Ash and Aurora, otherwise known as the little savages, were so aggressive that when we first brought them home, they could only be handled with motorcycle gloves. I’d worked to socialize ferals before, but these were the most resistant ferals I’d ever encountered. The other kittens we’d fostered through the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA) had ranged from timid and slightly hissy to friendly and sociable; none had ever been so hostile.
Oddly enough, the little savages had a civilized sister. Colette was friendly and cheerful from day one. This little plush gray cat, who looked like a British Blue or a Chartreux, decided right away that humans were her friends, so she had a smooth, easy time of it right from the start.
Collette was adopted soon after she came to us because she had no health issues and had basically socialized herself. However, her two sisters (if indeed they were actually related–ferals are often gathered up in random, chaotic groups) still needed a lot of work.
Progress was slow with the little savages. We bribed them with treats and soon got them to the point where we could shed the gloves and hold them on our laps, but they were quick to revert to savage mode at the slightest stressor and hostile toward all new people they met. They no longer attacked us, but we couldn’t trust them to leave others unscathed.
The little savages were with us over Christmas because they required more socialization. We were giving them a full run of the house by then but still shutting them in the office at night and when we went out. Aurora began nesting in the Christmas tree on a regular basis, though she could sometimes be found wedged in amongst the sofa cushions. (This was the last year we had a fully decorated tree; with nesting kittens and the tendency of our resident cats to denude the tree of every ornament below the four-foot line and then tip it over to get at the rest, we decided that a minimalist approach would be better suited to our household).
The kittens eventually got to the point where they would sit comfortably on our laps if we put them there, and even purr at times. They didn’t run away when we approached and we could pick them up easily. However, they were still hostile to strangers.
We put pictures of the pretty little savages up on the VOKRA website, along with profiles indicating that these kittens were still very feral. Their descriptions were rather unpromising, given the plethora of friendly little kittens up on the site, but they had beauty on their side. Ash was a silvery tabby with dramatic grass-green eyes and Aurora had swirly marbled markings and enormous amber eyes; both were very photogenic.
We soon heard from a family who were interested in adopting the savages. The father had prior experience taming a feral cat and felt that it would be a good experience for his kids. I wasn’t totally sure about letting the savages go at that point–I felt that they were still quite uncivilized–but if anyone could bring them around, it would be someone who knew what he was getting into.
Several months later we got a call from VOKRA letting us know that the adoption had not worked out; the little savages had found the move too traumatic and they could not be tamed despite the family’s tireless efforts. VOKRA asked if we could take the savages back to our place but they were six months old by then, essentially teenagers. We had a twenty-one-year-old cat with health issues who didn’t need the stress of two full-grown territorial ferals, other foster kittens, and our two young resident cats, so we had to say no.
VOKRA placed the savages with another foster family, but they were soon terrorizing their new household. They had escaped from the bathroom and refused to go back, and were regularly attacking the couple who were attempting to care for them. We came over to help, scooping the savages up for a quick claw trim and a return to the bathroom. However, the new foster parents found the savages far too stressful, so a few days later we picked them up and brought them back to VOKRA headquarters.
The savages stayed at VOKRA for awhile, living in a large cage together. We visited when we could and spent time holding them. They were still good for us but rotten with nearly everyone else.
We asked about the savages’ origins because I felt sure that they must have experienced some extreme trauma, such as witnessing their mother’s murder at the hands of people. I had never encountered such resistant ferals. However, a search at VOKRA turned up no origin records at all (and VOKRA typically keeps very good records). It was as though these kittens had fallen from the sky.
VOKRA found a very experienced foster parent to take the savages home and work with them. The last we heard, they were doing well. Although not fully socialized, they have been softening and becoming more friendly, particularly Ash, who was always the less resistant of the two.
For more foster kitten profiles, see the main Foster Kitten Photo Diary page. Visit the main Cats page for information about cat psychology, behavior, communication, training, feeding, and pregnant cat and kitten care.