HEALTH & CARE LIFESTYLE

How to Socialize a Feral Kitten: All Your Efforts Will Be Worth It

feral kitten in hands
Steve Corelli
Written by Steve Corelli

Socializing a feral kitten could be one of the most rewarding things a human being can do. However, this is not an easy task. It is a slow process, and it will require patience and knowledge about how to socialize a feral kitten from your side.

A feral kitten is a cat that was born in the wilderness. Usually, feral mothers take their newborns far away from human sight. It is just after the second week of life, when kittens start playing around that they will have their first contact with us, humans. As you can imagine, rescuing a feral kitten is a challenge since they see us as strange, dangerous creatures. But without doubt, it can be done.

We will tell you how to rescue and socialize your feral fellow—which steps to take, what instruments you need, and how to avoid risky situations. Step by step, you’ll get to learn the best ways to tame and socialize a feral kitten with responsible practices.

Different Kinds of Feral Cats

feral kitten under car

First of all, there are different kinds of feral cats. It is important for you to understand which is which because some may be harder to rescue than others. The process of socializing can diverge in time depending on the cat’s previous experience with humans and according to their particular personality.

Let’s go through a list of different types of feral cats you might encounter. Once you know which type of feral cat you are dealing with, you’ll be able to react appropriately to them and rescue/socialize them more effectively.

There are two major types to look out for. The first would be tamed cats that have lost their home and are now stray cats. Although they might appear at first sight as feral, they are not fully feral.

These cats are the easiest to rescue unless they have had a complicated relationship in the past with humans. This type is divided into two:

  • Lost Cats. They had a loving house, but due to certain circumstances, they got lost. This type will be the easiest to tame. Remember to try to find their original owner before you decide to keep them for life.

  • Escaped Cats. Some cats escape their house because the environment they lived in wasn’t friendly. If a cat was heavily traumatized, it is likely that they will refuse to be hugged or petted. However, this behavior could improve with love and patience over the years.

Aside from the first type we mentioned above—stray cats—the second type is completely feral cats that have had no contact with humans. In this article, we are going to focus on this type.

How to Choose Which Feral Kitten to Work With

Perhaps you’ve encountered a feral kitten that you’ve fallen absolutely in love with. Or perhaps, you’re still on the lookout for the perfect feral kitten to tame. Either way, there are a couple of things you should take into consideration before you decide whether the feral kitten is suitable for taming or not:

#1: Age

feral kittens

Feral kittens that are between 4 to 10 weeks old are especially suitable to socialize. Several organizations recommend not to take a cat from the wildness if they are all grown up already. Even if your intentions are the best, you can harm the cat.

If the cat is older than 12 weeks, the process of socializing will be complicated, and if they are adults, it’s almost impossible. No matter how skilled you’re, you’re likely to fail.

It is also vital that you remember that kittens need their mother at least for the first four weeks of life. Taking a too-young kitten from their mother is very risky.

For kittens that are 12 weeks or younger, the taming process will still require all your love and patience. It’s great that you’ve taken the challenge to give a kitten a better future. Living on the streets is anything but desirable, even for cats born out there.

#2: Personality

Cats have personalities, just like humans and dogs and other animals. Some of them are curious, others are more fearful. Your capacity to pay attention to how the cat behaves will give you the insight you need in order to get in contact with them properly.

Remember that if the cat has dilated pupils, their back is curved, and they hold their ears back, these are signs of anger. Keep your distance until the cat feels more comfortable.

#3: Health

very little feral kitten

Take special care if you see a cat that seems disoriented, aggressive, or even having convulsions. It is better if you call for professional help, as they might be infected with rabies. As we all know, rabies is highly dangerous, not just for the cat, but for you as well.

See Also: How Do You Know If a Cat Has Rabies

How to Trap a Feral Kitten

feral kitten in someone's hands

Now that you know which kitten you’d like to rescue, the next step is to trap them so you can bring them to a safe place.

Trapping a feral kitten requires agility and intelligence. If they are kittens, you can try to catch them with a thick blanket or with a towel. Usually, kittens stay together and don’t run around too much.

But let’s say that you found a grown-up cat. Or really agile kittens. If you try to get closer to them, they would definitely run away from you. In case the situation turns impossible and you really want to rescue them, you can get a humane cat trap.

These are also called Drop Trap. They will close automatically after the cat goes in. You should leave some kind of treat to attract them.

It is important that you evaluate the place where feral cats live. From there you can decide where is the perfect spot to place the trap. It should be someplace hidden—in the bushes, for example.

Remember that we do not recommend the using of a net or graspers. These are dangerous and might harm the cat. Besides that, it could be really complicated to take them out.

How to Socialize a Feral Kitten

feral kitten at home

Of course, every cat has their own timing. The process might take weeks or even months, depending on the cat’s personality and past experiences. Bear in mind that a feral kitten will be aggressive, as they scared. You are a predator to them.

To help them relax a bit in your presence, this is the non-threatening attitude you should adopt at all times:

  • Move slowly and avoid potentially threatening movements.

  • Do not try to pet them until they seem ready. Especially directly on their faces.

  • Speak tenderly.

If you have children or other pets at home, remember that loud noises and too many movements will scare the feral cat. Avoid contact between the cat and your children in the first phases of the process.

What you will need for the socialization process:

  • Protection gloves. Feral kittens will likely try to attack, bite, or scratch you. Clearly, they aren’t vaccinated, and you’re at risk of getting an infection or disease if they catch you. Wear gloves at all times until the kitten is fully accustomed to you.

  • A towel. You’ll wrap them with it. The explanation will follow.

  • A comfortable, quiet place.

  • A litter box.

  • An appointment with the vet.

#1: The First Two Days

You’ve rescued the kittens. Congrats! Now find a place in your house that is quiet and preferably small. Even the bathroom could be a good option if you don’t have enough space at home.

The first two days, try not to approach them. Of course, do not try to pet them. They need this time alone to get accustomed to the environment.

Place the litter box in the same room where the kittens are. Provide fresh water and food.

#2: Initial Contact

feral kitten in blanket

After two days lift, the kitten and wrap them with the towel we talked about. Be careful not to cover their faces. If you rescued many feral cats, pick the one that seems least aggressive.

Place them on your lap and talk to them softly and tenderly. In time, when you notice that they have started to get used to you, you can start petting them.

A TV or radio will be your ally. Turn them on, so the kittens will get accustomed to the indoor noises and human voices. If you have an older cat, that will help. The kittens will follow and learn from your cat. Bear in mind, however, that the first two days the feral kittens should remain by themselves, so they feel safe.

Provide them with toys, so they get distracted. That will relieve their initial stress and will allow them to create bonds with you and other cats.

See Also: How to Play with Your Cat

#3: Petting for the First Time

petting a feral kitten

When enough time has passed, place the kittens kindly on your lap and pet them. Pet the kittens from the back of the head. Never put your hand in front of their faces. They will see this as a threat.

Go to the bathroom or to the space where the kittens are and sit down. Don’t try to drag them or touch them. They’ll come to you and smell you. Remember that cats, especially kittens, are really curious and will want to know who you are!

When they seem comfortable enough, you can give them some more space and allow them to explore the house. Make sure your house is cat-friendly.

#4: Socialization with Guests

As you see that the kittens are getting used to you and to your house, ask your closest friends—those that visit you often—to hold them and pet them (as always, behind the ears). In this way, the kittens will learn not to be afraid of strangers.

#5: Socialization with Other Pets in the House

Older cats will be an example to follow for the newly socialized kitten. Of course, cats would likely be more open to other cats than dogs. However, many dog owners claim that their dogs as caring and protective toward kittens. Just make sure you never leave the two of them alone before you’re 100% sure that they won’t hurt each other.

#6: If All Else Fails

little black and white kitten

Let’s say that you’ve followed all the steps that we have given you here, but you’re still struggling with the process. What can you do? First, don’t get desperate. Remember: This is about patience and intelligence.

  • There are sprays that will help you. Go to your nearest animal store and buy one. Which one? A spray with pheromones will help with making the kittens feel more comfortable. But don’t just spray the kittens or do it in front of them, as the noise will scare them.

  • You can also try changing the litter box. A feral cat is more used to natural earth. So fill the litter box with organic dirt. That will make them more feel “at home.”

  • Instead of using normal illumination, get a small lamp and place it where the kittens are. The darkness will allow the little fellows to feel more secure in new surroundings.

  • Leave some old clothes (e.g., socks or sweatshirts) in the room so the feral kittens can get used to your smell.

#7: When to Look for Professional Help

Never forget to bring the kittens to the vet to get vaccinated as soon as possible, and sterilized.

If the feral kitten you rescued managed to scratch or bite you before getting vaccinated, you should go to the doctor.

If after weeks and months of trying it doesn’t seem that the kitten is making any important improvement, seek help. There are organizations that will give you a hand. Remember to tell them what you’ve done to try to help the feral kitten.

Wrap Up

orange feral kitten with a table

Rescuing a feral kitten is a rewarding process. You’ll make a friend for life! And even if you give them up for adoption, they will be lucky to be in a loving and caring household. You’ve just saved a life!

Have you ever rescued a feral kitten? A group of them? Let us know in the comments! You may also be interested in reading our next article, when can kittens leave their mother, so you won’t make the mistake of separating kittens from their mother too soon.

About the author
Steve Corelli
Steve Corelli

Steve Corelli is a Pet Nutrition Expert from Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many nutritional strategies for different breeds and a member of some Pet Food development teams. His Maine Coon Stephan, as you might guess, is always well-fed.

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