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.
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.