Taming Adventures: the 5-month feral kitten

Today I trapped a kitten, the last from a litter of four that I have been socializing for several months. The first three were barely 8 weeks old when I caught them in my driveway on Thanksgiving weekend. The fourth escaped from our hands and hid under the shed for a day until his mother came back from her spaying appointment.

The capture of the first three was such a traumatic experience, listening to the cats crying all night alternating with mom crying for her kittens in our driveway for three days–and living with several weeks of timid cats who wouldn’t return any of the love I wanted to give them. I had to resist the urge to feel I had done a terrible thing, by taking them from their only sense of care and love.



{left to right: snow, leo, sasha at 8 weeks}

I’m not a good personality for working in a hospital, human or animal. Trauma intervention is not my thing. I squirm at needles in television shows, I’m notorious for squinting or leaving the room during intense action flicks.

But these cats have tugged at my heart, causing me to do things way beyond my stress thresholds. I’m happy to see the original three kittens becoming loving, playful and trusting house creatures. This is what gets people into socializing ferals in the first place–anyone who’s done it describes it as an incredibly rewarding experience.

For the past three months, as his brothers got tamer and tamer, little Jude roamed about our property, slowly becoming more independent and starting to feed off my porch with the rest of the “peanut gallery”, as I like to call the feral cats who come to us for food. Christmas came and went, then Valentines Day and while I tried to be happy with what I had done, I couldn’t bear the possibility that he would end up like the rest of these outdoor ferals. They are as happy as they can be under the circumstances, but I simply don’t believe this is the best life for them. If there was any, any chance that this ktiten could live a more fulfilled, long kitty life, free of fear and fighting, mating and hiding from the elements, then I wanted him to have it.

I had read over and over that taming a kitten past 8 weeks was nearly impossible, but for some reason I couldn’t let the idea go. I prepared to trap him by luring him into a trap daily to eat, slowly moving his food further and further into the trap. He seemed to be the only one willing to walk into the trap since he was small enough.

So now I have him “safe” and secure in my makeshift cat nursery–what used to be my office, now overflowing with cat toys, litterboxes and climbing towers. He has huddled in a corner of his cat cage for over a day, scared and meowing (mostly through the night, argh), refusing to eat. He even buried his food in the litter, along with spreading said all over the bottom of the cage.

I learned from trapping the first three that it is best to keep them confined in the beginning–at least to calm them down and let them see the environment before being released into it. I made the mistake of releasing the first three a week after I trapped them and it took over an hour of chasing them about from behind their clever hiding spaces–risking biting and clawing.

Since I have been in a bit of a creative lull lately, especially on this blog, I felt I might journal some of the process of working with the kitten. Perhaps there are others out there who passionate about animal restoration, or want to help the feral cats that are inevitably in their neighborhoods. I hope this helps and inspires you.

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  1. Hi there.
    I have 3 x just under 5 month old kittens whom I have been trying to tame up. I started to make good progress with them as I could initially stroke their heads but I had an accident and was in hospital and now that I am out I can no longer pet them. There are two girls, one boy – all tabbies. I had them neutered/spayed/vaccinated 10 days ago. They will play, they will eat (only now twice and only two of them have come to eat outside their igloos) but I still cannot touch them otherwise they hiss, spit and paw at me. Just when I think I should give them up as someones stable cats, they will do something that gives me hope. Will they ever tame up? This is the first time I have ever had a cat. My children aged 16 and 8 also constantly help by talking and playing with them when we have free time everyday. They are just too gorgeous and in show-condition that I cannot bare to see them as feral cats. They have their own little room off my daughters room and we now allow them access to my daughters room but they tend to sleep under her bed, they are then out-of-reach and prefer it to their little homes I made. We I want their attention or at feed time, we lift the bed and they race to their igloos. They will eat, groom and comfortably sleep in my presence. What do you think, should I persevere? Should I let them outside yet, although reluctant as I rent a house on a huge property with horses and dogs and worry they will get a fright and not return but I should mention I have had them since 10-12 weeks old. Should I keep them locked in until they tame up further and do you think they’ll get better in time locked up or better left to roam freely and come in of their own accord in the hope they will eventually tame. I just do not want to end up with semi-ferals who only come in to feed as I do not know how long I will live on the property so it will be easier to relocate tame cats opposed to feral adults soon. Please help. Kind regards.

    • Oh goodness, I missed your comment. I no longer use this blog so I haven’t checked in for awhile. I can certainly identify with relocating feral cats. It’s a pain in the butt. I have 10, and socialized 7 kittens from two different litters. Sometimes the boys will tame up faster. It really has to do with their personality. If you want to get somewhere with them, you have to use food. The older they are the longer it will take. It stinks to hear that, I know, but socializing feral kittens is work! They will want to bounce back to their feral selves at every chance they get. Don’t give them that chance. Keep encouraging them to come closer and closer to you, and do not free feed. Keep bringing the bowls closer and closer and take them away when you’re not there. I had one cat jump in my lap within one week. Another took almost two years to let me pet his back. I preferred keeping them in tighter spaces so they got used to me.

      Should you decide to let them back outside I would gradually introduce them and feed them regularly in the same spot. Cats tend to stick together in colonies and don’t go far from their food source (in my case, the outdoor ferals I feed pretty much sleep and play on the porch all day!).

      Please also have a look at this site:

      http://www.nycferalcat.org/info-kittenssoc.htm

      These folks were of great help to me when I started working with my kittens.

      Best of luck and hang in there! It’s really worth it when they come around because they have wonderful little personalities in there. It just takes them time to trust and you have to use a lot of “tough love” in the process. It can get discouraging when you really want them to choose you, so I had to have tough love on myself, too!

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