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Y’all, put on your advising hats, please! I’ve got two questions that I know y’all can help out with. First, Lori:

I have a kitten question so thought I would go to the expert. I have had all ranges of animals, but I have never had a kitten so ignore my ignorance please.

Approximately a little over a month ago, I suddenly aquired a tiny kitten in my horse barn. He/She has never allowed me close, as she runs and hides but loves to hang out with my horses. I purchased kitten food and have been feeding it daily in a protected old grainery. I have no idea whether the kitten has another home and/or is provided food, but it is eating well, so I guess not.
If it is to stay, which I do not mind, what is your knowledge about if, and if so, how to get it to interact with me in the future? If it stays, I do want it neutered and vaccinated. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

I’m going to bet that the best way to make progress in interacting with the kitten is to use food. Work on getting closer to the kitten as he’s eating – if need be, you can use canned kitten food or Gerber chicken and gravy baby food to make it more enticing. Once he allows you get close to him, start trying to pet him and go from there.

It’s hard to know whether that will work or not, though, because of course we don’t know whether he’s been around people before and is just skittish, or if he’s feral. In a perfect world, you’d be able to trap him and bring him inside and work on socializing him from there, but I know that’s not always possible. Hopefully other people will have other suggestions!

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I have a question for you & your amazing readers. My little boy, Vash (5 years old) has been very sullen lately. He lays around a lot (which cats do – but he seems excessive), and is whiny a lot. He also wants to play with Kairi (his sister), but most often she doesn’t want to play. Do you have any toy suggestions for him? He plays with lasers but gets frustrated because there isn’t anything physical to catch. He loves Da Bird, but breaks them quickly. We recently found some spring toys that he loves, but I was hoping that you (& your readers) could maybe suggest some more toys for him. I tell my husband I think he needs a little brother (a kitten) to play with, but that’s really NOT an option for us. I want to help my little Dude. If he spoke English I know he’d tell us what he wants, but he’s horrible at English and he can’t sign so he just MEOWS and MEOWS and MEOWS and we don’t know what to do!

A little more story – we thought he just might want more attention, but no matter how much attention we give him – whether we’re playing with him, petting him, or cuddling with him – he seems to get grumpy and sullen after a bit. I just want him to be happy!
Also – We don’t think he’s sick – he’s not losing weight & his diet hasn’t changed. He’s not puking or anything like that.

Oldcat suggested: Perhaps a kicker toy or suffed animal that he could wrestle with like another cat would help

And I said: I was going to suggest one of those toys that fits over a door, you know, with the toy that hangs down that cats can bat around and jump up after? We have one of those in the foster room and one in the guest bedroom, and they’re a big hit with the cats and kittens! The only down side is that eventually they chew through the cord holding the toy on and the toy gets lost, but I always just tie another one up there.

I know y’all out there have suggestions, too, so let’s hear ’em!

Edited to add: Doodle Bean said: Since he’s sullen and meowy, you might want to get him checked for a bladder infection. Neutered male cats are prone to that problem, and they don’t necessarily run a fever or show much sign of it until it’s well advanced. If it’s been awhile since he’s had a vet check, you may want to run him over to the stabby place.

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2011-10-05 (1)
“Ho hum.”

2011-10-05 (7)
“Hey. Something’s missing. Where…”

2011-10-05 (2)

2011-10-05 (3)

2011-10-05 (4)

2011-10-05 (5)
“Get over here! I’m bored!”

2011-10-05 (6)

2011-10-05 (8)

2011-10-05 (10)

2011-10-05 (9)
“Go ‘way, lady. No one invited you!”


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2011-10-05 (16)
I know that sometimes Molly looks brownish in her pictures, but here she is with Harlan, so you can see the difference in their colors. Also, Harlan’s going to be HUGE and Molly’s a petite little thing.

2011-10-05 (15)
Molly shows Sally who the boss is.

2011-10-05 (14)
Sally shows Molly how sharp her teeth are.

2011-10-05 (13)
“What?” (They moved the fight to the other side of the bed, so they could tussle in comfort.)

2011-10-05 (12)

2011-10-05 (11)

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2011-10-05 (17)
Tommy, hanging out in his favorite hanging-out spot.

Yesterday morning at 4:41, when I was sound asleep, I apparently moved in a way that Tommy thought meant I was going to wake up and pet him. Tommy gets VERY excited about being petted, and he throws himself on his back and writhes around, flailing his claws in all directions. One of his claws sunk into my arm, and that was an unpleasant way to wake up, believe you me. Then he jumped down off the bed and proceeded to barf up a lung on the bedroom floor.

It was not the best start to a day, if you were wondering.


2010: There needs to be a feather boa involved.
2009: And how can you put down a sleeping kitten? (You can’t.)
2008: No entry.
2007: I don’t think it’s possible to take a bad picture of Elle.
2006: Warning: cat cannot hold her licker.
2005: “Who, me? No, I wasn’t going to climb into the fireplace. Nope, not me!”



10-5-11 — 31 Comments

    • Thanks Keri – we actually have one of those. 🙂 They played with it for awhile but then forgot about it. 🙂

      I do want to add to my question. Vash is also terrorizing his sister quite a bit. We always catch him trying to play but she wants none of it. I don’t know what happened (or when) but Vash is still part kitten and his sister, Kairi, is an old lady. We need to get him to leave her alone – but he wants to play.

      I’m taking all of your advice and we’ll keep an eye on him about the infection. He doesn’t really seem “in pain” meowy – just “I have something to say” meowy. Thanks for the heads up everyone and we will keep an eye on him. He was at the vet in July (I think) so maybe we need to have him checked again. Although – him at the vet and Kairi at home make them fight even worse since he has “Vet Stink” on him.

      • I had that issue…I got a kitten for my teenager. It took a huge amount of pressure off my older cat! I was happy with two kitties, but third didn’t make the impact that I thought it would and she actually provided a lot of harmony to my home!

        • We’re afraid that a kitten will grow up to be like Kairi (old lady – lays around and naps but rarely plays) instead of a playmate for Vash. If we somehow KNEW we could get a perma-kitten then we might make the jump. Also – we’re afraid that another cat would take even MORE attention from Vash which would just make him more sullen. Thank you for the support of that idea!

          • I have four cats, three females and one male, and the male is just like yours… He loves to play rough, and although the ladies like to play too, they don’t particularly appreciate being bitten and kicked and ambushed at all hours of the day and night. Lots of hissing when he goes too far.
            I don’t have the option of bringing a male kitten into the mix, or I definitely would. My vet told me that some cats just have more energy and hunting drive, and if they don’t have prey to hunt, they start “hunting” other cats (or their humans’ toes).
            The puppet idea sounds great, something that works well for me is to play peek-a-boo with a feather wand under a flat pillow… the cats jump from one side of the pillow to the other to bite and kick the crap out of the feathers, and it seems to let them blow off a lot of steam.
            We also got our male a “come with me kitty” harness and leash, and when its nice out we take him in the courtyard to hang out for a bit… he watches bird and bugs and feels super special because he’s the only one that gets to do it (the others are too chicken)… might be worth a shot for your kitty?

            Hope some of the suggestions here will help… I know how frustrating it is to have a frustrated kitteh!

          • When I selected a kitten, it was strictly on personality. Don’t let looks steer you in any way. I picked a kitten that was inbetween the other two. As in, not as dominate as the youngest but not as submissive as the eldest. She had to be able to hold her own but not be pushy. I also picked the sex opposite the youngest (he is a boy) so I got a girl. Keeps gender competition out of the equation. I have to say, the baby “owns” my boy! LOL. She has him so wrapped around her little paw! They are stead fast.

      • cats often do not show ANY symptoms when they are sick, so by the time you start noticing “something” is off, there usually is something going on. We had major bladder issues going on with one of our cats (pee the color of blood, many locations over the house) and we had no idea who it was until luckily he jumped up on the bed and peed on it. Luckily because we had eight cats at the time and I dreaded bringing them all into the vet to figure out who it was. Hubby wasn’t happy because it was HIS side of the bed, but I was THRILLED..

        It would be pointless to try to make a grumpy kitty happy with out a vet visit. More often then not it is medical. Even if you have a known stressor like the death of a sibling, the stress of a stressor can make a kitty have a medical issue because cats do not deal with stress very well.

        • Thank you.
          I don’t want to stress him out about the vet so we’re holding off on that. We only have 2 cats so we’d know who was missing the litter box, but that’s not the case. No litter box issues at all. No blood in the clumps, no avoidence, etc. We will take him to the vet if we thought it might be something like that. Right now it’s more about him attacking his sister, etc. He’s not doing any of the normal stuff he does when he’s sick.

  1. Charlie and Patty sure have come a looooong way! They are like two peas in a pod…I sure hope they get adopted together 🙂

    • At least you didn’t find it by stepping in it with your bare feet…once it was cold… gag…

  2. Is it in the secret cat handbook somewhere that the 4:00am hour is THE time for hairballs??? I can’t count the number of times, with various cats, I have shot out of bed between 4:00 and 5:00am to comfort, and then clean up, after a hairball attack.

    What’s the little spot in Tommy’s right eye? I just noticed it in his last couple of pictures.

    • My black cat Gandalf has the same type of spot in his left eye. He’s epileptic, and I had thought that he’d developed it after having had a seizure. Tommy’s the only other cat I’ve seen with the same kind of spot.

  3. Here’s my advice on the sullen, attacking cat: My ex-husband and I bought a cat puppet for our youngest cat (at the time 10 weeks old) to attack because he was terrorizing the other two in the house. The puppet is literally the size of a 10-week-old kitten. We’d put a hand in it and make that kitten attack ours. Eventually Teen Baby stopped sneak-attacking the other cats and would stalk “Karl” (the puppet) and carry him somewhere (usually a rug), drop to the floor, and bunny kick the he** out of him or stand on top of him, kneading, while holding him by the neck in his mouth. Domination. He used to meowl and jump up on the bed and get on my back in the middle of the night and knead away on Karl (it’s a better way to be awoken than hearing barfing). And to top off this picture, I have to add that Karl is still with us (me and the cats, not the ex-husband) and Teen Baby still does the same things with him. I always find Karl in different parts of the house–sometimes on the bed, sometimes on the bathroom rug. He always finds somewhere soft to “kill” him. Karl also goes with him to the vet when I have to leave him there when I go out of town. They call Karl his “baby.”

    So, it’s worth a try. You really have to make the puppet seem real. We would make Karl “stalk” Teenie and even look like he was bathing himself, washing his face or washing Teenie. I don’t know how well it would work with a 5-year-old cat, but it might make a difference.

    * * *
    That first picture of Patty and Charlie sitting together…OH NOOOOOO…CUTE…

    And will you look at all those cat beds on the shelf in the background of the pic with Molly and Harlan…LOL

    • I LOVE the “Karl” idea!!!! I have a stuffed tiger that I make pounce my kitties. They beat the crap out of him, too!

    • Thank you! That is a GREAT idea! We’ll give it a try. I think having something like that will really help him be able to get his playfulness out.

    • My late cat Baal had a stuffed bunny that he treated like Karl. We called him “Humpy Bunny” though, because Baal had some other “moves” he also tried out on the bunny…sometimes made me wonder if the vet had snipped everything he was supposed to…got to the point I didn’t like to touch Humpy Bunny too much! 😉

  4. I’ve been feeding ferals off and on for years, and I’ve found that socialization really depends on the cat. Some turn friendly quickly, some take months, and sometimes one simply won’t tame at all. Food is the quickest method, but be prepared to spend weeks–don’t give up too soon!

    When you put the food down, if you have time, stay nearby until they’re finished eating. Talk to them, or just sit as if you’re sharing a meal with a friend. Even if they won’t let you close they often seem to enjoy the company–I once had one that wouldn’t let me pet her but would yell if I left before she was done eating.

    When you can approach while it’s eating, give it a quick pet while it’s occupied with the food. It may run away the first few times, but I’ve always found it the best way to clue them in, eventually, that petting feels good. Sometimes it’s like a little light goes on. *grin* And once you can pet it, you can probably grab it for that first vet visit.

  5. I specialize in feral kittens at the shelter I foster for. Like Quill said, sometimes they come around really quick, other times they don’t. I think it depends a lot on past experiences the kittens have.

    You need to make them associate humans with great things. Try not to put food down until the kitty is able to SEE you put it down. If that isn’t always feasible, bring something really yummy to treat the kitten with when it is around – you might have to bring it out and back a few times so make sure it is portable and long lasting or you have plenty of it so you don’t care if you loose a few. Raw meat is yummy. Cooked meat is yummy. Canned baby food is yummy.. one friend swears by KFC.. 🙂

    Engaging in play is also a way to a kitten’s heart. A toy on a string will get the kitten to engage with out it being close to you so it will feel secure. Then it will get so into the play that you can bring it closer and closer. You can often get them running over your legs before they realize what is going on.

    talk to the kitten. Talk to it like it understands you. Tell it what you are doing and why you are doing it. explain what ever you want the kitten to understand. Also realize a kitty is often like a very young child (three to four yrs of age) and you might need to explain things over and over and over.. but they will come to understand. It is freaky sometimes. Talk and PRAISE.. you can not underestimate the power of praise. Cats soak it up like sunbeams. When the kitten is frightened and runs away complement it on trusting it’s instincts because you definitely look like something the kitten should be scared of but then explain that you are different and you can provide things for the kitten that it needs like… etc.

    Chemical help can do a lot. rescue remedy can be put in food and water. Feliway can be sprayed around the area to make it feel welcoming and make scary things less scary. There are bachs flower essances and a few other products out there to help with feral cats.. I bought something I saw off The Conscious Cat blog to help with Kate and Pippa.. and then used some on Minerva who is friendly but socially inappropriate and would lash out at me if I didn’t do what she wanted (and how was I supposed to know that Minerva??)

    If the kitty reacts badly to being caught for the vet, beg forgiveness before you let it go back in the barn (if that is what you are going to do) and get ready with REALLY yummy treats. Grovel, and beg the kitty to stay around. Cats were once gods, they have never forgotten that..

  6. For the sullen cat:

    A trip to the vet for a checkup is always a good idea when behavior has changed.

    Some favorite cat toys we have/had: good sized toy stuffed snake, catnip banana, tiny mice wrapped in shiny cord, fuzzy microchip squeaker mouse, plastic balls with bell inside, boxes with cutouts, paper sacks that make noise (Some cats will eat plastic!), or newspaper pages to attack and shred. Cat interests requiring some effort, expense, or room: remote control car (no carpet), small covered aquarium with a couple “busy” fish, bird feeder or bird bath by window or patio door, cat tower, or cat video. And don’t forget some nip once in awhile…

    • Thank you.
      I don’t want to stress him out about the vet so we’re holding off on that. We only have 2 cats so we’d know who was missing the litter box, but that’s not the case. No litter box issues at all. No blood in the clumps, no avoidence, etc. We will take him to the vet if we thought it might be something like that. Right now it’s more about him attacking his sister, etc. He’s not doing any of the normal stuff he does when he’s sick.

  7. For the skittish barn cat, I’d add one other note- get it fixed (I’d assume this is a given, but I haven’t seen it here yet). The first rule of rescue is You Feed It, You Fix it. You can earn trust later, you have to prevent kittens now. If it’s unfixed and outside, it doesn’t have other responsible owners. Fixing a cat also makes them a bit less hormonally crazed and territorial, which makes it easier for them to approach a human.

    Patience and consistent kindness is the best way to win over a cat. I’ve managed colonies, made friends with many ferals, and even made a few into housecats when circumstances warranted it. The only sure method to win over a cat is giving them a data set that proves that you do not eat cats, and that’s as much a matter of time as anything else. Some nuts are tougher to crack than others.

    One thing that helps is learning a cat’s body language, and learning to modify your own. Don’t move too fast, try not to loom too much, give slow blinks when making eye contact to decrease the extent to which you might be read as a predator. Keep your body low, slow, gentle, approaching from the side, and backing off if their ears or their weight distribution says they’re scared. If a cat is under-socialized to people, they’ll see you as another animal first, and your very stance has to say that you’re a friendly one.

    Good luck!

  8. Just wanted to send you a note about much I enjoy your blog. The photos you take are priceless. I am amazed at the expressions you manage to capture on all the cats and dogs. The action shots of the kittens are especially fantastic. I have two older cats whose inner kitten only come out every once in a while. I get to enjoy the wonders of having kittens and many cats through your photos and videos. I have always wanted to have foster kittens but my house is not a great set up for this. I also travel 8 to 9 weeks out of the year. I will foster in the future, until then I will enjoy yours. Thank you again for letting a fellow animal lover get a glimpse of your life.

    Give all the kittens a scritch and cuddle for me !!!

  9. catnip- sprinkled on a scratch post or on an old towel. Also those fabric tunnels are a lot of fun!

  10. “Then he jumped down off the bed and proceeded to barf up a lung on the bedroom floor.” Ohh, he did not! Look at that little face hiding under the bush (’cause he’s scared of you!)he’s a gentleman, he no do things like that…and charlie and patty are totally squishable, please do so till they squeak!
    and others have covered my only suggestions re grumpy cat (get him checked by the vet) and little feral kitty, suck up hard! that means “grovel” in american, too, right?

  11. Oh my gosh. Both of the mini-Peppers have the most amazing look of permanent befuddlement. I love it.