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Speedy the Cat - Taming a Feral Kitten

Updated on December 12, 2017
Pumpkin Sal
Pumpkin Sal

I’m really more of a dog person, but I have a cat that lives in the barn. Her name is Pumpkin Sal. My kids named her. She was raised from a kitten living in the barn so she prefers the barn over the house, and that’s ok with me. She came into the house one time but she became frightened and stays away from the house now. I also had a cat that was dropped off at our “farm”, people from the city think it’s a farm. It’s really just an old farmhouse on some acreage. That cat was nearly starved and pregnant, we found it one day under the car. I brought it into the house where it ended up staying for the next 10 years or so. Its kittens were still born. This cat was named Lamar, after Lamar Odom, the basketball player. My kids were big pro basketball fans. When Lamar died, I thought it was the end of having house cats.

My kids have since moved away and my only pet now is a dog, until one day when a feral little varmint appeared in the large pile of firewood I was collecting. It was a little orange tiger striped kitten. Whenever I came near it would speed away into one of the crevices in the wood pile. It seemed to be the solitary occupant of the wood pile, no other kittens or cats were about. Except … one day I caught a glimpse of a full grown, orange, tiger striped cat that darted out of the barn when I entered. This kitten looked hungry and unhealthy, so being the regretfully kind hearted person I am, I started leaving out food for it. It would sneak out of the wood pile to eat the food but retreat back to its safe spot among the logs whenever it saw me. A sighting of the reclusive little critter was rare. Once the feeding started, however, there was no turning back, I’m responsible, and thus began the dilemma of figuring out what to do with this kitten.

I thought If I could apprehend the invasive little vermin, I could release it in the barn with Pumpkin Sal, but I feared the older tiger cat would try to kill the kitten. So then the plan was to try to capture the kitten and keep it in a wire dog crate in the garage until it was big enough and old enough to defend itself from the older cat, evade wandering coyotes, and fled the threats from overhead like hawks and falcons. I then would move it to the barn. The only issue was, how do I catch this thing. The plan was to use a live trap, but that had to be retrieved from the in-laws house. Before I could get the trap I saw the kitten sleeping on some scrap wood in the sunlight next to the barn early one morning. Putting on a thick leather glove, a quietly approached the slumbering little varmint and quickly grabbed it. I was not happy; hissing, biting clawing, wailing. I dropped it in to one of those cat carrier boxes and shut the lid.

It stayed in the cat carrier box a few days while I prepared the dog crate. While in the box it would curl up in the corner and stare out at me through the wire mesh door. It did not seem overly perturbed, rather calm in fact, almost like it realized good things were coming. When I moved it to the dog crate all I had to do was open the door and it ran right in. Inside the crate was a small cardboard box turned upside down for it to hide in. I put a couple old t-shirts in the box with a heating pad set on low underneath. It’s new home also had a food and water dish and a litter box.

Over the next several weeks I would visit the cat twice a day to feed it and water it. I decided to name it “Speedy”, and whenever I entered the garage I would call its name. In a few days it got used to this routine and would come out of its cardboard cave to wait for the food. One day I decided to put my finger through one of the openings in the crate while he was eating. He sniffed my finger then rubbed his head on it. Progress I thought. The next step was to bring in Pumpkin Sal once in a while so they could get used to each other. After few stare downs and a hissing match or two, all seemed well. Now I wanted to see if I could pick up Speedy. I put on the leather gloves and reached into the crate and gently lifted him. No problem. He seemed to like being held. I let him crawl around on my lap and climb onto my shoulder. My wife did the same, and it was at this point she suggested that maybe Speedy should not be a barn cat, but a house cat instead. Oh great! Somehow I knew this was coming. However, this cat seemed to like people, liking dogs might be a different story. I let our dog Ruby into the garage while Speedy was locked in the cage. She immediately stuck her nose thorough an opening in the crate, a gesture which received a hiss and a couple of rapid fire bats with the paws. I eventually let Ruby get to know the cat while it was on my lap, from the intense sniffing and licking I assumed she accepted this new addition to the family.

Now, it looked like we had another house cat, oh joy, but it wasn’t ready to move in just yet. For a few weeks I let Speedy have his free run of the garage. He got into everything. He didn’t destroy anything but was rather clumsy and would knock things off shelves when he explored. I carried him into the house a few times so the Ruby would understand that the cat was going to move in. She caught on to this plan quicker than I did. Finally I let him run around in the house. He dashed from one spot to the next, up the stairs and down, explored everything. He was happy, almost as if his plan to move in had finally succeeded.

Now that Speedy was finally an official member of the family, he became eligible for health care, the premium plan. I took him to the vet where he received vaccinations, ear mite treatment, neutering, and antibiotics for a respiratory infection. He still sneezes a lot so a new round of antibiotics is planned. He spends his days sleeping on the couch or in the bed, dusting under the furniture, darting out from hiding to attack Ruby when it walks past then making a hasty retreat. His favorite activity is sitting on the window sill, outside of which is a bird feeder, and watching the birds that come and go all day long. Speedy spends hours in this spot watch, pawing at the window, poising himself to pounce and sneezing, blowing cat boogers all over the glass.

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    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 

      11 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I enjoyed reading about Speedy. And I bet the birds in your yard that he watches so intently through the window are glad he's a house cat now.

    • jimmar profile imageAUTHOR

      jimmar 

      11 months ago from Michigan

      @BellatheBall, I was surprised how quickly this kitten became "people friendly". It even likes to be held.

    • BellatheBall profile image

      BellatheBall 

      11 months ago

      Cats must be socialized early or they can easily return to what is known as a "Feral" or wild state. Once gone wild, as this article demonstrates, much effort is needed to make them people friendly again.

      If domesticate cats are not socialized with people before the age of 12 weeks, the age at which this kitten may have been brought into the house, they may reject people for the rest of their lives.

    • jimmar profile imageAUTHOR

      jimmar 

      11 months ago from Michigan

      @moonlake, thanks for reading and commenting. This cat loves to try to sneak into our basement and crawl around on the dusty old heating ducts.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 

      11 months ago from America

      I have two barn cats. They showed up in our barn and are now house cats. They are at least 10 years old. One has decided he is staying in the basement and won’t come upstairs. It makes me feel terrible.

      He use to come up and get on my lap. I had to take him in to have him groomed after that he went in the basement and never came out. I have no idea why the grooming caused this he has been groomed for years.

      Enjoyed your hub and the stories of your cats.

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