We've hit the one-week mark with the kittens, but it feels like it's been months already. For a week, they've come along very well, but they mostly aren't ready for prime-time yet. We decided to separate two of the kittens from the group, as their aggressive antics were having a negative effect on the progress of the other kittens. There was an unmistakable cone of ignorance developing that we had to nip in the bud. Thanks to a friend with some crates to spare, we have them sequestered so we can work on them individually. Here's how they're faring:
1. Littlest kitten: She was already basically tame and she continues to be at the head of the class, showing enthusiasm when we enter the room and being tame enough to be let out to roam around during feeding/play times. She loves to climb her cage and chase the string-on-a-stick toy. She still hisses occasionally but can be held and petted. She could be adopted out immediately.
2. Tuxedo: We think she is female and she too can be held, as long as food is offered. She is over most of her fear yet still hisses frequently and still tries to knock food out of your hand, which is really annoying. If she continues down this path, she should be mostly tame soon.
3. Gray tabby: Also presumed female, she has recently become aggressive, growling more and getting greedy with food. But she is also getting tamer, allowing us to pet her while eating and even allowing brief moments of holding. Still, she is quick to hiss and growl and run away. But this is a marked improvement over her initial behavior (hiding even when food is offered).
4. Biggest kitten: He seems like a boy to us, he has been separated from the girls because he was very hissy and bossy. Alone, he is still stand-offish but is making slow but steady progress. He lets us pet him when he is eating (although it can be slow going each time we approach). The rest of the time he hisses constantly and hides in his box. But he is bright and showing signs of getting tamer.
5. Orange kitten: He quickly became the worst of the group, freaking out when we were around, growling and spitting and striking at the cage wall when we were near. He has been placed in his own cage and continues to be a terror. We assume this is because he is actually the most scared of them all. Last time, however, when presented with Gerber baby food, he calmed down and actually purred while eating! During this time he could be petted with abandon, and we were even able to lure him out of his cage to sit on my lap! This behavior ends abruptly when the baby food runs out. When not being sweet, he continues most of his bad behavior and also whines in his cage loudly. Although a little disturbing this seems to me a good sign he can be turned to the Tame Side in time.
Of course all this work overshadows the fact that there is still a yard full of cats across the street who will produce more kittens soon if we don't put a stop to it. I have calls into both the ASPCA and the Toby Project, who both maintain mobile clinics for TNR work. However, both are overbooked and riddled with logistical issues, so I have no idea if they will ever come through. I am now toying with the idea of booking a mass appointment with the ASPCA's Bergh clinic, trapping the cats and renting a uhaul to haul them all up there one day. It would suck to have to do all this extra work, but I am not super optimistic about our chances of getting a spay van without many inside-track connections to these groups. And sometimes if you want it done right you have to do it yourself.