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Monday, July 4, 2011

How to tame a feral kitten

I have too many kittens in my barn. I need to adopt some of them out and get the rest spayed or neutered. Here’s the problem. They’re wilder than Tarzan’s ape. Lucky for me,
you can learn how to do almost anything on the Internet. I googled “how to tame a feral kitten” and found some good advice.
My kittens look tame enough. They sit there all doe-eyed, fluffy and innocent looking, until you get close enough to touch. Then they either dart off to freedom or, if backed into a corner, they become a hissing, spitting ball of fur, claws and razor-sharp teeth. I have learned that if you wear rubberized gardening gloves, a long-sleeved shirt and a modicum of bravery however, you can sneak up on the little fur balls while they are eating or sleeping and quickly stuff them into a waiting cat carrier.
I feel a bit like the scary old man on the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, who drove around with a cage full of children that he had kidnapped. I go into the barn and come out with a cage full of mewing kittens. The adult cats just stare at me. I wonder if they are thinking, “Oh thank goodness, I don’t have to feed them anymore,” or if they are really worried about where I am taking their babies. In any case, they don’t seem to have much of a reaction.
According to the advisory page that I found on the Internet, I am to enclose the kittens in a small room. I normally use the small powder room as a cat holding pen when I’m treating them for illnesses. But this is going to be a slightly longer term operation and I can’t afford to give up my guest bathroom. The last kid who moved out better not be planning to move back in any time soon, because I just gave up her basement bedroom to my kitty cats.
Once inside the room, you open the door to the cat carrier but don’t attempt to pull the kittens out. They will come out when they are good and ready. I put them in there a couple of hours ago and two are still in the carrier. I turned the carrier so they can see the other kittens going to the water and food. Hopefully that will entice them to venture out.
Although I removed all but one covered futon from the room, I gave the kittens plenty of places to hide. None of these places are out of my reach, however, so I can catch them if need be. Two of the kittens still have the eye infections that many barn kitties get. I need to be able to catch and treat them. It will be much easier now that they are in a room and cannot get away from me.
Apparently I am not to attempt to touch the wildest of the feral kitties for the first couple of days. I can go into their room, sit amongst them and cuddle the more tame kittens. I can put a small towel over one of the timid kittens, pull it into my lap and pet it until it gets used to me, but I cannot go chasing the kittens that are hiding. If I have to catch one for any reason, I must bring my arm around behind them because they perceive an approaching hand as a threat. Also, I must not make too much eye contact. Kittens prefer it if you avert your eyes. That is less threatening to them.
They have a kitty litter station, a bubbling self-watering bowl and a continuous supply of kitty food. I have scattered “toys” (anything that scoots or rolls across the floor when batted with a paw) over the floor and padded the various boxes, carriers and futon with soft, worn towels. It’s kitty heaven down there. I hope they appreciate it. The goal is to get them all tame, so I can adopt them out to good homes. And yes, the Farmer is wondering why his Farmwife has suddenly turned into the Crazy Cat Lady of O’Neill Road.


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