If you’ve decided to adopt a feral kitten, you’ve got the challenging job of trying to turn her from a little fiend into a loving family pet.
The ease and speed of taming these kittens depends on the age at which they have their first human contact.
Feral kittens under 6 weeks of age can usually be tamed quite quickly. If they’re 6 – 9 weeks old, it usually takes a bit longer. If they’re over 10 weeks old it’s more difficult and may take a long time.
But the good news is, with patience and perseverance, it usually can be done.
1) Find a suitable, safe place to keep her
You should put your kitten into a fairly small space that she can’t escape from. A small bedroom or box room is ideal – just make sure all potential escape routes (e.g. windows, chimneys, under floorboards) are blocked off.
If you don’t have a suitable room to house her in, put her a large wire cage such as a dog cage. Cover the back and the top of the cage, and place it somewhere where it will be level with your face when you talk to your kitten.
If you don’t have a cage, an animal shelter may lend you one for free or for a small donation.
2) Place her food and water against a far wall or at the back of her cage
Place her food where she’ll get used to eating it with her back to you. The reason for this will be explained later.
3) Don’t attempt to touch her for a few days
For the first few days, just change her litter, food and water but don’t attempt to touch her. If she’s in a cage, try to avoid putting your hand inside any more than you need to. When you do put your hand in, try to keep it away from your kitten, as it will frighten her if you get too close.
You should spend time with her and talk to her at this stage, especially when she’s eating and dozing off to sleep. Keep your voice tone low, calm and soft.
4) Start to stroke your kitten when she’s eating
After a few days, depending on her age, your feral kitten should hopefully start to become a bit less fearful of you. When this happens, feed her and then very slowly and gently stroke her back with one finger while she’s busy eating. It’s much easier to approach her from behind to do this – hence the earlier advice of getting her used to eating with her back to you.
As she gets less scared, stroke her with more fingers, then eventually your whole hand. Then stroke her head.
5) Pick her up
Once she’s happy being touched, pick her up by scooping her up under her body. Place her on a towel on your hand if you’re worried she may bite or scratch. She may be very frightened when you pick her up at first. If she is, don’t hold her for long, but repeat the same thing later or the next day. Slowly, she should get used to this too and then even start to enjoy it.
Taming a feral kitten is a challenge, but when you succeed it gives a tremendous feeling of satisfaction.