Feral Kitten Settling in Advice

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Feral Kitten Settling in Advice

Post by suzieelizabeth » Sun Dec 02, 2018 12:57 am

Hello everyone! Looking for some advice. A week ago we brought home a wee grey kitten who had a fairly difficult, feral start in life. She was found with a sibling or siblings in a busy supermarket carpark at 8 weeks old and was part of a trap, neuter, release situation. She was neutered and tipped at 8 weeks and released back to car park by a local charity (a decision I personally disagree with) but had to be rescued by another charity after her siblings were run over and killed. She was advertised as being suitable to be homed with other cats and young children (we have a one year old) with note that she’s a bit hissy. Once we got her home she immediately hid which is what we expected, the second day we could reach under the couch for a wee scratch, a while later she emerged for a little while and was very friendly and cuddly. She u-turned and started to hide more often and now she only comes out at night and when she does she is extremely skittish, exceptionally hissy/spitty and has lashed out a few times (we have had ferals before and are very slow and gentle with her!) We seem to be taking 5 steps forward and 10 steps back with her. She seems to be desperate for a scratch and affection but she is so nervous and anxious that we don’t really know whether we’re comig or going with her. She has been with us one week, she is a lovely wee thing when we eventually get her to come round for a pet but I just hate to think we’re causing her stress. Can anyone give me a little insight into what we can expect from her behaviour in terms of change? Will the hissing/spitting/snapping stop? Will she become aggressive and always have her guard up? It’s so sad because she has had a very lonely wee start in life, we’d love to give her the love and attention we know she wants! Thank you in advance for any advice.

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Re: Feral Kitten Settling in Advice

Post by Ruth B » Sun Dec 02, 2018 10:40 am

Poor little thing she certainly didn't have a good start, at 8 weeks she would have been far better off taken and socialised then than returned to feral living. However I also think the other charity was in the wrong advertising her as suitable for a home with children, I'm sure she will come round but it could take weeks, months or even years before she is really safe to leave with a young child unsupervised. i do hope you are willing to take this responsibility as it sounds like you have the experience and you want to give her the loving life she deserves.

The first thing I will reiterate is it will take time and she may never be a really cuddly cat even when she has settled down and feels safe with humans, however there is a chance that she might become the most loving cat around in a few years, cats that have had a hard start in live can seem to realise that they have ended up in a far better situation and repay you with love.

I'm not sure if my Freyja was semi feral or just had had a very bad start in life. The shelter she came from said that she had been found at about 12 weeks of age in a taped up tiny cardboard box, she had barely enough room to move in it, and was so frozen in fear that they thought something was physically wrong with her at first. I got her when she was about 6 months old and knew that she was going to take time to accept us. Some at the shelter were surprised when i said I would have her, they thought she would be a long term resident as most people won't take a cat they can barely see as she runs flat out from one hidey hole to another. I did get another cat at the same time about the same age as her and that she had taken a liking to and was seeming to take confidence from.

For a good two weeks I barely saw her, she found a corner at the back of a cupboard to hid in and stayed there, she would come out to eat and use the litter tray at night or sometimes when it was quiet in the day, then she learn that we would put her breakfast down in a morning, and sit quietly drinking coffee and eating breakfast while watching Breakfast TV and she started to creep out then, as long as we didn't move she would have something to eat and then slink back to her cupboard.

I got one of the wand toys so that i could play with her with out getting close, it was a 6' stick with a string that was slightly longer and a variety of toys that could be attached to the end. She loved it and it meant I could just sit quietly and she could play with it the other side of the room where she felt safe. A couple of months after having her she was happily running around the lounge chasing the feathers on the end of the string and climbing over the furniture, as long as i just stayed still she was fine, but i did talk quietly to her while playing or when she was taking a much needed break.

She and Saturn then had access to the rest of the house and met our resident granny cat. Freyja by this point was hiding as much and found out that a comfy bed during the day was better to lie on than under, she would still dash under it if we approached her but as long as we were ignoring her she slowly started to wait and see if she needed to run, we had to be very careful not to look at her and to walk around with our backs half turned to her, but she started to accept that we could be about and she didn't need to hide. I then started to reach out to her, not looking at her but watching her body language out the the corner of my eye, when she started to pull back or tense up I back off, eventually after she had been with us for quite a few months i finally managed to scratch her behind the ear and she realised she liked it.

Three and a half years after getting her she can be very friendly demanding fuss and attention, however she can still have her moments when fear suddenly takes hold and we are best just to let her do her own thing. She is still scared of us walking close to her and we have learnt to freeze if we realise that one of us is on one side of her and the other in the path of flight she was thinking of taking, stand absolutely still and she will sort herself out and will normally then run past one of us to get to where she considers herself safe, once there she is fine.

The only problems we still have is getting her in a carrier to get her to the vets for her vaccinations, she still won't let us pick her up and it is the only time she gets aggressive with us is if we try (I'm still working on it), I can manage to get her in the carrier if it is open ready and she is in a position for me to grab her by the scruff and literally lifter her up, supporting her weight with a hand under the back legs as well and just turn and put her in the carrier, we have top opening ones which makes it possible. Last time I did get it wrong and end up with two beautiful punctures in my arm, I hadn't even realised she had bit me at the time. It's not aggression on her part, just a fear reaction.

I am also still trying to get her used to being deflead, sometimes she will let me use a spot on on her if she is relaxed and fussy, other times she looks at something unusual in my and vanishes in panic.

Sorry this turned into a such a long life story post, but I hope it will show that time and patience are your best friends in this situation. if it seems to be 1 step forward, 2 steps back then just accept you will have to repeat those two steps again, and again and again if necessary, then one day you will find that you have taken 3 steps forward and only 2 steps back. Let her get used to you and your family doing normal things around her, totally ignoring her, don't try and coax her out of her hiding place, let her come out when she is ready, or entice her out with food or a toy, but let her make the decision to come out and investigate, when she is about ignore her.

You say you have only had her a week so it is very early days, you don't say how old she is now, or how long between her two trapping events, it could be that if they were close together that has traumatised her and she is now very much on the defensive. Give her time to become confident in her new surroundings and know that the people around her aren't going to do anything nasty to her and i'm sure she will come around and be friendly soon.

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Re: Feral Kitten Settling in Advice

Post by Sniper1 » Wed Dec 05, 2018 9:13 pm

I would get a dog crate large enough for bed litter tray food dish etc and put it up in a busy part of the household keep her in there with minimal interaction for a few days then start reaching in and stroking her as often as you can as she gets a little more relaxed at this start picking her out and petting her as that improves open the cage and allow her free time always offer a chunck of roast chicken or similar before and after each interaction and when it comes to free time allow her to leave and enter the cage herself never force her or shut her out when she leaves always temp her back in with food even it means leaving her hungry until she gets the hang of the routine eventually you leave the door open all the time and just wean her away from the cage but it stops her hiding and means you have easy access to interact with her if you want you can party cover the outside of the cage with s blanket to make it more like a safe den at least to start worked for us with many ferals over the years who then went on to successful rehomings

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Re: Feral Kitten Settling in Advice

Post by ChingfordPetRescue » Thu Dec 06, 2018 11:28 am

I use crates to integrate a nervous cat into the household. I feel it really is the best way. They have somewhere safe to retreat to and to get used to the comings an goings of the house. They will let you know when they are ready to explore further.

When integrating a cat using a crate for the first few days I feed and change litter and talk to them as I do, then progress it to stroking from there.
The process can take anything from 2 weeks to 8 weeks and you will be rewarded with a well adjusted kitty :P
I use the 48inch crates. They are around £60 and are large enough for 2 litter trays, bed, bowls and toys. https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00362D9X4

Good luck with your little one bless her she sounds like shes had a hard start.

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