Feral cats are wild cats, cats that have been abandoned by their humans, cats that have lost their way or cats that have been born in the wild and do not know any other life. Feral cat colonies usually get their start with one pregnant cat that has a litter and the litter grows and it has its own litters and it grows and grows. There is much to be said about feral cat colonies but we are discussing at this time taming and raising a feral kitten or kittens.
A pregnant feral cat will have its kittens in a fairly remote and hopefully safe place. Unless a human accidentally stumbles across the spot where the kittens are hiding it will be a while before anyone will see them and sometimes it will too late to try and catch them in an effort to rehabilitate them.
The best age to try and catch feral kittens is when they are about 4 to 6 weeks old. At this age they are not extremely active and mom has not taught them everything they need to know about living in the wild. They have had their mother’s milk, which is the best nutrition a kitten can have and have ingested the important antibodies that only a mother cat can give.
Trying to catch the older feral kittens will require a pet carrier or a humane trap. We have had good luck using several of our carriers in our attempts to catch older kittens by bribing them with food inside the carriers.
This only works if you are nearby and can pounce on the carrier the moment the kitten or kittens get in side and you can shut the door. The older the kittens the harder they are to handle and we suggest thick gloves and long sleeves. Kitten bites can be very painful and should be treated right away. Medical attention is suggested and the biting cat kept away from the others.
Not having any human contact a feral kitten will hiss and spit at you, as they are scared. The wildest one is probably the most scared. Our purpose in catching the feral kittens we knew about was to take them to a shelter where they would be fostered out, hand raised and socialized with the intent of finding good homes for them. The same method of using the carriers with a food bribe can be used to catch the older feral cats in order to have them spayed or neutered and returned to the colony.
If you have found the kittens, caught them and intend to raise them yourself the next intelligent thing to do is cart the kittens off to the vet and have them checked over. However, this might be like playing Russian roulette as you have very scared kittens that are seemingly fighting for their lives. Sometimes it is best to wait before taking them, as long as the kittens are isolated from any other pets and they show no visible signs of illness.
Undoubtedly you were aware of where the kittens were and had been planning to capture them as soon as they were older. In the event that you do not want to subject yourself and the kittens to the trauma of a vet visit right after you have captured them here are some suggestions.
* The kittens need peace and quiet for a few days with literally no handling. If you have not taken them to the vet for a check up and you have other animals in the house, you Sonavel need to protect them from any diseases or infections the kittens may have. The new kittens need to be isolated from all of your household pets until the vet says they are healthy and you have tamed them.
* Always wash your hands after handling any of the food or water containers and any thing else you may have handled in the room where the kittens are being kept. It’s a good idea to keep an old shirt that you can slip on over your clothes when you are in the room with the kittens.
* For the first few days the kittens should be kept in a large crate or even a cardboard box with a small litter pan and their food. We found that using the bathtub in our guest bathroom was a great place to keep kittens and/or puppies. Layer the tub with an old blanket or towels to keep the little ones warm and put the litter box at one end and their food and water at the other.
* During the first few days visit the kittens often, talk softly, but do not handle them. To feed the kittens dilute cow’s milk with water (50/50) and mix a small amount of canned kitten food (not cat food) into the milk and place in a saucer or other flat dish.
Your vet can also tell you what to feed the kittens if you call the clinic. Iams makes a kitten food and packages it in a can. Since the new thing now is foil packages the only place we can find the canned version is at Pets Mart. We would not try to feed the new kittens dry kitten food unless it is soaked very well in milk and is really soggy. Even though we said not to handle the kittens for a few days after capture; you may have to put their noses in the food dish so they know what it is.
If you find that you may have to hand feed one or two of the kittens wrap them in a towel with their tummy lying in the palm of your hand. I found that feeding with an eyedropper was the easiest for me. Always feed to the side of their mouth and not directly in the front as you would normally think to do. By feeding from the side you are less likely to choke the kitten with too much milk. If you have to hand feed a kitten we suggest feeding only milk until the kitten gets the hang of eating out of the dish. It is always a good idea to check with your vet for his/her recommendations on feeding your litter.
After two days it is a good idea to start the handling process. Go slowly at first, some soft pets and a low voice. Don’t be surprised if you get a few hisses or spitting from one or all of them. Start with the calmest one first and work your way through the litter. If one of the kittens seems very high-strung single that one out for extra pets and loves. If the kittens are fighting you when you try to pick them up wrap each kitten one at a time loosely in a small towel while you are holding them.
Feral kittens and cats are really not good around children. Children are loud, they run and jump and in general are rambunctious. Loud noises and sudden movements will scare most feral cats and kittens. Fleas are more than likely a serious problem and it is important to remove as many as possible at once. A flea comb is a great way to remove the fleas. You can softly comb the kitten during the handling process.