Can You Tame A Feral Cat? What You Should Know

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?

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

feral cat sterilised and ready to return

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

feral cat 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.

What’s next?

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.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post please share. Also if you’ve had any experience with feral cats or would like to ask a question, please comment below.

Wishing you a purrfect day:)

8 thoughts on “Can You Tame A Feral Cat? What You Should Know”

  1. Such a great read Kathy. As a child at the age of 10, I started raising stray cats. They would show up at our home. And as you know, once you start feeding them, they are sure to return. That was years ago. Fast forwarding to today, I have a little lady that comes around but she won’t allow me to get close to her right now, so I just leave her food and water. She has since had kittens but not sure where they are. She comes often for her food. I will give her time. She now comes up to my front door letting me know she is hungry. I have always had love for cats!

    • Thank you Kathywa:)You are so right, once a stray gets to know it’ll get food at your door, it will return! How kind of you to leave that little stray cat food and water. I do hope the kittens are ok. I’m like you and have a great love for cats:)

  2. Thanks Kathy for sharing this information about how to domesticate a feral cat. I don’t have any personal experience with cats but I have learned a lot about cats especially the feral cat today through your post. It’s informative and was a great read. Thank you

  3. Thanks for posting this information. I feel that feral and semi-final feral cats are often over looked as being a nusance. However, gaining a feral cat’s trust is deeply rewarding because they can be hard nuts to crack. Five years ago, with 9 inches of snow on the ground, a half grown 100% feral cat ended up on our porch. With no way to protect her, I covered all of our porch furniture with blankets. These make shift forts stayed up for about two months. We named the little gal Willow. She bonded with our 1st semi-feral cat. But not us. After about a year and a few litters of kittens (all caught, socialized, fixed, and rehomed). We decided to get serious about trapping her before she depleted our life savings through the fixing her future litters. So, we borrowed a trap from our local shelter. The little gal would go inside, step right in the release plate, eat the tuna, and walk right out. She did not weigh enough to set off the trap. Then came the magical morning that Willow randomly ran inside the house. I yelled for my husband. We put together a super quick game plan to drop a towel over her head and shove her into a carrier. It worked. Off to th shelter to get fixed. Except the shelter informed my husband that they do not fix cats on Wednesdays. So he did the only thing an almost broke man with a yowling feral cat would do. He begged. They took pity on him, and fixed her that day. Five years later se finally got to pet Willow. While we would love to take all the credit for being so awesome as to tame a feral cat, it was not us. It was a new (& 2nd) semi-feral random arrival at our house. At this point, we had 4 cats and no intention of keeping this new arrival. But we knew we would have to get him socialized and fixed to give him his best chance at having a forever home. During the process of us socializing him, Willow was bonding with the new arrival as well. He turned out to be a super affectionate, people loving, kitty that we named Gray Guy. Soon enough whenever Gray Guy would rub on our legs Willow would rub on Gray Guy. This went on for a few months. Eventually, Willow would let us touch her as long as Gray Guy was in viewing distance. Now Gray Guy does not have to be around at all for her to approach either of us. So really Gray Guy tamed Willow, and found his forever home with us. Today, Willow is still a little weird. She prefers to approach us only at night, and only if we are sitting. The house is still a no go zone as far as she is conerned. What can I say? The last time she entered the house her ovaries got taken out. So I am not sure if she will ever go inside again. But at least I know that when I move I don’t have to sell my home based on the contingency that the new owners are to take responsibility of the feral cat (yes, I actually contemplated writing this into the sale contract). Best of all, I can put flea medication on her, trim her hair, and take her to the vet. Working with Willow was such a hard, long process, but being able to pet her for the first time was unforgettable. Working with semi-feral and feral cats can be challenging, but it is worth every momement. That trust is so special because it was earned. I wish everyone who attempts to socialize a feral cat the best of luck.

    • Hi Amy, thank you for such a heart warming story:) It’s so sad that feral cats are seen as a nuisance by some. Many cat rescue centers here in the UK have feral and semi-feral cats for rehoming. It can take the carers in these centers a long time to prepare them for adoption. It’s wonderful to hear you were able to tame Willow, and that she bonded with your first feral. Sadly, not so many have such happy endings. I’m so happy to hear the veterinary surgery agreed to neuter her the same day. Also, how lovely you adopted yet another stray and that he gets on so well with Willow:)

  4. Last January we took in a feral kitten about 3-4 months old. He hid under our bathroom vanity for 2 months. We would visit him daily. He would let us pet him, but the ears were flat and he would hiss but never attempted to bite us. We tried to coax him out from under the vanity with tuna, but he’d grab it and go right back to his safe spot. Once we came to the realization that him being a house pet was completely on his terms, things went much better. We left the bathroom door open if he wanted to venture, but rarely did. It wasn’t until April that he would actually be in the same room with us and allow us to pet him. It’s all about baby steps until they are comfortable with you. He’s one of the best cats we’ve ever had. It was worth the patience it took for him to trust us.

    • Thank you for sharing your heartwarming story:) It’s always nice to hear your feral kitten eventually ventured out from under the vanity unit. Yes, you’re so right. Taking things slowly is the best option with a timid feral. He sounds like a lovely cat and lucky to have found you:)


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