Socializing Feral Animals

Kittens

Why socialize kittens? Most feral kittens who have come from the outdoors just need a little time and care in order to become a indoor happy kitty. Our goal is to save the feral kitten and socialize them to become an indoor social kitten rather than putting them back outdoors where there are more dangers. An indoor cat will live much longer and will be much safer. We have a suggested step by step process for socializing kittens. We suggest that feral kittens be socialized in a crate. They will live in this crate through out their entire socializing process. If possible, place the crate at a hip/eye level location. Cats like to be higher. It will help them feel more safe if they are at the same level you are so that you are not cowering over them when walking into the room. Opening a window during the day for fresh are can also be refreshing for your cooped up outdoor kittens. If socializing in a bathroom, you can also keep them in a crate or if the bathroom is small set up towels and blankets in the tub and floor. Make sure not to put any bulky cat beds that they can hide under. Feral kittens can easily become social and loving indoor cats in around just 2 weeks! They can even sometimes become more loving and socialable than your average indoor kitten. This is because the feral kitten has received an over abundance of human attention and love during it’s most important stages of growing. Socialized kittens can become very laid back and affection adults that are okay with being held however you’d like and extremely dependent on human attention.

Suggested Supplies

  • Large Crate for your ferals to live in at first. You want to make sure it is large enough for the kittens to have room to walk around and play for exercise. Single kitten 36″L X 24″W X 27″H, Litter of 2-4 kittens 42″L X 28″W X 31″H, Litter of 4-7 kittens 48″L X 30″W X 33″H.
  • Yummy treats! Some suggested types: Wellness Jerky, Halo Live-A-Little Healthsome Treats, PetNaturals Calming Treats, GNC Calming Treats/Gel, and Pounce Moist/Crunchy Treats (not the healthiest, but for the picky eaters).
  • Smaller litterbox that won’t take up a lot of room in the crate so the kittens can play. It is easiest to use litter that does not have a lot of dust. So tight clumping litter would be ideal.
  • Hanging toys, such as strings with a ball at the end or feathers. Hang these toys from the roof of the crate so they dangle in the crate. This will get your feral kitten excited to play when you are away.

Step by Step

Try to think about socializing feral kittens in steps. It helps keep track if you have made progress or if you need to try something different. The amount of time, of course, will vary case by case. Generally kittens who are 3 months and younger will take a shorter period of time with each step. Make sure not to move onto the next step until you are sure you have completed the current step.

Step 1: “Oh no the monster is coming!” – (Day 1 and 2) – spend time around crate and talk to them. At first they will just stare at you and will hiss every time you move. Keep them in the crate at all times so that getting out of the crate means getting to spend time with you. Once they seem to continue doing what they normally do when they can’t see you (play, eat) then you have completed this step.

Step 2: Burrito Time! – (Day 2-6) – hold them in a towel or blanket, like a burrito, for half an hour one or two times a day and continually pet them. You will probably only be able to pet the ears and head. You want to pet them gentle where they can’t see your hand. You want them to forget that it is you and think of a litter mate grooming them. Once they start to relax and fall asleep you have started to win their trust! If a feral cat falls asleep while be petted, believe it or not that is a big step. It is very common for them to act the same when you put them back in the crate. (like hissing or striking) They are back in their “safety” zone with their siblings so they get back into their previous feral mode. So once they have fell asleep in your towel you have completed this step.

Step 3: The Purring Challenge – (Day 7-10) – continue to hold them in the blanket or towel. But start to pet them where you notice they respond best. (Rubbing the ears and running my fingers from the head to the back works best) This is a good time to start showing your hand so they know it is you that is making them feel good. At this point you have to be determined to get a purr out of them. Sometimes you have pet for a good amount of time before hearing a purr. Your number one goal at this point is to get them to purr. After you break that wall and they are purring in the blanket you want to make sure that every time you hold them you get them to purr. So once they are purring pretty quickly in the blanket when being petted you have completed this step.

Step 4: Finally Getting Adjusted – (Day 10-12) – the next step is to get them comfortable with you with out being constrained. So you need to concentrate on one at a time for this. Ignore the other litter mate’s reactions while working with one. So while they are in the crate start to reach in the crate (as far as you can get in) and start petting their bodies close to the bottom and then work your way up to their heads. They will probably hiss or cringe at first. But your goal is to get a purr out of them. Once you get a purr then you can figure out what their favorite treat is. Sometimes you have to try different treats but you want to make sure they really like it. (fishy smelling things or soft chews are good) Give them a treat on the crate floor next to where they are after you are finished petting. Then try to see if they will eat the treat from the tip of your fingers. This is a waiting game. Just keep your hand out and tempt the kitten with it eats the treat out of your hand. When they are comfortable with that then make a trail of treats from their location to outside the crate. Do this back and fourth for a couple days until they will eat the treat off your fingers at the edge of the crate. This is a HUGE step because after you break this wall they will be willing to come up to you when you open the crate. Even possibly come up to you while purring! You know that you have completed this step when you open the crate and some of the kittens walk right up to you purring. This should help any super shy kitties in the litter. Shy kitty will most likely start to purr after the other litter mates break their fears. Remember that kittens can feed off each others fears and feelings.

Step 5: Ready to Explore the World – (Day 13-15) – see if they will sit down in your lap with treats. And do whatever you think is best when they are walking around outside the crate to make them feel comfortable. Played with your foster kitties with feather toys and continuously pet them. When you can approach them easier and they come up to you happily with no problems, then you can take away the crate and give them more space in the room. Before taking away the crate you can leave the crate open as it was and let them have the extra space for the day. This makes it a little easier because they still have the option to go back in the crate, their “safe zone” if it is to much to take in for them.

Step 6: Find Me a Forever Home! – From then on! Now you can just spend a lot of time holding them and playing with them. After a few days of seeming social with you and others in your home you can start giving them more space in your home and introduce them to your family pets. They are now ready for adoption!

Important Things to Remember

Remember that socializing feral kittens takes time, planned steps, and patience. Socializing very aggressive or frightened feral kittens can be very discouraging. If you ever get frustrated make sure to remember to take a step back and take a deep breathe. Re-gather yourself and motivate yourself again. When you have a positive attitude and a calm approach it will do wonders! Cats can feel when you are frustrated or disappointed. You can act nice and cheery with them but they will always feel your real frustration. Always socialize when you are in a good mood and have a good attitude. This will speed up your socializing process and you will see vast improvement. Sometimes it is easy to feel like your feral kittens hate you and they will never be social. But that is not true! They are just scared.

Put yourself in their paws: Think of being taken from your “home” by these large monsters and being put in a scary, stressful environment. These large monsters are constantly picking you up off your four paws and trying to handle you. But boy their head scratching does feel good. But you still are startled by their touch. You start to feel a little better inside and you don’t feel like sneezing all the time. Over time you learn to trust them and see that they aren’t monsters at all. They are just very large momma cats who offer very tasty food and cool objects to hunt. And they offer the best grooming!

Dogs

What is a feral puppy?

A feral dog is the offspring of domestic dogs (strays) that may have been abandoned. Like feral cats, they live on the edges of human society, scavenging for food, finding shelter where they can, mating, and raising completely unsocialized feral puppies.

With time and care a feral puppy can easily become a social and wonderful family pet. Make sure to never loose your patience and stay calm while socializing. Your attitude while socializing will make a huge difference on how your puppy reacts to you.

Steps for socializing your feral foster:

  • When you bring a feral puppy home, keep it contained in a crate around a high traffic area. A kitchen is ideal. The smaller space helps the dog feel safe, and the location allows the dog to get used to people coming in and out.
  • Keep the leash attached to him at all times. Bring the dog to the center of the room and lay on the floor to pet and talk to him. He’ll be more responsive if you avoid direct eye contact and are down on the floor below his eye level.
  • Clip the leash to your belt and have the dog go with you wherever you are in the house. This forces socialization and teaches her that you are the leader of her new pack. Touch, stroke and talk to the dog while it is leashed.
  • Allow your wild dog to play in an enclosed yard with a well-socialized dog while on a long leash. Dogs naturally follow other dogs. Sit in the yard and repeatedly call the socialized dog to you and the feral dog will follow. Don’t be discouraged if it takes months for the dog to let you touch him off the leash.
  • Continue with all steps. The more you work with him, the faster she will begin to emerge as a loving dog.

Tips & Warnings

  • A huge bonus when taming a feral dog is already having a confident dog in your house. A happy, normal dog will be as much a teacher to your wild dog as you are.
  • Make no moves toward your dog when he’s off the leash. He’ll instinctively run from you.
  • As a game, periodically sit or lay on the ground, avoiding eye contact, and throw pieces of cheese close to you, allowing her to approach you.
  • Consider a basic obedience class. The “sit”, “stay” and “come” commands help a wild dog stop being nervous and focus instead on the rules you’re teaching.
  • Have the dog sleep in your room or on your bed once you can approach it with out it running.
  • Avoid backing the dog into corners. He may bite if scared.
  • If the dog gets off the leash inside and hides under something, approach by laying flat on the ground, avoiding eye contact and reaching slowly to reattach the leash.