I wrote a previous article called How to Trap Feral Kittens. This article will explain what you can do to tame feral kittens once you have them trapped. I am writing this from my own personal experience of a certain group of four kittens that I trapped and tamed. This is such a challenging but rewarding experience, and you will be glad that you did this.
At this point, you will have your feral kittens trapped and placed into separate cat carriers with a little food and water. It is very important to keep the kittens separate. If you place two or more together in the same carrier before they are tamed, it encourages them to be more wild, because they have each other’s energy and fear to feed off of. It also makes it more difficult to take kittens in and out of their carrier when there is more than one in there. If you just have one, you can fully concentrate on that one, and don’t have to worry about bites or scratches from his litter mates in the same carrier.
A great carrier to use is the kind that opens with a front door, and then has a door on top of the carrier as well. Many different brands sell this style. Pet Mate sells a great one called the Two Door Deluxe. A medium sized carrier runs about $40. You can find out more information from www.petmate.com. This carrier is also great because you can see the kitty from the front and from the top. It is also nice to have a choice of which way you can put the kitten into, and take the kitten out of the carrier.
You should place an old towel inside the carrier and be prepared for little accidents. This means that you can dispose of this old towel, or will be able to wash it, and you don’t mind it getting stained. Until the kitten is tamed, unless you have a cage like they do at shelters, you will have to make do with this method, until you can let him be free to use the litter pan. If you have a small cage with room enough for a small litter pan, and some food and water and bedding for the kitten, that would be much better for you and the kitten.
You will want to start trying to tame the kittens as soon as possible. It is often good after trapping them, to let them be for about a day, so that they can settle down and get used to their new environment. After this time has passed, you should start trying to handle them. You will need patience, quiet and some free time. You will also need some gloves, a small towel for the kitten, and a small towel or blanket for your lap. You need to work with one kitten at a time, and be very quiet, speak to them very softly, and touch them gently. Give them about 20 minutes each.
When you remove the first kitten from its carrier, make sure you have your gloves on. The kitten is going to spit and hiss, only because it is scared and is defending itself. Try to imagine how you would feel if you were in the same situation as that little kitten. You would be terrified. So please keep this in mind, so that you can tap into all the patience and compassion that you have when working with these kittens. You’ll need to grab the kitten gently yet firmly, and get him out of his carrier and into a hand towel. Wrap the hand towel around the kitten, not too tight, so that his head is sticking out. Then place the kitten in your lap so that he can see you. You may want to have an extra towel in your lap if you wish. Talk sweetly to the kitten, and gently stroke its little head. Just let him get used to you and understand that you mean him no harm. Some people suggest having a tasty treat on the side, such as some canned food, where you could dip your finger into it, and then place a little dab on his nose. This way, he will associate you with something positive, which is food. You may not be able to do this during the first handling session, though. You may have to wait until you have spent a little more time with the kitten, after a few days.
For the other kittens, you will simply repeat this process with each one. Put on gloves, and ready a small towel. Get the kitten carefully out of the carrier, and wrap the kitten’s body firmly, but not too tight, in a small towel. This way, they can’t struggle and can just concentrate on you rubbing them. After about 15 or 20 minutes, unwrap them and place them gently back in their carrier. You may want to do this about twice a day for each kitten. After a few days, you should increase the time and/or frequency. You will notice that they will be getting more and more used to you, and hopefully after a few days, you can start subtracting things from the equation, such as not wrapping them in the towel. Then later, you should be able to not use the gloves as they come to trust you. If you have friends or family members who can be quiet and would like to spend some time with them, tell them the process, and get them to help you. The more that the kittens can be handled, the better. And with them coming into contact with different people, it helps them to be better socialized.
After a few days, you may be able to let the kittens out of their carrier, one at a time, to run around in an enclosed room. Just make sure to keep the door shut! This will give them a chance to spend time outside their carrier, eat, play, and learn to use the litter box. You may want to make sure that the room is prepared for this, by clearing out clutter, making sure there are no holes or hiding spots that they could get themselves into, where you could not get them out, and so on. You could have a few cat toys around, and also make sure you have a shallow cat litter box available to them, and fresh food and water. After you do this process for a few days, you should be able to let all the kittens out together, and this will be at a point where they are mostly tame. This will be great for them, because then they can run and play in their room, and they will all have gone through the same processes, and will be tamed. They will get to play together, eat together, and so on. If you feel they are tame enough, after a while, you will not have to put them in their cat carrier at night. You can just keep the door shut to their room, and let them sleep wherever they wish. Some will want to sleep in the carrier because they feel safe there, and will go in and out at will. Just be sure to leave the carrier doors open.
At this point, it is a good idea to keep handling them, and include your family members more into the process. The more they can be handled by people and be around people, the better socialized they will become. The more socialized they are, they more adoptable they will be. It is very rewarding to see these once wild and scared kittens come out of their shell, and start purring when you pick them up.
I have found that if you really put a lot of time into this, this process for kittens 4 to 6 weeks old can take about 2 weeks. But be patient, because I have also heard about it taking a month or more. If the kittens are young, they will tame faster. The older they are, the harder time you will have with it. The more time you have to spend with them, the faster they will tame. It is really simple. They just need your time, attention, and care, to understand that people are good and mean them no harm.
As time passes, you will see these once feral kittens blossom into wonderful pets. After they are tame, you will want to think about what you will do with them. Perhaps you will keep them yourself as pets, or maybe you know a friend or family member that wants one of them. You may also know of a no-kill animal shelter in your area who could find good homes for them. Either way, please be sure that you make arrangements to have them spayed or neutered as soon as possible, so that this process will not repeat itself again.
Taming feral kittens is a wonderful experience. The kittens grow so fast, and learn so much, so quickly, it truly is amazing. It is fun to be involved in a process such as this. If you have time and patience, I am sure you will find this very rewarding. The best part is, because of your time spent, you are making kittens who would otherwise be wild, socialized and adoptable, and placing them into good homes. This is a wonderful thing you can do for yourselves and them, and I highly recommend it!