Tips for Socializing (Taming) Feral Kittens
by Valerie Sicignano, NYC Feral Cat Initiative
Kittens born to street cats, whether the mother is feral or friendly, are wild and need to be "socialized" (tamed) in order to be suitable for adoption. The process of socializing feral kittens requires a daily commitment of time over several weeks or months, depending on the age of the kittens and the amount and consistency of the time you spend working with them. The more time you spend on a daily basis, the shorter the process will be.
Kittens 10 weeks old and under are ideal for the socialization process. Kittens who are not socialized to human touch before 10 weeks of age require much more time to complete the process. For kittens older than 12 weeks of age, socialization requires months of daily effort, and it is not recommended.
If you cannot commit to working with the kittens on a daily basis, please leave them outside. Do not acclimate them to humans by engaging them in play or touching them. Have them neutered, left eartipped, and rabies vaccinated before they are old enough to breed (6 months). Semi-socialized cats and kittens rarely get adopted, so they are not taken in by shelters or rescue groups, and it is dangerous for them to be released into outdoor feral cat colonies.
Following are some tools to help you get started:
1) Attend a Workshop
Attend a workshop on Socializing Feral Kittens. If no workshops are currently listed, please check back at a later date.
2) Watch the Film: Tough Love: Socializing Feral Kittens
In this video, Urban Cat League teaches you through live demonstration how to tame and socialize feral kittens to make them ready for adoption into homes. The film is 28 minutes long and divided into 3 parts to view on YouTube.
3) Read and Print Instructions
by Urban Cat League
by Feral Cat Coalition
by Feral Cat Caretakers' Coalition
4) Contact Us with Your Questions
Phone: (212) 330-0033 x3
About the Author
Valerie Sicignano has been working with feral cats in New York City since 1990. She is the Director of Programs for the New York City Feral Cat Initiative, and also works on international animal issues, including wild horses and chimpanzees, for In Defense of Animals. She holds a Certificate in Humane Education from the ASPCA, and since 2003, has produced several annual national animal conferences, including the Humane Leadership Academy, the Natural Pet Fair, and the National Feral Cat Summit. Her work with animals has been recognized by the Manhattan Pet Gazette's "Animal Guardian Award" and In Defense of Animals' "Companion Animal Guardian Award."