Posted by: secondchancehumanesociety | December 26, 2006

Feral Kittens

Dear Pet Column,

After reading your series on feral cats this month I am curious about the aspect of your program that involves removing kittens from feral colonies in order to socialize them and adopt them into homes.  How do you socialize them and do they become as domesticated as kittens born into home environments

Sincerely, Focused on Ferals

 Dear Focused,

 Before I begin with my response I would like to refer readers who missed the series on feral cats to our website ( to read up on our Feral Cat Program which involves humane trapping of feral cats in order to spay/neuter, test, vaccinate and return feral cats back to their habitats.  All of our past Pet Columns are compiled on our website on the “Education” page.

 As explained in Pet Columns 22 and 23 on the website, it is particularly important to consider the age of kittens prior to trapping them, and thus I would encourage anyone with potentially feral kittens in their area to contact your local veterinarian or call the SCHS Animal Hotline (number below) before intervening at all, as you can potentially endanger the lives of the kittens without proper guidance.

 To return to your question, there are many variables that contribute to how “domesticated” a kitten will become who is born outside and gains no interaction with humans.  The most significant factors are the age the kitten is trapped, any negative experiences amongst humans, and if the mother was feral also or formerly domesticated yet abandoned or lost.   

 However, just like domesticated kittens, we are each born with an innate personality (for lack of a better word that translates from “kittenality”) that is unique and defines us as individuals.  This kittenality also effects our inclination toward becoming socialized or not.   Thus, kittens from the same litter that are trapped and introduced to people will respond differently – some more quickly than others. 

 Thus, I have set the scene to introduce myself.  My name is Nisha, I am about 10 weeks old and was born unto an abandoned mother cat in Telluride.  Sadly enough, my Mom (Nalah) had been left to her own resources when her family moved from the area without her.  Thus she was not truly a feral cat but an abandoned domestic one, which reduced our odds at surviving as feral kittens because of her inability to teach us the proper survival skills that feral cats need. 

 As a result of these circumstances it was decided that we should be given a better chance at life and we were all trapped, tested and vaccinated, and placed into a temporary foster home in Telluride (Thanks Bianca!!!) to begin our socialization. 

 We return again to your question.  The best way to socialize kittens is to gently handle them, pet them, and interact with them as much as possible.  At our young age we respond well to such attempts and often can become fully domesticated.  But, as mentioned earlier our personalities do play a factor.  For example the first day I was brought to Bianca’s house I was already boldly dashing about the house and interacting with my foster Mom, while my siblings preferred to hide and avoid any human interaction.  One of my siblings (Nougart) was unable to be trapped for several days after Newton (my brother) and I were trapped and just those few days have really led him to be far more frightened than we are. 

 In closing, I am sending out a call for help.  Our foster Mom Bianca has to leave town for a spell and we really need another foster home to continue our socialization process so that we can be adopted into “furr-ever” homes of our own.  My Mom is having her spay surgery today and has already decided she prefers the security and comfort of a home and is ready for adoption.  However, my siblings and I need some more preparation.   Please consider sharing your home with us if you have small increments of time throughout your day to stop and visit with us.  We will show our appreciation every day be becoming more and more trusting and purr-audible, consider helping with our second chance…

 SCHS offers animal humane services to San Miguel and Ouray Counties.  Contact Kelly at 626-2273 x4 for more information on volunteer, foster, and community education programs.  For information about adopting, reporting a lost pet, the SCHS Spay/Neuter Financial Assistance & Rebate Program, or other pet questions, call 626-2273 x1 (SCHS Animal Hotline). For more information on SCHS and to visit our shelter pets online go to: Questions for next week’s column can be sent to: Pet


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