If you want to know can you tame a feral cat, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading as I explain all about feral cats and if they can ever be tamed. Adopting a feral can be a very worthwhile and rewarding experience, but with many challenges. A lot of neighbourhoods have feral colonies, though they often keep themselves well hidden.
Many people believe it’s impossible to domesticate ferals, and sadly, they often get overlooked in shelters. They’re seen as unfriendly and even aggressive, so not many see them as an ideal pet. In fact they’re even seen as problem in some countries.
What are feral cats?
The term feral means wild or undomesticated, but in fact many feral cats are semi-wild. If you see ferals, many are simply pets that have either got lost or abandoned. Those who are born in colonies are true feral cats. These are kittens who’ve had no contact whatsoever with humans. If you try and approach a feral you’ll be seen as a predator. These cats are completely unlike the sweet kitty you have at home!
How feral cats are trapped
It may seem upsetting to think of a cat being caught in a trap, but it’s the only way to rescue them. You’d never be able to just pick up a feral cat without being torn to shreds! Remember, humans are seen as just another predator about to attack or kill! Experienced rescuers will know exactly how to tempt nervous cats with tasty treats. Once caught, the cats are carefully looked after until they put on weight. Many are malnourished and often suffering from flea infestations.
If you want to rescue a feral cat yourself it maybe a good idea to get advice first. I can give you a brief outline, but I’ve never been involved in trapping. Staff at one of your local shelters may be able to offer first hand advice, or put you in touch with a volunteer. You could make your own box, or a they may have one you can use. Alternatively, buy a humane animal trap cage.
Basically, it simply involves enticing a feral cat into a large box with a tall entrance. A plate of tasty food is placed towards the back of the box, and when the cat touches it, the trap door closes. Finding a hiding place a few feet away is the best option. If the cat senses your presence it will soon run off! NEVER leave a trap unattended, even for a minute. The cat’s safety is your top priority.
Trapping a feral cat is no easy task!
If you’re finding it hard to entice a cat inside the box you could use simple tricks like shining a laser pen onto the food!You could also place a few toys inside. Anything to get your feral safely inside the box is good.
Don’t give up. It may take weeks before a feral cat feels confident enough to enter a box. As I mentioned earlier, please don’t try and pick a feral cat up. You could get badly injured.
Monitor and care for the feral colony
Keep leaving food and water for the colony, and keep an eye on them. If there are young kittens, please don’t touch them. The mother will feed them provided she has enough nourishment. It’s far better to leave food for the mother.
Once the kittens are about 3 months old they can be rehomed, but please don’t separate siblings. Sometimes kittens can be returned to their colony after neutering. This depends on the condition and health of the cats. Providing the colony are fed and monitored closely, all should be fine.
A common practice is to mark the ear tips of neutered kittens. Then, once they’ve been returned to the colony they can be easily identified.
Congratulations on trapping your feral, but what’s next? You must be very gentle with your cat and carefully hold the box until you get to the car, or back inside your home. Be aware that the cat will be terrified and extremely distressed. It doesn’t know you have it’s welfare at heart and will do everything possible to escape.
If you’re driving home make sure you open and close the car door as gently as possible. A feral kitty isn’t going to sit quietly while you start the engine and start driving. If you think you’d find the experience too traumatic, take a friend with you.
Calming your stray cat after getting it home
Before you even bring your feral cat home you must organise a safe space for her. Food and water bowls are essential of course, but also provide a hidey hole or cave. This could be a cosy plush lined box, or cat cave. Make sure all windows and doors are tightly closed as a scared and very determined feral will squeeze through the narrowest of gaps!
I can’t stress this enough, but you’re going to need a ton of patience and a real love of cats to tame a feral. If the cat is semi-feral it’s already had some contact with humans. This will make it easier, but you’ll still need to gain her trust.
Contact your local vet
Having got your feral or stray kitty home, you must take it to a veterinary clinic. The first thing they’ll do is check for a microchip. If it’s a lost pet they’ll be able to reunite the cat with it’s owner.
You’ll also need to get the cat neutered, and treated for fleas, as well as worming. If you decide to keep it you should also get the cat microchipped. This makes you responsible for it’s actions! Though, should your feral cat inflict damage on humans or pets you may face repercussions.
Your vet will also do a health check for any obvious signs of disease. Again, if you plan on keeping the cat you’ll need to pay for treatment.
When you shouldn’t bring a feral cat into your home
Remember, you’re bringing a wild animal into your home. Unless your cat is a semi-feral or simply been abandoned, it won’t know how to adapt. If you have young children or other pets you need to think twice. You won’t have the experience that staff in shelters have.
In this situation you’re better off taking the cat to your nearest animal rescue centre. They will know how to handle it and have the necessary training. It can take months of hard work to win the trust of a feral cat and many refuse to be tamed.
A semi-feral or stray is a different story. It may still take weeks of careful handling, but you may have a loving and affectionate pet at the end of it. You’ll soon know if your cat is a stray or feral by the way it reacts to you. A feral will be all teeth and claws! It will try and attack you in defense, seeing you as the enemy! A stray will soon settle in after a few days or weeks.
Socialising your cat
Patience is the key when socialising a cat. Always let it come to you and don’t be tempted to pick the cat up. It may look cute and cuddly, but those teeth and claws are very sharp! Interact with your feral or stray daily. Talk to her in a soft voice, and leave a piece of clothing with your scent in the room. Spend time with your feral even if she hasn’t approached you yet. Watch tv or work on your computer. Avoid making direct eye contact as this can be seen as aggression. A defensive feral cat will growl and hiss.
When you’ve reached the stage that your feral seems calmer it’s time to get her used to your hand. Place it flat on the floor and allow her to approach and sniff you. This is her way of deciding if you’re a threat. Still keep your distance, but let her rub against you. DO NOT touch her until she makes the first move.
One day when you’re least expecting it, your feral cat may jump up on your lap. This is a fantastic sign as it shows trust. Still be very wary though, as cats turn very fast from sweet kitty into wild animal!
How to train your feral cat to use a litter box
A feral cat won’t have any experience with litter, so you need to use soil to start with. Even a semi-feral will have got used to digging earth outside. Make sure you add several inches of soil in the box, giving your cat plenty of room to dig. Gradually add cat litter to the soil, getting him or her used to it. Over the coming days you’ll be adding more litter and less soil until your feral is using pure cat litter.
A stray or semi-feral cat will be much easier to train to use a litter box, however, with time and patience you will be rewarded. As a quick note, avoid scented litter. You may like it, but your cat won’t, and may avoid using the litter tray!
Giving a feral or stray cat a loving home
Offering your home to a stray or semi-feral cat is a wonderful thing. Animal shelters are full of strays or unwanted pets. Even if you can’t bring your feral cat indoors, you can still show it love and build trust. A garage or garden shed can be the ideal place for shelter. Leave food out every day, and your feral will soon be looking out for you!
So, can you tame a feral cat or is it an impossible task?
As you’ve discovered, many feral cats are often strays who’ve either been abandoned by their owner or got lost. These can be easily tamed once given a loving home. Some can be reunited with their previous owners if they’re microchipped and simply got lost. Others though, will need rehoming.
If your cat is a semi-feral, it will have had some interaction with humans in the past. You’ll find with a bit of love and patience she’ll soon settle in and become a loving pet. However, as you’ve seen by reading this post, true ferals can be very hard to tame. They’ve had no contact with humans and are wild animals.
You’ll need a lot of patience and you won’t be able to put a timeframe on how long it will take to socialise your cat. However, many do eventually become tame and settle into a loving home.
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Wishing you a purrfect day:)