Advice for new feral cat/kittens caretaker?

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Purred: Tue Mar 25, '08 3:44pm PST 
Yesterday I trapped my first feral. I did it because she had a litter of 5 kittens on Friday and I wanted to make sure they were safe. I live in an apartment complex where people are constantly moving in and out. All too often, when people move out, they leave their cats behind. So…I was pretty sure that this cat had been a pet at some point, and this made me optimistic about her potential to be adopted through a rescue group, even though she was very hissy and growly. I would be too if someone got near my tiny babies!

So momma cat (Jill) is now in a big dog crate at my house. She has privacy, food, water, and a nest in which to raise her babies. I’ve never socialized (or even attempted to socialize) a feral cat; this is literally my first feral experience. How do I go about getting her used to people again? I’ve been sitting outside the crate, and occasionally opening the door. I put an oven mitt on and slowly reached in (as far as six inches from her; she was in the back of the crate), but didn’t touch her. I didn’t want to get too close and cause her to panic. But eventually I’d like to be able to touch the babies and her, and begin to socialize her more with people. How should I do this? Does anyone have any advice? Is it just long hours with her, showing her that humans are OK? Should I talk to her? When should she be spayed? When can she get a rabies shot? Should I try and get her to the vet for a checkup or will that make her panic and reverse the good work I’ve done so far?

Any kitten/feral advice is very much appreciated. I’ve raised kittens from birth in a foster situation before, but the mom (Alice, the one publishing this post) was far from feral, though she was a stray. Thanks everyone!


ankle biter
Purred: Wed Mar 26, '08 6:38pm PST 
Feral kitties are really hard to understand. I don't know if you have other cats in your home, but yes the new mommy and her baby's should go to see your Vet. Like... very soon!

One thing to keep in mind when trying to win your feral trust, is to not stare into her eyes or smiling(showing your teeth) at her. These are both signs of aggression to her. Soft voice, easy slow movements and hand feed some treat like piece's of chicken, fish or turkey will win her trust. If you are afraid of her biting you, she will be quick to pick on it. Try to get over that.

If the crate is big enough, get in with her and just sit and talk very soft to her and try again to hand feed a treat to her. Start picking up the baby's as soon as you can. Each on just for a minute or two. Good Luck and have fun....smile


Momma of 5
Purred: Wed Mar 26, '08 10:01pm PST 
Thanks Snickers! I've been trying not to look in her eyes. I spend part of my lunch hour sitting with her. I talk calmly and avoid looking into her eyes. She still hates me, but it's been less than 48 hours, so I can't blame her. It is really hard seeing this beautiful animal who looks just like my other cats but behaves so much differently. I hope she can come around...I'm in love with her already. I'm terrified of her biting me, and I haven't tried to touch her yet. When we get too close or move too much, she growls and hisses. I'd like to avoid that as much as possible. I think that eventually I'll try to feed her things from my hands. Probably not for another week or so though. I've been sitting with her and reading out loud so she gets to know voices. She usually settles in and closes her eyes and looks asleep. Sometimes she turns her back to me, which is probably a good sign...like she feels that she doesn't have to keep an eye on me.

The babies are all eating and getting fat. They look like tiny fat cows. I made a catster page for little Jill. I'm using her as the author here so you can check it out.

I got in touch with the rescue group that lent me the humane trap. They told me that she should just settle for a few weeks. In a few weeks, once the little ones start to wean, we can either get her spayed and released or spayed/vetted for adoption, depending on her temperament. I hope she's able to be adopted but I am ready to accept it if she's not.


Top Cat
Purred: Thu Mar 27, '08 7:33am PST 
Its a little harder because she has babies... but soft food really wins cats over. Give it to her on a spoon (a long spoon if you are afraid of getting bit)- so that she starts to associate you and your hand with good things... eventually she should start coming to you for the food... you can slowly work it so you can pet her on the head when she eats, and move the spoon back so she follows it and gets on your lap. This is going to take time. Don't rush it... for a long time you are going to be doing things on her terms. Certainly talk to her. Also leave the radio or tv on when you are gone so she gets used to human noises.

Give her hard food as her main course- it will clean her teeth. But let the soft food be a treat that she has to earn by taking it off the spoon.

Once she is past the hissy stage and is sorta comfy with you playing with a feather toy on a string helps build kitty confidence.


loves to cuddle
Purred: Thu Apr 10, '08 9:51am PST 
I'm sorry for the short response, but I wanted to post this while I have a chance. Alley Cat Allies has a lot of feral cat information on their website, including an article on Socializing Feral Kittens. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post a link to their website or not, but if it's removed by the moderators, please do a web search for Alley Cat Alleys. Their site is www.alleycat.org

Member Since
Other posts by this user
Purred: Tue Apr 29, '08 7:24am PST 
Those "litte fat bellies" probably indicte worms. The kittens will need to be de-wormed (Stongid) w/n a couple weeks... This is my first post on catster -- I do not like picking a "pet author", it strikes me as silly


Following in my- Dad's pawprints
Purred: Tue Apr 29, '08 4:08pm PST 
Congrats Alice and thanks for helping Jill! You did awesome by being able to catch her! It took Mom 6 months to catch me, and Apache was 12 weeks when Mom caught her.

Mom has had lots of dealings with feral kittys - you can see out family. You are very smart to be afraid of being bitten. Cat bites are much worse than a dog bite. My Dad bit Mom the night she picked him up from his neuter. Her fault - but she ended up at the ER. Her finger swelled super bad, she had to get a shot and antibiotics. Morgan was sick 2 weeks ago and bit her on the same finger - oops! Luckily the swelling went down quicker and no meds needed.

I agree sit with her and talk softly. If you have a back scratcher, try petting her with it and see her reaction. Always go very slow and speak softly.

I totally agree on handling the kittens - and when they get bigger they need a vet visit. I would not attempt a vet visit right away - let Mom trust you a little more.

Try hand feeding her treats like chicken or ham through the bars of the crate. She may not take it the first few times - so just drop it by her nose.

I wish you the best of luck & look forward to updates


My eyes- Hypnotise you!
Purred: Wed Apr 30, '08 1:19am PST 
I would start handling the babies if they're up and moving around the cage. The longer you wait, the more feral they'll become. Mom caught a litter that was about 4 weeks old (by hand) and they were feral at that time. They came out of it about a week later, but it was hard earning their trust and one female calico was particularly violent and would attack anyone that tried grabbing her.
When mom reached for her she was scared lol it was a great story, she grabbed the baby, baby attacked her hand, and the momma cat attacked her leg.

I don't ever recommened that but she had a great time happy dance

Anyway, start socializing babies now and continue talking to momma like you are. Get some tuna or something and toss some chunks to her while you're talking. She'll love it!