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Separating kittens from mom...please give advice

Discussion in 'Caring for Strays and Ferals' started by jillybean, Jul 1, 2001.

  1. jillybean

    jillybean Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    Jul 1, 2001
    Hi everyone. This is my first post on this forum. I'm hoping someone will have some advice for me. I also posted this on the behavior forum.

    We have been feeding a stray cat for about a year. The cat showed up one day and took up housekeeping on our porch. She has always been nervous around humans, but she has warmed up a little and likes being petted if it's her choice...but she is still pretty wild.

    Well, this cat had three kittens in our garage about ten weeks ago. We should have been picking them up consistantly, but mom is so protective it has been hard to get near them. As a result, they, too, are very leary of humans, with the exception of one. Mom and kittens are a very close little family.

    We have homes for all the kittens. But it is breaking my heart to separate them from each other and their mom. I thought the time would come when mom would naturally push them away, but that hasn't happened.

    So I have two questions:
    Should I continue to stall with the kittens or separate them now. They are ten weeks. (The owners are getting anxious)
    And, will these kittens ever be good house cats considering that they are pretty wild now?


  2. debra myers

    debra myers TCS Member Top Cat

    Apr 3, 2001
    Upstate NY
    First of all "welcome" - I think that they are old enough to get seperated from their mother. She sounds very devoted to them given the fact she is still so protective of the three. The important thing that needs to be done is getting mother fixed so you are not faced with this situation again. Good luck in catching and spaying! From what I have learned, the earlier you can domesticate feral or wild kitties the better for them in adjusting to their new routine.
    I hope that all three will have wonderful lives with their new families![​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] Let us know?

  3. catspride

    catspride TCS Member Adult Cat

    Jun 16, 2001
    Mabuim (northern Negev)
    The time to separate the kittens is as early as possible. By 8 weeks they have already had a number of lessons from mum -- chief amongst them being that humans are the enemy even if they feed you. The other lessons are how to climb a tree or fence, how to balance on very thin edges (good for running away), the rudiments of how to hunt (even if the only stuff available is cockroaches and spiders), how not to approach dogs, etc. Unfortunately, I have never seen a mother cat teach her youngsters how to cross a street safely.

    In my experience, it takes anywhere from 5 months to a year to get a truly ferel cat to permit touching, after mama has taught her aversion-to-humans-and-other-dangerous-beasts-lessons. If you have homes for ferel kittens, the best thing for everyone is to try to intice the kittens to you by placing food for the mother and her kittens further and further away from their actual nest. Don't go near the nest, as most mother cats will immediately move their kittens to another venue.

    You start with food in several saucers right near the nest, then move it further and further until it is quite far away. This gives you the opportunity to observe if the kittens are being cared for by their mother, or if she is playing favorites and neglecting one or more of them. I had one ferel mother who was white. She took excellent care of her two white kittens, but totally ignored the one that was grey with white underparts. She didn't shove it away, but she didn't clean it very often, didn't seem to care if it nursed or not, and when she started to train her youngsters to hunt, often just went off with the other two at a moment when the gray and white kitten was asleep. She was, in effect, color biased -- something I thought confined to the human animal.

    Accordingly, I set out extra food for the gray, and entertained it with dingly balls and the like when the mother was off with the other two. The gray became quite domesticated for a ferel, but went off on her own at 6 months, only coming back occasionally to scavange food. I could pat her briefly if she wanted the contact, but otherwise she was untouchable. One of the white kittens I simply kidnapped and gave to a neighbor at 8 weeks, and it became an excellent family member (but was killed by a dog at age two). The other white went off with her mother, and both came back once in a while for a few months to eat and then I never saw them again. They were both totally violent about touching. I did trap all of them at one time or another (the kits were all females), and had them spayed and vaccinated, so that at least freed them from that problem.

    The best adoption time is 6-8 weeks -- after that, bonding is usually superficial and based on whether they like the food you give them. What you want is a cat who will bond with a human family. That is difficult to do if the cat has been trained to be ferel by its mother. If they do bond, they become completely loyal and integrated into their family. My 14 in-house cats are all bonded, as I am to them. It is interesting to see their interactions with the dogs in the house (4) -- to whom the look for protection from dangers and alarms, and for a big warm body in the winter. The dogs have their favorite cats, with whom they often sleep, sometimes trading off cleaning chores. The ferels sadly bond with no one -- cat or human -- and make only casual companionships of convenience. So I don't really think that I am disrupting their "natural" rights. None of use are wholly what we were born to be -- in a multi-species household, we accomodate each other and learn from each other, the cats learning some of the dog tricks to fight and play, and the dogs learning cat tricks. I learn both, and they learn my moods and rules. We compromise, tolerate, and develope individual and group friendships, and thus create a real family. I think its a process that might be applied to the various peace efforts here and in other parts of the world. The cats are still cats, the dogs still dogs, and I am still human, and when we are exclusively with our own, we behave more true to form, but when we are together, we have family traditions, family rules, and family jokes. It is really something to see.

    Hope this is helpful.

    Peace, Catherine

  4. barbara c

    barbara c TCS Member Kitten

    May 13, 2016

    Those kittens don't need Momma any more.  The longer you wait, the worse it is.  Let the people take the kitten that is adoptable making sure they go to the vet for shots immediately and keep the kitten separated from their other pets incase they are carrying something handed down from Momma until the vet clears them.  You can call your local pound or look on line for a rescue place to get Momma spayed 2 weeks after she stops feeding the kittens.  At that point, you can let her back outside and feed her as you wish.  While she is at the vet for Spaying, get her rabies, etc.  Keep the other 2 kittens separate from Mom and handle them as much as possible.  They should come around quickly without Mom in the way.  Get them to the vet as well for their shots ASAP.  They are easy to scruff and put in a cat carrier at this point.

    Good luck.  Finding them homes is very rewarding.

    Barbara C

    Foster cat mom

  5. mani

    mani fervent feline fan Staff Member Moderator

    Feb 28, 2012
    Hi @Barbara C and welcome to TCS! [​IMG]

    You've posted in an extremely old thread, so I doubt it will be read by those posting here.

    But we'd love to hear from you.  Would you like to introduce yourself and your kitties in our New Cats on the Block forum?
    Last edited: May 14, 2016

  6. kcpaull

    kcpaull TCS Member Young Cat

    Oct 25, 2014
    I trapped a feral mother cat last year with her two 12 week old kittens. It took about a month to get them socialized, but it took 6 months to get the mom to let me touch her. It takes constant talking, petting and feeding, and it helps if you have other cats they can see you petting. These kittens fell instantly in love with our alpha male and that made their socialization much easier. Their mother finally came around after she saw me with six kittens that were brought to me in a dirty old gym bag at the end of August. I now have their mother and 5 half siblings. Only one is happy for me to pet and hold him and two more are coming along well, but two would rather eat me than let me pet them. However, I've found that if they are sleeping soundly, I can pet them and when they wake up they don't realize I'm touching them so they actually allow themselves to relax and enjoy the feeling. The last one I caught nearly took the end of my finger off through a Kevlar lined leather glove, so be very careful when handling the kittens. Some people say wrap them in a towel or blanket, but I've never figured out how to wrap a kitten with all four legs splayed out in anything that will demobilize them. Find something they love to eat and hand feed them with a spoon. They will soon learn you give yummy food, and will gradually learn to trust you. 

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