[kitten hissing] [kitten growling] [instrumental music] Hey guys, I just rescued a 7 to 8 week old feral kitten and in this video I’m gonna show you what to do if you’ve rescued a feral kitten. How do you take a kitten from being super-spicy to being mild and lovely? This kitten is from a really interesting background because he’s actually the brother of a baby I raised. Apple is a kitten that came to me as a little baby and I was told that she was a singleton but this week my team and I were out trapping cats and we went to the colony that Apple had come from and guess who we found? Another kitten. This kitten is from the same exact place as Apple and is the same age, so it’s pretty clear this is her brother. The interesting thing is Apple’s been exposed to humans her whole life and that means Apple is a really friendly kitten, but her brother, who we’ve named Crabapple, is not friendly to people. He’s unsocialized or feral. Socialization is a learned behavior, kittens aren’t born liking humans. They become friendly to humans through early exposure. If they’re not exposed to humans from a young age that’s when kittens are feral and they grow up to be feral cats. So we’re gonna take a look at this kitten we’ll see how spicy he is, and then I’ll show you how to socialize a feral kitten. (Higher pitched voice) Okay. Let’s take a peek. Hello! *Growl* “Really grumpy?” Hi little one. Can I say hi to you? **Hiss** Hi! So right now I’m trying to get a gauge on how spicy this kitten is. When you’re very first working with a feral kitten you always want to put on gloves. Feral kittens are very scared when they’re cornered and if you corner them in a carrier it’s very likely that they’re going to bite or scratch. A lot of people think that because kittens are small they can’t hurt you but absolutely they can. I’m actually gonna open the carrier from the top so that I’m not cornering this kitten. So I’m going to lift from here and say hello. Can I say hi to you? [Crabapple growls] Keep in mind any movements or sounds are gonna be really scary to this kid. Hi. Okay! So I’ve gotten the kitten out without getting hurt so there’s our little baby kitten. Oh my gosh, you’re exactly like Apple. It’s so crazy. You look just like her. All right. So this kitten is gonna go into my playpen and I’m using a playpen that can close and zip up. The reason you want to enclose the kitten for the first several days is you want to ensure he stays safe and stays put this enclosure should be somewhere near where you spend a lot of time so the kitten can get used to being in proximity to a human. A spicy kitten should be an enclosed kitten you really shouldn’t let them roam freely until they’re a little milder and are actually interested in and willing to approach you. Excuse me! [Crabapple hisses] [Playful voice] Oh you’re very scary. Before you start really working with the kitten you should make sure they’re at an age where they’re likely to warm up to you. There’s this critical socialization period which is between five and twelve weeks of age. That’s when kittens are weaning onto wet food, they’re becoming less dependent on mom and they’re biologically predisposed to accept change. They’re looking for their next meal ticket so if humans can swoop in when that window is still open and help these kittens associate humans and food that’s when the kittens start to go “Hmm, I might like you.” So my number one piece of feral kitten advice is you never want to free feed the kitten. Free feeding is when you give food freely and the kitten just eats whenever they want but think about that from a kittens perspective. In their mind, they’ve found food and they don’t need a human to give it to them. You want to feed the kitten with meals and every time it’s meal time, it’s socialization time. Every single time you work with them, you’re pushing them to do a little bit more to become comfortable with humans. So at feeding number one, my only goal is to get him to eat in front of me. Alright, so this is great. I’ve got him eating. So there he is, he’s eating his meal and here’s me, and I’m just gonna hang out and talk to him the whole time. You could talk to them about absolutely anything it doesn’t matter what it is the important thing is that they’re just getting used to the sound of your voice. So, you know I can talk to him about my day. I can talk to him about what I had for breakfast. Whatever. It doesn’t matter just talk to them. If you don’t know what to talk about, read them a book or read them the news or just you talk to them about your relationship issues. It’s okay. This is a safe space to open up about anything. Now for this first meal I don’t recommend doing anything other than just talking to the kitten. Let them get used to the idea that now they are in a human home. Remember these cats maybe have never even heard a human speak before so this is really brave of them. This is a huge period of transition for you little guy and already just within this meal he’s not growling as much. So the goal is for him to realize that when he eats, I’m here and nothing bad happens to him. Slowly he’s gonna start to figure out that actually I’m not a bad guy after all. [Quietly] Can I see if I can touch your head? [Crabapple hisses] Oh. Okay. [Crabapple growls] Let’s have some breakfast. Okay. Okay, so we’re just having some breakfast as he’s eating, I’m giving him some gentle pets. I don’t want to overwhelm him or pick him up or do anything that’s gonna make him super uncomfortable right now. It’s just about getting him slowly acclimated to the idea of being touched, and what better way to do that then by snacking? At every single meal you want to encourage them to get a little more comfortable with different types of human contact. Even if he grumbles, it’s okay. As long as he’s still comfortable to eat, he is making progress. If the kitten is eating, you’ll want to try something new each time. You can try hand feeding which will increase his feelings of dependence on you as the caregiver and show him that you’re someone he can trust. Once he’s comfortable with hand feeding and touching, you can start to slowly practice lifting the kitten. Don’t do it all at once, just go slow and steady. Again, as long as he’ll still eat during this process, progress is being made. Eventually you’ll be able to lift him completely If the kitten is accepting touch, try petting some of his favorite spots like the face, chest, and lower back. You might even hear his first purrs. [Crabapple purring] So all of this takes place over the course of several meals and several days. But once your kitten has become a bit more mild, you really want to fast track them to go all the way cuddly. Now you want to really encourage as much time together as possible. Cuddle the kitten, rub his cheeks, hold him, kiss him. Do this as much and as often as you possibly can. At first he might look at you like he’s not so sure, but eventually, all of this is going to make a lot more sense to him and he’ll actually really relax into it. [Crabapple purring] Do you love sleeping in a bed? If you need a hands-free way to keep the kitten close by, you can always try my patented technique, the hoodie holder. Put on a hoodie backwards, maybe even a kitten lady hoodie like this one. Plop the kitten into the hood with his head sticking out of the top. If you need to make it a little tighter, you can. Now you can socialize your kitten even while you’re working. Once the kitten is really warmed up to you you can start to encourage playtime. Rattling a toy around might be pretty scary to a feral kitten if they just arrived, but by now your kitten should be really Interested in toys and should be a little more comfortable with the sounds and movements they make. So play gently, and don’t make any loud noises when the kitten is first gaining the confidence to play. If the kitten ever gets shy or is hiding away from you, you don’t want to just pull them out from where they are. You can actually encourage them to come out with a toy or with some gentle touch. You want this kitten to know that you’re safe, you’re a source of fun, and you are a source of food. And… voila! Before you know it your little kitten will have gone from wild to mild. Good job, Crabapple. You did it! Good job, Mr. Crabs! You’re not crabby no more. Don’t forget you can get a lot more information about socializing feral kittens in Chapter 2 and chapter 5 of my book, “Tiny, But Mighty”. Good luck and happy socializing.