I usually foster very young bottle babies, I’m encountering a new experience with my first older fosters and would greatly appreciate the wisdom of this group.
Here’s the scenario: I’m taking care of two 8 week old kittens, arrived at shelter with colds so they couldn’t be with the rest. Unknown back story. They stay in a large pet playpen. They’re skittish but generally fine to handle. Day two I let them into a contained room for some play time. Time for bed, kitten 1 lets me pick him up no problem. Kitten 2 runs! Trying to get her contained again is a nightmare and she’s super stressed. Yikes. Gave it a try again day three, same results. She won’t be coaxed, can’t sneak up on her, treats are ignored, won’t engage in play directly with me, doesn’t let down her guard for me to come near at all. It’s a full on three stooges episode that ends with her traumatized. Unfortunately I don’t have the ability to leave them in that room unsupervised - it’s playpen or limited supervised roam time.
So my questions are: Am I overestimating the need for kittens this age to run and play in a larger space? Is it ok to leave them confined to the playpen for the foreseeable future? It seems cruel, and my foster role to socialize is important but that cuts both ways if she’s traumatized by the excursions. If I should be letting her out, any other strategies I can try to reduce stress when it’s time to be picked up? Thanks!!!!
I agree that socialization with you is so important. Would it be possible to take some toys and treats into a bathroom, sit on the floor with your ipad or a book for a period of time and let them gradually and quietly learn you are a friend not a threat? It might be worth a shot.
I have fostered kittens for 20 years. I feel pretty much the same way as you do about letting them out to be active and kittenish! I have had some success with kittens like these using clicker training and food. So a typical day would start with kittens in the cage or enclosure. Walk in. Use the clicker to attract their attention. IN THE CAGE feed them a kitten sized portion of tasty canned food and a small amount of dried kitten kibble for their teeth. Give them time to eat, then remove the food dishes. Leave the water. (Only if you have to leave for the day or go to work, leave them about two tablespoons of dry kibble outside the cage along with another water dish and a litter box because sometimes the shy ones won’t want to go in the cage.) Each time you come in the room use the clicker and then put food in the cage. They will quickly learn to associate the clicker with food and run into the cage. I usually feed 8 week old kittens canned food at least four times a day. But feed as your schedule permits and you can control their cage time. Then usually around 10 pm I use the clicker, put a third meal into the cage and get them into the clean cage (bed, litter box, small water dish) for overnight. Every time they finish eating, or while they are eating, use the cage time as an opportunity to pet them. Other times you can go in with a jar of baby food, use the clicker, sit down on the floor and let them come close enough to lap it off a plastic spoon or tongue depressor. Most kittens will prostitute themselves for baby food. They will start climbing on your lap and eventually up your shoulder Or use the clicker and offer treats. Once I had four kittens who would all barrel into the cage when I walked in and clicked. Don’t have a clicker? Use the same whistle or sound to call them in. The trick is to feed them generously enough at mealtimes but to let them get hungry enough to work up an appetite between meals. I’m NOT advocating extreme hunger. What I’m saying is that a lot of people put out a giant bowl of kibble to kittens to eat because they feel sorry for them, but then the kitten has no motivation to build a human bond. Best thing for socializing is to remove food between meals. (Obviously not an option for sick or malnourished kittens)
Sometimes canned baby meat is the only thing you need. I currently have a single foster who came around in three days for baby food. But I admit it is easier when it’s a solo kitten.
Hi! I have fostered for many years & have run across this once or twice. We, too, have a routine around here, too. We keep our babies in cat cages (they are about the same size a large ferret cage). We 'treat train' them.. I scatter treats on the floor & yell "Treats, Treats" & they figure out to come running! We have even just scattered food on the floor & yelled "treats" & they come running! If you can get one to come, the other will eventually come around, I suspect.
Also, I use a large, long grosgrain ribbon to play with the babies. They find it almost impossible to resist running behind it!
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