Found a cat or kitten alone in the streets? Do you want to help it, but you're not sure how?

If you find a cat without identification tags, here are some simple steps you can take to figure out what to do.

Is Your Cat A Feral Cat, Stray Cat, Or Pet Cat?

To figure out what to do with your found cat, the first thing is to figure out which of these categories the little guy fits: feral, stray, or pet?

If your cat seems friendly and comfortable around people and places where people are, your cat is likely a pet or stray, meaning that either the pet got away from his home, or that the cat has been out and about from his home for awhile, but hangs around people as a way of getting food - like a street cat. Either way, this cat should be relatively easy to "tame." Your first obligation is to find kitty's owner, if possible.  People do tend to miss lost pets.

If The Cat Is Likely A Pet Or Stray...

Again, if the cat has no collar with identification, you should go to the nearest ASPCA, Humane Society shelter, or veterinarian's office to see if kitty has a microchip. If he does, his owner can be identified right away and your role can be minimized, unless the owner doesn't want the precious baby back!

If kitty has no microchip, you've got to get to work to try to find her owner.  The best first step is to look for "Lost Cat" signs in your neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods.  Post signs yourself. Also, email as many of your neighbors as you can to see if they know anything about someone losing a cat. The ASPCA has many more tips on how to find the owners of strays.

If The Cat Is Likely Feral...

If your cat was born in the wild and not familiar or comfortable dealing with people and avoids contact, the cat is probably a feral or a semi-feral stray that is accustomed to being in the wild.

Feral cats are the hardest to tame, because they are likely born in the wild and have continued to thrive there. If your cat is a feral cat, he will not be happy or comfortable living in a home. Your best bet with a feral cat is to provide some minimal shelter, food, and water outside and, if possible, help arrange to get get the cat spayed. 

The possibility of successfully domesticating a feral kitten is much higher than with an older feral cat,  following the tips below. It is really important that you not take a kitten when they are too young, so make sure that they are of a suitable age for taming. (Here's a great picture guide to help you figure out the age of your young cat.)

Semi-feral cats or stray cats are similar to feral cats because they've lived in the wild for a good part of their lives. However, they were likely born into a domestic environment and then abandoned or lost having to live as a feral cat. Because stray cats were once socialized and comfortable living with humans, with patience, depending on the level of socialization, you may be able to successfully readjust a stray cat into living in a home, or being an indoor/outdoor cat. (I adopted a nine-month old feral cat and he is indoor-outdoor; he could not adjust to living indoors only.)

It may be difficult to figure out whether a feral cat is one that you should leave alone or try to tame. If you need a checklist of signs to help you figure out if your cat is a feral cat, you can check Alley Cat's Stray or Feral Checklist.

How To Tame A Feral Kitten Or Stray Cat

Taming a feral kitten or stray cat is not quick or easy. You will need a lot of patience and a lot of love and attention for your new cat. Taking in a feral kitten is a huge time commitment, so if you don't have several hours a day to take care of and interact with the kitten, it may be better for you not to bring the cat into your home.  Also, make sure you have or can find a home for your cat if you are not going to keep him yourself.  Going through the whole process makes no sense if you cannot find a good home for your tamed cat.

If you have patience, time and ability to take care of a feral kitten, here are some steps to help you tame a feral kitten:

1. Keep Them Contained

This might seem hard at first, but ultimately it's best for the kitten. Once a feral cat is brought into the house, she will likely run and hide. If this happens, it will make it difficult to feed her and give her medical and other care, as necessary. 


Great Bed For Kittens

Baza Cat Tree is perfect for kittens, especially for scratching something acceptable!

Your best bet is to restrain your cat to a contained space. So before you bring in the cat, get a safe space ready. It should be a contained room that is, ideally, pretty empty and easy to clean. In that safe room, you should provide a dog cage, a large pet carrier, a cat condo, a small litter box, and something soft to cuddle and sleep in as well as a bowl of fresh water. If you like, you may want to use some old clothes as bedding to help them get accustomed to your smell.

Do not have food in the room, as you will be using food to help train your cat and make him become comfortable with you.  You should not have other pets in the room.


2. Get Your Kitten Properly Cared For Quickly

You will need to get your kitten examined by a veterinarian promptly and get him the necessary vaccinations and medication.  Stray cats, even very young ones, may have parasites or fleas or ear mites. They may have other health conditions as well, so call your vet as soon as you can, and when you set up your vet appointment, ask them what you will need to do to make sure your kitten is healthy and your family is not harmed by bringing the stray into your home.  If you already have pets in your home, you should get the cat examined first by a vet, if possible, before bringing the cat into your home. 


3. Get Kittens Accustomed to Your Presence And Feed Them

For the first two days of getting the kitten in your home, do not try to touch her. They need time to get used to their environment and to calm down. They need to feel safe so visit them in their safe space, preferably a dog kennel, frequently the first few days, but remember to move slowly, talk quietly and help them feel safe and back in control. Give your cat a name and use her name frequently.

You can start to get them comfortable with you by first sitting near them. After a few days, you can approach the kitten with a towel and some cotton gloves to help you manage and avoid scratches and bites. Don't use rubber or synthetic gloves as they will create electricity of her fur. Make sure you approach her from the rear, and avoid doing anything aggressive in front of her. Also avoid staring at her directly in the eyes. Wild cats see direct eye contact as aggressive behavior. 

If the kitten lets you touch him, you can put the kitten on the towel on your lap, and start petting him for short bursts of time. Do that as frequently as possible so he gets used to you and looks forward to your touch. Once kitty is comfortable with short pettings, you can then progress to brushing and grooming him.

Soon, you'll be able to play with him too. Try purchasing an interactive toy that extends away from your body. This way, he'll be able to associate the toy with your presence, and you won't have to get clawed in the process.

Best interactive toy? Great for kittens and cats!
Best interactive toy! Great for kittens and cats!

A feral kitten will have an easier time warming up to you if he begins to associate your presence with food. Start by feeding him baby food or soft cat food with a spoon through the cage. Once he begins to warm up to you a little more, try feeding him a bit of soft cat food directly from your hand. It is important with cats to be consistent and help them relax. So for feedings and any other care task like grooming, cleaning, or emptying the litter box, do it slowly and gently, and try to keep to a regular schedule.


4. Be Patient, And Move Slowly

As I have already highlighted, it is usually a slow process to get a feral kitten comfortable with you. Get the kitten accustomed to being petted before you try to pick her up. Once she allows you to hold her, you might be able to start doing things like grooming her. When you pet the kitten, try massaging the skin near the shoulders and on the top of the kitten's neck and ears. This gentle massage will release endorphins and make the kitten feel more relaxed in your presence. When you get brave, rub the sides of kitty's mouth.

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