Feral cats are homeless cats, many of whom were born in the wild; others who are pets who were abandoned or have become lost. They are for all intents and purposes wild animals. Those adult stray cats which were once owned, or feral cats of quite temperament, may sometimes be tamed with patience. However, the feral kitten is often easily tamed if it is captured young enough. Considering the short miserable lives that feral cats suffer, those kittens which can be tamed and adopted by humans are indeed lucky.
Feral moms usually give birth in quiet spots where kittens will not be visible for several weeks. With no human contact they will be totally wild. When kittens begin to romp and play, they are first noticed by humans but are not easily captured. They may be captured in humane traps (available from the Feral Cat Coalition) and should be taken from the mother at 4 to 6 weeks of age. Older kittens can also be captured and tamed but the process gets slower and less successful the longer the kittens stay in the wild. They should not be taken from their mother before they are old enough to be weaned at about 4 weeks. Kittens taken too young are vulnerable to disease and may not survive. The mother cat should also be captured and spayed to prevent future litters.
The process of taming kittens can take from 2 to 6 weeks (longer for some exceptionally skittish kittens) depending on their age and state of wildness. Individuals can differ greatly in temperament even within the same litter. Some may tame up immediately and some may take quite a long time. Any person attempting to tame kittens should be totally committed and patient. The taming process is certainly worthwhile. You are saving lives and producing affectionate and loving companions.
The steps involved in the taming process are:
- 1. Containment (I) in a cage or large pet carrier
2. Periodic and brief handling with a protective towel
3. Containment (II) in a small room
4. Exposure to other humans
5. Placement in suitable adoptive homes
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