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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-19-2013, 02:11 AM Thread Starter
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To Socialize or Not?

When trapping ferals, how do you determine if an attempt should be made to socialize a kitten?

The reason I ask is that Monday, we trapped a kitten that we were not sure could be socialized or not. We didn't find out his age (12 weeks) until after he was neutered and ear-tipped.

If a kitten can be socialized, I don't want its ear tipped. But I need to know BEFORE I get it fixed.

So how do I tell? I check the traps in the morning and then drive the catches to the vet, so there is no time to observe them.

Any advice would be great. My bf and I are new to trapping and there is no formal TNR program in my county (but there are lots of resources that we are tapping into).

Thank you.
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-19-2013, 02:31 AM
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I would say if you have the time and resources all kittens are worth socializing. Some may take longer than others, but only making an actual effort is going to give you the answer. You can have the most crazed aggressive cat and within weeks/months may never be able to guess the cat had previously acted feral (both Blacky and Jasper were semi-feral cats). The patience required to win them over with trust takes time.


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Last edited by Carmel; 09-19-2013 at 02:34 AM.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-19-2013, 09:32 AM
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Hi Sarah Anne, both my cats were feral kittens , we brought them home and after a few hours they were fine, they are siblings and are now three. it was worth the effort as they are loving cats and you would never believe they were feral. the only downside was the vet clipping Scooby the male cats ear, I didn't know he would do that, I was really annoyed he didn't ask. Here is Tilly and Scooby.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-19-2013, 09:53 AM
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I agree with Carmel, but, as someone who does TNR on a fairly large scale, I know that socializing every cat isn't something that rescues, shelters, or individual trappers necessarily have the resources for, so I'll address your question from that perspective.

Sometimes you get an inkling that a cat is socializeable upon first trapping it, but if you're committed to socializing any socializeable kitten (or cat), I would definitely advise you to wait at least a week and observe the cat's behaviour. Cats are scared when they're first trapped, and even tame cats will sometimes flip out in a trap initially, so first impressions are often not an accurate way to gauge a cat's sociability. Case in point, on Tuesday night I trapped a 7-8 month old orange tabby that I know to be one of the tamest colony cats I've ever encountered, so tame in fact that we picked him up, upon which he began to loudly purr, and put him in the trap... commence total freak out, complete with hissing, spitting, and trap damage from ramming his face into the bars in an effort to escape! Obviously, the fact that we approached the cat, played with him, and finally just decided to pick him up and put him in the trap with zero fuss was a bit of a giveaway that the cat we were dealing with wasn't feral; but, if we had, say, set a trap, left for 5 minutes, and come back to find this cat in the trap, thrashing around, things might have been a little less clear.

Making split-second decisions about sociability is even more problematic when it comes to feral kittens because, well, they're feral. What you're looking for in a feral kitten are indicators of potential sociability. If a cat is too frightened by the experience of being trapped to exhibit any of these signs, it becomes really difficult to know if a cat is worth working with or not. I find that it generally takes at least a week for a cat that we would consider "borderline" to settle enough to be properly evaluated.

The positive signs that I do look for when I'm evaluating a cat are things like: Can I touch the cat? Does the cat meow? Where does the cat position itself in the trap in relation to me? Does the cat seem curious about me or what I'm doing when I'm moving around the room? Does the cat sniff, even subtly, when I put my hand near the trap? Does the cat react by sniffing, moving forward, or leaning forward when I put food in the trap? Is the cat interested in what's going on around it? etc. Body language is another good indicator, although kittens are often naturally skittish, and it's not uncommon for them to back away from people, even when they're perfectly happy to be held and cuddled. I don't worry too much about hissing when it comes to kittens either, as hissing seems to be one of the last "feral" behaviours they retain during the socialization process. I find the same thing with adult cats actually, but I don't want to be responsible for anyone getting gored.

I typically trap a day or two before a set feral spay/neuter clinic date, so it's often not possible to evaluate the cats prior to surgery. Most of the cats that I adopt out are eartipped. Does it look great? No, not really, and appearance is, of course, a factor for most potential adopters, but I try to "sell" my cats on their personalities. I figure the "right" person won't really care too much that their cat has a little bit of ear missing if they fall in love with the cat based on it's character.

Proud people-mommy of Galileo, Dante, Cosette, Autumn,
Ramona & Choco-cat (and foster kitty, Poe).



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Last edited by dt8thd; 09-19-2013 at 09:56 AM.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-19-2013, 11:51 AM Thread Starter
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I agree that all cats are worth the effort, unfortunately, we just don't have the resources. We don't have the space to keep cats and observe them before altering them-we are barely able to accommodate them during their recovery. We can really only take in one at a time to personally socialize. We just haven't built up our network enough to know other people that can help socialize, and the rescue organizations in the area are all over-worked and under-staffed as it is.

So we are just working to improve the life of a cat, one at a time, the best we can. We saw a need and the employees at the dump where we are trapping are EXTREMELY helpful and cooperative.

Thank you for the feedback.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-19-2013, 12:10 PM
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Your situation is, unfortunately, quite common, but it's people like you and your group who help to grow the TNR movement, and that's a wonderful contribution! Doing this sort of rescue work can be incredibly difficult and exhausting, and it can be disheartening when you don't feel that you're able to do enough to help due to lack of time, or volunteers, or resources, or whatever. Here's how I look at it: Even if my contribution seems completely insignificant when faced with the sheer scope of the problem, if I'm able to help just one cat by getting it off the streets and into a loving home, I've made all the difference in the world for that one cat.

Proud people-mommy of Galileo, Dante, Cosette, Autumn,
Ramona & Choco-cat (and foster kitty, Poe).



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Last edited by marie73; 09-19-2013 at 03:49 PM.
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