How to Rescue Feral Kittens

With patience and persistence, you can tame a wild kitten and transform her into a loving pet.

By Sarah Magee

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rescued kittenWhen I first fed the kitten that showed up in my backyard, she retreated into the woods if I stood too close. Daily, I moved the food closer to my back door. Nervous, but drawn by the food, the little gray-and-white tabby approached as I spoke softly to her, calling her Baby.

I moved the food progressively closer and finally deeper inside the house. Finally, Baby was far enough inside that I could close the door behind her. Terrified, this feral kitten crashed into the walls in her desperate attempt to escape.

What is Feral?
The term feral describes a wild or savage creature. Feral cats live as wild animals, without owners or homes. Unfortunately, most feral cats have not been spayed or neutered, so they reproduce prolifically. To prevent the kittens from living the same tough lives as their parents, they must be tamed and adopted.

Ideally, remove feral kittens from the nest at 4 or 5 weeks of age, when they can be safely weaned. If you remove them sooner, they are less likely to survive. At around 6 weeks of age, they start romping and playing out of the nest, making it more difficult to capture them - it may just take more patience, as it did with my experience with Baby.

Carefully try to capture the mother as well, and have her spayed. This will help reduce the feral cat population.

Protect Yourself
Make sure both you and the kittens are safe and protected before and after you capture them.

You do not want to get bitten, says Sara Winikoff, DVM, a veterinarian in suburban New York who devotes half her practice to feral cats. A feral kitten could have rabies.

Until a veterinarian verifies the kittens health and you are confident that it will not bite you, always handle the kitten with a towel or heavy gloves.

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Reader Comments

Vendetta Dressel    McMinnville, TN

9/3/2012 1:38:15 PM

My second cat Bob was I believe a ferrel cat. He use to watch us from a field. I put food out and kept putting it closer to our home. I finally got him into a cage and took him into my bathroom and released him. He ran out and tried to get out the closed window and the mirror scared him. He was wild! I took him to a vet where they cleaned up his burned back leg and neutered him. I brought him home and put him into his own bedroom where he howled and ripped up the carpet off the tact strip. After he was healed up, I released him and one hour later he was back. He now comes in the house and lays all day and refuses to stay in at night. It took us about 4 months to tame him some. He has a 4 inch tail and it has been broken at some time. I would love to keep him in at night but can't stand his howling. He has come home hurt and it worries me to death but don't know what else to do. I have another cat I rescued that stays in as she is declawed. She is scard to death of Bob. I have to keep them in separate rooms at all times.

Angela    San juan Capistrano, CA

8/27/2011 2:27:52 PM

I live on six acres of land backed by the Cleveland National Forest. We are animal lovers and take very good care of all our animals, We would like to purchase 2 Feral Kittens. Can you help?

beatrice    wilmington, DE

7/11/2010 4:46:21 AM

i would love to foster all cats,and kittens.I havr two from forgotten cats.I love them so much.If you need help fostering another one.

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