Yes, it is possible to tame feral kittens. However, do not expect it to be a walk in the park. If it takes dedication and commitment to care for domestic kittens, multiply this a hundredfold when it comes to taming feral cats. Learning how to tame a feral cat can be very challenging but it can also be very rewarding once you accomplish this goal.
A Word About Feral Kittens
Feral kittens that did not undergo the critical socialization process to enable them to interact with “humans” in a more amiable way. As such, most of them are frightened by the mere sight of a human. The natural feral kitten behavior is fear. As much as possible, they will avoid making contact with anyone other than their species. It is not unusual to see a feral kitten run away and hide if it sees a person approaching. This can make it quite challenging to “catch”. One can also expect that the kitten will not give up that easily. It will not hesitate to scratch and bite if only to make you move back.
Length of Time of the Taming Process
There is no definite time period as to when you will see a feral kitten respond in a desirable manner to your actions. Like all captive wild animals, the speed and success of the taming process depend on a number of factors. One of them is age. In general, the younger the kitten, the faster it is in getting socialized. Another factor is the state of the kitten’s “wildness”. Unfortunately, there is no test that can help you determine an animal’s “level of wildness”. There are also differences in individual temperaments. Kittens born of the same litter may have different characteristics, behaviors, and temperaments. The bottom line here is that one needs to exercise due diligence, commitment, and patience in trying to tame a feral cat.
How to Tame a Feral Kitten
Now that you have a basic understanding of feral kitten behavior, it is time to focus our attention on the actual process of taming such a young cat.
- Bring the Kitten to a Veterinarian
When handling feral kittens the first time, it is best to hold them wearing thick gloves. Keep in mind that these animals lived in the wild and may have been exposed to a number of disease-causing pathogens. If they scratch or bite you, the pathogens can enter your system and make you sick. Place the kitten in a cage. Make sure there is a bowl of food and water for it to drink.
Before any attempts at taming the kitten can begin, it is best to bring it to your veterinarian. It is important that the animal receives the different vaccines that it needs. This is for its own protection as well as for the people who will handle it from time to time. The veterinarian can also check the kitten’s health status to help determine if there are any health problems. If so, then he can administer appropriate medications.
Always ask the veterinarian if he can scan the kitten for a microchip. Checking for implanted microchips can help you determine the owner of the cat. If there is no microchip, then you can conclude that the cat is feral or stray.
You may also want the kitten neutered or spayed. This can help reduce its aggressive tendencies. Keep in mind, however, that there is an age limit to when a kitten can be neutered or spayed. The earliest a kitten can be neutered is at 8 weeks of age.
- Place the Kitten in a Small Containment Area
It is best to put the kitty in a large pet crate so it will still have plenty of room to “run” about. It is critical to understand that the kitten is very scared at this point. The visit to the vet may also heighten its anxiety and fear of humans. Giving it plenty of room to adjust to its new environment is crucial.
Always provide the kitten with enough water to drink. Also provide the cat with the right amounts of high-quality cat food. For its bedding, you can use old clothes to make for a comfortable resting place for the young kitty. A litter box should also be available for the kitten. If you want to be successful in how to tame a feral cat, then you must tend to its basic needs.
If you do not have a large pet crate, then you can use a small room in your house. Always place a litter box in the room as well as a small pet crate. Make sure to leave the door of the pet crate open. This is your young cat’s hideout during the first few days of its stay.
Pay the cat a visit every now and then. Talk to the kitten in a soft and reassuring manner. Observe a no-touch policy at this point in the taming process. You want it to get accustomed to your presence and to your scent. In visiting the feral kitten, it is best to do so in a quiet manner. Also, avoid making sudden movements. This can scare the feline and make taming it a lot more difficult.
- Observe Periodic But Very Brief Handling
After about 4 to 5 days of observing a no-touch policy, the kitten should already be more “approachable”. Approach the kitten and place a soft yet thick towel over it. This will help protect you against scratches and bites if ever the cat feels threatened. Pick the cat up in a gentle manner. Watch for overt signs of distress. If you notice any sign, put it down. This is often a sign that the cat is not yet ready for your “touch”.
If the young kitten remains calm, pet its head in a gentle manner from behind. Do not show your hand approaching from the front. This can be scary for the young feline. If it relaxes under your petting, secure the cat by its nape and spread the towel on a flat surface or your lap. Set the cat on the towel. Give the kitten slow and gentle strokes. At the same time, talk to it in a soft and reassuring manner. You can also brush the kitten’s coat using a soft pet brush. This will give the young feline the sensation of being groomed by its mother.
Make each session brief. Always be mindful of the kitten’s behavior. If you notice any form of resistance, then it’s time to wrap up the handling session. Whatever you do, do not stare into the kitten’s eyes for so long. Always observe a more submissive behavior when interacting with this type of cats.
Always finish the session on a pleasant note. Give the young kitten a special treat. You can also start playing with the young feline using kitty tease toys. Make sure to remove these whenever you leave the kitten. If you have to leave the kitten for a long time, it often helps to turn on the radio and tune in to a radio station with “talking” commentators. This will help acclimatize the kitten to human voices.
- Provide the Kitten with Treats
Food is always a great motivator for almost any other living organism. It is not surprising if your feral kitten will warm up to you a lot faster when you offer it more delicious and healthy “treats”. One of the most effective treats you can use in making a feral kitten more approachable is a meat-flavored baby food. While it is difficult to explain, the prevailing notion is that kittens adore this kind of human food.
Start by offering a small amount of baby food. If the kitten is still afraid to come near you, apply a dab of the baby food on its nose or mouth during one of your brief “handling” sessions. Over time, it will realize that the taste of this “mysterious” food is something that they like. You can then start offering the baby food on a small spoon. Place this a few inches from the kitten’s face. This should help entice the young kitty to go near the spoon.
Increase the distance between the baby food and the kitten. Do this in a gradual manner. What you would like to see is for the kitty to approach you. Sooner or later, they will realize that coming closer to you is not frightening at all. They will associate their coming to you as a pleasant experience because of the food you give to them.
- Place the Kitten in a Large Containment Area
Some feral kittens can make the adjustment in as little as one week; others may need more time. If your kitty is already consistent in being calm while you pet or stroke it, then it is a sign that it is adjusting well. The same is true if the young kitty is no longer hesitant to approach whenever you show it the spoon of baby food. These are all excellent indicators that the kitty is ready for the next stage of the socialization process.
Place the kitten in a larger containment area. This means it can now have the whole room to itself. It is still best to leave a pet crate in the room, however. This will give them a hideout in case they feel afraid again.
Kitten proofing your home is essential at this stage. There must be no spaces or holes that can serve as passageways for the kitten to escape. Identify nooks and crannies in your home. Scared kittens can use this to hide and can get trapped inside. Seal these off. Spaces behind heavy furniture, bookcases, and bathroom sinks can also be excellent hiding places for frightened kittens. Make sure to block access to these spaces.
Check your backyard if you have plants that may be toxic to cats. Keep all fragile objects out of the young cat’s reach. Store all small objects, too. Kittens are curious. They can ingest these objects and get lodged in their guts.
- Introduce the Kitten to Other Persons
Take your cue from the kitten. If it is no longer showing defensive feral kitten behavior like hissing or biting, then you can start introducing other “faces” into its life.
Encourage the members of your family to handle the kitten with care. Show them how the feline likes to be petted or stroked. Always supervise the interaction between children and the young kitten. It is important for everyone to remain cautious when handling the young feline. This will help avoid startling it and getting it scared again.
Once your kitten is confident around members of your family, it is time to introduce other people. Invite friends over to your house. Share with them how to handle the kitten. It is very important for the kitten not to become attached to any one particular person. This can make it rehoming very difficult.
- Finding a Suitable Adoptive Family
It is critical to rehome these kittens as soon as they are successful in their socialization. One has to realize that cats have the natural tendency to bond with one particular person. If the feral cat you tamed has grown fond of you, it will already be difficult to find a suitable home for it. Before this bond gets cemented in a more permanent manner, it is crucial to place the now-tame feral kitten in an adoptive home.
Choosing the right adoptive family for the feral kitten is crucial. They should have the same understanding of the kind of care needed by such a cat. Choose a family that doesn’t have small and young children. They may not know yet the reason why they have to be quiet whenever around the kitten. It is also critical to choose a family with a calm and peaceful home environment. This will make the adjustment of the kitty to its new home a lot easier.
Taming a feral kitten is possible. It requires patience, commitment, and dedication on the part of the pet parent. Ensuring a safe and calm environment is critical to the success of the taming activity. This is how to tame a feral cat in an effective manner.