Guidelines for Rehoming Skittish Kittens?
July 28, 2011 6:44 AM   Subscribe

Guidelines for Rehoming Skittish Kittens?

As part of ongoing saga of trying to do best by these five kittens...I'm wondering what to do, as one is extremely skittish and two are moderately skittish.

Specifically, a family with teenagers and a dog wanted to adopt the very skittish kitten along with the moderately skittish (almost all white) one. When they visited, the extremely skittish little girl ran to the basement. The family has had cats before and thought the kittens would just acclimitize to the new, more hectic environment.

I'm worried that the kittens will be traumatized, and/or never get used to it. I'm assuming their skittishness is partly genetic, and partly due to the fact I live alone (also, the cat mother brought them all to live in the basement for about 3 weeks). I'd hate to put the kittens in a miserable situation, or one where they'll end up being stuck in a shelter by fustrated new owners.

So, any guidance on what I could expect would be appreciated.

posted by Jon44 to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
Yes, the kittens will be fine. They're not new cat owners, and there are no toddlers around. If the family knows they are skittish and is prepared to wait a few weeks for them to get used to new people, they're properly informed.
posted by jeather at 6:55 AM on July 28, 2011

The kittens will adjust, all of this is pretty standard. I've adopted a couple of skittish kittens and they always came around once they felt more secure with me and my home.
posted by Kimberly at 6:57 AM on July 28, 2011

If they have a basement where the cats can hide until they are ready to come out, they should be fine.

We brought home two formally feral cats that had been rescued. We literally did not see them for about two months, we made sure they had clean litter, food, water, and let them hide in the basement. Eventually they ventured out. First when only my wife was home, eventually when I was around.

They now come out for attention from a couple of the kids when they visit, and one has even taken to the bad dog.

They'll be fine, be glad you found a family that will take them.
posted by tomswift at 6:57 AM on July 28, 2011

Yeah, they will be okay. The only thing that concerns me is the dog - if they're prepared to make sure the dog doesn't harass the kittens into oblivion, it should be okay. If they are animal people, they probably know about laying down on the floor and being quiet until the kitties want to come investigate or whatever.

God, I miss that stage. Ours are eight now, and I love the older "let mommy sleep in" stage, but I really miss kittens. Something is so special about that stage.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:01 AM on July 28, 2011

I'm going to be the voice of opposition. We adopted one very skittish and one moderately skittish kittens (sisters, from a hoarder situation) several years ago, into an active household with 2 preteens and a dog who tends to chase cats. They were about 12 weeks old when we got them.

Frankly, the very skittish kitty would probably be far happier and living a more normal cat life in a smaller apartment with one or two calm, quiet adults and no dog. She spends almost all her time hiding in unused parts of the house, except late at night after the dog is crated and everyone is asleep. We've had her 4 years, and she is no closer to adjusting and being a "normal" cat than she was at the start.
posted by drlith at 7:09 AM on July 28, 2011

If they were born to a mom on the streets who brought them into the basement, the kittens might be considered 'feral' as opposed to skittish . . . do they allow themselves to be cuddled without hissing or scratching? Do they meow to you? Feral cats tend not to talk to people.

The only reason to discern the difference is that skittish kittens often adjust to some level of comfort, whereas feral kittens are more difficult to bring around.

If it were me, I would probably talk to the family about the possibility of the kittens not adjusting. Are they getting these kittens with the intention that they will bond strongly, or are they ok if the cat became invisible shedding decor? If a year rolls by and scaredy-kitten has not relaxed, what then?

In any event, things that have helped feral-leaning kittens to 'come around': do not leave food out. Feed them 2 times a day. You'll know it's working if they begin to crowd you 20 or 30 minutes before mealtime. Also, hand feeding them tiny 'hamburgers' of wet food -- it's gross, but they really do get the clue that humans=GOOD FOOD. Nthing sitting on the floor and giving them an opportunity to see you not being threatening. I am also an advocate of "force cuddles": picking them up once a day, holding them close for about 15 seconds, and then lowering them down very slowly, and keeping your hands on them for a second after they are secure on the floor -- but some people feel that is mini-torture. My skittish cats have responded well to it -- after a couple of days, they are more likely to wander by within reach. And whenever they wander by within reach, I hold their tail and let it slide through my hand, just a little 'hi, i'm close but not seeking to trap you, kitty" . . .

Hope I said something helpful.
posted by MeiraV at 7:41 AM on July 28, 2011

I would be very hesitant to give the extremely skittish one to a family with a dog, unless the family has experience with formerly feral cats and the dog is good with cats. It's entirely possible that the kitty won't adjust, especially if the dog chases her or tries to "play" with her when she's not ready. Is there a reason why the family wanted that particular kitten? I really think she'd be better off in a quieter household, although it would be good for her to go with a sibling.
posted by Mavri at 7:57 AM on July 28, 2011

FWIW, my extremely-skittish-foster-to-socialise-kitty is in a home with a dog. He is semi skittish still, in that he will not accept you going up to him unless he is in one of a few specific locations (kitchen: yes; den: no; etc), but he comes up to be cuddled quite regularly several times a day, and has moved from complete terror at the dog (he met the dog when he was nearly a year old) to resigned mild irritation.

This kitten is much younger. It's not 100% sure that things will work out, of course, but this is true of any kitten.
posted by jeather at 8:05 AM on July 28, 2011

Last summer I adopted two kittens (both between 3 and 4 months old), and I have been amazed at how their adult personalities align exactly with the way they behaved in the house or so we spent getting to know them at the shelter. The affectionate, cuddly one is still affectionate and cuddly, and the weird, self-absorbed one is still weird and self-absorbed. As a result of this experience, I tend to think their behavior as kittens will actually tell you a lot about their basic personalities as adult cats. I'd try to find someone who can provide your little guys with a quieter environment.
posted by something something at 8:06 AM on July 28, 2011

Sorry, that should be "hour or so", not "house."
posted by something something at 8:06 AM on July 28, 2011

The last two kittens I got (now three years old) were quite skittish. One of the kittens adjusted within a week or two and was quite friendly (both kittens and my dog bonded right away). It took his brother two years to voluntarily sit in a lap. They both can be pests with wanting affection now (I wouldn't have it any other way).

As you can see with the comments here, cats have different personalities and that may change or may not from day-to-day or year-to-year. In short, cats are weird and there really is no telling what will happen in the future.
posted by deborah at 10:29 AM on July 28, 2011

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