Sadly in many areas you may find populations of what appears to be wild cats and kittens. Technically these are all referred to as “feral” cats. These feral animals can be caught and tamed if a person is willing to put in the effort. This article is specifically about catching young feral kittens and making them tame.
If you are interested in catching stray cats keep in mind you should report finding them to your local shelter in case an owner is looking for them.
How to Catch Feral Kittens
Typically the kittens will have a hiding place. There are several methods of catching them, one is to use a cat trap. The trap is baited either with canned kitten food or sardines (smelly, and will attract them but otherwise should not be fed to cats or kittens). The trap is set nearest to where the kittens hide and is left.
Some of the problems of using a trap are that if adult cats are near they are often the first ones caught. If the kittens are very small their weight may not be heavy enough to trigger the trap door to shut.
I have had to improvise by making my own trap to catch a kitten. I baited a cat carrier, and tied a rope to the door (running it through the cage so that if I pulled the rope the door would close), and sat a few feet away; far enough so the kitten would not be afraid to get the food. When the kitten entered I pulled the rope to shut the door, I held the rope tight and shut the door properly. Having a second person to actually latch the carrier door while you hold the rope will help.
If you do not have a cat trap or carrier to use you can catch feral kittens by hand, I have done this too. Physically catching the kittens can be tricky if you are not familiar with how to hold onto a hissing and frightened animal. Although tiny, feral kittens can be tough. You are unlikely to lure it towards you so you must often take an active role to catch the kitten. They will jump up like fireworks to get away and will try to frighten you to let go of them if you have caught one.
What you need to do is have canned kitten food, or sardines, and put it out for the kittens. You must be very still and wait for them to come to the get food. Your hand needs to be held just over the food. If they are hungry enough they will come out to eat. At that time you should be able to grab one kitten. Put it in a box, or someplace secure. Your actions will have frightened other kittens away but if you are patient they may come out to eat within a few minutes and you can try to catch another.`
Taming the Feral Kittens
Once you have caught the kittens the next part is to tame them. Keeping them in a small confined area is the best method of taming them. They can be kept in a large dog crate or guinea pig/rabbit cage. They need to have dry kitten food, water, and a shallow (kitten sized) litter box in their cage. If you do not have a cage for them, keeping the kittens in a small bathroom is fine.
You must make a point of holding the kittens several times a day (one kitten at a time). Until you are comfortable doing so (with a feisty kitten) hold it in a room where you can shut the door so it cannot get away. After holding each kitten for at least 5-10 minutes, return them to the cage and offer them a tiny amount of canned kitten food. Stay nearby while they eat. In this way they associate you with good things.
The kittens should be held several times in the day and after four or five days you may notice they start to relax in your hands and may even go to sleep while being held. You can use your judgment as to when to let them out of the cage and loose in a room.
Even after being “tamed”, young kittens should always be somewhat confined to a small place in the home so they can find their litter box.
Other Information on Kitten Care