I rescued a kitten coming out of the woods onto the highway 1month ago. It was about 5 weeks old. I thought he would gradually become socialized which he has a little. He bites us constantly lunging at your face and arms, anywhere he can reach. He's very wild racing around - like a cat on speed. I have tried being stern with sharp "NO" and withdrawing from him, but he continues to attack. He won't let me clip his nails or clean his ears. Uses sharp nails that pierce through clothes. Climbs up leg of pants.
I don't think he would make it out in the wild again and we are afraid of him and his aggressive behavior.
What can I do?
I think if you are that afraid of him, it might be best if you took him to a shelter. He doesn't sound semi-feral...he sounds feral. Does he hiss and growl at you? Does he come up to you or let you hold him? Do you want to make this commitment to this kitty? I have a kitten who is partly feral, had a feral father and partly feral mother. She is a year and a half old now and has tamed down qiute a bit. Will sit in my lap and likes to be petted but she is very needy and she does not like other people. She runs like crazy from them. He sounds like a real handful. Eventually he may calm down, but it will be a long while, and then again he may not. It's just a matter of how badly you want to commit to him. What's his name?
This fairly normal behavior for any kitten, feral or not. Raising a kitten takes a lot of patience and persistence Reacting "sternly" and showing withdrawal (especially in fear) often reinforces the defensive/aggressive behavior you are trying to subdue by showing him the same defensive/aggressive behavior in yourself. I have had better success in redirecting unwanted behavior with consistency. Try wrapping him tightly in a towel with only one paw or his ears accessible to clip his nails or clean his ears. Provide a scratching post and a couple of toys that you can directly his attacks towards instead of you.
I agree with LindaTX. It's possible for him to gradually settle down, but it takes a long time with semi-feral kitties. If you can't stand to turn him out or take him to a shelter, you might post a flyer at the local higher-quality pet supplies shop that describes all of what you listed above and has a cute photo of him, and see if anyone who is used to ferals is out there who would take him on.
Lots and lots of patience. I think you need to speak softly and be gentle. When you hold him, do it firmly. He is still a kitten and it is normal for him to be extremely energetic, running around like a wild horse. Actually, it sounds like he has quite a personality! I have a domesticated cat that is 4 years old and still runs up my pant legs when he wants to play. In fact, we play chase! I chase him and then he chases me (I scream when he catches me with those claws)! If he "truly" is exhibiting bad behaivor get a squirt gun and use it on him.
I also have two "semi" feral cats. Had them since birth and they are now over eight years of age. They have never became fully domesticated but have come a long way nonetheless. I never make any quick moves around either of them or they will lash out at me and shred anything they can reach (that never went away). As Nancy stated above the towel is a good way to clip there nails and just to give them the much needed affection. I used a towel for years. Now I can pick them up and as long as I hold them firmly and don't make any sudden moves, I can brush and pet. They both even trust me to rub their bellies (slowly)! One will jump up on the bed and sleep with me at night. She will bite me if I get to close to her in my sleep - lol. But, her bite is only a little sharper than a love bite, barely breaks the skin but it will wake me up.
I made the commitment when I rescued mine from euthanasia at the animal shelter. Just to let you know, most shelters will euthanize a feral cat. Hopefully you will hang in there.
Thank you for rescuing this kitten! I've been rescuing and socializing ferals for 10 years. We have found that kittens rescued as young as yours was to have no problems socializing at all. When they've been raised by feral mothers for a full three months or on their own for a while they can take a little time, but at five weeks I really think the issue is not at all that he was feral, but that he's just a crazy kitten.
You've already been given some excellent advice, but I think there are a few things I can add.
First of all - has this kitten been to a vet and treated for parasites? If you've rescued them from the outdoors, you must simply assume they have at least round worm. There is a topical medication called Revolution available from the vet that treats fleas, flea eggs, ticks, round worm and heart worm.
He sounds very much like a kitten full of energy! To train him, treat it like you would a young child. His energy needs to be redirected as suggested (when he attacks you do firmly say "no," but instead of withdrawing, redirect his attention to something that IS ok to bite. We keep a lot of wand toys handy, perfect for distracting a kitten). If/when he redirects - praise the heck out of him! He needs to know what is "good" and "right" as much (if not more than) he needs to know what is wrong or not OK.
Any time he's playing with toys, praise him.
Everyone (and guests) in the home must be consistent about not letting body parts be a toy.
Also, at about 9 - 10 weeks, you've got maybe another month before he begins teething. This will only accelerate the "bitey" behavior. As he's already bitey, I'd just begin managing him now like he's teething. In addition to the advice I've already given, I would purchase a box (or several boxes) of bendy straws, scatter them everywhere. The plastic in these straws seems to be a perfect texture for kitties that want to bite and chew, yet it is not easily chewed into pieces, so there's little risk to him. Just keep an eye on the straws and throw out any that start to become chewed up. These are generally terrific for the play/biting redirection.
As soon as he does begin to teethe, make the appointment to get him neutered. Catching him before he enters sexual maturity will help prevent him from becoming territorial and marking by spraying, something you definitely don't want.
As to his claws. The best way to approach this is have a treat at the ready. When he's sleeping, touch his feet. Don't try to push a claw out at first - just get him used to having his feet touched. If he wakes up and withdraws, touch his paw, say "what a good boy!" and give him his treat. He'll get used to the idea that having his feet touched means a treat and nothing horrible happening to him. Do this as frequently as possible - the more you do it, the quicker he'll become desensitized to your touching his feet.
When you're comfortable and he's not really reacting to your touching his feet, progress to pushing a claw out. Just one, and don't try to clip it. Same thing goes for this step of the process. Tell him he's a good boy! and give him his treat.
This should only take a couple of weeks. Then you have the clipper (and the treat) handy. By now, he'll be desensitized to your pushing out a claw - you should be able to clip one. Just one. Praise him and give him his treat!
When you get to that point - just clip one claw a day, one every day. Just keep going round in circles, because by the time you're done, they're ready to be clipped again. You'll be able to tell when you can do more than one at a time. We progressed to two, then three, then one whole paw.....
The process should take a month or two.
Thank you for giving this little boy a chance! And use up as much of that kitten energy as you can with interactive play, directed at the toy. Make sure he's got lots of vertical space!
You can also try purchasing Feliway (Comfort Zone) and/or adding Bach's Rescue Remedy drops to his water. Both of these may help calm him a little bit. But he is a young kitten - there's nothing but time that will change that!
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