOT work. They do not kill the parasites, merely cause the cats to expel them from their systems - live. Which means the likelihood of re-infestation is very high.

But the most important thing is do not push them to be friendly. Let them come to you - let them do it in their own way in their own time. This is actually the quickest way to socialize them!

The most important thing to establish is that you are not a threat. Once you've gotten there, the rest will come - they'll let you know what they're boundaries are.

...and don't forget to post again if you have any questions!

Cats, unlike dogs, are not pre-programmed to want to be with us or to love us. They have to learn that they can trust us, and that's what the process is all about.

And the better your ability to ignore them altogether - as opposed to trying to engage them in play, etc. - the quicker they'll come to trust you.

Leave some toys in there for them. They'll play with them when you're not there. Do NOT leave ANYTHING with string on it out - no wand-type toys. Ferals LOVE string, and they'll chew it off and swallow it, and this could cause serious damage that needs surgery to correct for them to survive.

Little mice - even better, little furry mice with something inside that makes them "rattle" a little bit - balls - small things they can pick up and toss around, or bat around with their feet to make them move. The cardboard from an empty roll of toilet paper is a great toy. A paper bag - so fun to hide in - and then so fun for one of the other kitties to leap on!

They'll play with the things when you're not there - and when they get used to you being there, they may come out to play while you're there.
post #5 of 24
Oops - forgot to include a link to an adoption agreement. It's located in the rescue section of - here:

post #6 of 24
Thread Starter 
That was the sort of info i was looking for. A lot of the web sites i've been to just give you the basics and i've got that covered. OK...
Let me tell you where i am up to with these guys...
In order to trap them i had to go through about a week of getting them used to me at the feeding area... they were all up to the point where they would sit a few feet away from me and play with a ball on the end of a string... 3 of the 4 actually would come up to me to retrieve the ball and sometimes they'd play with my fingers too. So i guess ... they're not as feral as i thuoght they were initially.

I know what you mean by there's no such thing as rapid socialisation... I'm just hoping to get it all right and get the process going along as best i can. Anyway, tomorrow i will get the routine going... They have not been to the vet yet and once we are agreed that we will be the ones fostering them then we will take them in. We should know by tomorrow afternoon. The lady fom the assc is coming over and if she thinks that they are not too feral to be taken in then they will go with her and get put in a foster home.

If she thinks that they are "too old" then i'll keep them and socialise them myself. I know it's just a matter of time before they get used to people... But a lot of other people think it's not worth the trouble and will then just have them fixed and put back where they came from. I just can't let that happen. I would take them right now, but the conditions between my husband and i were that we would only keep them if the assc said they were too old... (i'm soo hoping that is what they say )

Anyway... i've got some old boxes in there and i went down and raided the place where they were living for some familiar things. And the snuggle puppy is going in there as well. Got lots of balls and stuff that my own spoilt cats ignore for them to play with and a couple of non poisonous house plants and a box of sand for litter. ANd they are as i mentioned before all snuggled up in the cat tunnel.

Have left them some dry food with some boiled chicken sprinkled over the top and a cat-it water fountain. Assuming we get to keep them i'll put the music on tomorrow... I sure hope we do get to keep them!

post #7 of 24
Oh they're still feral! They're just not as scared of you as some ferals start out.

It really does get me upset that there are so many feral assistance organizations out there that take the position that unless ferals are 8 - 10 weeks old they're not able to be socialized. The older they get, the more patience and time one has to have to do it successfully, but ferals as old as four can be socialized.

At this point, then, they're probably more scared of the new place than of you. It was that way with the first two cats we rescued. They were little, teeny kitties - apparently just out eating hard food. We had no plans on adopting them at first, we were just going to get them spayed/neutered when they were old enough. So they got to know us - and the one that would let us pet him and play with us the most was the one we brought inside first. And WOW was he scared! I hadn't found The Cat Site Yet (hadn't even thought to look for something like this) - so hubby, who he trusted the most, would just hold him - and he crawled down the arm of his shirt sleeve (it was our kitty, Lazlo). We lived in an RV at the time (I think it's my avatar still), so it was a small space - but with lots of hidey-places. It really only took Lazlo a few days to get used to it all, and then he loved sleeping in a snuggly bed on hubby's bedside table. But he was still feral - any strange or loud noise would send him fleeing - opening or closing the door would send him fleeing. That took quite some time.

Anyway, all the advice I posted still goes - but if you do get to keep them, then once they've made the bathroom "theirs," you may want to try to engage them in play with a wand-type toy. Just remember to take it with you when you leave so they don't try to eat the string part.
post #8 of 24
Thread Starter 
unfortunately the decision wasn't really mine to make. sally , the lady from the assc came round this morning and decided that they will be spayed and neutered and then put back where i trapped them.

i guess it's not what i wanted but she said that there are so many kittens who are not feral that need a foster home it would be better if i took those instead. so the cats are going back to the hotel where they were living...

I don't know what else to say... if i were on my own i would definetly take them on but my husband is not keen on the idea at all... plus we are leaving dubai for a month in august so if i don't get them re-homed by then... then the assc won't take them either because they're not officially foster kitties.

what a disaster. i feel like i've totally failed...
post #9 of 24
You didn't fail at all, and like all ferals, these are being misunderstood. What the lady from the association didn't say (but was thinking) is that because they are feral kittens, why waste time socializing them which could take months- when there are socialized kitties in cages waiting at animal shelters. What she is missing out on is the incredible bond that forms between human and kitty as both of you make your way through the socialization process. In this society feral cats and kittens are often thought of as expendable-
post #10 of 24
Thread Starter 
Yeah... I know what you mean. Thank you for your thoughts Hissy. I have more bad news though... The male cat, who is father to these kittens was trapped by me last night and today when sally came to take the kittens she also took him. Anyway, she just called and said the vet put him down as he has FIV. She also said that the vet will test the kittens and will put the FIV+ ones down.

What a lousy day... I had thought i was doing a good deed. It's situations like these which really make me wonder wether i'm doing the right thing. Tonight i have to trap the female. I'm sure she will have to be put down as well... Makes me really think twice about trapping her... But i guess i have to with a very very heavy heart.
post #11 of 24
That is such a shame. The results from the kittens shouldnt be relied on 100% at their age though, as it takes 12-16 weeks for the antibodies from the mum to be out of their system, so they may test positive for FIV but not actually be FIV, they should either hold on the testing or retest in a couple of weeks. A decent vet should tell the rescue this. I would only put an FIV+ cat down if they are too feral to socialise, if there is a chance they could adjust to living indoors, i would refuse to put them down. Sadly, rescues dont always think like that
post #12 of 24
Maybe doing TNR or foster work isn't for you? Why not just rescue a cat on your own and then work with that specific cat outside of any official structure? That's what I did with Nano -- I got her cleaned up, I got her current on her vet work, etc. It wouldn't have mattered to me if she was FIV or had leukemia. It doesn't matter to me that she is too old and too semi-feral to be in any of their programs. The goal was not to adopt her out but keep her for myself. I also don't care that I could have helped 25 cats (in a limited capacity) with the amount of time/money I have spent on Nano. For me it was all about giving one specific cat the full opportunity to have a guaranteed forever home.

Anyway, sorry to hear about their father and hope the kittens are at least good candidates for TNR instead of euthanasia. Even if it doesn't work out, you were still doing the most humane thing you could so don't beat yourself up or get discouraged.
post #13 of 24
Thread Starter 
Nano, i would take in a few more but we already have three of our own and two that are ferals who have now adopted us but they stay in the back... The first 3 cats that we tnr'd i did work on, on an individual basis and managed to rehome them. I guess you can't plan which cats come into your life and when they do it.

Anyway, i've thought it over and i guess the only way to keep sane is to accept the fact that i can't save all of them. I'm not sure what other logic to use here or how other TNR'ers get through the hard times but i guess for i need to keep my eye on the bigger picture.
post #14 of 24
I am so sorry that you didn't get a chance to foster your kittens. I am currently fostering 2 ferals from the humane society in my city. It is challenging but worth it as I see how far they are coming. It is almost as if they want to trust me but are fighting their instincts. I went to a store and bought a ball on a wand for them and they went crazy over it. Even so much as to lie down on me while waiting to pounce on it. They are getting much less scared of me as each day passes. One was even close enough to sneeze on me (they are getting checked out at the vet tomorrow). The female would let me pet her while she was playing but the male was still a little skittish, even when playing. She also let me stroke her head when she was resting. Baby steps. I have only had the four days and have them for four weeks so I just have to be patient. But it is worth it, I think.

Good for you for taking these kittens in and trying to give them a chance.

post #15 of 24
Thread Starter 
Finally, some good news. The mother cat did not test positive for fiv so she and her kittens are being put back where they came from at the hotel. Now i don't feel so bad as my main concern up until had been that she would definetly test + for FIV and then be out down leaving the kittens motherless.

Anyway, i'm going to see if i can have a word with the hotel manager and tell him/her that all the cats at the hotel have been spayed and neutered and try and interest him in setting up a feeding station where the staff will monitor for new cats that need to be spayed and other cats that look sick. I don't mind paying for a couple of large bags of food a month so long as they set it out for them. I'm borrowing the idea from a similar program that was set up just before i left home.

Since most of the ground work has been done i'm really hoping the hotel will say yes.
post #16 of 24
Originally Posted by zazi
Nano, i would take in a few more but we already have three of our own and two that are ferals who have now adopted us but they stay in the back... The first 3 cats that we tnr'd i did work on, on an individual basis and managed to rehome them. I guess you can't plan which cats come into your life and when they do it.

Anyway, i've thought it over and i guess the only way to keep sane is to accept the fact that i can't save all of them. I'm not sure what other logic to use here or how other TNR'ers get through the hard times but i guess for i need to keep my eye on the bigger picture.
Good luck, zazi. I respect what you do and agree (for you) it has to be a matter of looking at the bigger picture. Hope it works out for these cats and glad to hear their results were negative.
post #17 of 24
Thread Starter 
Well we released the mother cat and two kittens back where they came from this morning. They all seemed glad to be home. I went back this evening to feed them and the mother was not there

The kittens came down to me and ate and then went off to do kitten stuff.... I waited for about 30 minutes and the mother cat never showed up. Hope it is nothing to worry about. The other two kittens are coming back tomorrow morning.

I'll go down and feed them againin the evening and then day after i'm going to approach the hotel re: setting up a feeding station at the hotel. I did some poking around to day and the hotel is actually not too bad a place for a feral cat. It's quiet. There's a pool and a giant low hanging tree... I guess they could be in a much harsher environment.

Anyway, thanks for listening to my babbling. i'll keep you posted.
post #18 of 24
Thread Starter 
The Cat Café • Latte with catnip sprinkles

In recent years, one of the most innovative solutions to emerge for stray and feral cats is the cat café. For example, in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, feral cats are dining in style at the Sheraton Hotel, which has cat-sized feeding stations on a sunny patio. The Sheraton pays for their sterilization, vaccination, and de-worming. Volunteers and hotel patrons enjoy tossing kibbles and treats to the furry guests.

"The cafés are a win-win situation," says Elizabeth MacGregor of the World Society for the Protection of Animals, which helped launch the café. "The tourists who like cats feel happy to see them well cared for, and they like having an opportunity to feed them. The tourists who donÕt like cats are glad that they are not running through the restaurants anymore. And the hotel managers can take pride in having found a positive and humane solution."

Cat cafés can be found worldwide. In Dubai, stray cats get four-star meals at the Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Resort and Marina. "They used to be a skinny and scruffy looking bunch; now…[they're] fat and contented," said a worker at the resort's gourmet restaurant. "Feeding them doesn't cost us because they eat all the leftovers from the restaurants–prepared by top chefs, of course."

I'm in dubai, in fact i'm less than 1km from the Mina Seyahi! Hopefully the hotel i live next to will agree to having their own cat cafe!!
post #19 of 24
Thread Starter 
and another article with a picture:
post #20 of 24
That is beyond awesome!
post #21 of 24
So so glad that the mother cat tested negative. Hopefully you will be able to persuade the hotel to set up a feeding station, sounds like it will be a brill idea.
post #22 of 24
Aw, Zazi, I'm so sorry things didn't work out the way you'd hoped. I really like the idea of speaking with the hotel manager. At least these kitties can't reproduce, and perhaps they'll get regular meals. We can send up a prayer, anyway....

And about that kitty cafe - that is so cool, and what a great idea!
post #23 of 24
Thread Starter 
Well guys i went to the hotel to hand in my proposal for a cat cafe yesterday. No call from the general manager yet... I called his office today but his sec. said that he has not had a chance to look it over yet


Well i guess that's still better than a outright NO. Fingers crossed!
post #24 of 24
Thread Starter 
I just got off the phone with someone from the hotel. The Gmanager has handed the proposal to the house keeping departmen for viewing. They will be getting back to me within a few days or so... I guess this is a tiny ray of light. The alternative would have been the manager turning it down immeadiately... So... my fingers are starting to cramp from having them crossed for so long!!!

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