One technique for socializing feral kittens is to wrap them up in a towel so you can hold them close and they can not escape or scratch. They look rather like a buritto so it is called burittoing. Marie and I also call it snoggling. It took me several cats to figure out how to do this effectively. Initially they would escape out the front or the back. Even well wrapped I had to hold the towel snug around their neck to keep it secure. I’ve finally figured out how to make a secure buritto so I can snoggle a cat while working. Here’s what I do.
- Select the right towel. It should be wide enough to leave 6 inches towel at head and rear and long enough to wrap at least twice around. It should also be fairly thin so you can scruff through it and the final burrito is not too thick. The towel I’m using is 26″ x 48″.
- Have the kitten in a confined space. Chasing them around only enforces their feral behavior. Advice I’ve received is to keep them confined until you can approach and pick them up with out a chase.
- Approach with the towel and put it over the kitten. Winnie still hisses when I approach but as soon as I get the towel over him he stops hissing. Eventually I should be able to pick him up with out the towel but last time I did that he fought fiercely reenforcing unwanted behavior.
- Scruff him through the towel. This is why you need a thin towel.
- Pull him out with the scruff and support through the towel. Winnie still goes passive when scruffed so this is quite easy.
- Wrap him up. If you positioned the towel well you’ll be holding his scruff through the towel such that he is near one end and centered. Holding this scruff I wrap the towel under him, set him down, spread out the towel, wrap it over, wrap it under again, and back over. Hard to explain exactly but you’ll figure out a sequence that gets him all wrapped up. Recently he starts purring at about this point.
- I then peel back the layers around his head. Be careful as this is when they may try to escape.
- I identify one wrap that I can snug around his neck and then pin this securely with a clip. I’m using a small clamp (see photo) because it can be very secure. Things like clothespins are not secure enough.
Wrapped up like this I can now rest him in my lap and don’t have to hold the towel to keep him from escaping. Now that we have done several sessions of this he generally relaxes, purrs, and sleeps.
Update: After about a week of burritoing Winnie I decided that it was not providing enough benefit to justify Winnie’s discomfort at being kept in a cage and forced human contact. Now Winnie is running wild in our upstairs and keeping his distance. Maybe in his own time, and with the example of elder cats he will come to enjoy our company. Burritoing may work for some cats but perhaps not for Winnie just now.