Why are my feral cats so wily?
January 14, 2006 10:38 PM   Subscribe

My recently rescued feral kittens keep trying to climb into the drawers above the Air Conditioning intake vent. Why?

A month ago, one cat twice succeeded in using this drawer to escape to the outside. He's now a permanent outside cat. The other two though, seem to prefer the inside. Still, they are basically unapproachable by humans, except through tremendous patience and a willingness to sit and wait for them to come to you. The thing is, they both still try to get that drawer above the vent open. It has linens in it, and they claw them out of the drawer. Are they trying to escape? Or do they just like the linens? And, if they are trying to escape, how come they all know that's the secret way out?
posted by joaniemcchicken to Pets & Animals (8 answers total)
There's probably a breeze of fresh air (perhaps so faint you can't detect it) coming in through the drawer.
posted by words1 at 10:54 PM on January 14, 2006

How old are they, roughly? Having fostered countless kittens over the years, I can tell you that young kittens will explore anywhere they can and squeeze into and through the most unlikely of places. Adult cats will do this too, but not as much. As to why that place in particular, as words1 said, it's probably a scent thing.
posted by Meredith at 11:12 PM on January 14, 2006

Yeah, the drawer gets outside air (presumably, since you can use it to get outside... unless it's some kind of Narnia-esque drawer, in which case you're on your own) so the kittens can smell the fresh air and - most importantly - other cats. So they're looking for the source of the smell and they'll likely keep digging up those linens until they find the cat they think is hidden under there..
posted by stefanie at 11:51 PM on January 14, 2006

Regardless of the drawer, feral kittens should be crated during this transition period. Given time, they'll do a lot more than try to escape, and will be better socialized with a more formal training regimen (i.e. crated, taken out at set times, socialized for a set time, etc).
posted by frogan at 12:16 AM on January 15, 2006

They're drawers. That's what cats do. It sounds like they're also high up (above an air conditioner?). If so, that's even more what cats do -- they love high cozy nooks.

I don't know about feral cats, but it sounds like these guys would want a den even more than most cats do. Have you tried opening another drawer filled with old towels or something else soft and destroyable?
posted by booksandlibretti at 8:28 AM on January 15, 2006

I'd say that it's a combination. They've decided it's a safe spot that reminds them of their mother's den, and they like to get high up if possible: it gives them a feeling of control in a situation where they aren't in control.

If the kittens are still unapproachable (ie: they hiss and growl when you get close), they should be in a cage or other confined space. It's much easier to tame a kitten that can't run away and hide all the time. If you let them loose too soon, they won't be fully tame and may not be adoptable.

The kitten burrito technique (wrap them up in a towel so only the head is showing) is effective: they calm down when they feel confined, and you can then sit with them, feed them baby food and generally get them used to being with humans. It might sound harsh, but a bit of tough love goes a long way.
posted by baggers at 12:43 PM on January 15, 2006

They LOVE turkey baby food, good call baggers.

Kittens ALWAYS try to explore where they aren't supposed to go!
posted by radioamy at 4:44 PM on January 15, 2006

Response by poster: Well, I sure learned some things I never knew before. I am brand new to cats. I have always had dogs. I will start crating them, I have been doing the opposite. They were rescued from our neighborhood, and it took months to catch them. They've been spayed and neutered, and we are now trying to get the mama cat so we can get her spayed. It has been really, really hard. She's really skittish, and hard to catch. Plus, the one that escaped has apparently shared all our cat catching screts with her, because she is wise to the "coax into house with food, sneak up from outside to shut kitchen door" trick. It's been an experience. I am not sure the two we have in the house will ever socialize, but they will always have a warm, loving home. Sometimes, if I am really patient, and crawl on my knees, with my hand outstretched, one of them will let me rub his tummy.
posted by joaniemcchicken at 7:29 PM on January 15, 2006

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