During the summer of 2020, my family had the amazing experience of rescuing feral kittens from our own backyard. It began early one summer morning when my sister spotted a group of baby kittens playing on our back deck while she got ready for work. She ran up the stairs to my room to show me. At that time they were so small and playing together outside. Our parents happened to be out of town this particular week and right away we both agreed that we probably shouldn’t get involved, but they were so irresistible that I couldn’t help but at least do some research to see what our options were.
I spent the next morning calling local humane societies and rescues to ask questions that we prepared and also inquired about borrowing a trap. After some research, we were both convinced that this was an opportunity to save lives, and one worth taking. The first thing I learned was that there is an important window in which to take feral kittens from the outdoors and adapt them to life in a human home. A kitten that is under 5 weeks old is too young because they are still dependent on their mother, and a kitten that is older than 12 weeks will be too old to be socialized. Based on my research I estimated our kittens age at 7 weeks. Over the next few days we began leaving bowls of food and water out for them, our idea was to get them to start eating from the bowl so that we could use it as bait when we got a trap. We ended up borrowing a trap from One of a Kind Pets in Akron which is primarily a pet rescue and trap-neuter-return clinic. At this point, there was nothing to do but set the trap and wait.
The first day we had the trap set there was no movement all morning. The days before I often saw the kittens playing or eating out of the bowl, but today, nothing. As it got later it seemed this was a failed attempt, until the cat’s mother, we called her Dutchess after Disney’s Aristocats, tripped the trap. We wanted to trap her to get her neutered and then return her, but we couldn’t leave the kittens unprotected, so we were left with no choice but to release her. The next day was less eventful, we started to suspect that Dutchess had moved the kittens somewhere else. We tried one more day and made a bit of a mistake. We accidentally left the trap set a bit past dark… and caught a raccoon. It was seriously scary to be so close to a wild raccoon, and with our parents out of town, it was up to me and my sister to deal with it. Panicked, we called animal control, but it turns out that animal removal was more expensive than we were willing to pay. So instead, we called on our aunt for some backup. With her help, we released the raccoon safely, and to me and my sister, this was a sign to stop trying to catch the kittens. With the little hope, we had left we notified our neighbors to look out for them just in case.
About a week later after our parents were back in town, my mom got a text from our neighbors that they spotted our cats just a couple of doors down! This was our opportunity, and we immediately went for it. My mom and I were poised to try again. Knowing exactly where they were this time made the process much quicker. Within minutes we had one, two, three, four cats! I brought them into our house and into a small bathroom where they could feel more comfortable. They were very scared at first, as anyone would expect, but having researched the proper procedure to socialize feral kittens, it was only a matter of time before they were used to their new life.
We primarily relied on this video by the kitten lady which gives a step-by-step to slowly gaining the kitten’s trust. The most important thing to know is to never free feed them, in other words always be present when they are being fed. This works because it encourages them to associate humans with food, which in time will gain their trust. The next thing to keep in mind is to go at their pace, any small change in their behavior is a lot of progress. Along with that, patience is key, anything new for them is going to be difficult, so appreciate their effort and bravery for even the smallest action.
The kittens slowly became more comfortable and began to show distinct personalities, and they needed proper names. The first kitten caught, number 1, we called Emmy. Emmy has a dark gray tiger-striped coat and is one of the females. She was the bravest of the bunch but also a bit of a loner. While the others hung out together, she would often jump to the top of the sink and nap by herself. Right away we realized that one of the kittens would take more time to be socialized than the rest, we called her Hissy and she was number 2. She has light gray tiger-striped fur. Hissy was the leader and protector of her siblings and was almost never alone. She would always greet us with a hiss when we came into the room, she was the most feisty towards us but it was out of love and care toward her siblings. Our third kitten we named Tito. Tito was an all-black cat and the only male in the group. Tito usually spent most of his time cuddling with the others. He was extremely social but loved playing the most. Tito was also always the first to eat and purred the loudest. That leaves number 4, the super sweet Min. Min looked almost identical to Hissy, but their personalities could not be more different. Though they were hard to tell apart based on appearance when around both of them it was obvious to see the differences in their attitudes. Min was the most cuddly of all, did not mind being held and she was also the first to purr. We fell in love with each one of them, and don’t worry, Hissy took her time but eventually came around.
Pictured: All 4 kittens, can you guess which one is Hissy?
The next step was to find them homes. It was hard to say goodbye, but also such an amazing feeling to know that we put them in trusted homes where they would be loved. Emmy went to my boyfriend and gets along very well with his dog. Hissy, renamed Blink, went to a coworker of my dad. Tito went to my sister Quinn and travels back and forth with her from college. We introduced our 4-year-old cat Finn to him and they are best buddies whenever together. The final baby, Min, renamed Ziti, went to a friend of my sister. At the same time as adopting Ziti, they also adopted a mom cat named Nonna Pasta. These two have become inseparable and take care of each other. Their new owners are so happy to have them, and we’ve been assured that they have adapted well to their forever homes. We are so proud to have had this experience, and I would encourage anyone that wants to help cats in their own community to call your local humane society to find out how!
Pictured: Finn and Tito, adopted brothers