Feral kitten socialization advice

NyokoJen

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Hi I am working with a feral kitten to socialize him. My guess is he is around the 12 week mark. He has come a long way but still runs away as I walk around the room making it hard to get him further used to touch now that he is out in the room instead of in his socialization crate. I don’t want to chase him and make him feel hunted by humans, but I do feel he would benefit from more touching and holding. He will play with me and he will come up to me (creeps up) for food only when hungry and with a patience not to make him nervous. so I have been trying to hold him in my lap for meal times more and am hand feeding him. He spends a lot of time watching and moving to a different spot in the room if we get close. I have been trying to touch him more during play since he will also get closer for that so I can get a pet here and there in without him getting too startled, start trying to hide away and/or run around to avoid being touched. He still squirms away from it a lot though. (Though today I got a couple good pets in and he just laid down and let me once I got a couple strokes down his back in which is big for him!!) When held, he will relax some times and try to jump away other times. He is not a biter or scratcher, but I was wondering if you had advice for helping him not be so fearful of people walking around, moving, or getting close to him. I want to do the best by him that I can. Thanks!
 

vyger

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I currently have a big batch of kittens and the little ones behave the same way. They are squirmy, life for them is busy and they don't want to be held to long because they need to explore as much as possible in between naps. I can sit down in the grass and the older ones will climb on my lap and push under my hand to get attention. The younger ones will get close to see what is going on but as soon as I reach out to them they dart off. They aren't afraid of me since I can pick them up with little problem, they just don't want me interrupting their play period. At three months old they are still fascinated with life and learning what the potentials are for their little bodies. If you had another sibling the two would be rolling, jumping and biting each other in play.
 
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NyokoJen

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I currently have a big batch of kittens and the little ones behave the same way. They are squirmy, life for them is busy and they don't want to be held to long because they need to explore as much as possible in between naps. I can sit down in the grass and the older ones will climb on my lap and push under my hand to get attention. The younger ones will get close to see what is going on but as soon as I reach out to them they dart off. They aren't afraid of me since I can pick them up with little problem, they just don't want me interrupting their play period. At three months old they are still fascinated with life and learning what the potentials are for their little bodies. If you had another sibling the two would be rolling, jumping and biting each other in play.

Thank you for explaining that. It makes me feel a lot better that I am not doing this part wrong and that this is more a phase that with continued routine and petting he will eventually calm down and may seek the attention. I wanted to find out if I was missing something since all the videos I have watched on the subject have always skipped this phase or behavior. It just jumps to cuddly kitten after explaining the holding/blanket piece, hand feeding, and having others come in to allow him to be socialized to more people than just the one, etc. We have owned both cats and dogs over the years and all of our cats were rescues. My mom always worked on socializing any cat that needed it that we brought home growing up. So Orion our new kitten is my first personal feral cat rescue and it has been a while since we had a younger kitten. So I am rusty and realizing the holes in what I remember on how this all goes since I was young myself the last time we had a young kitten.
 

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I have brought a number of feral kittens into my house over the years and it sounds to me as if you are doing a good job of socializing this baby. He is still young and as a feral is just getting used to the fact that people can be his friends. This just takes time and patience. This little guy is really coming around quite quickly.
 
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NyokoJen

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So I am running into an issue where he associates being pet only with food. If I pet or touch him with no food in site he runs, squirms and has started batting and threatening to bite. The other thing is, he is getting pushy around food. If he feels I am taking to long putting his food together to give him, he starts batting at my feet (this is both good and bad to me because it is a sign he is more comfortable with me and my feet which I feel like he focused on as bad and ran from them when he saw me move, but I don’t want to reward him hitting me for food). I don’t want that to become a habit of his despite the fact that he does not do it with claws out. So I know it is not malicious but him rushing me. I have had a cat who started doing that when they were older in the past and though it does not hurt or anything, I just would prefer he does not start to do that just in case he later decides to do it with claws. Do you have any advice on what I can do to help stop this behavior? He is doing well otherwise, I have started to have my brothers come to play and handle him more so he does not only become comfortable with me since coronavirus makes it hard to try and invite other people over frequently to handle him. He is starting to trust them. I need to get him a harness so he can start exploring more of the house freely, especially now that in my room he has gotten more comfortable with me, being out, having me walk around, and the environment in general. He is also a climber, so being able to teach him what is and is not okay for him to climb on like the kitchen counter and dining room table.

Thank you all for being so helpful. I really appreciate it! You guys are awesome!

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fionasmom

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I still think that you are doing a great job and this is all part of feral kitten adjustment. He looks confident and happy in the pictures and is adorable.

The fact that he is hitting you without the claws shows that he is doing it to encourage you to hurry up with the food...but that does not have to be okay. The last feral litter I socialized were all paw hitters, even outside before they were really socialized. If they wanted something they came over quickly and hit my ankles and the two I adopted will still reach out to "grab" if they don't want something to stop, like brushing. I always walk away immediately when there is a behavior I want to extinguish. Let him wait a couple minutes for his food and see if he connects that certain things stop when he does certain gestures.

I am not as well informed with counters and tables as we have a number of them in the house that the cats are allowed to sit on; I am sure that others have ideas and if this is a problem you can repost that specific question in the behavior forum.
 

CatladyJan

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Hi I am working with a feral kitten to socialize him. My guess is he is around the 12 week mark. He has come a long way but still runs away as I walk around the room making it hard to get him further used to touch now that he is out in the room instead of in his socialization crate. I don’t want to chase him and make him feel hunted by humans, but I do feel he would benefit from more touching and holding. He will play with me and he will come up to me (creeps up) for food only when hungry and with a patience not to make him nervous. so I have been trying to hold him in my lap for meal times more and am hand feeding him. He spends a lot of time watching and moving to a different spot in the room if we get close. I have been trying to touch him more during play since he will also get closer for that so I can get a pet here and there in without him getting too startled, start trying to hide away and/or run around to avoid being touched. He still squirms away from it a lot though. (Though today I got a couple good pets in and he just laid down and let me once I got a couple strokes down his back in which is big for him!!) When held, he will relax some times and try to jump away other times. He is not a biter or scratcher, but I was wondering if you had advice for helping him not be so fearful of people walking around, moving, or getting close to him. I want to do the best by him that I can. Thanks!
Sounds like you are making great progress. One of my current ones was doing this. Here are some suggestions based on my experience.

1. Ignore him to some extent, let him come to you
2. Try just lying down, sitting reading... act nonchalant and not to eager to pet him.
3. Blinking...cats show trust and communicate with blinking. Just slow blinks and smiles then turn away.
4. Play with a toy like you are a cat and let him observe.
5. Make biscuits (knead) on something soft.
6. You know how a cat will reach out it's arm and open and close it's paw, do the same at a distance (this won over one of my current former feral.

As someone else said he has a lot of energy and some cats just do not ever like to be held feral or not. Bottom line is...let him come to you.
 
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NyokoJen

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Does he have a cat tree that he can climb?

I have to get him one. Right now he stays mainly in my room which I don’t have things that I am worried about him climbing on, but a cat tree is on my list of things to get since I know that would help to give him something that is his to climb.
 
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NyokoJen

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Sounds like you are making great progress. One of my current ones was doing this. Here are some suggestions based on my experience.

1. Ignore him to some extent, let him come to you
2. Try just lying down, sitting reading... act nonchalant and not to eager to pet him.
3. Blinking...cats show trust and communicate with blinking. Just slow blinks and smiles then turn away.
4. Play with a toy like you are a cat and let him observe.
5. Make biscuits (knead) on something soft.
6. You know how a cat will reach out it's arm and open and close it's paw, do the same at a distance (this won over one of my current former feral.

As someone else said he has a lot of energy and some cats just do not ever like to be held feral or not. Bottom line is...let him come to you.

Thanks for the advice! He is making a lot of progress with this which is exciting! We had another breakthrough today where I got him to come to me with wet food (his favorite treat) and sit for a minute or two while I pet him (With food bribes lol). He then came back a second time on his own and sat with me, not touching me but did lay down and relaxed right next to my leg looking at me. He actually almost dozed off for a minute! I tried to move as minimally as possible because I wanted him to stay lol. He did for a couple minutes then jumped down from the bed and went back to doing his own thing and playing. I was so excited and proud of him haha. He has been showing signs he wanted to engage the past couple of days, but was still too nervous to come directly to me (when food was not presented). He would sit or sleep on the chair next to my bed where I was sitting and working or on the floor near the bed. Sometimes he would look like he wanted to jump up and see what I was doing but would not dare to come close. Today with some initial encouragement he finally gave it a try. He still gets a bit nervous with being approached, though less so lately, by me anyway. My brothers still have not earned that level of trust yet, but are getting there slowly.
 
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