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Domesticating stray kittens?

LaCabraLaCabra Registered User regular
edited April 2012 in Help / Advice Forum
I've been planning on getting a kitten for a couple of years - had a cat before, know how to look after 'em and everything. The correct financial time to get one has pretty much arrived. However, it turns out, I'm pretty sure there are now two extremely adorable stray kittens living under my house. I'm not sure how old they are, but not that young - probably won't be too long before they stop being obviously kittens rather than cats. I'm wondering how one would go about domesticating these little dudes or if it's even a good idea. Seems like going out and buying a cat and bringing it back here as I'd intended might result in some kind of cat conflict, which would be bad on top of trying to get the little guy used to a new environment.

My interactions with them so far have been mostly that when I walk into my back yard, unless I do it extremely quietly, they immediately stop lying in the sun being adorable and sprint into one of the holes in the side of my house (there's like a foot of space between the floors and the ground). They are extremely scaredy cats. Closest I've got to actual interaction is making friendly noises that made them stop mid-sprint, sit down and look at me suspiciously for a few minutes before sauntering over to the hole. My housemates have been leaving bowls of cat food and water out, and they consume it, but run off if anyone interrupts.

Anyone got any experience of situations like this? I'd love to make pets of these guys if I could but I dunno how old is too old, if that's a thing, or how to do it.

Thanks!

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Posts

  • EgoEgo Registered User regular
    If they're not adults that have been feral for a few years / living in a feral colony, strays are easy to domesticate _once_ you catch them. If they're not full grown it'll always work and even grown cats in cities tend to do well with humans. My girlfriend does stray rescue and I have a couple cats that were almost full grown when I got them. My first interaction with them involved one hissing and swatting at me, and another vanishing somewhere in my house for a day.

    In these parts you can just go to the pound, say 'strays are around my house' and they'll lend you cat traps. I'd look into that.

    Yeah, it might not give the cat the best first impression of you, but it works. They get over it. You could lay out stuff like tuna and stay in the area as they eat it till they start to trust you, but the trap thing is a lot easier.

    Erik
  • SiskaSiska Registered User regular
    It's best to socialize them before 8 weeks of age. You can do it later, but then they are more likely be the more aloof kind of cat rather than one that climbs on your lap and wants affection. Catch them and keep them in a small room with hiding places were you can reach them. If they are young it shouldn't take more than a couple of days of semi forced interactions before they stop running for cover when you approach. Bring strings. No little kitty will be able to resist the charms of someone who brings string-fun for very long.

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  • mtsmts Registered User regular
    depends on how old they are. if they have reached tomcat age, forget it. but if they are still tiny, then you should be find

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  • DonnictonDonnicton Registered User regular
    edited April 2012
    I've adopted a stray that was left by its mother in our side yard at only about two or three weeks of age. There was a litter that the mother had in our backyard, but when she moved on, this one only made it as far as the side yard before the mother disappeared, and our neighbor saw her and brought her into her house and then gave her to us.

    If they're young, it's very easy to socialize them. Spending a lot of time with them on your lap or around you or in your hands will acclimate them to human interaction very quickly. Whether or not they become a "lap cat" depends on the personality they develop(which will largely come into its own regardless of your actions), but you can at least condition them to not mind being handled or interacted with by humans.

    If they're older, they can still be conditioned to not mind human contact, but it's going to take more work. In those situations you can't force it, and you just need to eventually work towards getting the cat used to you.

    Keep in mind that kittens born to ferals or outdoor cats will tend to have a much more pronounced independent streak than kittens bred from indoor cats, so don't be surprised if they don't develop into the type of cat that you can just grab, put on your lap, and expect it to just settle in. Breed tends to play a large factor in this case too, but since most people don't bother with specific cat breeds like they do with dogs, it's not something that can be controlled in most cases.


    For a stray, you may really, really want to consider giving them wormer once they get old enough, as worms are extremely common with stray and outdoor cats/kittens. Pay special attention to whether the kittens have rounded stomachs but everything else is thin, and if they have a particularly voracious appetite for a kitten, as those are usually signs it has worms. Usually it's best to give them the wormer anyway as it won't have any negative effects if they didn't have any, and it's better to be on the safe side.

    Typically you're going to bring them to a vet to have them vaccinated anyway, so the vet can take care of giving them the wormer for you if you mention it.

    Donnicton on
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  • minirhyderminirhyder NYCRegistered User regular
    A kitten thread without any pictures is inhumane treatment of PA-ers.

  • mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    I'll echo everything else that's been said (including pictures!). I'll add that in addition to getting a loaner trap from your local rescue operations they also sell them in home improvement stores. Less than $50.

    Spoiler:
  • ceresceres Love is in the battlecry Nevada, USASuper Moderator, Moderator mod
    Ooh, I just did this! I got a calico of about 6 months old in January... she followed a friend of mine home, but my friend had too many cats already that had followed her home, and we'd been thinking about a kitten for some time.

    First of all, if you have other cats, once you catch the kittens bring them to the vet BEFORE you bring them into your home, because lord only knows what they might have. There's a charity organization near me called PAWS that does checkup, vaccination, and spay of strays for pretty cheap.

    Ours had no problem whatsoever picking up litterbox habits, and though it took her a little while to get used to us, she was fairly friendly pretty quickly, and has turned out to be much, much more social than our other cat. In fact, the only problem we've had with her is that because she was a city cat, food was UFG no matter where it was and trash bags were not an obstacle. When we kept her from our food she would cry like she was starving. If she got really unbearable we closed her in the room with her litterbox until we were done eating. After about 4 months of having steady cat food, she's a lot more secure that she doesn't need to EAT EVERYTHING when there's some food around. That's not to say we can leave it unguarded like we always could with just our other cat.

    She's adjusted, though, and she is such a sweet cat. Definitely a bit of a troublemaker, but she more than makes up for it.

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  • StormwatcherStormwatcher Up all night To get luckyRegistered User regular
    MY wife was walking the dog the other day and Bam! there was the tinniest and cutest female kitty meowing her brains off on the sidewalk. My wife tried to catch her, but she was scared of the dog (an extremely cute, friendly and docile shih-tzu). A woman who was passing by caught the little thing and handed her to my wife. That was the day before we traveled abroad for a week. My wife brought her back home, and we isolated the dog and the Flick, our stray male cat, outside the kitchen while we fed the kitty. She was starving, and completely flea-ridden. Then we took her to a vet/pet shop, to ask if they could put her up for adoption. They were a bit hesitant, so we got a friend to pick her up the next day (after they took care of the fleas and parasites at the pet shop) and keep her for a week until we got back. We still wanted to have her adopted by someone else, as we had 2 pets already.

    But as soon as we got back and picked her up, we immediately fell in love with Cleo, and now she lives with us. She was about 2 months old, so she easily adapted, and she seems really grateful about being rescued from the street. Now she is best friends with Flick (who was just neutered) and started to get used to Akira (the dog, who wants to hang out with the cats).

    We didn't have to do anything specific, thankfully, and she is absolutely sweet and loving and mischievous.

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  • ceresceres Love is in the battlecry Nevada, USASuper Moderator, Moderator mod
    Or first cat I also got as a kitten, and she was a feral rescue from around somebody's barn. She was picked up in the dead of winter and we bonded pretty much as soon as we met. She's very shy but super-sweet, and she never had any food issues but she absolutely hates being cold.

    JohnDies_zpsfe6c609e.jpg
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  • LaCabraLaCabra Registered User regular
    Thanks for the advice everyone! I'll probably try to trap 'em somehow, probably while they're eatin' - they seem to be used to the food bowls now, as they are empty this morning.

    As for pics, here is one I managed to snap of one of them purely by chance as I glanced out my office window.
    374423_10150647963727819_785552818_9439491_662954412_n.jpg
    Spoiler:

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  • mtsmts Registered User regular
    edited April 2012
    i have found in my experience doing rescues, that if its an older stray, females tend to be easier, but lots of factors play in. hopefully it hasn't gone feral since you will have a close to zero chance of getting that to work

    mts on
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  • mcdermottmcdermott Registered User regular
    oh somebody's a cutie

    Looks a bit older, good luck and hopefully bringing it in works out.

    Spoiler:
  • LaCabraLaCabra Registered User regular
    It's Easter Sunday today so nowhere I could get a trap at is open, so I have rigged up one of these.

    stock-photo-box-trap-d-82554259.jpg

    I don't think it worked when the coyote did it in Road Runner but I'm convinced the theory is sound.

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  • DonnictonDonnicton Registered User regular
    LaCabra wrote: »
    It's Easter Sunday today so nowhere I could get a trap at is open, so I have rigged up one of these.

    stock-photo-box-trap-d-82554259.jpg

    I don't think it worked when the coyote did it in Road Runner but I'm convinced the theory is sound.

    Cats are suckers for food, especially hungry ones, I hear.

    Put some food in that box and it'll be easiness.

    PSN: Donnicton - Wii/3DS FC: 1633-4230-5354 - Steam: Donnicton
  • LaCabraLaCabra Registered User regular
    There is some in there. So far no dice! I have modified the device to include a tripwire. I am sure it will not work.

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  • DonnictonDonnicton Registered User regular
    LaCabra wrote: »
    There is some in there. So far no dice! I have modified the device to include a tripwire. I am sure it will not work.

    I think it's going to need to be a "manual trigger", if you understand my meaning. Otherwise the cat will probably just step over it, and you're probably more likely to catch something much clumsier(read: raccoon/possum).

    PSN: Donnicton - Wii/3DS FC: 1633-4230-5354 - Steam: Donnicton
  • LaCabraLaCabra Registered User regular
    Yeah, the problem there is waiting there for ages. A watched kitten never materialises.

    Also, apparently my housemate put some food for it in the laundry, where we planned on keeping it for the first day or so to get it used to us, and it just walked straight past my trap and into the laundry to nom that food, then left again. Cool.

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  • SiskaSiska Registered User regular
    Is there anyway to sneak around and close to door to the laundry when you suspect he is in there? Some kind of webcam setup would be ideal if you have that.

    Anyways, for when you catch him, here are some friendly, affectionate cat cooing noises that you can try and mimic to help convince them that you are not out to torture them.

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  • LaCabraLaCabra Registered User regular
    That is adorable.
    A string attached to the handle of the laundry has been rigged up. Probably should have done that initially, it's basically the same thing but with a much bigger box...

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  • SiskaSiska Registered User regular
    Heat up the food in the microwave for 15 seconds to make it nice and stinky.

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  • Magic PinkMagic Pink Tur-Boner-Fed Registered User regular
    edited April 2012
    Yeah, smelly food and your presence is the way to go.I've domesticated multiple wild kitten swarms (and full grown cats) and it's that easy. Put the food out regular and eventually add yourself sitting out in the yard as well. Once the cats start eating the food with you there move it closer and closer to yourself every day.

    eventually fuzzy snugglin'

    Magic Pink on
  • LaCabraLaCabra Registered User regular
    Man, there he was in my laundry eatin' his foods and I was betrayed by shitty rope. Door did not close. Cat got wise. I dunno if he will fall for that trick again.

    this is some roadrunner shit

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  • LaCabraLaCabra Registered User regular
    I have caught the cat! He is super scared, hiding behind the washing machine, and he tried to escape by hurling himself at the wall. He has everything he needs in here, though. Food, water, litterbox, bit of light. Someone suggested putting a radio on very low volume to get him used to human voices.
    I don't think he's going to be in any condition to interact tonight, he's scared shitless.
    The trapping technique that eventually worked was rope tied to the handle of the laundry door with the other end inside the house, and a shitton of patience. I may have livetweeted the final confrontation (link in sig).

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  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    You should call him Roadrunner! Remember to interact soon even if he is scared, as he won't get un-scared unless he becomes used to you. Be prepared for scratches! My dad used to pick up new cats with welding gloves. :)

  • MalkorMalkor Registered User regular
    That is amazing. I hope the kitten appreciates the thought you put into its trap.

    14271f3c-c765-4e74-92b1-49d7612675f2.jpg
  • mtsmts Registered User regular
    are you sure these guys are strays and not just outdoor cats who found someone to leave out food bowls

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  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    mts wrote: »
    are you sure these guys are strays and not just outdoor cats who found someone to leave out food bowls

    People who don't put collars on cats should understand that they are taking a big risk. Of course, the vet can scan for microchips if you want to make very sure they are not someone's pet.

    Feral cats can often be surprisingly easy to tame, especially if caught young and neutered before they become fully adult.

  • LaCabraLaCabra Registered User regular
    Yeah I'm pretty darn sure - these guys have been seen eating out of my compost heap, and the cautious way they react to people does not seem like a domesticated animal. Compared to the pet cats who live around here, who all seem super friendly (often even to each other).

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  • SiskaSiska Registered User regular
    Practice the cat cooing noise whenever you enter the laundry room. If you happen to make eye contact do a lot of friendly cat slow blinks, steady eye contact will make him/her feel like you are stalking him. Also, try not to feel silly doing this. :p

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  • LaCabraLaCabra Registered User regular
    Gosh this little guy is stressful, really knows how to hiss. Does not want to be touched.

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  • LaCabraLaCabra Registered User regular
    Also, I was thinking of calling him Houdini - this successful capture attempt not having been the first.

    Here is an image of him being scared shitless of me.
    398340_10150696112172819_785552818_9605969_79273728_n.jpg

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  • TayaTaya Happy ___ Day Registered User regular
    I would just leave him alone and let him adjust.

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  • LaCabraLaCabra Registered User regular
    I am getting pretty conflicting advice on that. He's currently been in there by himself all night, according to my twitter I caught him about 15 hours ago. Maybe an hour of that (not at once) has been with me trying to interact with him (mostly just by talking). He's still scared to come out from behind the washing machine even with nobody around, unless he's making a run for the door (which is always closed).

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  • TayaTaya Happy ___ Day Registered User regular
    When I got a cat from the shelter, she spent at least two days under the bed, only coming out when I was asleep. Some cats need more time to destress than others, and considering yours was a stray, he may need a lot of time to realize he's not in danger. When he's comfortable with his environment, then I would try to interact with him. Talking and just being around is a good idea though.

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  • mtsmts Registered User regular
    Taya wrote: »
    When I got a cat from the shelter, she spent at least two days under the bed, only coming out when I was asleep. Some cats need more time to destress than others, and considering yours was a stray, he may need a lot of time to realize he's not in danger. When he's comfortable with his environment, then I would try to interact with him. Talking and just being around is a good idea though.

    this
    just let him come out in his own

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  • SiskaSiska Registered User regular
    How to tame him really depends on how young he is. Younger kittens are more open minded to being wrong about what's safe and what's dangerous and a few days of forced petting is all it takes to tame them. With an adult cat you are gonna need a lot of bribing and gentle approach. Hard to tell the size of him in that picture. If he is bigger, I suggest heating up some canned food in the microwave (not too hot) put it down where he can see you put it down, if possible. Gently talk to him for a couple of minutes, so he associates you acknowledging each others presence with smelly food gifts. Then leave to room for at least an hour. Hopefully the smell of the food will entice him enough to come out from behind the washing machine.

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  • LaCabraLaCabra Registered User regular
    Thanks folks. I wish I knew how to assess his age. If he comes out I'll try to get a photo that is a better indicator of his size.

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  • ceresceres Love is in the battlecry Nevada, USASuper Moderator, Moderator mod
    Are you planning to get the other kitten too?

    And yeah, sometimes it just takes time. You can always sit in there for a while every so often and read a book or something.

    JohnDies_zpsfe6c609e.jpg
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  • LaCabraLaCabra Registered User regular
    edited April 2012
    Yeah, been doing that.
    I dunno about getting the other kitten, we'll have to see how it all goes with this guy. I have no way to trap him right now with the laundry occupied anyway, and he hasn't seemed as prone to investigating bowls of food. I'm not sure if he and the one I've caught are siblings/friends, it would be great to have them both if so.

    Some folks are suggesting force-hugging him, but I am probably going to wait and see if he gets comfortable enough to do anything besides hiding first.

    LaCabra on
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  • JansonJanson Registered User regular
    To add to the anecdotes, we got two cats from an animal sanctuary as adults; they had been fostered for three years and yet one of them still remained in our closet for over a week before she felt confident enough to venture out and say hello. And when a stranger comes to visit? She heads right for the closet and hides aaall day. Her sister is a total snugglecat, though; just a different personality!

    I would recommend sitting with them like Ceres says, though! Our cats liked to venture out at night when we were asleep; being near by but without smothering them seemed to allow them to adjust well. :)

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