|How to Tame Feral Kittens||| Print ||
Working with the Undersocialized Kitten
Some of the kittens that we get from Animal Care and Control, or from private parties, were born outside and have had minimal contact with humans. It is especially important for these kittens to receive lots of handling while they are still young so that they can be friendly, well-adjusted family pets. Socialization is best accomplished when the kitten is between the ages of two to seven weeks. Although older kittens can still be "tamed", they often retain a shyness with strangers.
Undersocialized kittens often hiss, sometimes spit and stomp, and sometimes swat and bite. The way to correct these behaviors is to be gentle yet firm, and totally unafraid of the kitten even when s/he looks ferocious.
The first step is to separate the kittens from each other. It is best to keep them in Varikennels (plastic cat carriers)at first. This way you will not have to chase them around even a small room. Wear thick gloves or use a small thick towel as a glove if you're worried the kitten might strike out. It is better to approach the kitten fearlessly with gloves than fearfully with bare hands! A good way to hold a kitten you're working with is by the scruff of the neck. Please ask a veterinary technician to demonstrate how to do this. Spend as much time as possible actually holding the kitten; retain a gentle "scruff' until you're sure the kitten will not run away. Talk to the kitten, and pet it gently with your free hand. Have the environment be calm and free of distractions. Repeat this exercise as often as you can, but ideally 10 times a day for 5-10 minutes each time. (Some people combine this with watching TV, reading, or other activities.)
In conjunction with the "holding exercise" you should also be handfeeding your kitten if possible. At the least, stand by as s/he eats. They should associate you with the food! Also, try play therapy if the kitten is over 4 weeks old. Get a cat-dancer or other interactive toy, and engage the kitten's interest. Remember, even if you're not handling the kitten, if s/he is comfortable in your presence this will help them associate you with positive feelings! (These toys should not be left with the kitten unsupervised.)
The socialization process can take a day or two with really young kittens, but up to a week or more with older ones. As the kitten gets less frightened, which it's sure to do, you can start holding her/him with your bare hands, and releasing your hold more and more. You can also expand their space to a small room. Allowing them opportunity to play with the other kittens in the litter is good, as long as they do not regress during or after (hissing more, etc.) Introducing them to other people is an important step of the socialization process. Friends and family should be "trained" in how to handle the kittens.
Remember the key points:
Helping a young kitten overcome its fear of humans and become more outgoing is a challenging, but very rewarding, experience.
Please call our feral cat hotline at 707-421-5515 if you have kittens that you are willing to self foster until homes can be found. We now have a Petfinder site, created for the feral cat caregivers in need of a better solution than surrendering kittens to the shelter.
Basic Kitten Care [PDF]
Solano Feral Cat Group has altered:
4,602 feral cats through our own feral cat clinic!
1,516 through our Outreach Program!
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