How can I go about taming feral kittens?

Feral kittens are kittens that have been born in the wild, often in a "colony" of cats around a food source, that have not had frequent contact with people. Taming feral kittens can be extremely difficult, and some won't ever tame at all. Frequently, they will bond only with the person who tamed them, so it will be hard to transfer them to a new owner if that's your goal. It all depends on their age. Ideally, you should try to tame them between 5-9 weeks old - the older they get after that, the harder it will be. At that age, they aren't dependant on the mother's milk, so it's easier if you have to remove them. If you wait too long, they will likely never be pets, and it will be best to have them neutered if you can and leave them in the colony where they came from.

   

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You'll need to get thick gloves and make sure your shots are up to date (specifically, tetanus). Don't let them contact your other pets until they've been checked out by a vet. That's asking for the spread of disease.

The first step is to catch the kitten - you can use gloves or use a cat trap. You can get a humane feral cat trap online for about $30.

The next step, once you've caught them, is to put them in a caged area in a room that you frequent. The living room or the kitchen are good places. The key is that it needs to be somewhere that you and other people will be spending time. If the kitten is off in a corner of your house, it's not ever going to learn that people are safe to be around. It will only see you when you go in there. You want it to see you and other people interacting with each other and not attacking the kitten - that way, it will gradually become acclimated to being around people.

Handling it is a tough stage to get through. The "towel method" is a first step used by a lot of trainers. You basically use a towel to cover the kitten and pet its head gently from behind. You want to get it used to being "groomed" by you like it would another kitten or its mother. Picking it up is the next step - you should grab it by its neck at first (as a mother wood, holding the scruff of loose skin on the back) and pet the kitten and talk to it. Keep it short at first, but you can gradually lengthen the time you do this. Keep treats handy and give them out liberally - you're not "rewarding" the kitten for doing anything or being good, you're teaching it that you're not dangerous and you even have food. Next, shift to playing with the kitten - strings, balls, or general cat toys. Something like a shoestring is good because you can be some distance away from the kitten, so it is more likely to play with you even if it's wary. Remember to have other people come do it as well if you can. You risk ending up with a wild cat that is only "tame" in relation to you and not to people in general. It can take weeks, so be prepared. You can check out a detailed guide on the process here. There's also a good general site on dealing with feral cats here, along with a specific article on taming feral kittens here.

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