Taming feral kittens is never an easy task since they have never been in contact with humans. It is especially difficult to tame the ones that are adult. These animals are prone to their wild lifestyle and are extremely scared and frightened when encountered by a human. However, it is possible to tame them if you are willing to make the commitment.
Feral Kitten Behavior
The defensive behavior that you see while trying to tame feral kittens is mainly due to the fact that they are scared of you. You will have to act submissive while dealing with them and avoid staring at them directly. They don’t really make eye contact when in front of people to avoid any kind of interaction.
If you ever cross paths with one, they will immediately seek shelter in a place where it will be completely out of your reach. And if you end up catching one, it is highly possible for them to stay frightened for a whole week and they may shiver if you try to approach them with bare hands. Hence it is necessary to be aware of the steps that you should follow if you want to tame feral kittens.
How Long Does It Take To Tame Feral Kittens?
Feral kittens are easier to tame than adults since they have enough time to be properly groomed and trained. On the other hand, the adults are far more aggressive since they have spent most of their lives living in the wild and adopting human life all of a sudden can be a bit too overwhelming for them and they might show destructive behavior only because they are concerned about their own safety.
For kittens, it may take about 2-6 weeks to tame them and a couple of more weeks to train and groom them once they have become familiar with the environment and the people around them. The whole process of taming mostly depends on the age and the time that they have spent in the wild living on their own. However, individual kittens vary from one another in case of nature and you can never be certain of the time it will take to tame them.
While some may take only a couple of days, for others, it may take months considering how aggressive they are. Either way, it is necessary for you to have enough tolerance and time to tame and groom them.
How To Tame A Feral Cat?
As mentioned before, it is not an easy task to tame feral cats. Your commitment and patience towards them is what it will take to determine their fate. However, in order to tame them, you will need to go by the following steps accordingly:
- Containment (I) in a large pet carrier or a cage
- Periodic and brief handling with a protective towel
- Separating kittens from one another (when necessary)
- Offering “cat treats“
- Containment (II) in a small room
- Exposure to other humans
- Placement in suitable adoptive homes
1. Containment (I) In A Large Pet Carrier Or Cage
The fact that they are terrified of you shouldn’t prevent you from being persistent on taming them. Most of them will tend to spit, scratch or bite you. (If you have been bitten, seek the help of a professional because the cat has lived in the wild for so long and you may not be aware of the diseases it carries). If you have already dealt with one, you are probably aware of how they tend to hiss when you try to approach them for the first couple of days. They will also try to escape at each and every chance they get even after you have provided the bedding and food.
Find out more about Cat Carriers.
Yes! They are that frightened of you. However, there is nothing to worry about, since with time, they will become more docile towards you and the rest of your family members. So, before you decide to welcome one into the family, head to the vet at first to get it thoroughly checked for contagious diseases. It is necessary that you keep them apart from other animals that you may have in your house to make them feel safe under your protection.
Handle the kitten with gloves to prevent the spread of any kind of infection throughout the house and transfer them into a large pet carrier or cage. You can either buy the ones with bedding or litterbox attached to it or just place them yourself inside it before transferring the cat.
Check out our guide on the Best Cat Litter Box.
Refrain from any kind of touching or petting for the first 2 or 3 days in order to make them feel safe in their own little domain. However, you can approach the cage slowly and talk to them, read or sing to them if you wish. In case you don’t have enough space in your carrier for a litter box, place the carrier in a washroom and keep the door of the carrier open. Put the litter box in the washroom on one corner and leave the washroom and shut the door. You can also use your old clothes as the bedding in order to make them familiar with your smell.
Take a look at our article on the Best Cat Litter.
2. Periodic And Brief Handling With A Protective Towel
After a couple of days have passed, it is finally the time for some physical interaction between you and the kitten. If you have brought quite a few of them, start with the calmest one. In order to do this, take a clean towel, place it on its body and pick it up gently. Pat it slowly on the back to assure it that you mean no harm. However, make sure that you do not pat on the front since it can scare it off and the kitten may behave belligerently if you do so.
You can also place it on your lap and pat it on the back with slow and light strokes. Make sure to keep the contact short and repeat this method with the rest of the kittens. Treating them at this point may create a good opportunity for you to please them and you can start by feeding them Hills “a/d” canned food or baby food with the help of a tiny spoon. This can be a good introduction for the two of you and it is suggested that you repeat this process quite a few times to let them get used to you.
You may also like our guide on the Best Wet Cat Food.
You can also use a soft brush to rub on their backs to show some affection. This will make the bond even stronger because it will allow you to show some parental affection towards them.
It is necessary that you work on getting rid of the fleas (if they have any) at this point because they can spread to the other pets living under your roof. Kittens can become pale and feeble from the flea invasion and hence it is important that you start acting on the situation as soon as possible. Flea combs can be quite helpful in this case.
However, one thing that the experts warn people about owning feral kittens is that you should never stare at them for too long. Even if you find them very amusing, refrain yourself from doing this. Kittens get offended easily when you do so and start showing destructive behavior immediately. Hence, lower your head at times when they are around you, especially during this period to show that they have nothing to be frightened of.
Playing with them can also be a good step towards a healthy relationship. Make a trip to the toy store and buy a ‘kitty tease’ toy to play with them. These kind of toys are usually a stick tied to a string and then to a colorful piece of cloth. However, make sure you do not end up leaving small cat toys around as they can swallow it and you may need to rush to the vet for a medical emergency.
While you are not around, you can try leaving them at home with the radio on to get used to the voice of humans. This will make it easier for you to communicate with them.
3. Separating Kittens From One Another (When Necessary)
It is necessary that you keep your feral kittens separate (if you have quite a few of them) for a couple of weeks until they finally start interacting with you or the rest of the humans in the house. It is natural for you to feel bad while doing this because no one in their right mind would want to separate these beautiful creatures from each other. But it is essential to give them a chance to bond with their owners.
Also, you should know that you can always reunite them once they have accustomed themselves with the rest of the people in the house. You should especially do this with the ones which are above 8 weeks old since they need more time to get in terms with humans. You can also bring your friends over or ask your roommates to take turns and play with them so that you are not left with all of them alone for the rest of the day.
4. Offering “Treats”
Treats can be a great way for you to get closer to your kittens. They usually love human baby food which is made up of meat. Take a small amount of baby food on a tiny spoon and place it in front of their mouth. It is pretty obvious that they may show little or no interest in your first attempt. However, you can hold the spoon in front of their nose in order to let them take a good sniff at it and in less than 10 seconds, they will have taken a quick bite from the food. If they like the taste, be rest assured that they will come back for more.
You can try holding the spoon further away the next time you try to feed them, to let them come close to you. After every try, increase the distance a bit further to allow them to come towards you. They will begin to come in contact with you more often after a couple of tries and will not hesitate to come closer to you.
5. Containment (II) In A Small Room
Chances are, by this time, the kittens have become used to their surroundings. However, you cannot get too excited since the nature of the kittens differs from one another. Hence, all of them will a different rate of progress. After a week or so, you can let them out of their carriers.
Start with the smallest possible room in your house. Just leave the door of the cage open so that they can come out on their own. Do not force them to come out if they are unwilling to do so. If they end up hiding in places throughout the room, you need to make sure that they do not hide in places which are out of your reach. If they hurt themselves by any means, you won’t be able to reach out to them if they are hiding in a tiny space, for example, the back of the refrigerator.
A big room however, can be quite overwhelming for your furry friend. Their small weight may not be able to take the immense pressure of stepping out into such a big room, especially if they have been living in the wild for a very long time. So prevent them from stressing out and allow them to roam around in a smaller room.
It is possible that one out of the seven kittens, may not be able to step out of the cage. There might be a good chance that you haven’t been that successful in taming that particular kitten. In such cases, separate the kitten and keep it in a small secluded room where the rest of the pets in your house won’t be able to enter. You will have a great deal of time to tame and groom it on your own terms.
Nevertheless, before setting them free into the room, make sure that the room is kitten-proof just the way you would baby-proof it while welcoming a new baby into the family.
6. Exposure To Other Humans
Once the kittens have been completely tamed and do not respond to you with a scratch or a bite, it is time for the rest of the family to meet your little friend. Since they are feral, they will take a bit of time before getting used to all this socialization. But you can be assured that this will be very beneficial for the future, for example, when you will have to travel with them from time to time.
7. Placement In Suitable Adoptive Homes
Before placing the kittens for adoption (only if you plan on doing so), you need to be able to shortlist the most suitable families for them. You should choose families that do not have any small children since they can be noisy and this can frighten the kittens and make it harder for you to train them. Make sure to give away the ones which have been completely tamed to prevent them from being the victim of all the biting and scratching.
Feral kittens bond more in peaceful environments and you should always encourage families to adopt two at once. They feel safer when in pairs and you will a lot more room for entertainment if the number goes up by one. You should remember that it is best to put them up for adoption after 8 weeks approximately. This will allow the family to have more time to spend with their furry friends.
Neutering them is also an important part of adoption. You can give them offers like ‘refundable deposits’ if they neuter the kittens. If not, you can neuter them yourself and ask them to pay you back while adopting. Organizations like the Humane Society and Animal Control follow such agreements.
Cats are wonderful creatures to have as pets in your house. And somehow, if you ever have the opportunity of taming the feral ones, you should consider yourself very lucky for rescuing them since they would have spent the rest of their lives predating and protecting their own from the wild otherwise. Not to mention, they would have had a much shorter life span to begin with.
So do not hesitate for once if you come across a litter of lost feral kittens in the middle of nowhere with no one to look after them. Take them home with you and if you are unable to pet them all, leave them up for adoption once you have tamed them. You can also use the help of professional organizations who offer help to tame and groom them within a few weeks before handing it to you.