Found Cat
September 19, 2004 11:21 AM   Subscribe

What do we do with the cute, fluffy little kitten we found living in my (future) in-laws' woodpile? [MI]

We're all animal lovers, but most of us are allergic to the felines, so keeping the little cutie is probably not going to work out. It’s fluffy, gray, tiny, and it makes an odd, persistent meowing (before we saw it, I thought the noise was coming from a crow), the like of which I’ve never heard before (except, you know, from crows). It looks too little to be on its own, but no momma cat seems to be in sight. So far, we haven’t been able to get near it, but we put out some milk and tuna so it wouldn’t be hungry. What else can we do to ensure the little one’s survival and continued cuteness?
posted by willpie to Pets & Animals (22 answers total)
Trap it and take it to the humane society (they will usually rent or loan you a humane trap), or call the local humane society and have them come and get it.
posted by biscotti at 11:37 AM on September 19, 2004

posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:31 PM on September 19, 2004

Pretty_JRuneric's post aside, you could also photograph the kitten and put some flyers
up around town. It may well have been lost, and had wandered from someone else's property.
posted by Smart Dalek at 12:34 PM on September 19, 2004

Why can't you get near it?
posted by scarabic at 1:13 PM on September 19, 2004

My uncle owns a farm and has a number of kittens living on the top of his sheltered wood pile. Their mother takes care of them, and will train them how to live outside. You could probably leave it alone and it will be fine.
posted by borkencode at 1:27 PM on September 19, 2004

Response by poster: Scarabic - We can't get near it because it is hiding in the middle of a big woodpile. When it came out to eat (it devoured the tuna and milk!), we waited nearby and tried to approach it, but as soon as it noticed us it scurried back into the gigantic tarp-covered woodpile. It has been *crowing* all day nonstop. It's obviously far too young to be on its own and very, very scared. Is there some kind of foolproof cat treat we can buy to tempt it nearer to us? Like I say, as three of the four people in the house are allergic to cats, we don't know much about how to care for this one, though we obviously want to help get it to a warm safe place.
posted by willpie at 1:28 PM on September 19, 2004

Photos? ♥ ♥ ♥
posted by holloway at 3:04 PM on September 19, 2004

I second taking pictures and emailing all friends and family in the immediate area. My husband, master cat trapper (he can get them out of anywhere effortlessly, hence out three cats) suggests blocking up one end of the hole in the woodpile where the kitty is hiding and just going in the other side with a gloved hand, snatching kitty by the scruff if you can, and until you can get the cat to the humane society/friend ro famil abode, keep kitty in the garage witha litter box. I dod not know this, but thye will pretty natuarry know where to go as long asyou plop kitty in the box once or twice to sho him or her what it is. Have some old blankets or towels andd a shoebox for him or her to hide in. This is the perfect opportunity to take a picture of said kitty swaddled in a towel and looking forlorn.
posted by oflinkey at 3:13 PM on September 19, 2004

Heh, spelling. Sorry. I am really tired.
posted by oflinkey at 3:15 PM on September 19, 2004

If it is very young, shelters might not accept it. Some seem to only accept kittens at a minimum age - my roommate's kitten came in younger, but with it's mother and siblings. But they may have a fostering program.
posted by jb at 3:54 PM on September 19, 2004

Response by poster: I tried to take a picture, but it's too elusive. It's a pretty big woodpile, covered with a tarp. The kitty seems to have taken shelter about 8 feet into the woodpile (roughly halfway, lengthwise). Short of taking off the tarp (and scaring the shizzle out of the little fella), there's no way to grab or photograph it. Maybe I can sneak up on it tomorrow.
Still, any tips on luring it out would be appreciated; it's starting to get cold here at night.
posted by willpie at 5:11 PM on September 19, 2004

Luring won't be very effective if the kitten is truly wild (i.e. not just lost); it just won't come out, and the whole they-won't-starve-themselves thing doesn't apply to pea-brained kittens. You will have to outsmart it. Plug up the entrance with a towel or something and dig out the kitten from the woodpile wearing long sleeves and gloves. Be as gentle as you can while still being alert and prepared for the inevitable greased-pig maneuver. Once you have him/her by the scruff (I've heard mixed reports on whether that hurts them or not, but it IS the only way to handle an agrieved kitty), swaddled it and put it in a safe place until it can be retrieved by someone in a position to keep it for awhile. I would call the local vet before the humane society for the kitten -- they know the suckers in the area -- and this kitten will probably need a little more tlc than normal before it embraces home life.
I second the pictures idea too.
posted by dness2 at 5:37 PM on September 19, 2004

You could try putting out the tuna, then sit down a ways off and wait for it to come out and eat. Don't move toward it or move at all -- just sit there while it eats. Act uninterested. Look at it occasionally, but act interested in something else (like maybe scratching yourself or grooming your hair back, if you're really into this whole thing; do something it understands ... no, really, animals love it when they understand what you're doing.)

Do this a few times, and it will get to know you and associate you with the food. Move a little closer over time, talk to it a little in a reassuring voice ... even purr loudly at it. It will remember its mother's purr. Purring sounds silly, but it works.

Eventually you should gain its trust, or be able to get ahold of it at least.

From there, maybe you could bring it inside for a while. Give it a small room if possible to claim as its territory. Otherwise it will hide behind a chair or couch or someplace it decides belongs to it. Once inside, it should be easier to gain its trust, as you feed it and such.

Maybe you have a friend who would adopt it?
posted by Shane at 6:45 PM on September 19, 2004

If it is very young, shelters might not accept it.

If it's a stray or wild cat, they normally will, especially since a kitten this young still has a chance of being socialized well enough to become tame. They generally have rules about ages for owner surrenders (so people don't try an unload day-old litters from their unspayed pets), but part of their mandate is taking in animals in need, and this one certainly qualifies.
posted by biscotti at 6:53 PM on September 19, 2004

We had a wild cat from about 4 weeks' old. Boy oh boy, it took some months to get it to a point where it wouldn't just attack you on impulse every day, but now it's adorable :-)
posted by wackybrit at 7:58 PM on September 19, 2004

Due to taking care of someone's cat for the next few months, I've been reading various things about cats. Feeding it is probably the best way to gain its trust. However, if you continue feeding it, you may want to get real cat food and formula that is balanced for kittens - my source claims that both human-oriented tuna and human-oriented milk are not good for them. The milk may not hurt it but is missing some (necessary) things which mother cat's milk has, and might be harder for it to digest. Adult cats can't digest milk at all. Tuna for humans is also hard for them to metabolize, and long-term feeding of tuna to a cat does bad things to it (something called steatitis).

If you end up caring for it, the book I have recommends contacting a vet right away. Apparently caring for a young kitten is quite complicated, and you will want guidance (it will need special vaccines, formula, and other things.) Some clinics and shelters apparently have employees who specialize in taking care of orphaned kittens, also. If it is to ever interact with other cats well (and it is as young as it sounds), it maybe should be introduced into another litter, as a lot of socialization happens in the litter before 12-14 weeks. (apparently mothers are very accepting of orphans, and have even been known to accept orphans of other species)

The book I've been looking at, by the way, is "think like a cat" by Pam Johnson-Bennett. I have no idea how it compares to any other cat books, but it's what we got from the library, and it seems pretty good to me.
posted by advil at 11:23 PM on September 19, 2004

my father-in-law found two very young kittens in his woodpile. they were brought inside, and fed "cat milk" (little boxes of kitten formula, made for cats) and kitten food (softened with the milk until they had better teeth).

i had to show them how to wipe the kittens - they wouldn't use the litter box, not until after manual stimulation (wet cloth on the bottom). i know puppies need this, i don't know if kittens do as well but it seemed to help. once the box smelled like pee they were off and running.

wet poo means too much cat milk. watch the intake levels. these two kept missing the box due to diarrhea until i made my mother-in-law cut down on the milk supplements to them.

only odd thing is that these two are remarkably wild. they love their owners ("woody" loves my father-in-law, who was decidedly not a cat person until now - it's funny to watch him with the kitten) but neither will tolerate other people - my wife is a confirmed cat magnet, i've never met a cat that didn't respond well to her, until now. these two little girly kittens will hiss at anyone except their adopted family.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:20 AM on September 20, 2004

If I were in your situation, I would create an alternative "hidey-place" for her - maybe some kind of wooden crate with a cotton towel or blanket (something that won't smell synthetic and scary) and yummy treats inside (including catnip), and try to make it seem as hidden as possible (maybe by covering it with branches, etc. except for a small entrance). If she migrates there, everything will be much easier.
posted by taz at 6:52 AM on September 20, 2004

Ooo, great idea, taz! One of my current cats was abandoned in my front yard and took up residence in the bushes. She's very trusting, so it only took a couple nights for her to follow me in the house, but until then I put a cardboard box (sideways, with the opening facing horizontally) in the bushes, put an old catbed in the box (although rags or an old towel would have been fine), and covered the whole operation with a broken umbrella to keep it dry (it had been drizzly and a even snowing a bit). She moved right in. Now she's one of my best friends.
posted by Shane at 9:30 AM on September 20, 2004

Response by poster: taz and shane - special thanks to you for your great ideas. the kitten has let me get a bit closer today, and she didn't run into her hiding place right away, but i still can't get anywhere near enough to try to pet her or bring her inside. i have a big box that i'll make a "nest" out of to see if she'll migrate. i'm off to the pet store to look for kitten milk too.

my SO is falling in love with the kitten -- she's the one who keeps feeding it and trying to earn its trust, but she's also the one who is allergic to cats. perhaps you cat lovers might be able to suggest ways to help ease feline-allergies, as it looks like we might try to adopt the little cutie. thanks!
posted by willpie at 9:48 AM on September 20, 2004

my friend has pretty severe cat allergies (off the chart, according to his doc). his SO has a cat. they moved in together. he takes his pills every day, and has apparently grown to tolerate the cat without any major problems. so, it can be done, but it might require a trip to an allergy doc if the current medication isn't working.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:12 AM on September 20, 2004

Cool! Let us know how it turns out, willpie?
posted by Shane at 6:51 AM on September 21, 2004

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