Common Feral Kitten Behavior and How to Socialize Them

Feral Kitten

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You may have a litter of feral kittens near your home. Lots of times, you may think that they’re like ordinary kittens, but that’s not the case. They’re a bit different. This post will discuss feral kitten behavior, and what it means for someone who discovers that they have feral kittens living nearby.

Feral Kitten

Common Traits With Feral Kittens

The first thing that you will notice, is just like a feral cat, these little guys are not socialized to humans themselves. You’ll notice that they won’t maintain eye contact with you. However, if you’re thinking about trapping them, fixing them, and then releasing them for adoption, they can be great pets and if you neuter them they prevent colony expansion.

Common traits you’ll see when you have a feral kitten are as follows:
  • They are very timid
  • They are avoidant, even to the point of not looking at you
  • They can be timid and aggressive in response to you, out of fear

Feral cats are typically homeless and born in the wild, and kittens are no exception. They may have been abandoned, or even become lost if you’re not careful. One thing you may also notice is that they may have been left behind by their mother, which is a bit of a sad instance. Many times you can trap these kittens and then release them.

Usually, they are temperamental but not nearly as bad as their adult counterparts. You want to tame these little guys quickly and with the right actions.

Some other characteristics that you may notice with feral kittens are the following:

  • They will not approach you, and they’ll actively seek hiding places so that they can avoid you, which is why people usually find feral kittens underneath buildings or in small places away from humans.
  • They tend to belong to a colony especially kittens with a mom, whereas stray cats aren’t a part of the colonies.
  • Feral cats do crawl, stay low, and crouch to the ground, usually, a sign of fear, and they protect their bodies with a tail. Feral kittens, if they’re older, tend to do this.
  • They don’t make eye contact.
  • They won’t communicate, even with a meow, a purr, or a beg.
  • They tend to be nocturnal, and they won’t come out during the day for the most part.
  • Despite being feral, they have a coat that is clean and well-kept.
  • If they are neutered they will get an ear chip due to the TNR program.

These are common characteristics of feral cats period, but you see these in kittens as well, although they may not come around until they’re older, because they usually are wild and helpless unless their mom comes to assist.

Feral Kitten

How to Handle Them

The first thing you’ll want to make sure of is that you’re very careful with handling them. You should NEVER pick up a feral cat by hand. That’s because you’re protecting yourself from diseases, especially if they are rabid, and it also protects the kitten too. If a kitten bites a human it may have to be euthanized. So you’ll, for the sake of the cats themselves, use a humane trap to get them.

Now, you can do the following with a kitten to help tame and humanize it.
  • Make sure that if you trap them, you get all of the kittens and the mother cat if possible.
  • Use TNR to trap all of them so that they can get neutered and released, and prevent the colony from growing.
  • When looking for the feral kittens, make sure to get them within the quiet, unseen spots, since that’s where the mom keeps them.
  • You should wait for them for about 4-6 weeks since they can be taken by the mom at that point.
Now at this point, if you do capture them, they tend to need to be neutered immediately. But at what age can you do this? Well, there are a couple of factors that you can consider.
  • The earliest is 4-6 weeks.
  • However, if you wait a little bit longer you can, but remember that the longer you wait the harder it is to tame them.
  • You should make sure that you don’t take them too young, since they can have diseases, and will struggle to survive.
  • Make sure you get the mother kitten too.
  • Do not wait more than 3-4 months, however, since if it is happening for the process of taming, it’s harder for them to acclimate to humans.
  • You can TNR older kittens that aren’t used to humans.

Socializing these Kittens?

Socializing these kittens is possible, and if you’re going to engage in a TNR program, this is ultimately the way to do it.

With socialization you essentially get the following to happen:
  • The cat is friendly toward people
  • They enjoy companionship and aren’t scared
  • They will interact with people at an early age
  • They can get used to holding and petting
  • They won’t become apprehensive when it comes to dealing with humans

If you want a kitten as a pet, provided you do it within a small window of time, you’ll not only prolong the life of the cat but will help with improving the overall happiness of the cat.

Now taming and socializing a feral cat isn’t always the simplest thing. Sometimes, this can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks, or even more if they’re skittish. Usually, the two main factors that you do want to think about if you want to understand feral kitten behavior are the following:

  • The age
  • The skittishness

Some may warm up immediately but others may take a lot longer. However, if you’re patient and committed, you’re not only saving the life of a kitten, but you’re helping to bring forth a good and happier furry friend. You’re saving the lives of many, and you’re going to help a feral kitten.

By understanding the very behavior and working to socialize with them, you’ll change the way they act, and it can save their life.

Does it Matter?

Yes, it certainly does! It’s honestly the surefire way to help prevent a cat from dying. Out in the wild, there are various aspects, such as the following:

  • Enemies that eat the cats
  • Diseases
  • A lack of food
  • Other humans that don’t particularly like cats

By seeing that these feral cats are taken care of you’ll have a much better time. With adult feral cats, you should just leave them alone because if they’re picked up by shelters or animal control they are killed usually. With TNR though, the mother won’t be killed off, but instead, she’s returned to the outdoor area.

Socialized cats can be up for adoption. You want to give these little guys a good home. It’s hard out there, especially since many don’t understand. If you’ve been feeding a feral cat and the cat ends up having kittens, you’re in charge of that. Sometimes yes, they do get abandoned, which is kind of a very bad thing. It’s important to understand that all cats are different and you have to understand why it’s important to socialize a feral kitten.

How to Do It?

Now, how you do it is quite interesting. There are a few steps to helping a kitten become socialized, and they are as follows:

  • Containment within a cage or carrier
  • Handling with a towel
  • Containment in a room to work on socializing
  • Exposure to humans
  • Adoption
With containment, another trait that you’ll notice with feral kittens is that they tend to hiss and spit. This is because they’re super terrified of humans. However, some other factors come about, and that are the following:
  • They hiss
  • They Bite
  • They spit
  • They act super ferocious, even to the point of biting and scratching
  • Will try to escape if given a chance
That’s because a feral kitten is fighting for their life. They don’t mean to be scared, they just see you as a predator. If you’re going to engage in socializing with these kittens, make sure that you do the following:
  • Check for diseases and illnesses with the vet
  • Wash hands
  • Wear a smock

When you get them, don’t handle them for two days, and make sure that you use slow movements, and resist touching. You’ll want to keep them in the carrier or the litter box with some bedding, keep them away from others, and make sure you don’t let them escape. With food and water, you should always make sure that you have those, and if needed, keep them in a small litter box, but with the door open.

Handling These kittens

When you handle feral kittens, the first thing that you’ll want to do is make sure that you work with the least aggressive one. These are the ones that usually determine how aggressive the litter is. When you do this, put a towel over them, and then pick them up.

From there, you do the following:
  • Pet it from behind to the head
  • Never go head to the back, because it’ll scare the kitten
  • If it’s still calm, grip it set it on the towel and softly contact them
  • Keep this brief and do this with everything
  • If you brush with a pet brush it feels like they’re being groomed by their mother, so they make the transfer the love to you

With this, always make sure that you make sure to do everything possible to get rid of fleas. That’s because they tend to fall ill and anemic if they get fleas, and combining out fleas helps with the bonding that you need to do with the kitty.

From there, you can keep the kittens in a room, away from other people. If you notice that one isn’t becoming tame, then you’ll need to keep them in a separate place. Usually, you see the results within a week or so, but remember that kittens do become tamer at different rates. You should, if you have a cat that is struggling with being tamed, work with them on a more personal basis.

That’s because of the following:
  • It will give them more dependence on your
  • It will help with bonding
  • It will prevent the wildness from actually being reinforced

On another note, you should always make sure that if the kitten is still timid, you keep them out of a large room. That’s because, if they do get scared, they go under the bed, and they’re a nightmare to get out then. You should make sure that you kitten-proof the place by sealing up places, making sure that you block access to various areas, and make sure you prevent them as well from eating things they are not meant to eat. At this point, they will start to act like normal kittens.

You essentially want to wait for them to do the following before you put them up for adoption or try to socialize them with other humans:
  • Not bite or scratch
  • Not hiss or try to growl
  • Not trying to be against handling

Usually, feral cats tend to bond with one singular human, so if you want them to be more used to other humans, you can call friends and family in, and then you can have them work with the kittens, handle them, and from there, see what happens.

With feral kittens, you should take time with them. They are feral, and they can take some time to adjust. The golden rule is that if they are struggling with actually getting into the process of taming and socializing you should make sure that you spend more time with them. Giving them more time will make them feel more secure, and it’s perfect if you’re worried about how a feral kitten may act.

If you’re going to adopt them out wait until they’re about eight weeks or so since then they can be adopted out by humans at this point.

Feral Cats When Trapped

One thing you may notice is that they do have their own set of actions that come about when they are trapped. Usually, there are barriers when you trap them, and with feral kittens, along with the mom, it’s the same thing. Some of the factors include the following:

  • They won’t be touched and are refused to be touched, even when you’re giving care
  • Unlike stray cats who come to the front of where the cage, a feral cat will try to stay as far back as possible and will retreat to the back of the cage
  • They tend to not touch the cage, except if they’re frightened and jolted, where they may start to climb, rattle, and shake the cage
  • They will be unsocial and tend to not relax over time
  • They will ignore people, and toys, possibly even food if they’re older
  • They won’t be interested in sounds within the household, except in the case if you’ve been feeding the cat and they respond
  • They will be aggressive
  • Will tend to lash out when they’re cornered or threatened, usually having the ears back and the eyes dilated

When handling feral kittens you may see this too, especially if you’re looking to trap them and socialize them.

Some of them may not be inclined to socialize. If that’s the case, that’s a sign that it may be a bit more feral than you expected, and in that case, it might be best to return them to the colony.

Remember, these guys need to be taught to be comfortable around others, and you may not even notice them purr for a bit, and the nice thing is, that virtually anyone can socialize with a kitten, but if you do it before 2 months of age it might need more time. 4 months is usually the time when it’s very hard for the kitten to get socialized, so definitely learn the behavior and if the vet says it’s too late, you may need to TNR the cat, and bring it back to the colony.

Other Tips and Tricks

When it comes to understanding and getting used to taking care of feral kittens, there are a few other concerns that should be taken into consideration. Here are a few things that you will want to remember when it comes to feral kittens.

  • Always make sure that they see a vet and get dewormed and FVRCP vaccinated right away
  • If you have any other parasites and the like, do make sure that they’re taken care of as needed
  • Don’t give a rabies vaccination until the kitten is about four or so months old
Feral Kitten
  • If you see the kitten become lethargic, aren’t eating, or have diarrhea or possibly little parasites inside, you should certainly get them to the vet right away
  • Always give them a hiding space to go to if they need to feel safe, but always challenge them whenever possible
  • Give them stinky foods to eat, such as tuna, because those are often the most desirable foods
  • While eating, touch the kitten, initially with a tool, and once you’re sure the kitten will not bite you, use your hands
  • You should do this with every feeding, and give a personal experience. Start to touch them while they eat, because it creates the idea that if they get touched, they’ll get rewarded with food
  • Always work with kittens at a slow pace, don’t try to overstimulate them right away
  • Challenge them each day to be around humans more, but don’t terrify them and instead give them small challenges to help with progress
  • Increase the frequency of being touched, pet, and played with
  • When they’re ready, introduce them to humans that won’t scare them, but make sure that you do it slowly, and safely
  • If the kitten is learned to be too old to be socialized, do not leave them right away, but instead make sure that they have all of their vaccinations, and then handle them accordingly
  • Don’t despair if you don’t get results with feral kittens right away. They’re often very timid and fearful of humans, and honestly, if they were left alone, they’d just act like your average feral cat. It’s best not to put too much stock in the cats if they end up not being super friendly

When it comes to feral kittens, it’s best to make sure that you as a human don’t do anything too extreme. Remember, feral kittens are often hard to take care of but you can learn more about how to take care of feral kittens, and the process of living with feral kittens here and here if you want to find out more information on taking care of them. As a person who is interested in taking care of cats, you may come across some feral kittens, and it can be a bit daunting. The mom might’ve gotten knocked up by the local tomcat, and if you don’t want to have more problems, including overpopulation issues, you should make sure that you do get their shots and help socialize them. Socializing does take time but with the right effort you’ll be able to help these kittens grow, and from there they’ll be ready to live with humans. It’s better for them since they don’t have to worry about diseases and potential dangers and if you take care of them at a young age, they can be worthwhile pets that others can enjoy.

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