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.