Caretaker's Guide


How to Domesticate and Care for Feral or Rescued Kittens

To domesticate means “To adapt to life in intimate association with humans” Feral and rescued kittens are the offspring of female feral cats or unaltered female domestic cats.

Since the kittens have not had an opportunity to bond with humans, they are often wary and mistrustful. Even at a very young age, their mothers have taught them ways to survive. Their instinct from being born in unprotected and unsafe places is to run and try to get away. Though small, they can bite and scratch when frightened and under no circumstances should they be handled roughly. It is important to minimize any exposure to scratching or biting. A 4-5 week old kitten is quite fragile and can be easily calmed and should be handled softly and wrapped in bunting when holding.

Feral and rescued kittens come from varied backgrounds and will have distinct personalities. The circumstances under which they were born and the ability of the mother to protect and care for them can influence their behavior. We may never know what rigors the mother went through to birth them and what they experienced in unsafe and hostile surroundings. Under the best conditions, even the rescue itself can be an extremely frightening experience. Felines do not adapt easily to any change. Persons caring for or adopting a rescue kitten or cat should educate themselves about their unique natures and needs. This is vital information for everyone to have and there are many good web sites available. We are only covering the basics for kitten care. There is much more to nurturing and raising kittens than can be addressed in this document. Research other resources on the internet, kitten rescue organizations and books. Confer with persons who have experience. The more you know, the better it will be for the precious lives you are caring for.

Under normal circumstances, partially weaned kittens may be taken from the mother from four to six weeks. Generally, this age is considered easiest for socialization. Kittens twelve to sixteen weeks and older have been successfully socialized. Any person attempting to work with kittens should be responsible and educated and endowed with an abundance of patience and compassion.

How to Kitten Proof Your Home

Kittens and puppies are naturally inquisitive, which can often lead to serious injury.  Here are some tips on how you can make your house safer for the new arrival.

Shocking-Young animals love to chew when they are teething.  Keep electrical wires out of reach, securely covered or sprayed with pet-repellent spray.

They’d die for some chocolate…Chocolate can be dangerous.  It contains theobromine, a powerful stimulant that is toxic to pets.  Sweets, cakes and cookies can also upset a young animal’s GI tract and lead to diarrhea and vomiting, which can be serious.  Never give turkey, chicken or rib bones as a treat.  They can splinter and cause serious injury.

Common household killers…Cleaning agents, bleach, ammonia, disinfectants, drain cleaner, oven cleaner, paint, gasoline and rat poison.   Keep them locked up. CHECK THE ANTIFREEZE…Pets are attracted to the odor and sweet taste of antifreeze.  Store it high and tightly sealed, wiping up any spills on the garage floor.  Window-washing solution also contains antifreeze.  Remember, engine warmth promotes cat naps, so HONK YOUR HORN to wake pets who may be under the hood.

Killer house plants… Poisonous plants include lilies, philodendron, dieffenbachia, elephant ear, eucalyptus, spider plants, azalea, ivy, amaryllis, pyracantha, oleander, boxwood, Jerusalem Cherry and plant bulbs, holly and mistletoe. Keep off the grass…If you treat your lawn with chemicals, keep pets away.  Read and follow label directions carefully. It fit yesterday…Kittens and puppies grow rapidly.  Collars and harnesses can be rapidly  outgrown, leading to serious wounds.

Take care of personal care items and medications…Cosmetics, shampoos, skin creams, hair-perm solutions, depilatories, suntan lotions, sleeping pills, antihistamines, aspirin and acetaminophen can be lethal to pets. Don’t leave plastic bags out.  Inquisitive young animals, especially kittens can suffocate in a short time.

The heat is on. Watch out for hot irons, coffeepots and space heaters. Kittens and puppies may jump to new heights.  Use a fireplace screen. Keep covers on toilet seats, hot tubs & swimming pools.  Kittens and even young puppies can fall in and not be able to get out. RULE OF THUMB…If any or all of something will fit in a mouth, it is dangerous: Watch out for cigarette butts, rubber bands, balloons, sewing needles, thread, string, ribbons and yes even pantyhose.  What goes in must come out, often via surgery.


Ten Proven Successful Steps for Introducing a New Cat or Kitten to Your Household

1. Prepare a safe room for the new arrival where they will stay for a minimum of 10 days before being introduced into their new home and family. Put a litter box, food and water and make a cozy, warm bed for them to sleep in. Toys are always good. If possible, bring bedding with their smells they have accumulated from their previous location. This will make them feel safer and also help with cross scenting for a better introduction to the other cats. A floor scratcher or scratching post is A MUST and a window for sunshine (be sure all screens are secure). .

2. Visit as much as possible every day. Groom and pet them often. Then pet the cats that you would like to introduce to your newcomer. Cross scenting is an invaluable way of helping the cats get acquainted. They will get to know each other through the door by putting their paws underneath and doing things that cats do to become acquainted. With the door closed no one feels threatened.

3. Exchange food bowls and water dishes. Give the same amount of attention to the cats in the household that you give to the newcomer. Everyone should feel loved and secure with a stranger in their midst. We also rub our hands in some tasty dry food and then rub the smells on the cats. Having good quality and delicious food will also help with the transition. Offer everyone the same food!

4. If you have a screen or some type of transparent barrier you can put up temporarily at the door, this will definitely help. Then you can open the door and they can also see one another. If this is done several times a day, it can be a good way to introduce newcomers. However, this should only be done under supervision. Having a large dog crate in the room with the other cats gives them good way to interact. Cats like to make eye contact and do body language. The crate should be covered on three sides and the top and either a carrier or cardboard box inside for hiding if necessary along with food, toys and other goodies. If you are taming a feral cat or an older kitten, the length of time in the crate will need to be increased, after which you need to make the determination as to how frightened the cat remains and if when letting out, it will bolt and hide. This may happen, but it does not necessarily mean the cat will not adjust. Give a feral cat time and under most circumstances they will become very loving and grateful friends.

We also use two story playpens that can be ordered online. Covered except for the front at first, it gives everyone a chance to smell and see each other. We teach this introduction in our Community Cat Workshops and have a demonstration.

5. When you are ready to let your new cat/kitten into the household to interact with the other cats (you must be present), the best time is after everyone has eaten and preferably when they would normally take their naps. They will be more relaxed. Follow the cats and watch over them carefully for the first 24-48 hours. Keep all of the newcomer’s things in their room until the transition is complete, as you may need to put them back into the room (or crate) at night. It will also be their familiar safe haven. Go at a slow at a comfortable pace. There is no hurry, as this is a permanent home for the newcomer and he or she will be there for their lifetime.

6. GOING THROUGH ALL OF THE PROCESSES SLOWLY AND WITH EASE WILL PAY OFF IN THE LONG RUN WITH A HAPPY AND WELL-ADJUSTED HOUSEHOLD. NEVER BRING A NEW CAT OR KITTEN INTO A HOUSEHOLD AND LET THEM LOOSE WHEN THEY ARRIVE. This type of introduction will not be successful and the cat and/or kitten will probably find a hiding place and be difficult to remove. Cats are creatures of familiarity. INTRODUCTION MUST BE SLOW AND EASY.


8. At first when they are out in the household WITH THE OTHER CATS, there may some hissing or growling or running and hiding from one another. It is their way of communicating a complicated language that we do not understand. It has been our personal experience that if the introduction is done properly, you will have wonderful satisfying results and the cats will live together in harmony. OF COURSE ALL OF THE CATS IN THE HOUSEHOLD MUST BE SPAYED OR NEUTERED.

9. Do not reprimand them if the situation becomes tense. Pick up one of the cats and remove them from the area and place in a less confined space, but do not place the newcomer back behind a closed door, once you have taken the food, litter box and their bed out. It will appear that they are being punished. A good way to relieve tension is with an interactive toy OR SOMETHING TO DISTRACT.

10. Food is always a good tension breaker. Keep something everyone likes a lot and this can have a calming effect. There are also Bach Flower Remedies like Rescue Remedy, which we use in many circumstances, from rescuing to helping in stressful situations.

ONE LAST PRECAUTION: SINCE THE CAT OR KITTEN WILL BE INDOORS ONLY – WATCH THE DOORS TO THE OUTSIDE. IF A CAT OR KITTEN ESCAPES INTO A NEW AND THREATENING TERRITORY, YOU MAY NEVER SEE THEM AGAIN AS THEY WILL BOLT AND HIDE OR WORSE! If your have an adventurous cat, keep a spray bottle with water by the door and use it when leaving and entering to discourage them. If they escape, take immediate steps to get them back!