Re: I need some ideas...
Auntie, you've made me feel really good about the progress I've made with these kitties. I think I have gotten such good results because I am expecting to get the same results I've gotten with younger kittens.
Kittens were hanging around my dentist's office parking lot. There is low income housing up a small gully behind the dentist's office. They believe that is where the mother cat came from. I do not think the kittens had any human contact until they were trapped in an Animal Control trap.
The kittens are in one of my bathrooms with a covered litter box in the bathtub. It makes it easy for me to sweep up tracked litter. I have a medium sized cat carrier with a towel inside and a smaller towel over the top to cover the ventilation holes and create a 'safe cave'.
I would go in probably every 1-2 hours and talk to them, leaning down to peer in the door of the carrier and then putting my hand/arm inside (even if they hissed) and petting them. Not tentative dabs, really petting them and pressing my hand/fingers into their muscles and rubbing them around their head, cheeks, neck, shoulders and back. I would always force my attentions on them for about a minute or two. I would give eye blinks and sighs, trying to leave when the scaredest kitten would relax her ears or eyes.
Kitten #1 was letting me hold her baby-style in my arms and purring after only two days. On the 3rd day is when I got kitten #2.
I would bring plates of canned food (small amounts, maybe a tablespoon for them both to share) and stand at the door until they came out. Usually they would crouch and give me scared looks before turning their attention to eating. I would do eye blinks and talk to them as I left. After a few days I would pull them out of the carrier and place them on my lap, holding them there. Scruff if I have to, but usually just cupping my hand under their chest and holding them so they cannot leap off my lap. My other hand would be rubbing all over, trying to get them to see I wasn't hurting them and to relax.
If/when the kitten relaxed, I'd stop 'holding' them on my lap and then use both hands to manipulate and massage them. After a few days, the kittens began sleeping on top of the carrier or toilet lid and I'd come in and talk to them, petting them and handling them where they lay. #2 was always leary, but if she would relax her ears or eyes, I'd leave, showing her it wasn't bad and I wouldn't stay forever, keeping her tension high. After about a week I was able to get #2 to purr sometimes. I could always get #1 to purr.
At about 10 days is when I was able to get them interested in patting their feet at feathers or strings. They like the laser light and would pounce a bit, but I could not entice them to chase. The last few days, #2 has been coming out of the carrier, stretching and yawning with her tail up, maybe giving me a mew and she has soft eyes and ears. If I move quickly though, she will regress and hiss, with her pupils dilating and ears flattening. Kitten #1 is still very sweet, though she crouches down when I pet her. #2 will push her head and back into my hand when I pet her.
Lately, I have been trying to incorporate lifting kitten #2 up. Up to the top of the carrier, the toilet lid or my lap. This is to show her I can lift her and I will put her safely back down without dropping her. Last night I lifted her up a bit so I could kiss the back of her head and she got frightened to see my face so close and hissed, but when I set her down I held her and handled her until she relaxed before I released her.
I'd say my method is just sensory overload bootcamp; I handle, handle, handle and bring good things to eat. Sometimes going in to just give them a bit of cooked chicken and then leaving, or going in to pet and scrubble and then leave. I will let a few of the other cats inside to 'visit' every once in a while. Usually LuckyDuck, but Dusty and Floofy have been in to see them briefly (sniff noses, though LD lets them get right up next to him) and I've had no hisses from the adult cats. When I shower and dry my hair I close them into the cat carrier so they feel safe and can't run around if they do get frightened.
Anyhow, that is what I've done. Tell me what you think and/or if there is anything you would change, add or remove.