How To Tame A Feral Kitten

RustHeart

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This is my option, it isn't the only way to do this. I am not perfect and my way may not work for everyone.

There are various ways to tame a feral kitten and not everyone will agree with how I tame kittens. I have tamed hundreds of feral kittens over the years and I am one hundred percent sure that my way of taming kittens will produce a happy house cat.

I have met many people that say to let the kitten come around on its own and to just sit with them. I am going to be straightforward with this. It doesn’t work. I have seen too many cats that were ‘tamed’ with this method that are either still totally feral, very insecure or only will interact with one person. They aren't adoptable. The slow method simply does not make happy cats. Sure some people may have success with this method but I have had to reverse the damage it has done to too many cats to ever recommend it. If you ever used this method and had success, good for you! All I want is a happy, healthy little kitten. I am not bashing it, I simply would not recommend it.

My method can be a bit scary for people and some people may feel bad because they think that they are causing too much stress on the kitten. You must understand that this fear is temporary and the kitten will learn to trust you as well as every other human they come in contact with. My method forces the issue onto the kitten and puts them in a situation they are not comfortable with in order to teach them that the situation is good for them.

There are two types of feral kittens.

The Angry Feral

These kittens are aggressive, bitey and will lash out at you. They puff up and scream. They can be scary to work with. You may think this would be hard to tame, but the angry ferals tend to be the easier of the two to tame as long as you are brave enough to hold them. They are just scared and once they learn you aren’t going to hurt them they became friendly fairly quickly. They often have a moment of clarity where they suddenly understand and their progress increases.

The Scared Feral

These kittens freeze up when you touch them. They cower in the back and are usually fairly easy to pick up. Despite this the scared feral is usually harder to tame as their fear is more deep rooted and they are more insecure. Scared ferals should take priority as they take longer to tame and progress is slower. Scared ferals become very cuddly but also somewhat skittish and need to be held by several different people because they tend to become attached to the person that tamed them and do not trust anyone else. In my experience tortie kittens are often scared ferals.

Step One. Separate the Kittens

If you have a litter of feral kittens do not keep them together. The kittens will feed off of each other and become more fearful. They will not feel like they need any kind of comfort from you or need you to play because they have their littermates. Separating them will make them have all their attention on you. You can keep them in the same room and allow them to smell each other or even see each other but do not keep them in the same cage. If you have a fairly quiet household I recommend putting the cages in an area that you usually are in so that the kittens can watch you and hear you when you are not actively working with them. This will get them used to indoor life.


Step Two. Holding the Kittens

Each kitten should be kept in a small cage, do not under any circumstances allow the kitten to run freely outside of the cage! Chasing a kitten to hold them or put them back in their cage will make them go back in progress massively. They must have minimal negative interactions with you. Picking up the kitten should be quick as this is a very stressful action for a feral kitten. I recommend getting a rabies vaccine before handling any feral kittens. If you are bitten and go to the hospital the kitten may need to be put down to be tested for rabies. It is much safer for you and the kitten if you have proof that you have been vaccinated.

Always wear a glove, I use a heavy duty snow glove. Using a small blanket or towel cover the kitten’s face. Secure their head by wrapping the blanket around them so that they are unable to bite you or see you. I prefer to wear only one glove and keep my second, dominate hand uncovered. This is because it is extremely difficult to keep a firm grip on the kitten’s scruff with a glove.

Do not walk with the kitten, sit outside of their cage and place them on your lap. Do not uncover their face until they are calm. Even if the kitten appears to relax do not let go of their scruff unless you have a firm hold on them with the blanket

Gently pet the back of the kitten’s head, do not touch the front of the kitten or their neck as it is easy for them to bite you. Speak softly to the kitten and get them used to human touch and the sound of your voice. Once the cat is calmer and you have held them a few times you can temporarily remove your glove to touch the back of their head so they can get used to a softer touch. Always put the glove back on before moving the kitten.

Picking up the kitten and putting the kitten back is stressful so you should not pick up the kitten if you do not have more than an hour to sit with the kitten. It is okay to not have 100 percent of your attention on the kitten the whole time. You can sit and watch a video or listen to an audio book. If the video is calm you can play it out loud so the kitten can get used to the sound of human voices without you actually speaking to them yourself.


Kittens will often seem to be more comfortable with you and the next day will be hissing and spitting at you when you pick them up again. Do not be discouraged by this. It takes time and you are making progress even if sometimes it is hard to tell.


Extra Tips.

When feeding the kittens stay nearby so they can start to associate you with food. Wait a minute after giving food to see if they will eat it with you near them every day. If they are fearful of eating with you around sit farther back and do not look at them.

If you have a litter of kittens focus on one kitten. Once that kitten is tame play with the kitten in sight of the feral kittens. Cuddle the kitten around their feral siblings. Place the tame kitten in the cage with the feral kittens so when you open the cage the tame kitten will walk up to you. A tame sibling will help their brothers and sisters feel more comfortable and will make taming them much easier. Feral kittens are much more likely to forget about you and play with a toy if their tame sibling is playing with you.


Signs that a kitten is getting more comfortable.

Purring. Be careful, sometimes kittens will purr out of fear. If they are purring in your hands but being aggressive or fearful in their cage they may not be purring from happiness.

Slow blinking. This is when a cat looks at you and blinks slowly. This means that the cat trusts you. If a kitten does this do it back to them. Whenever you see the kitten you should slow blink at them even if they do not do it themselves.

Repositioning. Kittens often stay in the position you put them in when you hold them. If the kitten starts to move but doesn’t attempt to get away from you they are trying to get more comfortable and are starting to understand you are not going to hurt them.


Step Three. More Freedom.

Feral kittens are often too fearful to play with toys or other kittens. When they start to show other signs of being comfortable show them a toy. Allow the kitten to get used to it and sniff it. Then slowly move the toy. The movement may frighten the kitten so stop moving it often so they can sniff it again. Keep doing this in small sessions while they are still in their cage. Leave the toy in their cage so they can choose to play with it on their own. When a kitten plays with a toy with you this is a huge step and you can expect a lot of progress very quickly.

When the kitten does not require being scruffed or need a blanket and comes up to you when you open their cage you can give them more freedom. Pick a small room in your house will little to no hiding places. The bathroom is usually a good place for this as you will have to visit the room several times and bathrooms are typically very small. Provide toys and visit the kitten often. They may be fearful the first few days. If they start being aggressive or freeze up when you touch them return them to their cage, they aren’t ready yet. When the kitten is happy and playful and acting like a regular kitten you can allow them to go into the rest of the house.

If you have any questions on how to tame a feral kitten or something here was unclear please do not hesitate to message me.
 

mmeyers9

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i agree, i did this with a feral kitten i found when i lived in Saudi Arabia...

and they are wild!!!!

many generations of cats on the streets with zero domesticated bloodline.

the quicker the better , for a happy cat...

great advice, thank you!
 

mmeyers9

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I forgot to tell you, the kitten I found was only days old, with the umbilical cord still on his tummy. and I bottle-fed him, and when he hit about 3 weeks old, he would have tack and growl and act like a monster when feeding off the bottle. I had to wear pants when preparing his food, because the first time I prepared his food in shorts oh, he climbed my leg like a tree outside. Claws in the skin all the way up
at 3 weeks old when I knew it was a boy, and he was growling at food and climbing my leg, I named him cujo because the movie cujo had just come out with the rabid saint Bernard
that's how feral these cats in Saudi Arabia are, it's not a learned habit, it is in their blood, lol
 
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RustHeart

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I have had a lot of bottle babies that are totally crazy about the bottle and climb all over you like that! They are usually orange lol. Tiny babies can be fierce but I think mine were simply hungry and had some food aggression. I don't know if kittens with feral parents are more likely to act like that but it makes sense.
 

mmeyers9

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yes, it's in there dna, an instinct.

I'm talking a fierce mean growl and attack...
lol...
like a wild pony, they gotta be broken...

especially when there hasn't been tamed blood in their line, for several generations...
oh boy, they are tough
 

JoyM

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I’m in complete agreement about keeping them in a small kennel and handle them as much as possible.
I caught a 6 week old that was a vicious ball of teeth and claws but I bundled him in a soft baby blanket and spoon fed him on my lap for the first few meals and pet him for a few hours. After 24hr, he was a happy purring fluff-ball (video is less than 24hr after catching him).
I caught 2 of his siblings the next day but because they fed off of each other’s fear, they took 2-3 days to tame.
It’s all about them realizing that you equal food and affection.
 

LittleShadow

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Feral kittens, handled intensely from a very young age, can tame down to be adorable and loving pets. Molly's final litter ended up super tame from handling. Now, normally a feral mama won't let you anywhere near her kittens, but Molly is...well, an outlier. We handled her three kittens at least daily, often multiple times a day, from before their eyes opened.

At first, we just carefully picked them up and ran a gentle finger or two down their backs for a minute or two, then put them back down. We slowly started to gently touch the rest of their bodies too, head, legs, tail, tummy (avoiding umbilical cord area), etc. We started very gently and slowly rolling them onto their backs. As they got older, we'd gently touch each claw, peek down their ears, open their mouths a little.

By the time they were weaned, they'd go limp and trusting when we picked them up, they'd let us clip their claws, had no problem with being rolled on their backs and having their tummies rubbed. They'd let us check their ears for wax and mites, check their bottoms for worms or mess, open their mouths at a touch to their lips and even touch their teeth and tongues without fighting it. Because we'd done this from such a young age, it was just...normal. They'll be easy to care for their whole lives, because they don't fight basic upkeep tasks like claw trimming, or even ear checks or tooth cleaning.

The earlier you can get them, the easier it is to tame them, but even if you don't get to them until they're weaned, it's possible. After all, just weaned kittens are HUNGRY, and still bad at catching food. You provide food, they'll tolerate a lot to not be hungry, and most will rapidly latch on to a source of food, especially once you get them to realize you don't see them as food.

Oh, and I've found with ferals especially, if they get super food aggressive, hissing and growling at them for it can help. They probably don't understand your words, but if you hiss/growl when their claws or teeth touch you, even if it doesn't hurt, it can teach them that you don't like that in their own language. Go ahead and overreact, to teach them that all claws and teeth are no-nos, even if they only lightly scratch or bite. Also, if the first hiss/growl doesn't work, folding your arms and refusing to interact with them for 30 seconds can help get the message across. No guarantees though! Cats are weird that way.
 

sidneykitty

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I fully agree with this, I think its great advice for people! I worked with ferals in the past and did most of the things you wrote with great success.

I will add one extra thing I find incredibly helpful. Burrito-wrap the kitten in a towel or blanket (you have to do it pretty snug for a feral) and hand feed them at least once a day. By hand feed I mean offering wet food on a popsicle stick, spoon or other utensil, obviously not off your fingers/hands. When cats eat, their body releases endorphins, which relaxes them and makes them feel good. They will remember next time its feeding time and will help build trust. Try to pat their head gently while they lap if you can. It can help speed things up a bit.
 
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RustHeart

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Burrito wrapping is definatly the best way, keeps them from scratching you and seems like a comfortable position for them.
I have tried to hand feed before but they usually won't take it from me so I settle for being near them and speaking to them while they eat.
 

FarmersWife24

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This is my option, it isn't the only way to do this. I am not perfect and my way may not work for everyone.

There are various ways to tame a feral kitten and not everyone will agree with how I tame kittens. I have tamed hundreds of feral kittens over the years and I am one hundred percent sure that my way of taming kittens will produce a happy house cat.

I have met many people that say to let the kitten come around on its own and to just sit with them. I am going to be straightforward with this. It doesn’t work. I have seen too many cats that were ‘tamed’ with this method that are either still totally feral, very insecure or only will interact with one person. They aren't adoptable. The slow method simply does not make happy cats. Sure some people may have success with this method but I have had to reverse the damage it has done to too many cats to ever recommend it. If you ever used this method and had success, good for you! All I want is a happy, healthy little kitten. I am not bashing it, I simply would not recommend it.

My method can be a bit scary for people and some people may feel bad because they think that they are causing too much stress on the kitten. You must understand that this fear is temporary and the kitten will learn to trust you as well as every other human they come in contact with. My method forces the issue onto the kitten and puts them in a situation they are not comfortable with in order to teach them that the situation is good for them.

There are two types of feral kittens.

The Angry Feral

These kittens are aggressive, bitey and will lash out at you. They puff up and scream. They can be scary to work with. You may think this would be hard to tame, but the angry ferals tend to be the easier of the two to tame as long as you are brave enough to hold them. They are just scared and once they learn you aren’t going to hurt them they became friendly fairly quickly. They often have a moment of clarity where they suddenly understand and their progress increases.

The Scared Feral

These kittens freeze up when you touch them. They cower in the back and are usually fairly easy to pick up. Despite this the scared feral is usually harder to tame as their fear is more deep rooted and they are more insecure. Scared ferals should take priority as they take longer to tame and progress is slower. Scared ferals become very cuddly but also somewhat skittish and need to be held by several different people because they tend to become attached to the person that tamed them and do not trust anyone else. In my experience tortie kittens are often scared ferals.

Step One. Separate the Kittens

If you have a litter of feral kittens do not keep them together. The kittens will feed off of each other and become more fearful. They will not feel like they need any kind of comfort from you or need you to play because they have their littermates. Separating them will make them have all their attention on you. You can keep them in the same room and allow them to smell each other or even see each other but do not keep them in the same cage. If you have a fairly quiet household I recommend putting the cages in an area that you usually are in so that the kittens can watch you and hear you when you are not actively working with them. This will get them used to indoor life.


Step Two. Holding the Kittens

Each kitten should be kept in a small cage, do not under any circumstances allow the kitten to run freely outside of the cage! Chasing a kitten to hold them or put them back in their cage will make them go back in progress massively. They must have minimal negative interactions with you. Picking up the kitten should be quick as this is a very stressful action for a feral kitten. I recommend getting a rabies vaccine before handling any feral kittens. If you are bitten and go to the hospital the kitten may need to be put down to be tested for rabies. It is much safer for you and the kitten if you have proof that you have been vaccinated.

Always wear a glove, I use a heavy duty snow glove. Using a small blanket or towel cover the kitten’s face. Secure their head by wrapping the blanket around them so that they are unable to bite you or see you. I prefer to wear only one glove and keep my second, dominate hand uncovered. This is because it is extremely difficult to keep a firm grip on the kitten’s scruff with a glove.

Do not walk with the kitten, sit outside of their cage and place them on your lap. Do not uncover their face until they are calm. Even if the kitten appears to relax do not let go of their scruff unless you have a firm hold on them with the blanket

Gently pet the back of the kitten’s head, do not touch the front of the kitten or their neck as it is easy for them to bite you. Speak softly to the kitten and get them used to human touch and the sound of your voice. Once the cat is calmer and you have held them a few times you can temporarily remove your glove to touch the back of their head so they can get used to a softer touch. Always put the glove back on before moving the kitten.

Picking up the kitten and putting the kitten back is stressful so you should not pick up the kitten if you do not have more than an hour to sit with the kitten. It is okay to not have 100 percent of your attention on the kitten the whole time. You can sit and watch a video or listen to an audio book. If the video is calm you can play it out loud so the kitten can get used to the sound of human voices without you actually speaking to them yourself.


Kittens will often seem to be more comfortable with you and the next day will be hissing and spitting at you when you pick them up again. Do not be discouraged by this. It takes time and you are making progress even if sometimes it is hard to tell.


Extra Tips.

When feeding the kittens stay nearby so they can start to associate you with food. Wait a minute after giving food to see if they will eat it with you near them every day. If they are fearful of eating with you around sit farther back and do not look at them.

If you have a litter of kittens focus on one kitten. Once that kitten is tame play with the kitten in sight of the feral kittens. Cuddle the kitten around their feral siblings. Place the tame kitten in the cage with the feral kittens so when you open the cage the tame kitten will walk up to you. A tame sibling will help their brothers and sisters feel more comfortable and will make taming them much easier. Feral kittens are much more likely to forget about you and play with a toy if their tame sibling is playing with you.


Signs that a kitten is getting more comfortable.

Purring. Be careful, sometimes kittens will purr out of fear. If they are purring in your hands but being aggressive or fearful in their cage they may not be purring from happiness.

Slow blinking. This is when a cat looks at you and blinks slowly. This means that the cat trusts you. If a kitten does this do it back to them. Whenever you see the kitten you should slow blink at them even if they do not do it themselves.

Repositioning. Kittens often stay in the position you put them in when you hold them. If the kitten starts to move but doesn’t attempt to get away from you they are trying to get more comfortable and are starting to understand you are not going to hurt them.


Step Three. More Freedom.

Feral kittens are often too fearful to play with toys or other kittens. When they start to show other signs of being comfortable show them a toy. Allow the kitten to get used to it and sniff it. Then slowly move the toy. The movement may frighten the kitten so stop moving it often so they can sniff it again. Keep doing this in small sessions while they are still in their cage. Leave the toy in their cage so they can choose to play with it on their own. When a kitten plays with a toy with you this is a huge step and you can expect a lot of progress very quickly.

When the kitten does not require being scruffed or need a blanket and comes up to you when you open their cage you can give them more freedom. Pick a small room in your house will little to no hiding places. The bathroom is usually a good place for this as you will have to visit the room several times and bathrooms are typically very small. Provide toys and visit the kitten often. They may be fearful the first few days. If they start being aggressive or freeze up when you touch them return them to their cage, they aren’t ready yet. When the kitten is happy and playful and acting like a regular kitten you can allow them to go into the rest of the house.

If you have any questions on how to tame a feral kitten or something here was unclear please do not hesitate to message me.
I think you have great advice! Yes, you have to be pretty aggressive in initiating those interactions with kittens, and food is irresistible when used correctly. I didn’t have other socialized cats or kittens, but I had a Yorkie and would show my ferals that I was “nice” to him and that he enjoyed being with me. It took two weeks to socialize feral kittens between 10 and 12 weeks of age, versus 4 months to socialize a 2 year-old feral.
 
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