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Foster Cat Journal: Candytuft

Yesterday I was asked to take a fractious feral kitten in to foster to see if I could socialize her. I was told to think “Tweetie” as far as her friendliness factor was concerned. If you recall, Tweetie was a fear-biter and it was fairly certain he would have to be released back to the woods if I couldn't socialize him. It's one thing to take a kitten into foster and get it ready for a family, but when it's nasty to start with there's the added pressure of trying to get a good result, but not having much time to do it in.


Here's Candytuft. Okay, where is she?

Last month I attended the NEFHS Conference where I learned about a new program being developed that quickly turns kittens around from being nasty to nice. It's called ”Fearful 2 Friendly”

What's amazing about this program is that within a few HOURS you can turn a kitten around IF you follow their rules. Okay, so I took one class. I didn't buy their DVD (because if you read my previous post about it you know that there were some “creative”-aka, annoying problems with the soundtrack that caused me to think twice about PAYING to hear it all over again).

I decided I'd give it a try from memory. Basically, you lock the kitten up, alone. Don't give it anywhere to hide. Then, SLOWLY take a step towards the cage and wait until the cat shows you a sign that is positive. Maybe it blinks or puts its' head down or even doesn't hiss or flick the tail. Any small sign, then leave the room. This is what the cat wants but you only do it when the cat is doing a behavior that is POSITIVE. It's like playing “red light, green light.” If the cat hisses you wait until it stops and does a good behavior.

you in there.jpg

Oh, there she is! What a cutie. Too bad she hates my guts right now. I'm going to put her in the dog crate. She will not like this, but so be it.

After awhile you end up getting closer to the cage and the cat does NOT react. If it does you have to take some steps back and re-apporach the cage. In time you'll touch the cage. If that works, then leave again. Keep leaving after each progress and positive reaction from the cat. Eventually you'll be able to open the crate without any reaction.

The big kicker is to use a brush at the end of a pole that's about 12-18 inches long. Let the cat warm up to the brush FIRST. The first time you touch the cat, it should be with the brush. The kittens seem to react very passionately about being touched that way. Once you get them going, it's easy to sneak your hand in there, but this is based on a vertical cage (so you can access it at your full height standing). My dog crate is on the floor and not sure I will be able to get in the cage without freaking out the kitten.

Bottom line-you don't want to grab the kitten or use food as bait to build confidence. You train the cat that you will do what it wants when it does positive things, not hiss or growl and such.


Candytuft is the name of a flower! Who knew? Not me. She's adorable as can be. I want to give her a big kiss, but I want to keep my lips so I'll wait and hope that some day I will be able to tell you about how I can hold her and pet her and give her all the love she wants.

So today I began. I got as far as to touch the cage and she did well overall. I only had to re-start once. Blitzen keeps trying to get into the room with me, so I have to lock him up while I do the training. Since it's just the first day, I'll give it another try tomorrow. Candy just got here and I don't want to overdo it. I feel silly taking a step, waiting, getting the result, then leaving the room. I count out 30 to 60 seconds and I go back in and do it again. I sure hope this works because I feel like Candy is wondering what the heck this silly human is up to.

Good question. Not sure I know the answer.


She's adorable!!! How can that face be mean? :(

I hope your socialization methods work! You saved Tweetie so I'm sure you can save her too

she's so cute!

Speaking of Tweetie, check him out in the new Sockington video (1.5 million followers!).

I HAD NO IDEA! LOVE IT! Okay, I'm in it, but hey...WOW!

Thanks for letting me know!

The opening sequence talking about each cat's background had me crying like a baby. Jason should release that as a public service announcement.

like the socialization methods pioneered by Best Friends during the Great Kitty Rescue. There was a horrific abandonment case in NV involving some 800 (yes 800) cats that were in the care of a "rescue" called F.L.O.C.K. (For the Love of Cats and Kittens) F.L.O.C.K. was letting cats starve/die from untreated illness. They had them on a 2 acre property in the NV desert with almost no shade. Cats were starving and dying of heat exhaustion. It was a nightmare. Google "Great Kitty Rescue" and you'll get the story, but be warned the pictures will make you sick.

Anyway, Best Friends was asked to help and many of the cats were feral. They developed methods for socializing the cats that is just like you are doing: no place to hide (esp no place ABOVE your head), long stick with a tuft, etc. They had phenomenal success and were able to rehabilitate many cats once considered hopeless. If you think you can stomach it, google "Cover Girl" + "Great Kitty Rescue" She was one of the cats saved who was very feral. She never completely came around before she died, but she did allow people to pet her.

Boodie was semi-feral when I first brought her home. In fact, she was supposed to be a foster to be adopted out, but the organization only showed her once and them seemingly "forgot" about her, oh, about 7 years ago. She did not like people at all and she and her sister would hiss at anyone who came near; cuddly they were not. (They were abandoned in the parking lot of a vet clinic - someone put them in a box and just left them there.) So I isolated her in a room all by herself and I did the only thing she liked people to do: I played with her, using a fishing-pole type toy. So basically I was her only contact with the outside world for a week or two, and when I showed up, I tried to leave her with a positive impression. She is still shy with strangers and a bit quirky overall, but she loves to be petted, sleeps on the bed with us and has only reverted to her hissy mode when she has been extremely frightened. She probably would have been even better socialized if she had been the only cat, instead of one of three here.

gah.. this is why i can't foster.. i'd keep them all.. can't wait to watch this progress :)

What a sweet kitty :) Well, not temperment wise yet, but she wants to be and will be soon with all you're doing for her.

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