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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-08-2008, 07:27 PM Thread Starter
 
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1st experience with feral kitten-story + suggestions needed

While I've had cats before, this is my first experience with what I'm going to call a feral kitten.

[some background information for entertainment and informational purposes - feel free to skip to the 'advice needed' section.]
Friday morning's drive to work found me diverted to my mother-in-laws trying to find a cat that was 'stuck' in her garage. The meowing was incessant and her dog was going nuts with dogly enthusiasm every time the door to the garage was opened. It took very little time to locate the little critter the FIRST time.

What I saw was a little kitten -- not a cat. Thinking this was just a mis-placed pet I attempted to retrieve the kitty from the engine compartment of one of the vehicles. I was unable to reach the kitten on my first attempt due to my coat being in the way. I lost my chance as the momentarily dazed kitten bolted. Being unable to locate the little, I left and headed on into work.

My wife brought the kids to join me at Grandma's for a surprise. They joined me on the search for the elusive grey puff-ball. Finally Grandma's toy yorkie was able to locate and 'tree' the kitten under one of the vehicles. It is AMAZING how many places a little kitten can wiggle into. After 'chasing' the wiggling kitten up the drive shaft channel, he [we have confirmed it is a 'he'] finally wound up presenting me with a good view of his backside. A few minutes of preparatory work later I was able to begin to retrieve said fur-ball from the vehicle. It was nice to have his head and teeth inaccessible to me as it allowed me to lift him up and back him out slowly until I could get a grip on his neck.

My first clue that something was amiss was that the kitten didn't curl up with dazed eyes as I started to move myself out from under the vehicle. Once the kitten realized it was totally out from under the vehicle it transformed from tense kitten to feisty flailing furball of flaming feline fury.
Fortunately my grasp of the little guy was purrfect and we were prepared with a towel. We 'toweled' him and got him all nice and calm. My previous experience with kittens led me to believe that this one was not being loved so we 'boxed' him for a ride home.

Interestingly enough. we told the kids that we'd get a kitten AFTER Christmas. Little did we know....

[Our attempt at feral kitten care]
I would put this kitten at ~ 14 weeks. He still hasn't lost his baby teeth. He is scrawny but probably bigger than 3 months. I don't think he's four months old though.. he's not that big. I should try to weigh him. Maybe that'd help.

We got the kitty home and left him in his box while we prepared an area. He didn't make a single sound. We were able to remove EVERYTHING hanging and everything from the floor of our 6x6 master walk-in. (we were going to do it anyway for another reason - again...the timing was just amazing!). I retrieved a cat bed, food bowls, scratching post and cat liter that I had been saving ever since we lost our previous cat, Spot. For what it's worth, I washed and dried the bed to remove scent and storage dust -- don't know if it helps or not.

With the new kitty room prepared complete with camera, I released him into the room. He was NOT happy and ran to the corner to hide. We left him that way for a while and returned to give him food. It's amazing that a 2lb 10oz cat cat (I just weighed him..and he did NOT appreciate it) can put the fear into one. NEVER have I seen so much hissing, spitting and bristle-tailed back arching. We left the food and watch the monitor as he eventually crept to investigate.

(Gonna shorten this up)
The next morning found me waking to his deep throated mewing. I took him food and planted myself in the room and read a book. It was cold so I retrieved a blanket and pillow and read till I fell asleep. I woke to find that he had finished his food AND had crawled under the blanket to warm himself on my leg. Moving ended that round of closeness but I figured there was hope. Periodic visits were made by various family members bringing small gifts of food -- tuna and salmon which was all we had. That evening I laid down and worked my way up to pet him after his hissing and spitting subsided. Petting was WELL received and my wife's use of baby wipes to help clean the grease off his coat brought on some purring.

More visiting over the last couple of days has rewarded us with the privilege of holding him -- first in a towel and then just on the lap.

[advice needed section]
I realize that we are making progress and that there are those who work for MONTHS for less progress, but it is somewhat frustrating to be greeted with hissing every time the kitten is approached. I'm assuming that much of the hissing and the now-only-occasional spitting is reflex. The as-of-yet unnamed cat (because no one wants to accept my suggestion of 'Hiss') is now content to sit and be held, but HATES being picked up or moved. Sometimes he'll get relax and sprawled on your lap and other times it seems like he doesn't DARE move - yet he did escape his room twice and made a bee line to hide under the tub. Is there anything I should or should not be doing to accelerate his decision to join the family?

We've migrated to kitten chow/tuna mix and now to straight kitten chow with occasional bribes. We try to make him come to us for sustenance.

Can a kitten like this be held too much or not enough? Sometimes I KNOW he is hot..but he won't move.

I know it has only been a short time and ALL cats are different, but has anyone else experienced a similar situation where the cat got over being such a skittish introvert and learned to play like kittens should?

Speaking of playing, his baby-wipe bath revealed a hurt paw. He later chewed off one of his claw/nails. Do those things grow back? Oh, and I'm going to contribute some of his 'beyond-normal-cat' lethargy to the hurt paw.

Wow..that was a book!

--
Richard
'hoping the kitten is finished with the closet before we need it back'
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-08-2008, 07:59 PM
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Sitting quietly in that room while he eats is just what you should have done. He obviously needs love because he curled up with you. With the understanding that all cats have different reactions to being picked up, I think that, with patience, he will become a playful kitten. It's not wise to force the issue, of course. Everything should be at the kitten's pace. As he loses his fear of you, (even tiny kittens will hiss and try to look ferocious when frightened! ) and you continue to sit with him as he eats, you should keep moving the food dish closer and closer. It might take a while, but eventually, he will have to climb up on your lap to get the food. Interactive toys like Da Bird would be helpful also.

When the kitten is used to eating on your lap, gently pet him or scratch his head. He has been through a lot in only a few days. He might very well become a little love bug...as he was when he slept with you. He's young; I think he craves closeness, but is still afraid. It's possible he has never seen a human being before.

I think you're doing well, but I would keep the atmosphere as quiet as possible, and let the kitten set the pace. A kitten will come around much faster than an adult, and some of our members have very loving cats that were feral. It took much more time, of course. Please keep us updated!




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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-08-2008, 10:08 PM
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Wow! What a wonderful change you've brought to this kitten's life...though he doesn't know how good he's got it...yet.

You are making progress and that is wonderful. I have quite a few former-ferals as housecats, now. Some didn't take long to turn around, one took 5 months and I thought that was excessive...until it took me 14 months just to touch my latest feral-taming attempt!

I think it is very good that kitten is in a small room. Does he have a place to hide in that closet? A carrier or the hood of a two-part litterbox would be suitable. When I force-tamed feral kittens, I always had a place they could retreat to, to feel safe, but was accessible by me at any time. This was necessary for any veterinary care they needed, I couldn't have an unaccessible cat.

When the kittens hid in their 'safe place' I would use a mixture of cooked, shredded chicken mixed in a can of Cream of Chicken soup, no water added. The CCSoup mix was thick and made the chicken pieces stick to the ends of my fingers. I would extend my hand into their hiding place. Oh, they would hiss and spit, but as soon as I stopped moving towards them (about 8-10" away) and they could smell those 'good things' they would eat out of my hand. I would just slowly lure them out with each feeding.

When it came time for the handling, I was told to sort of 'force the issue' with the kitty or I could wind up with a cat who would never be comfortable being held. I'd pick them up, place them on my lap and 'hold' them there while I petted and scrubbled them. IF they relaxed, I'd continue the contact but release my hold so they could leave at will. IF they did not relax, I'd rub/pet/scrubble and then purposely place them away from me, scrubble and rub as I let go and just retreat my hands, not trying to keep contact.
I didn't want them to learn to run from me, I wanted them to learn I was okay and good things happened around me.
Eye-blinks do a good job of getting a kitty to relax. In cat-language, blinking your eyes at another means they trust you enough to close their eyes and NOT watch your every move. Gain eye contact and blink, or just smoothly slide your gaze away from theirs, showing no concern.
Another good way to initiate interaction is with toys, strings and things that you can keep control of and lure them closer. The sitting, reading, sleeping will also go a long way.

I had a very young kitten rescued out of our garage in 2002. She was in a Pepsi machine we were storing. We named her Shasta. Anyhow, I kept her in the master bathroom with a cat carrier. She escaped into the rest of the household on the third day, only just barely accepting food from me and not being comfortable being touched. However, I think her being around our other cats and seeing how readily they interacted with us helped her come around. It was only a short time after that, perhaps a week, and she was coming to us for lovies and lap-time petting.

Sounds like you and your family are doing very well with this little foundling. I'd love to hear updates...
Heidi



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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-11-2008, 10:06 AM
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Richard this warms my heart reading about your new kitten. Once he gets more comfortable with you, youll want to take him to the vet to be checked out and get nuetered. You dont want him to start spraying. This kitten is making fast amazing progress! Do keep us posted. Your postings arent too long. We delight in your adventure to true love. BTW I like the name Hiss! Mabye he will grow out of that name and your family will find another name!
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-13-2008, 11:00 AM Thread Starter
 
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Progress! -- It's kind of a two step forward one step back kinda thing.

We've finally named him Frodo. With the poor little guy having lost one of his claws (his front left ?thumb? claw) we decided to name him after the hobbit who was in the same predicament. It rolls off the tongue and has a simple enough sound for the cat to be able to learn his name easily. (More on the names of our previous cats later.)

Since the first posting we have now managed to a) have him crawl out of his 'hobbit' hole to come to the food bowl with us sitting there, b) turn over for a belly rub (which he REALLY likes -- even when you play with his feet!!) and c) most importantly the kitten finally played!

That was the biggest relief for me, personally. I was discouraged that the kitten hadn't played. Our puff ball with a bell on a 12 inch spring finally got the better of him. We bounced the puff ball back and forth and after a while he quit trying so hard NOT to look at it and took notice. It was so funny to watch his slow kitten reflexes not keep up with the ball as we moved it faster. He couldn't keep up, got out of sync and looked so silly! After flopping it around a while we flopped it towards him and he had to look at it like a cross-eyed drunk. We held it out in front of him for a bit, he sniffed it and finally moved a tentative paw towards it. His curiosity was hooked when it moved away from his paw and he seemed to have forgotten to be uncomfortable and started attacking the puff-ball. Later on that evening and through the night..and in the morning.... we heard occasional dinging coming from the bell as he played.

One thing we've noticed is that he becomes VERY comfortable if we've been holding and petting him. I even let him explore our master bedroom a couple of days ago. If we leave him for an extended period of time though, he seems to revert back to the hissing and hiding.

I think we are going to have SOMEONE hold and hang on to him as much as we can today. We are also going to get a pet carrier so we can move him around more family activities.

Other cat names:
"Q" (Queue ) A Siamese kitten with an unusually long tail. He would change his tail in circles making scratching noises on the carpet as he used is claws for better traction. So we named him Queue--the French word for Tail. "Q" was the first kitten my wife and I had we got. He was a wild kitten from a barn(Probably from a domesticated mother who had moved into the barn to give birth). He was a real flea bag! We brought him home, placed him in the bathtub, and used some Adams Flea and Tick spray on him. If I remember correctly we counted over 50 fleas that jumped off of him only to die in mid air it seemed. We took him to the vet the next day and the vet 'unclogged' him. It seems he had been eating straw...and was making a brick! The vet said he would not have been long for this world had we not brought him in.

"D" (Diana) - A rescued kitten from the 'shelter' and playmate for 'Q'. Lots of medical bills there to get her over the kitty respiratory illness she developed (probably from other cats at the SPCA). She was unable to adjust to our having children and refused to be a part of the family. Had to give her away for safety reasons. "Q" was crushed.

"Bunny" (Dust bunny) was exactly that when we rescued him from a shelter. Teeny tiny wobbly thing wound up being a massive light gray furball that dominated the house. "Q" coward in Bunny's presence. Bunny developed unacceptable behavior problems and decided he didn't want to live with the family. Sad.. "Q" was relieved though. We just stuck with "Q" at that point and let him live out his remaining life alone with his family.

"Spot" the kitty (because 'Target' just didn't sound right) was the new love of our life until he didn't come home one day. He was an outdoor farm cat -- our first attempt at an indoor/outdoor cat. A VERY good and wonderful cat. It was a BIG loss to lose that tyke.

..and now "Frodo". Hopefully we can keep in indoors.

Ok...well...I don't know how much of this 2nd book was on topic -- but you guys ARE cat lovers...so..there it is.. I gotta get to work so catch ya later. I'll update when there is further progress.

--
Richard
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-13-2008, 11:08 AM
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I loved reading the stories of your kitties and their names.
h
...my "Q" is my horse, Querida...



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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-13-2008, 12:15 PM
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This is wonderful news, Richard! You've done a great job with this kitten. And I enjoyed reading about your other rescues. I hope Frodo lives a long and happy life as your pet. Thanks for being so caring and patient!




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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-13-2008, 07:45 PM
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Yes we loved hearing all about Frodos progress and your other kittys. Any pictures yet?
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-18-2008, 11:28 PM Thread Starter
 
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Pictures you say??? As a matter of fact...there is one. Let me get another one too.

"Who dares interrupt my belly rub"
http://img405.imageshack.us/done.php...tmybellps9.jpg

"If I stay very still, no one will see me....and I might see that cursor move on the screen again."
http://img72.imageshack.us/done.php?...setomovbf7.jpg

Frodo is MOSTLY content to stay where you put him, but if left alone for any length of time he still seems to revert to being a recluse. He has yet to voluntarily come towards us to be pet.

While one can eventually get him to play, he's not very forthcoming with being playful. It's somewhat discouraging. I agree with my wife that it is not right to keep the cat locked up so much. We can't let the kitten loose because he'll tuck himself into a corner somewhere and won't come out and it just doesn't seem right to keep him locked up so much.

I'll keep y'all posted
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 01-18-2008, 11:33 PM
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What a little sweetheart!




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