These beautiful furballs have not always been as calm and cute as they seem here. Bringing them around to this has been almost a year long process, and we’re still working on socializing them to people other than Cody and myself. I wanted to share our little story, even if it only encourages one person to save the live of a feral kitten.
It all started when we were trying to capture the squirrels that were climbing in under our trailer and up into our walls. I had just returned from my psychiatry rotation in DuBois and was working on turning our trailer back from bachelor pad to home (getting more than ramen for groceries, cleaning the bathroom, those fun things). Anyways I was walking up the front stairs when I hear loud, pitiful meowing from the cage that was under the porch. I pull it out to find this tiny black fur ball covered in cobwebs, hissing and spitting at me like she was daring me to open the door. I had seen her and her siblings and mother running around the area and knew the mother was as feral as you can get, and therefore this kitten was not going to like me one bit. Being a little animal crazy as I am I called Cody and asked if we could keep it (of course he said yes!) I brought it – I wasn’t about to try to figure out gender – inside and left the cage on the kitchen floor as I figured out what I could possibly do with this creature. Luckily with having four dogs we had an extra crate that wasn’t in use at the time, so I opened up the crate, tilted it back, and pretty much dumped the kitten into it. I put some tuna and water in with her for lack of any other kitten appropriate food, but she was too scared to even try it.
Our township is one that will give you a voucher to get feral cats spayed, and ear notched so that they can be released back to their home. So I was thinking I should try to catch the mother and the rest of the kittens because otherwise she is going to continue to have kittens each year which may become a problem. I reset the cage outside with some tuna in the evening before I went to bed. The next morning I hear the loud, pitiful meowing again. This time there was a tiny grey fluff ball in the cage. I got her into the crate with her sister, set the trap back up and back outside. By then the mother and the third kitten must have wised up, because to this day I have not been able to catch them.
As we were still trying to catch the mother and the third kitten, we set up the dog crate up off the floor and made a small litter pan for them. We fed and gave them water regularly and the taming began. I figured if we could socialize the kittens by the time we caught the other two then the chances of the other two kittens from the litter being adopted would be much greater. Little did I know at the time that we would end up keeping both kittens. At the time they stayed in the crate 24/7 because if they got out we had to bring the cage in to catch them again due to how scared they were and the subsequent biting and scratching.
At first they wouldn’t even eat if we were too close to the crate, so I started out sitting on the floor about six feet from the crate as they ate. I slowly moved closer and closer over the course of a week until I could stand beside the crate as they ate. Then I started laying my hand on the side of the crate, then I would crack the door open a little and lay my hand in on the floor of the crate. I’d slowly creep closer and closer until I was able to put my fingers into the bowl of food while the ate and soon they were eating right off my fingers.
After they were comfortable with this for a while, it was time to see if I could pick them up. Again I started slow, touching them on the top of the head while they were eating, scratching behind their ears – small, slow movements. This is about the time that I realized Durga was not going to be a simple kitten to socialize. While Kali was starting to trust me, Durga still held back, she was always a step or two behind her sister and the first to hide when I got a little too close. Once I was able to pick up Kali I started letting Kali out of the crate for a couple hours a day. I was still unable to pick up Durga, so I could only let her out when I was able to put the crate on the floor and block off a small area for her to explore – otherwise she would crawl into the wall between the living room and bathroom and not come out.
When they got a little older, it was time to stop crating them. Kali was becoming a regular house cat, but Durga would still rather hide. I hoped that with time she would come around like her sister did. There were little victories – she didn’t run away when I came into the room she was in, she would come out of hiding while I fed her, she would play cautiously with a toy as I sat a few feet away. Then she started getting closer and closer – I was able to touch her, though she froze and often flinched like I was hurting her in some way. We gave her plenty of places to be able to get away from us and the dogs. Random shelves, a cat house, a basket on the top of the fridge. She would use these often, but at least she was hiding just a little less everyday.
Then came a somewhat unexpected breakthrough that may sound a little odd – they went into heat.
Now that may not sound like that great of a thing, but it made both cats that much more loving, even if it did mean that they arched there backs to the point it seems like it was breaking. I scheduled an appointment to have them fixed shortly thereafter – they are so good at using the litter boxes I didn’t want to take the chance of them starting to spray, and it’s just better to have them fixed – not like we were planning to breed them or anything. Can’t say they were thrilled with this decision, but off they went. I dropped them off in the morning and picked them up around 1430 the same day. Both cats were groggy and tired, and both slept on the couch while i studied. Kali on my lap, and Durga against my leg. The cones lasted for maybe three or four days before they both had them clawed off. Their incisions looked to be healing well, so I wasn’t too concerned about it.
Since then it has continued to get better and better. Kali is the biggest cuddler I have ever had. Durga still needs her alone time, but loves to be picked up when she’s in the mood. They play and sleep all the time, and always meet us at the door with the rest of the furry critters we call family. We still see the mother and sibling running around, and I’ve set out the cage again this summer in hopes of catching them and having them fixed and ears notched, but they remember – when I check in the morning the food is still in the cage, untouched. Except for once, a month and a half ago, when we caught a squirrel.