Last Friday I decided it was time. I fixed up a little spot in our master bath with kitty dishes, a bed, and toys in preparation for bringing the feral kitten in the house. I played with Wild Bill on the porch, reached out, picked him up, and took him inside.
The first night was a bit rough. Wild Bill mewed for his mama, and I could hear her calling for him several times throughout the night. I tried putting him on a tiny kitten leash so he could eat breakfast with her, but of course he tried to run off and flew into a panic when he hit the end of the leash. He can still see her through the screen door. Smart little guy that he is, he quickly figured out the lay of the house, and figured out where the back door was, knowing that his mama was out there somewhere.
In the meantime, our bitty gray tabby, Belle, took right to the kitten, and he glomed on to her for surrogate comfort. For the first couple of days he mostly hid in our bathroom or under our bed, and followed Belle around like a shadow when she came into the room. But after he figures out how to use the litter box, and seemed ready to explore, I let him roam. This morning he was on top of the cat tower, looking quite pleased with himself.
He still darts off if he thinks someone is about to pick him up, but he's starting to tolerate being petted. He's also playing happily in the living room when the people are around.
Mama still comes up on the deck to eat, but she seems more furtive. Whereas before she'd stick around and watch while I came out to play with the kitten, now she just eats and runs off as fast as she can. I hope that eventually she'll forget her distress and learn to trust us again. It was heartbreaking to have to separate a mama from her baby, but if we hadn't, this kitten would have been as wild as his mother. Watching him now, he seems like he'll be a fine house cat.