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  • Raising Feral Kittens

    Dear all

    I'm hoping to reach out to others who have had experience (and also need a little moral support) in raising feral kittens. We've recently taken on two, a boy and a girl I think. We found them at about 10 days-two weeks (their eyes had just opened) and they are now about 3.5 weeks old.

    They were found by a staff member out on our farm (we live in Tanzania, east Africa in a very rural location) and he said he'd heard them squeaking for about 3 days before he found them and brought them to us. I'm not sure what happened to their mother, but she had not been around for the entire time, so was probably chased off by dogs, or worse. As you can imagine, they were not in a good state when they came to us, very weak and dehydrated.

    Anyhow, they have since been with us, they're safe, they're warm, they get kitten milk formula (mixture as recommended by my UK vet), they poo, they wee, they have each other to snuggle with, and my life now revolves around 60/90-minute feeding/waking intervals.

    I have had cats all of my life, and often had kittens, but with their mother. I have never had ones like these before. They can be quite savage, at one point I seriously decided that I might - mistakenly - be raising two cheetah cubs, seriously!! The little boy, when it comes to feeding time, rips his face to shreds, digging his claws into his nose, his mouth, even his eyes. If I don't catch him in time (and now I only ever feed both of them wrapped in a towel so they can't get their claws up to their faces, even the little girl) he ends up covered in blood. Before I started wearing gloves to handle them, my hands were also scratched and bloody.

    I am very quiet with them, our days are gentle and our other cats (three mature cats) haven't yet been introduced (too scared to introduce them at this point, my three gentle boys are no match for these two). They are doing really well, health-wise...I can see that, but I wonder at how long this extreme 'self harming' will continue and if it's normal? It does mainly happen when I am feeding them and I think well their first few days/week were probably fear-filled and full of hunger so it's no wonder that they are stressed about eating. I hope that as their feeding times continue to be quiet and gentle, and on routine, they will calm down and I do spend a lot of time cuddling them, holding them, and then they fall asleep purring with little fat tummies. But it's the digging into the face with the claws, particularly from the boy, that bothers me - is that normal behaviour?

    Many thanks in advance
    Eliza


    (Additional - what is the biggest thing that is stressing them out? Food, Feeding, needing to know there is food coming, so feed them a little less and more often so they are less stressed when they do get their milk. I am currently at home, not on assignment, so my life can revolve around them for the time being.
    Last edited by Elizabeth-Anne; 04-13-2019, 04:16 AM.

  • #2
    It is wonderful you are doing what you are doing. I have long ago tamed feral kittens, but they were already weaned from their mother. A suggestion is that you check out You Tube, as there is quite a bit on caring for kittens, literally to ones who are only a few days old. I have watched a few, and some of them are quite detailed. It you are able to phrase a search query, you might be able to get a video on what is happening with your kittens about self harming. But I don't know how one could phrase it that specifically. Oh, if one of them has three fur colors, most likely a female. At three and a half weeks, the worst is over. Now, just trying to solve the clawing problem. Kitten claws are like needles. On claws so tiny, trimming them can be a challenge but that may be your best approach. Just snip off the sharp tip to dull the claw. You mentioned your life can revolve around them. At their age, it WILL.
    sigpic

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    • #3
      I remember you I think - don't you see Mt. Kilimanjaro from your back yard?
      I don't have a solution for your kitten issue - he is clawing at his own face? Perhaps clipping those tiny claws would offer relief while you work on taming him. I had a feral (he arrived months older than your two, however) who never exhibited such behavior.
      Karen A/Publicist

      Comment


      • #4
        I've bottle fed quite a number of feral kittens and I've never seen this behavior. I'm not sure just what is causing it. The first thing I would do is to clip the nails really short and file them smooth. That should help with the self harming aspect. The biggest problem I had with kittens this age was they all wanted to climb up my legs to get to the bottle -- no wearing short pants! I'm wondering if indeed there is some wild cat in their background. Have you had them looked at by some wildlife expert to see if they might have cheetah in them?

        The kittens I raised all ended up really attached to me and then to their new owners. They would imprint on humans much more than any other cats since they looked to us as their mother. And if their eyes just opened that is the time for imprinting. Unusual behavior to be sure.

        Linda

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        • #5
          Originally posted by calicokitty View Post
          It is wonderful you are doing what you are doing. I have long ago tamed feral kittens, but they were already weaned from their mother. A suggestion is that you check out You Tube, as there is quite a bit on caring for kittens, literally to ones who are only a few days old. I have watched a few, and some of them are quite detailed. It you are able to phrase a search query, you might be able to get a video on what is happening with your kittens about self harming. But I don't know how one could phrase it that specifically. Oh, if one of them has three fur colors, most likely a female. At three and a half weeks, the worst is over. Now, just trying to solve the clawing problem. Kitten claws are like needles. On claws so tiny, trimming them can be a challenge but that may be your best approach. Just snip off the sharp tip to dull the claw. You mentioned your life can revolve around them. At their age, it WILL.
          Thanks so much Calicokitty. I watched a lot of YouTube videos yesterday and it definitely helped to better understand newborn/week old kittens and their behaviour. I didn't find anything particular about self-harming though, but I do think it's all tied up with food.

          The shorter the intervals between feeding, the less stressed they are getting and yesterday was a far calmer day. As they start to realise that food is not scarce and they will receive it at regular times, they are relaxing. I am still wrapping them up in a towel, respectively, to feed them as - if allowed to - they will still scratch their faces. They shriek when they do it, so it must really hurt. Very odd.

          When they're not drinking, they get licked - and thankfully have their bottoms washed - by our little shenzi dog (local dog, also a rescue, found abandoned at 4 weeks old). She has never had puppies, she's about 1 years old now, and I think she has decided they are hers. She is all over them like a rash and it's so sweet. She has been great at getting them to wee and poo.

          They sleep in a large dog basket on top of a hot water bottle. I kiss their little fuzzy heads a lot and they purr and, when they're not being beastly, they really are very very sweet


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          • #6
            Originally posted by KarenA View Post
            I remember you I think - don't you see Mt. Kilimanjaro from your back yard?
            I don't have a solution for your kitten issue - he is clawing at his own face? Perhaps clipping those tiny claws would offer relief while you work on taming him. I had a feral (he arrived months older than your two, however) who never exhibited such behavior.
            Hello, yes and well remembered I first contacted this wonderful forum with my little epileptic tortoiseshell cat and then I had a little orange boy who - as a kitten - had his pelvic ring detached from his spinal cord (our great dane trod on him accidently He - Norman Monduli - came through it like a trooper and is now 3.5 years old and absolutely gorgeous in his orange-ness (my profile pic is him in the months after he had recovered).

            And now these two. In between one rescue puppy (found dumped in a fuel drum) and we're also raising a fledgling olive pigeon! The one thing that always makes me anxious here is the lack of veterinary facilities. We do have two good vets, but beyond x-rays they don't have the equipment and then buying all the things you need is often impossible so one just has to 'make do' with what you can find.

            Hence, I'm currently feeding these two little fuzzy kittens out of a dropper that came with a lovely - and very expensive - rose facial oil that I recently bought back from the UK as a treat for myself. At least the oil is intact, the dropper has just been re-appropriated

            How did your feral cat behave in later life? Did you keep him? I am worried a) about having 5 cats, we are really happy with 3 (and 3 dogs) and then how they will behave as they get older. My three boys are so lovely and gentle and well-mannered heavenly cats, and I don't really want to throw these two little hooligans into the mix and make everyone unhappy. I am sort of keeping an ear out for any possible good homes, although I wouldn't give them away until they were at least 10 weeks and then only to people who are long-term residents here. A lot of people arrive in TZ, get a kitten or a puppy and then move on after a few years and these poor animals end up in terrible homes or on the street. Thanks for your reply

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by LindaD View Post
              I've bottle fed quite a number of feral kittens and I've never seen this behavior. I'm not sure just what is causing it. The first thing I would do is to clip the nails really short and file them smooth. That should help with the self harming aspect. The biggest problem I had with kittens this age was they all wanted to climb up my legs to get to the bottle -- no wearing short pants! I'm wondering if indeed there is some wild cat in their background. Have you had them looked at by some wildlife expert to see if they might have cheetah in them?

              The kittens I raised all ended up really attached to me and then to their new owners. They would imprint on humans much more than any other cats since they looked to us as their mother. And if their eyes just opened that is the time for imprinting. Unusual behavior to be sure.

              Linda
              Thanks so much Linda, it is odd and I wonder why it's so extreme - particularly in the boy. I have found that feeding them more often - whilst wrapping them up in a towel so they can't reach their faces - is helping. They are becoming less stressed, knowing that their next meal is just around the corner. At this point, they are mostly in a large dog basket on the floor and I sit on the ground, with a towel over my lap, to feed them; I am slightly dreading their getting more mobile as I can imagine those sharp little claws and skin!!

              They are, otherwise, really affectionate and they just want to be as close to me as possible; yes, definite imprinting going on which is going to make it difficult to give them away, if we decide that's the case. I'm just not sure I want 5 cats when our current 3 cat / 3 dog mix is working so well.

              We do have an African Wildcat here, an age-old breed and ancestor of the domestic cat. I have seen them in the wild whilst on safari. There could indeed be a little Wildcat in these two, but my husband says no they are just beastly little tabby "moggies" who came from the wrong side of the tracks . I dare say their horrible start to life, no doubt cold, hungry and undeniably scared, didn't help them to feel secure. The chap who found then said he couldn't hear or see any others, but I do worry that there were some more out there but we never found them


              Hopefully the more secure and loved they feel, the behaviour will stop. I will definitely look at cutting/filed their nails - thanks all for suggesting that. I will wait until my husband gets home as I fear it's a two-man job!!

              Comment


              • #8
                The little boy on the left with his slightly scabby face. Better after a day - yesterday - where he wasn't so easily able to reach his face with his claws. It's healing quickly.

                Comment


                • #9
                  A couple of real beauties. I tried some searching on YouTube but all I came up with is the possibility of skin allergies. But you seem to have it pretty well pegged to feeding issues. I plugged in kitten's self harming, and all I got was people self harming. At least you have two of them, so they will play with each other and learn how to be a cat. Trimming those sharp needles they call claw will certainly help.
                  sigpic

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Welcome back to the forum... I do remember when you were here before, i donít have any experience with feral cats, but I think youíre doing a great thing by taking these two babies in. Itís not an easy task! As they get old enough to eat kitten chow you might try free feeding them so they know thereís always food available.
                    Diane and Cicero - Sr. Manager:

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by DianeP View Post
                      Welcome back to the forum... I do remember when you were here before, i donít have any experience with feral cats, but I think youíre doing a great thing by taking these two babies in. Itís not an easy task! As they get old enough to eat kitten chow you might try free feeding them so they know thereís always food available.
                      Thank you Diane, is kitten chow the same as kibbles? I think we have different names for the same things I was actually wondering what to move them on to, once they are weaned. I do not have a lot of options for cat/kitten food here. We can sometimes get tinned cat food - Whiskas - and such like, but that is about it. Should I start them on tinned food, or are cat biscuits better? It's been a while since I've had small kittens, so I can't remember.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by calicokitty View Post
                        A couple of real beauties. I tried some searching on YouTube but all I came up with is the possibility of skin allergies. But you seem to have it pretty well pegged to feeding issues. I plugged in kitten's self harming, and all I got was people self harming. At least you have two of them, so they will play with each other and learn how to be a cat. Trimming those sharp needles they call claw will certainly help.
                        Yes, the feeding more regularly is helping although they both respectively lashed out at their faces this morning, first-feed, and re-opened an older scab They both want to get access to the bottle at the same time and as I'm on my own most of the time, I have to be very speedy (thankfully they are still very small and manageable).

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Elizabeth-Anne View Post

                          Hello, yes and well remembered I first contacted this wonderful forum with my little epileptic tortoiseshell cat and then I had a little orange boy who - as a kitten - had his pelvic ring detached from his spinal cord (our great dane trod on him accidently He - Norman Monduli - came through it like a trooper and is now 3.5 years old and absolutely gorgeous in his orange-ness (my profile pic is him in the months after he had recovered).

                          And now these two. In between one rescue puppy (found dumped in a fuel drum) and we're also raising a fledgling olive pigeon! The one thing that always makes me anxious here is the lack of veterinary facilities. We do have two good vets, but beyond x-rays they don't have the equipment and then buying all the things you need is often impossible so one just has to 'make do' with what you can find.

                          Hence, I'm currently feeding these two little fuzzy kittens out of a dropper that came with a lovely - and very expensive - rose facial oil that I recently bought back from the UK as a treat for myself. At least the oil is intact, the dropper has just been re-appropriated

                          How did your feral cat behave in later life? Did you keep him? I am worried a) about having 5 cats, we are really happy with 3 (and 3 dogs) and then how they will behave as they get older. My three boys are so lovely and gentle and well-mannered heavenly cats, and I don't really want to throw these two little hooligans into the mix and make everyone unhappy. I am sort of keeping an ear out for any possible good homes, although I wouldn't give them away until they were at least 10 weeks and then only to people who are long-term residents here. A lot of people arrive in TZ, get a kitten or a puppy and then move on after a few years and these poor animals end up in terrible homes or on the street. Thanks for your reply
                          Stanley became the most adoring and sweet cat ever. He had poor genes so his life was short (around 11 years) but I loved every minute of it. I had two ladycats (Stella and Blanche) and when Stanley tried to play with them, even lying on his back in the most submissive of postures, they ignored him so he chased them around the house and brought them reluctantly into his games. I really want to follow your little hooligans, Elizabeth-Anne, so please stick around so we can see the story as it progresses. If they had a mother around, she would hiss at them for their bad behavior and perhaps if you do it, you may get a good result.
                          Karen A/Publicist

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Elizabeth-Anne View Post
                            The little boy on the left with his slightly scabby face. Better after a day - yesterday - where he wasn't so easily able to reach his face with his claws. It's healing quickly.
                            They are just delicious!!
                            Karen A/Publicist

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by KarenA View Post

                              Stanley became the most adoring and sweet cat ever. He had poor genes so his life was short (around 11 years) but I loved every minute of it. I had two ladycats (Stella and Blanche) and when Stanley tried to play with them, even lying on his back in the most submissive of postures, they ignored him so he chased them around the house and brought them reluctantly into his games. I really want to follow your little hooligans, Elizabeth-Anne, so please stick around so we can see the story as it progresses. If they had a mother around, she would hiss at them for their bad behavior and perhaps if you do it, you may get a good result.
                              Thank you for yours Karen, itís good to hear your lovely boy had a good life with you I love that he was called Stanley, what a great name. Iím having a rather bad day so far with these two, they are at their faces a lot and have re-opened some of the scabs. I have no idea why they do this as it so obviously hurts them as they scream out. Their paws/claws are tiny and I am struggling to try and clip the nails myself, but my husband is back today so weíll try again then. They are drinking well otherwise and when not clawing at their faces, they just want to cuddle and theyíre still purring a lot. Iím keeping them wrapped up when feeding, but sometimes a paw slips out and then the damage is done. Poor little fuzzy faces; I am just showering them with love and care and lots of milk formula so fingers crossed theyíll come right Iíll definitely keep you posted

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