Friday, August 22, 2008

From Feral to Domestic Kitten

A few days ago a little kitten appeared outside my window, visible from where I sit to use my computer. Not a big surprise since I was aware of a litter of kitten being born underneath the house next door. But as months passed by the kittens had either been taken in by the owner or other neighbors, but this one seemed to be left. It looked neglected and underfed. Its fur was ruffled. So, I felt that I had to do something and feed the kitty. I began by offering it some turkey sandwich meat. He was really reluctant as from birth the mother cat and kittens have been scared of people. So, I didn't know how long of a task it would be to coax the kitten inside.

The next day I had gotten some cat food from the grocery store and I took the food on a little saucer outside. I figured I would sit nearby as the kitten came up to eat so it would get used to me. It didn't take too long, just a few minutes he skittishly and cautiously came up to eat. I didn't see much of him for the rest of that day. The next day, sometime around noon I saw the kitten outside again. I was out and had just gotten home. I left my front door open thinking this time I would sit by the door and get the kitten to come closer to the door and eat. I prepared the saucer of food and turned to the door. But to my surprise I saw the kitten come in. I was like "wow!" and decided to sit down a few feet inside the door to feed him. I sat cross legged on the floor with the food just in front of me. This was the closest we had gotten to each other. I remember at one point he look up at me and saw my face close up and was a bit startled. He was still hungry after that serving so I prepared another dish for him. This time I put the food down in the kitchen area to draw him in away from the front door. He came in to eat which gave me the opportunity to close the door. After eating he was a bit upset that he was closed in and complained the way a cat would typically do when wanting to go outside. I decided to keep him in to get him used to being around me. I would have let him back out if it had seemed he was getting too upset, but actually he began to settle in and get more comfortable. I decided to keep him in for the night. Everything was good to bring him in, except I still hadn't made litter box arrangements yet.

That morning I opened the door a bit and picked him up. He didn't want to be held, so ran outside for a bit. But to my surprise he defecated on the lawn and tidily covered it over with his front paws. Then promptly came back in! I was so pleased as the kitten was obviously wanting to be with me, or at least sensing the food and care I could provide. At this point I wasn't clear about what I was going to do about the kitten toileting question. Cats in my family in the past have always gone outside and I though I would like for this kitten to learn to go outside as well. So, we were off to a good start. He began to really settle in and found a safe place to be under the bathroom sink vanity cabinet. The is a perfect hole for the plumbing in the back on the side for him to slip in there. He doesn't like for me to open the cabinet door and check on him, and I allow this to be his private place where he can go and be safe. In the meantime I used feeding times to start petting, touching and even sometimes picking up the kitten. I found he's really very gentle and sweet. Never clawing at me or trying to bite me. His main defense is to run away and hide during the skittish moments. I fixed a towel for him to lay on and be comfortable in his cabinet.

Overnight that night, still not giving enough thought to the litter box, I was woken up with him meowing, obviously needing something. He needed to go outside to defecate so I decided to pick him up and take him outside to the patio. I was hoping he would use a sandy spot next to a tree out there. I put him down, but instead he was freaked out and ran all around the patio. I chased him hoping not to let him get away, but he did. He was gone for the rest of the night. The next day I looked for him when I could and he appeared again later that afternoon. I had to go through the whole process of coaxing him back in again with the food. It took a little while to get him all the way in and so that I could close the door. We did sit for a long while with the door open. He was free to run away but I kept talking to him in a kind and friendly voice, saying it's okay. You can come in. Lots of patience was needed to build enough trust. Eventually he was comfortable with being in. I closed the door. He was a bit upset as before, but soon settled in once again. I fed him plenty of food and he was able to just sleep comfortably without worry whenever he wanted. I think he realized he was onto a good thing. He also spent lots of time observing me.

Again that night, he didn't wake me up meowing, but he made a mess on my meditation mat. The mat is black and I was able to pick it up and clean it off outside, so that wasn't such a bad thing. I went to Target and got all the litter box supplies that day. I had pretty much realized that going outside wasn't the best idea. It was as if I had to start all over again if he was outside for any length of time. And in order to make him a good domesticated cat, I would need to just keep him inside at least for now. Therefore, the litter box is a necessity. I found a pine litter, most are a type of clay, but I really liked the pine (Feline Pine is the brand name). I worried that he wouldn't like it because it wasn't in granules like sand, but long little pellets. He missed once in the bathroom where I put it. But then I put the litter box right on the spot where he went and he has been using it ever since! What a smart kitty!

He's still as skittish as ever when people come by to visit. He is only used to me so far, but then again it has still only been a few weeks. I'm really pleased with the progress the kitten has made so far. I haven't even named him yet. Feeding times have also been times for play and petting and he easily rubs against my legs and presses his forehead against me. He will even roll over on his back and show me his tummy. He's growing fast and filling out a bit now. His fur is less ruffled and his spine is less boney feeling now when I pet him. I wasn't planning on having a cat, but as my friend Linda says, the cat has chosen me. He seems quite happy with his new home, as I am happy to care for my new companion.