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Hello!

I'm a sometime lurker and new poster here. I have an indoor kitty of my own. However, two weeks ago a feral mama brought three little kittens to our backyard and hasn't budged since. When I first saw them (on Memorial Day), I estimated their age to be about 4 weeks--they still have deep blue eyes and were pretty little--but active! I think they are somewhere in the range of 6 weeks now. We've been feeding the mother, and she's settled the kittens and herself under the woodpile behind our garage.

After doing some searching I got in contact with a rescue/adoption organization for cats that can take the kittens--presuming that I can A)catch them and B) tame them down somewhat. They've been very kind and helpful--just saying it might take a week or two to find a foster home for them. She was a little skeptical when I told her they were about 6 weeks (she thinks they might be too old). I do also have an organization that can TNR Mom, whenever we can trap her.

Here's my dilemma:
I've had lots of cats and raised an orphaned newborn kitten, plus had a pregnant feral give birth in our garage--but I've never dealt with feral kittens before. And I don't truly have a whole lot of time and resources to devote to them (one of the reasons I insisted we find a rescue *before* attempting to catch the kittens). I keep getting mixed advice--take them away as soon as possible, wait until their fully weaned, leave them with the mother, etc. etc. I'm feeling a lot of time pressure because now I'm wondering if they are simply too old to tame and adopt--and what do I do if they can't be domesticated? Do you just TNR and dump a kitten back out into the wild?

I also--and maybe I just need perspective on this--feel terrible taking the kittens away from their mother. She's a *really* good mother--very conscientious, and she's just now beginning to calm down around us when we feed them (we've been feeding the family for almost two weeks). It feels like a betrayal to trap them and take them away! I can't even imagine what she would do if they suddenly just disappeared. She's truly feral, so even though we have a cozy woodshop area theoretically the family could be in while the kitties are young, I don't think that would help with the socialization process (unless someone here has a different opinion)

I would really appreciate some advice/help/experience/perspective on the situation. It's getting really emotionally draining. I love cats and want to do what's best and most humane.

Thank you in advance.
 

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If you catch them, catch ALL at once. If you take the babies, mom will likely disappear to get pregnant again. If she's a good mama, she may follow the babies...if you can get the babies and bring them in (anywhere enclosed--garage, laundry room, etc), you can maybe get her at the same time (she might follow their cries). Then she can be safely TNR-ed and you can get the babies gentled/into foster care.

I wouldn't wait any longer to separate the babies from mom. At 6 weeks they should be able to eat wet food on their own and won't need to be supplemented with formula. 4 months is the upper end of the cut off for socializing babies and every day will count.


If you want to have a shot at making the kittens anything but feral, the most humane thing to do is get them away from her asap (this weekend, maybe). She may be a great mama, but leaving them with her won't help them any more at this point. Most of my (non-feral) foster mama kitties act relieved when the babies finally go up for adoption and they can get some rest.
 

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Thank you, venusworld, for your reply! Everything's been so up in the air the past two weeks I haven't been able to post a reply. We successfully trapped two of the kittens. The other kitten is/was *incredibly* sneaky and we just couldn't get a chance at it. We took the other two kittens in and have been fostering them and taming them down. They are doing very well, and are going to be fostered by a rescue group with the aim of eventually adopting them out later this week. Yay! Mom has reappeared and we are planning to TNR both her and the other kitten just as soon as we can catch them.

We had a harrowing experience when Mom heard the kittens from our spare bedroom and started meowing at them ... and both kittens kept trying to climb out of their cage to get to her. We had to move them to the bathroom. It hasn't exactly been the most fun experience, but I keep telling myself we are doing the best thing.

Thanks again for your advice--it really was helpful. Hopefully everyone will soon be on the road to a better life.
 

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Do you have the mother cat in your house? She doesnt sound feral or she wouldnt have these kittens in your back yard and acting social.

Every TNR group does it differently. If the mom is semi social we leave the kittens with the mom to 6-8 weeks. She will continue to nurse them. Plus being supplemented with soft and hard food.

FYI, a mother cat can become pregnant even while nursing kittens. Its important you get the mother spayed soon. She might be pregnant already.

There are 3 wonderful informative video on socializing kittens by the Urban Cat League. You can gleen a lot of tips to help you with your kittens.

Taming Ferals - UrbanCatLeague

Tough Love: Socializing Feral Kittens (Part 1 of 3) - YouTube

Tough Love part II might be what your needing to help you.
Tough Love: Socializing Feral Kittens (Part 2 of 3) - YouTube
 
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