Kitten Taming

Real Estate Agent with Search Homes for Sale in Maryland at

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.

Luring feral kittens with babyfood

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.

Bear Goose Rascal and Scout

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. 

Merry Christmas,



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. 

Search for house Bargins in Maryland at


Comments (22)

Marianne Snygg
ERA Herman Group Real Estate - Monument, CO

Maggie, I loved your post! I'm definitely a cat person. We have three right now, one male and two females. My husband promises to leave me if I bring in more! I've never run into stray cats to rescue...I wish I had. I'd enjoy it.

I do have a question for you about one of my cats, Dory. After reading your post, I think you will have a suggestion. My two youngest are females that I inherited from my son. They came to me a year apart and after our male did. The two females used to be good friends. Sabrina is the youngest one of the two, and the one we've had the longest, gets along with our male, Oscar, but not Dory. So, Dory doesn't get along with Oscar or Sabrina. Plus, she's stand-offish to us. I try to include her and play with her, but she's still reticent. She didn't get much attention at my son's house and he had two little dogs that used to give her a bad time. (The females are front de-clawed and the male has all of his. We got Oscar from 9 Lives.)

What would you suggest I do to get closer to Dory and help her get along better with the other two cats? 

Dec 29, 2008 05:42 AM
Maggie Baumbach
Search Homes for Sale in Maryland at - Reisterstown, MD

Hi Marianne, I would suggest trying to give your problem kitty some extra attention. I am not sure how it will go since she has not really had much of it in the past. I would try to set a side a little time to have her away from the others and try feeding her some of the chicken baby food from a spoon and talking very nicely to her while you do it. Let her know how beuatiful she is and how she is a special kitty to you. Bribery can work miracles! Good Luck! We have had problems with female harmony in the past with ours too. We have one kitty "Cindy" who used to stalk "Precious", a much older female. It never really got resolved, we just tried our best to minimize Cindy's opportunites to harass Precious.  There is a spray that you can get from the Petsmart called Feliway, it is supposed to be the pheremones that kittys rub on to you and other surfaces when they are in a lovey dovey mood. And it is supposed to help them feel more comfortable in difficult situations and help them adjust to new kitties, etc. Thanks for the comment!

Dec 29, 2008 06:01 AM
Carmie Holloway
RE/MAX First - Oklahoma City, OK

Hello Maggie!

Thanks for visiting mysite and leaving a comment!  I really appreciate it.  I hope you had a fabulous Christmas and looking forward to the best ever new year!!! 

Love, Carmie

Dec 29, 2008 06:13 AM
Marchel Peterson
Results Realty - Spring, TX
Spring TX Real Estate E-Pro

Maggie, That is some great information.  I love tabbies.  The orange one where I can just see the head has the same coloring and marks on the head as our Queen.

Dec 30, 2008 02:40 PM
Kent Simpson
Realty One Group Mountain Desert - Tucson, AZ
Real Estate Is About People

What a neat post, Maggie!  Animals are tops in my book.  Now concerning the litterbox can you train one to change it?  LOL

Dec 31, 2008 10:59 AM
Erol Kartal
Schaumburg, IL

Thanks for bringing a smile to my day. Nothing beats a cozy kitty. Like family..

Jan 01, 2009 06:47 AM
Peter Baumbach
Search Homes for Sale in Maryland at - Owings Mills, MD

For our cats we have two types of automatic litter machines. We have Litter Robot and Litter Maid. Now that we have a cat door, they don't use the litter so much.

Marianne - I would also suggest a cat brush as a way to win a cats affections.

Jan 01, 2009 08:15 AM
JoEllen Stranger-Thorsen
Eustis, FL
Lake County, FL

Wonderful information on socializing kittens to a new environment. I encourage everyone when they are looking for a new pet for their household to adopt from shelters. There are so many wonderful companions who need a home and have so much to offer.

Jan 01, 2009 08:18 AM
Jim Frimmer
HomeSmart Realty West - San Diego, CA
Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist

Wow, Maggie. That's awesome. I've had cats all my life but you touched on some stuff that I didn't know or just had not thought about.

Did you see the PBS program on "Wild! A Cat's World"? It's the best program I've ever seen on a cat. I did a short blog on it recently.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life -- make it a good start.

Jan 05, 2009 01:51 AM
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster Real Estate - Gainesville, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Maggie:  Nice to see there are plenty of suckers like me in the world.  These kittens are adorable. 

Jan 05, 2009 10:48 AM
Marianne Snygg
ERA Herman Group Real Estate - Monument, CO

Hi Maggie, I'm sorry I didn't get back to you earlier, but we were out of town and we took our three kitties with us. (The 3-hour car ride was noisy!) But, I did get some time with "Dory." As a result, I think the situation has gotten better and that they all benefited from the time away, in a surrounding where none of them owned the territory.

Jan 07, 2009 08:49 AM
Sandy Shores FL Realtor®, Melbourne Real Estate
M & M Realty of Brevard Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Brevard County Real Estate, Florida's Space Coast

Hi Maggie, You are filling such a great need in your community.  So many stray cats go unloved and unwanted.  Great job to you and keep up the hard work!  Thanks for letting as know everything that goes into socializing these kittens.

Jan 08, 2009 11:28 PM
Lara O'Keefe
North Texas Home Finders - McKinney, TX

Maggie, you are a generous and caring person to give these kitties a head start in the world. Thank you :-)

Jan 11, 2009 06:59 AM
Loretta Buckner
Real World Properties, Inc.| Your Real Estate Consultant for Life - Palm Harbor, FL
Your GREEN Real Estate Consultant For Life!

Maggie--a 'cat-woman' like me!  I have four--the first two adoptees from a former employer, where feral cats have been trapped , fixed, and kittens adopted out for a long time--I'm sending this post to them so that they can learn some of your wonderful socialization techniques!

Bravo, fellow cat-lady!

Jan 12, 2009 08:10 AM
Debra Kukulski, Broker Associate
RE/MAX Suburban - Cary, IL
SRES;SFR,CDPE;GRI;ABR;e-PRO Realtor, Northern IL

This is such a good post, I wish I had these tips a few years ago when I took in my Emerald!

Jan 16, 2009 04:10 AM
Jim Frimmer
HomeSmart Realty West - San Diego, CA
Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist

That's an excellent post, Maggie. Would you consider making it so that we can re-blog it? It's too valuable not to give it some more exposure. Let me know if you turn re-blogging on.

Jan 25, 2009 03:57 AM
Maggie Baumbach
Search Homes for Sale in Maryland at - Reisterstown, MD

Hi Carmie, That was an amazingly gorgeous house on your site, real dream home material!

Hi Marchel, your Queen really has a regal look about her, and so cuddly looking too.

Hi Kent, about the litter box changing, my husband Peter has come up with a slight alteration to the littermaid automatice litter box to make a much larger used litter receptcle, so I do not have to tend to it very often. I still do scoop/scape the bottom once a day, especially with 5 kittens sharing it! We have another orb like automatic litter box that is in our "real" house for our "real" cats, that one is amazingly easy to use. 

Hi Erol, thanks for cozying up to some kitties, it is pretty rewarding.

Hi JoEllen, Great point about adopting from shelters whenever possible, and also remember the older kitties, they tend to get overlooked, and also black kitties. But of course my fab five are pretty adoption worthy too!

Jan 25, 2009 03:08 PM
Maggie Baumbach
Search Homes for Sale in Maryland at - Reisterstown, MD

Hi Jim, your Zoey is a doll, I want to reach out rub her head. She is quite similar in markings and color to my Giles, one from our first litter that we socialized (and adopted all 4).  I just made sure that reblogging was turned on, reblog it as much and as often as possible!  And give Zoey an extra cuddle this evening, she is a star that I look forward to seeing on your blog!

Hi ChrisAnn, yes you read me pretty well - a sucker for kitties, happily enslaved!

Hi Marianne, it's great to hear that Dory is adjusting a little better. And my husband Peter suggested using a brush during any one on one sessions, our kitties love the brushing. Some of them were a bit wary at first but were won over after a couple tries.

Hi Sandy, I have to send a "great job with dogs" right back at you! You seem to really take the time to make sure that all the doggies in yours and your clients lives are getting the home situations that they need.

Hi Lara, Thanks for the vote of support! And DR Horton homes are gorgeous! I bet you love your job!

Jan 25, 2009 03:24 PM
Maggie Baumbach
Search Homes for Sale in Maryland at - Reisterstown, MD

Hi Loretta, Your action figure is PURRFECT! I love it and my husband loves it, and yes I am definitely the crazy cat lady! Thanks for sharing it, I am definitely going to be looking for my very own!

Jan 25, 2009 03:26 PM
Maggie Baumbach
Search Homes for Sale in Maryland at - Reisterstown, MD

Hi Debra, I was fortunate to find a lot of tips online from Alley Cat Allies, Metro Ferals and others that regularly trap, neuter and release ferals back to their original territory.  We started by having a stray momma have a litter and keep them in our garage and under our porch. We did not know how we were going to get them since she kept them hidden away so we started researching online, etc and came up with a "plan" and went for it.  I guess once you start you just have to stick with it until you have them, (and then what?) a bit like life!  That first litter became our indoor kitties and then we caught "Little Momma" and Twinkle (another stray) had them spayed and they are now our outdoor / garage kitties. I definitely see Little Momma spending time at neighbors houses, she is an adorable mooch!

Hi Jim, I just made sure that reblogging was turned on. I think you may have already re-blogged this one at the very beginning of the year, I was pretty flattered when I saw it on your blog! It was like winning an award that someone found it worthy of a re-blog! Thanks!


Jan 25, 2009 03:39 PM