Sunday, December 5, 2010

Why Adopters Shy from Feral Kittens

Feral Kitten six weeks old: Image by SGolis

Adopters like the idea of raising a feral kitten and giving them a chance at a normal life however they do not fully understand what a feral cat or kitten is and what is required to bond with the kitten.  

Charlie the feral kitten that I socialized was adopted out three times.  Each time I met with the adopters to discuss Charlie, I asked interview questions to determine if they were cat people and to weed out any concerns such as "No pets allowed at apartment".

The adopters met with Charlie, they viewed him lying in his hammock in his cat crate. Charlie was shy and afraid of the adopters and hid his head under his blanket.  Everyone said he was adorable and all wanted to bond with him and give him a loving home.  There was a nominal fee of $50.00 for Charlie as this was a guarantee to me that the adopters were sincere and would be Charlie’s forever home. 
I explained to each adopter that Charlie would need to undergo a short socialization that may last a week or up to a month.  I highly suggested that the adopter allow the feral kitten time to adjust to them and his new surroundings.  

I added that he was a sweet kitten but afraid of new things and he would hiss at them.  So if he hides in the back of a closet or under the sofa to let him be.  Set up his pine kitty litter and he will find it, put out his food and water bowl and he will find that too.  I suggest that they talk softly to him and treat him like a baby. I also told the adopters that loud talking, music, TV, dishwasher, or vacuum were all things that scared Charlie. 

Everyone said, yes that they understood and they were happy to give a feral kitten a chance at a normal life.  Two of the adopters returned him within forty eight hours, and one of the adopters put him outdoors.

 Every single adopter forgot their conversation with me.  They refused to let him be, they wanted to hold him and hug him and tickle his belly and Charlie hissed at them because he was terrified of them.  

The adopters insisted that he needed to be held and Charlie showed one of the adopters his claws and she went after him with a broom and he ran and hid in his crate.  She then latched the crate and put him outside on her porch and called me to come and get him.  She told me he was viscous, and yelled at me for adopting him out as socialized.  She had adopted Charlie for 6 hours.  All refunds were paid and Charlie is back where he started.  He is with me and he is going to stay with me.  

Feral kittens are terrified of humans, they may be socialized but they need time to adjust to any new situation.  When they hiss they are saying I am afraid, so be gentle okay.  When they show their claws they are saying, I am really afraid of you, please don’t do that anymore. 

Feral kittens are not lap kittens, mainly because they don't know what it is.  People want kittens that are tame, they do not want to take baby steps or take the necessary time to bond with a feral kitten.  They want the kitten to trust them and love them immediately.  These are the reasons why adopters shy away from feral kittens.  Many adopters do not have time to invest in the bonding process.

Feral kittens and cats are not the right pet for everyone, but for the few people that understand feral kittens and cats and are able to open up their heart to these cats they will be rewarded with a bond of trust.  The feral cat will show their person their abdomen and in the wild they protect this area of their body, they never show it outwardly When the feral cat rolls to their side and allows you to view and touch their abdomen the cat is saying “I love and trust you   It is the greatest gift a feral cat can give to their person.  This is a bond of trust that will never be broken.   

Charlie stayed with me and I continued to socialize him.  He grew up into a loving and normal house cat.  He gets along with the other cats and with our family dog.  Charlie follows me all around the house, comes when he is called and was clicker trained to sit and stay.  Charlie may have been born in a cave and he may have lived outside for his first six weeks of life, he was attacked by a wild animal and now walks with a limp but that was then and this is now and I am so glad that I was able to keep Charlie and provide him with his forever home.  

Photographs of Charlie as an adult cat (Age 1 to 2 years)

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