Originally Posted by valvesource
More advice would be appreciated........
Any ideas or techniques we can use to maybe get her to let us approach her?
Boy, do I have some ideas for you.
I foster ferals. I have fostered both kittens and cats. However, all the kittens were fostered/tamed indoors with a sort of complete immersion bootcamp sort of style that some people don't agree with. All of the feral adult cats were tamed outdoors with no restraints on the cat before they were allowed indoors, and many times I did TNR (trap/neuter/release) with them before I began trying to tame them. To date, every feral cat that I have fostered/tamed has become a calm, confident and loving housecat.
Kittens are the easiest to tame. As they get older, it becomes more difficult. As they reach adulthood, it becomes even more difficult to overcome these behaviors, but it CAN BE DONE.
With kittens and young cats, the oldest of which I began taming at 3mo, I place them in a large bathroom with food/water and a hooded litterbox. I also use a cat carrier lined with fluffy towels for their 'den' so they can 'hide' and feel safe when I am in there. I use my bathroom, shower and blowdry my hair with the kittens huddling in the carrier. This gets them used to louder noises and prepares them a bit for vacuuming. I give the kittens a few days with minimal interaction from me, other than to see to the necessaries.
After a few days, I begin my 'bootcamp'.
I have specific goals in mind and criteria for reaching these goals. I also have to respect the kitten/cat. This involves watching the kittens/cats carefully to see how they are tolerating my advances. I push myself onto them and evaluate how they are handling it, reacting and responding...changing my methods as the cat/kitten dictates, but I always strive to advance forward with accomplishments.
After a few days of them becoming comfortable with the bathroom, I begin to come in with food. My secret weapon is cooked/shredded chicken mixed with Cream of Chicken Soup, so it will stick in bite-size chunks to the ends of my fingers. I put some on the ends of my fingers and will sit and put my hand into the carrier. Of course, they hiss and try to shrink away...but in the end, they cannot resist the smell/taste of the chicken and will eat it off my hands. Eventually (1-3days) they will begin to come out of the carrier to eat what I offer, though I still try to offer it to the more reluctant kittens, too. I would like everyone to progress at close to the same rate.
Next I bring food, either chicken or tasty canned food in and set the plate on the floor near me and begin petting kittens. I don't dab hesitantly, I reach out and pet them firmly. If they dash off, or just move off a step or two, I wait until they come back into reach before I try to pet them again. Eventually, they want to eat more than they care about avoiding my petting hand.
Ater I've reached that stage, then I begin the "complete immersion". This is a technique that requires a bit of finesse. All you have to do, is watch the kitten to see how it is tolerating the method, and keep trying to advance it, little by little. I will pick a kitten up and place it in my lap with its' head facing my knees. I will lightly hold it by the scruff and with the other hand I rub it all over. Again, I am not gently hesitant, I pet and rub the kitten firmly, but not roughly. IF the kitten relaxed, I loosen my hold on their scruff and ruffle the fur at their neck to remove the memory of me holding them. If they want to get down, I let them.
My goal, is I don't want the kitten to run away from me. I want the kitten to know I will hold it, handle it, nothing bad will happen, it may feel good, and I will let it go.
IF the kitten does NOT relax, I will hold/handle it for between 5-15 seconds. Again, you need to watch the kitten to be sure you aren't over-loading them with more sensory input than they can handle. When I am done, I lift the kitten off my lap and set it away from me, close to the cat carrier. Usually, they slink right in, some moving fast, some slow. I would like it to progress from moving quickly away, to moving slower away, to a few steps and looking back at me until eventually they aren't worried at all about getting away.
It is important when handling a fearful kitten to recognize that it is frightened, but you have to push beyond their fright to show them that you can/will handle them without hurting them and they can trust you. Another trick with a fearful kitten, is after handling them I don't look at them to judge their reaction. They view direct looks as aggressive and that is too much attention for them to realize is focused upon them. I set them away from me and ignore them. I want them to know I handled them, and set them away and it was no big deal
at all. This helps them to realize there isn't anything to worry about if I don't show any interest in them and eventually they become more and more comfortable with being handled.
With adult ferals, I just keep pushing the handling. I will pick them up and set them onto nearby, low surfaces like couches, chairs and beds. I hold them a little longer and longer each time I lift them. They wriggle and struggle, but I just keep moving inexorably and slowly and eventually they learn I will release them. Again, when I am done lifting them, I don't watch their reaction; it is no big deal. From there, I lift them to my lap to pet and handle them. As they get more comfortable, I will lift them to my chest to get them closer to my body and face. You must be very aware of the cat when progressing in this stage because it puts you face in a dangerous position if you have misjudged the cat, though usually they are only concerned with getting down/away and not with scratching/biting, but it is best to be aware of the possibility. Eventually, I want my cats accustomed to being pet, handled, picked up, hugged and kissed on their shoulders or head. Being allowed to kiss them on the nose is an ultimate expression of their trust in me.
I have two foster kittens right now that I trapped at my Dentist's office. They were considerably older than I was led to believe. They were about 3+mo old. I really had to work hard to bring them around. We reached a great turning point when they spent 2 days at the vet getting spayed and returned home with me. They realized they were somewhere strange and then came home to me, which they were familiar with, and they have progressed forward in such a leap after that experience that I am finally confident they are ready for the adoption process to find their forever homes.
Anyhow, I am sorry this was so long-winded, but I needed to show you a kind of over-view of my intense handling program for getting cats used to being handled.