Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Adopting Feral Kitten - First Day in New Home

Caring for a feral kitten is entirely different from caring for a domesticated kitten. Feral kittens are terrified of humans and thus you must take baby step in socializing the feral kitten on a day-to-day basis. Prior to adopting your feral kitten read books on feral cats and contact feral cat organizations, inquire about the characteristics of feral kittens. Prepare yourself for the special needs and responsibility of caring for a feral kitten.

If you have adopted a weaned 7 to 8 week old feral kitten then the first day will be difficult however the days will get easier as time goes by.  Remember that the kitten is afraid as you have taken them from their comfort zone and you must teach them how to be an indoor cat and live with humans and other pets.

Feral Kitten Postcard postcard

Get Family and Home Ready for New Kitten

Before you bring a feral kitten into your home you will need to have a family meeting.
Gather the family for a meeting to discuss household feral kitten rules.  Feral kittens are accustomed to outdoor sounds and household noise will frighten  them. Your home must be  quiet with no loud noises, or bickering, that means no loud volume on the TV.  Feral kittens need homes that are peaceful. During the adjustment period family members and pets cannot enter the safe room where the feral kitten is being kept. Only the person who intends on socializing the kitten must interact with the kitten for 60 days.  By doing this the feral kitten will dependent upon you as if you are the mother cat. 
Midwest Homes for Pets - Cat Playpen

Buy a cat crate that is large enough to hold cat bed with cover so kitten can hide, covered litter box, food and water bowls and small scratching post and a hammock.   You will also add one of your dirty sweatshirts, one that has your scent on it.  

Picking up Feral Kitten

Set up the crate before you go to pick up the feral kitten. A small crate or cat carrier is also needed to transport feral kitten to your home.  Line the cat cattier with newspapers.  If it is cold outside line with a warm fleece or thermal receiving blanket.  Feral kittens must be kept warm.
Waiting for Adopter:  Image by Sgolis

Take a small crate or carrier and a soft fleece blanket with you when you go to pick up the feral kitten. Do not handle the kitten with your bare hands.  If you must put the kitten in the carrier then wear heavy leather work gloves when handling kitten. Gently grab the kitten by their scruff and lift the kitten gently. Wrap the kitten in a warm fleece blanket and hold the kitten firmly so he cannot escape.    Set the kitten in the warm fleece blanket in the crate.  Loosen the blanket so the kitten can move around. Close the door and latch it securely. Cover the crate with a blanket. Place the crate behind the driver’s seat in the vehicle, turn off the radio and drive slowly home.

Traveling back to your home you may want to talk softly to the kitten. Be consoling to their needs. If you sing, sing softly with a soothing voice.  When you arrive home gently lift the kitten in the crate from the car and bring the kitten into the house.  Set  the kitten in the crate in a safe-room such as a home office, or another small room where the cat will be able to watch you but will not be exposed to excess noise and movement. 

Get the safe room ready for the kitten by sitting on the floor and look for things that may harm the kitten.  The room that I use to socialize the feral cats is in my garage.  The room as a concrete floor, concrete walls, a window a desk, chair and a CD player that is anchored to the wall. There is an overhead ceiling light with a dimmer and two electrical outlets with protective coverings and a lazy boy chair..

Transferring Feral Kitten to Large Crate 

I crate train all feral kittens.  The crate is their safe room.  Out of the six kittens that I have socialized all of them as an adult cat sleep in their crates and play with their toys in their crates. 

 Wear protective gloves when transferring kitten.
  1. Open the door to the large crate.
  2. Cut a piece of cardboard that is the same size as the opening of the cat carrier that houses the feral kitten.  
  3. Slowly open the cat carrier door and slide the cardboard in front of the opening, this will prevent the kitten from escaping.
  4. Move the carrier so that it is flush with the opening of the large crate.
  5. Slowly remove the cardboard that blocks the cats entrance and the feral kitten will run into the large crate.
  6. Cover the large crate with a flannel sheet to protect kitten from drafts and to provide comfort.  Leave a corner of the crate exposed so the kitten can see you.
  7. Leave the crate door shut for the first 24 hours. By leaving the door shut the kitten will hide in the covered bed and the crate will become their safe room.

If the kitten should react with aggressive behavior; hiss, snarl, spit, chirp, note that the kitten is defensive because you are causing them great anxiety.  The kitten is terrified of you  the kitten is telling you "I am scared of you please stay away". 

First Day Feral Kitten Socialization

Spend time with your feral kitten by visiting the kitten several times throughout the day. Spend a minimum of 4 hours with the kitten. It is better that the kitten is able to watch you. Place the crate next to your desk so the kitten can take in your scent and see you working.  

 Sit next to the kitten and tell it a story, make eye contact with the kitten and gently exhale close to the kittens face.  Plan activities so that you can spend time with the kitten in the room.  Read a book or take a nap in the chair. All time spent with the kitten is good.The kitten is becoming adjusted to your scent and is identifying with you.

Feed the kitten whatever they are accustomed to. You do not want to change the diet as it will upset his stomach and cause the kitten to be ill.  Gradually change the kitten's diet over the course of 10 days. 

Feed the kitten in the morning and night.  I feed at 7 am and 7pm. I do not hold back the food.  Provide the kitten with fresh water daily.  

Kittens are very messy inside their crate, expect them to knock over their food and their water bowl.  Also if the litter box is not covered, the litter will be all over the place.

  1. Play soothing music at a soft volume.  Music is a good way to relax the kitten.  I play sounds of nature, a babbling brook, birds chirping and such. Forest Sounds: with Soft Rains and Gentle Winds Sounds of Nature
  2. When you are leaving the room for the day, open the crate door half way.  Expect to hear the kitten hiss, or chirp, they many also spit. This is a natural reaction, the kitten is terrified.  
  3. Expect the kitten to run from the crate and attempt to climb your walls or drapes. This is natural and all feral cats and kittens behave like this.
  4.  The kitten will learn that the crate is their safe place.  You do not want the kitten to fear the crate.  If they are confined they may climb the sides of the crate and they may get hurt. 
  5. Wear heavy gloves to protect your hands when adding or removing things from the cat crate.
  6. Kittens can not be in a draft and the room needs to be warm.  They are use to living outdoors so I usually close off the air conditioning  vent so the kitten is comfortable.
  7. If you do not have a crate, set up a small room for the feral kitten.  This room will be the feral kittens safe room forever. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Winter Shelter for Feral Cats – Thicket Dens

The feral cats that reside in the forest close to my home take shelter in the limestone crevices along the ridge wall and in thicket dens.  The branch thickets provide shelter from wind, snow and ice. 

 All of the branch cat dens have entrances to the main chamber of the thicket and an exit at the back.  These entrances provide the feral cats with safety. 

Last summer I crawled into the opening of the largest branch thicket that is located on my neighbors property.  The feral cat that I call Lucy has her den in this thicket, she shares the den with three other feral cats.  I did not attempt to enter the thicket while cats were present as they would think of me as a predator and show aggression.  

To enter the den I had to lie on my stomach and scoot into the first chamber. I found that the opening was like a foyer; a covered entrance with many openings that led to the feral cats living areas.   I used my flashlight to look at one the passages and could see a large pile of leaves.  The bed of leaves would keep the feral cats warm in winter and the opening was blocked from the thickets main entrance, thus there would be no cold wind.   

I was still curious and I attempted to put my head in the passage opening to get a better look at the leaf bedding area, I wanted to know if the cats laid on top of the leaves or if they dug a den into the earth.  

No sooner then I put my head into the small opening I discovered that I was not alone.  My presence in the thicket entrance was not appreciated as a feral cat from an upper passage snarled at me and it was enough for me to back out of the thicket.  My findings were conclusive and I was  was confident that the feral cats winter thicket den would provide them with a wind block and warmth from the leaves.

If the weather is severe; zero degrees, ice or snow, I will go to the thicket den and provide the cats with a plastic tarp.  My husband and I will tie it down to prevent a build up of ice or snow on top of the thicket.  This plastic tarp will prevent the snow when it melts from flooding the interior of the den and it will provide the thicket with additional insulation by blocking the wind.

I will also provide the forest cats with a thick layer of straw at the entrance of the thicket den.  This straw will allow the cats to lie outside without feeling the cold of the snow or ice.

When snow is too deep we will clear a path so the cats can come out of the thicket and go to the feeding station.  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Trapping Orphaned Stray and Feral Kittens

The only time that one should trap  kittens before they are weaned is in an emergency; mother is injured, or she rejects or abandons her kittens.  Then it is imperative that these orphaned kittens are rescued by trapping as it will save their life.

Trapping Kittens

A wounded queen feral cat brought her kittens to my shelter.  The queen cat needed to be trapped for medical care.  So I also needed to trap her kittens that had not been weaned.

 The 3 kittens that I took from their mother were six weeks old and they were all traumatized from the separation from their mother.  They meowed loudly for their mother and refused to eat. The mother cat was also under stress at the animal clinic. She was pacing in the crate, charging the crate, and hissing.  The feral queen cat was under great stress from the separation of her kittens.  

The animal hospital called to say that they could not treat her as the mother cat was trying to escape the crate. The stress was affecting her health as the veterinarians could not treat the queen cat.  We decided to reunite the mother cat with her kittens.

I set up a medium sized live animal trap by lining it with folded newspaper and then setting some canned fish kitten food in the back of the trap.  I then covered the trap with a cotton twin blanket and sat in the back of the shed.  It took less than an hour to trap all three kittens as they all entered the trap at once.  They were not stressed inside the trap as they were too busy playing with the paper.  I covered the trap with the blanket and kittens laid down to sleep.

I brought the kittens to the clinic and they were reunited with mother cat. The mother cat was at ease, she cleaned all of her kittens and all were at peace.  The kittens were weaned while at the animal clinic and mother cat received the treatment that she needed.

When to Trap Feral or Stray Kittens

Sometimes a feral cat will abandon her kittens and you must trap to save the kittens life.
Every spring my husband and I watch for queen cats that may be pregnant.  We document them by taking a photograph and we make note of their daily activities.

We will hike into the woods to make note of thicket den or hallow tree where the queen will give birth to the kittens.  When a queen cat is noted we immediately set up a feeding station.  By doing this we are bonding with the cat.

If there is a problem and the kittens need to be trapped then we will rescue the orphaned kittens.   Otherwise we will wait until they are weaned at approximately 7 to 12 weeks old before trapping them for spay, neuter, worming and shots and socialization.

Video on raising orphaned kittens

Taming Feral Cats - Adult and Kittens

Taming an adult and feral kittens can be achieved provided the trainer has time, patience and a thorough understanding of feral cat behavior.  The trainer should have both skill and experience in handling feral cats as they are not like domesticated cats. 


I take time to gradually tame the feral cat.  I respect the cat and allow them to bond with me when they are ready.   Normally it is 30 to 60 days for a weaned kitten, and 1 to 2 years for a adult feral cat to be fully tamed.  I am someone who has the time to allow the feral cat to trust me . Of course this method is not for everyone, but for those who have time to wait it is well worth the effort.  

I tame  feral cats by confining them to a small room, with a window, an open crate with soft cuddle bed.  The crate is covered with a blanket and is the feral cats safe room.  There is food and water and a litter box.  I do not allow the cats free feeding, instead they eat twice a day.  I take the bowl away when they are finished. I train them to acknowledge me and to need me for their food.

Feral cats are terrified of humans and will spit, hiss and show their claws.  They do this in defense.  I take no offense to the cat when they show there outward aggressive nature.  I go about my business of reading a book or looking at a magazine.  I let the cat be for a week to get accustomed to being indoors, and being in the company of a human. The cats will hide, come out to eat and hiss then go back to hide.  Within 7 to 10 days the feral cat is curious and will come out of hiding cautiously.  The cats think of me as a predator, but in time they learn that I am not going to hurt him.

When you decide to adopt a feral kitten contact your veterinarian and let them know your plans.  Find out if they accept feral or untamed cats. Some veterinarians do not care for feral cats, if this is the case you would then contact your local cat network to inquire about a veterinarian in your area that will exam, treat and spay or neuter a feral cat.

I believe in using cat crates only to provide the cats with a safe place.  The door of the crate is always opened and the cat is free to come and go.  However the training room’s door is always closed during the taming of feral cat.  I set the crate up with a soft bed.  The bed is warm and provides the cat with a place to hide.  There is food and water in the crate; and the litter box is in the crate for a few days.  When it is time to clean the box I will remove it from the crate, clean and leave it 3 feet from the crate.  I move the box to draw the cat out of the crate. The feral cat will need to walk close to me  and exposure to human is good.

The feral cat safe room is off limits to other family members and pets.  The cat trainer is the only person to enter the room until the bonding process is completed.

Dress appropriately when you enter the feral cat’s room.  I wear long sleeve shirt, loose fitted pants, shoes and socks.  I have never worn gloves…but I recommend them to others.

Keep a safe distance from the cat.  Many people do not make eye contact with the cat.  I do not make eye contact of the first couple of days but by the end of the week I will make eye contact with the cat and I do speak to the cat with a soft voice. I move very slowly in the cat room as I do not want to startle the cat or frighten.  The feral cat will hide and that is fine. The cat can smell me and they can hear me.

Don’t expect the feral cat to reach certain goals.  If the cat wants to hide  for longer than a week, let the cat be.  Just sit in the room every day for a few hours, do your work or read a book.  Socializing a feral cat takes time, patience and love.

Respect the feral cat.  Do not approach the cat; do not attempt to pet the cat.  Allow the cat time to bond with you.  

When taming a feral cat I will use products to put the cat at ease; I will spray the cats training room and their bed with Feliway ORMD-D Behavior Modifier.  This modifier emits a synthetic cop of your cat’s natural facial pheromone.  Feliway comfort zone is effective in preventing the cat from marking their territory and it helps to prevent the cat from feeling anxious.   

It is okay for the feral cat to hide, the cat is terrified of you so let the cat be.  Allow the cat to rest.  I always spend time with the cat on their first day.  I will sit in the room and read a book.  I do not interact with the feral cats by approaching the cat.  I just sit on a chair with the back against a wall and read a book.

Here are some photographs of feral cats that I have trapped, tamed and adopted into forever homes.

Feral Manx Cat, trapped at 6 months old, tamed and adopted

Bottle Fed feral kittens, Notti and Boris at the shelter
Taming Notti...

Kittens at the Shelter, Gray tabby lives with me.  Black kitten was attacked by a dog.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

How to Set up Outdoor Shelter for Cats

If you have an outdoor cat, care for them by providing them with an insulated  shelter.    Buy or make cat shelters that will provide  outdoor cats with a front door and an exit door.  These doors will allow the cat to escape the shelter unharmed if a predator should enter one of the doors. 

 Set up the shelters in an area that is protected from street and human traffic.  Choose a secluded area in your yard that is off the beaten path.  My outdoor cat shelter is located with house to the back, wall to the one side and evergreen bamboo on the other side.  The branches of the bamboo shrub conceal the cat shelter. It is protected from wind and predators.  It is wise to set the shelter up off the ground to prevent the interior from getting wet, and it will protect the cat shelter from becoming buried under ice and snow. 

Line the interior of the shelter with a foot of straw.  The straw will provide the cats with the warmth that they need.  Refrain from using blankets or rugs as they hold the moisture and will feel cold to the cat.  Okay to use thermal fleece blanket as extra insulation provided you mix with straw.
Bedding inside shelter
Feral cat resting inside insulated shelter

 Last year I filled the cat shelter with a foot of straw and then used my hands to make a bed in the center of the straw.  I pushed the straw up on the sides of the heavy plastic dome tube shelter.  By doing this the feral cat could lie in the center and have the thermal straw around him.  I also added a thermal cat bed that was self heating in the center of the straw.  By doing this I provided the feral cats with a shelter that was windproof, waterproof and warm. 

  1. Set the cats feeding station away from the shelter. Do this to keep predator away from the shelter.
  2.  Domesticated cats should be brought in at night to protect them from predators.
  3.  A one door cat shelter is fine for a daytime shelter.  However all cats that live outdoors continually need a shelter that provides them with a front door and an exit door.  These doors are meant to protect the cat.  Example:  If the cat is sleeping in the outdoor shelter a dog, fox, raccoon or coyote may enter the front of the shelter trapping the cat that is inside.  
  4. Check the shelter bedding daily, as cat may mark the straw. Remove the marked straw and replace with fresh.  
  5. An insulated cat shelter is an investment that will provide the feral cats with year round shelter from extreme heat and cold.
  6. Purchase bales of straw at Lowe's or Home Depot garden center or at farm store.  One bale of straw will keep 4 cats warm for 3 months in winter