A wonderful animal lover posted about a dog rescue and a kitten rescue that she spearheaded. I have some experience with rescuing kittens and socializing them to become affectionate lap kitties so I made a super long comment, I realized it needs its very own post, so here it is.
We currently have 5 kittens staying in our mudroom becoming socialized, this is our 3rd litter so I am going to dispense advice for anyone undertaking similar tasks.
One of our clients had a stray momma show up and have babies. We coached them about feeding the kitties each day and getting the cats used to humans providing food. Little things like shaking the food and making some noises when pouring it out, even calling "here kitty, kitty", putting the food bowl near the house entrance, to help them associate humans as food providers. After a few weeks of our client feeding and being able to pet them while eating we decided it was time for kitten "finishing school" and brought our cat carriers and a have a heart trap. We had one carrier for each kitty. Once you get one in and the door closed, do not count on being able to open it to get another one in. We also brought a have a heart trap, just in case.
A food that cats cannot resist is babyfood, the pureed meat kind. Any flavor seems to work, chicken is especially tasty to them. We put some on a spoon and have the kitties lick it off, they love it, once they get brave enough to try it. For this litter, they had developed a liking for mackeral (what cat can resist?) so our client opened a can and put some on a plate and was able to lure most of them into one carrier. Then we had the 2 hold outs that each was lured into its own carrier, the last one with some man handling. This one did a spreadeagle and made the task difficult but not impossible. If this happens to you, put a towel over him while still holding firmly by the scruff, (covering their face can get you a couple moments of calmness). Be sure to wear gloves, make sure you can grip them firmly with the gloves on. Holding firmly by the scruff makes their body release endorphins and may help calm them somewhat.
Once they are in the carriers cover the carriers with a towel - it calms them and they won't try to dig their way out. It also might be a good idea to have small towel in the carrier in case they have an accident on the drive home.
When you first take them indoors they are understandably freaked out. The best place to start is in a small room, a small bathroom can work wonderfully. Cover any windows or mirrors so they don't try to throw themselves through or claw their way through, we have taped cardboard over them. You can probably uncover the windows after 4 or 5 days, but err on the side of longer. Also make sure any hard to reach spots are closed off or the shy ones will have a place to avoid you. We had to tape cardboard over places like the chest freezer so they can't hide behind it. They do like having a box that they can hide away in, so have one or two available for them. I used a BIG dog crate in my mudroom, and had a litter pan and a box in there.
Have minimal interaction for the first night just let them get their bearings without having to deal with strange humans. Keep them in the crate (if you have one) for a couple days and talk nicely to them when you go in to attend to the food, water and litter. And you can leave the dry food out but only put down wet food when you are in there, and try to feed them from a spoon, they will get brave after a day or two. Having a radio playing talk shows might help them become accustomed to human voices also. I try to sit in there and just read my email or make phone calls to get them used to me.
About litter training, I have never had to show a cat how to use the litter, it is a natural inclination of theirs. The main issue is to keep it clean as often as possible, then they will not develop any bad habits. They are pretty tolerant, I have been busy and not gotten to it until late at night and thankfully no accidents.
They will become a little more relaxed so you can start petting them when feeding, and eventually you will be able to pick them up. Try not to force things, you will win them over gradually. For our current bunch at this point, after about 3 weeks of having them in our mudroom, they are little purr machines, and are all over me once I walk in the door. There is one hold out (little princess Buttercup) that is still afraid of my husband who only visits once a day, but she is slowly becoming more trusting, she loves petting from me, so it is only a matter of a few more days before Peter charms her.
Keep them confined to the small room for a couple of weeks or until they start coming to you when you call. You do not want them finding some hiding place in your house where they will not have to interact with you. We are just starting to open the door from the mudroom to the rest of the house and they explore a little, until our "real" kitties (the first litter that we socialized) hiss at them and scare them back to the mudroom.
We are hoping that a no kill shelter "Defenders of Animal Rights" will have some space in their kitten room soon. Their kitten room is awesome, the kitties and people roam freely so you can get a better feel for how the personalities will match. And I can go and visit my "graduates" once a week and pet them and quiz them on their lap cat lessons, until they get adopted.
Be strong about finding a home, be sure to question the responsibility level of any prospective cat parents. Never let someone get them as a present for somebody else, that rarely works out. And always Spay and Neuter! There are some low cost programs, in our area there are SNAP certificates and the Humane Society has a low cost program. Some vets will give you a break on price so be sure to ask and let know about your project.
Good luck, it is a very rewarding commitment of about 2-6 weeks depending on how old they were when you caught them, the younger the better. Our current bunch was probably 4-5 months when we captured them. They did have human interaction with the daily feeding, so that probably helped quite a bit. They are very happy chappies and love when I show up and pet them, they are jostle for position under my hand and a couple jump in my lap on their own.
And of course if you need a bigger house for your cat rescue projects just give me a call, we have some great bargains in the area right now.
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