4 Steps To Tame A Feral Cat

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 a home and it does not look like a lost pet cat, 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 what type of cat it is. 

If your cat seems friendly and comfortable around people and places where people are, your cat is likely a pet or house cat and it should be relatively easy to "tame" your new found cat. (For stray or lost cats, you will likely want to try to return it to its owner.  The ASPCA has tips on what to do with strays you don't want to keep.)

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

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

If your feral cat is very young, the possibility of successfully domesticating a feral kitten is much higher and you can try and follow 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 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 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. 

It may be difficult to figure out whether your 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 AlleyCat'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 give the cat a lot of attention. 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 to not choose to bring the cat into your home.   Also, make sure you have or can find a home for your cat.  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, it will be likely try to run and hide. If this happens, it will make it difficult to feed them and give them medical and other care as necessary. 

Your best bet is to restrain your cat into a contained space. So before you bring in the cat, get a safe space ready. It should be a contained room that is hopefully pretty empty and easy to clean. In that safe room, you should provide a dog cage, a large pet carrier  or a cat condo with 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 it 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 it the necessary vaccinations and medication.  Stray cats, even very young ones, may have parasites or fleas or ear mites. It may have other health conditions as well  so call your vet as soon as you can and when you set up your vet appointment, tell them you are bringing a stray kitten in and 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 it 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 them. 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 frequently the first few days, but remember to move slowly, talk quietly and help them feel safe and back in control.

You can start to get them comfortable with you by first sitting near them. After two days, you can approach athe kitten with a towel to help you manage and avoid scratches and bites. Make sure you approach them from their back and avoid doing anything aggressive in front of them.Also try to avoid staring at them directly in the eyese. Cats see direct eye contact as aggressive behaviour.  If they let you touch the, you can them put the kitten on your lap on your towel and start petting them for short bursts of time.  Do that asfrequently as possible so they get used to and look forward to your touch.

Once they are comfortable with short pettings, you can then progress to brushing and grooming them. 

Soon, you'll be able to play with them too. Try purchasing an interactive toy that has some reach to it. This way, they'll be able to associate the toy with your presence, and you won't have to get clawed in the process.

A feral kitten will have an easier time warming up to you if they begin to associate your presence with food. Start by feeding them baby food or soft cat food with a spoon through the cage. Once they begin to warm up to you a little more, try feeding them some 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  try to stick 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 it up. Once it allows you to hold it, you might be able to start doing things like grooming the kitten. When you pet the kitten, try massaging the skin near the shoulders and on the top of the kittens neck. This gentle massage will release endorphin's and make the kitten feel more relaxed in your presence.

If you have small children in your home, be careful in having them interact. Small children do not know how to handle kittens or cats gently and they are likely to hurt the cat. And cats, when handled roughly or in an aggressive manner are likely to react or attack. So whenever possibly, try to limit contact and watch carefully when they are interacting until both the child and the cat are very comfortable with each other. 

By following these steps and being gentle to the kitten, you'll be well on your way to having a friendly companion. Now, the kitten can be adopted or integrated safely into your home as a pet. The important thing is, it can now live a safe, long and healthy life with you.

Lady Bug
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PetsLady.com

Comments
Jun 30, 2012
by Anonymous
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Don't forget to neuter/spay

Don't forget to neuter/spay your new kitten!

Jun 30, 2012
by Savanna Y Lujan
Savanna Y Lujan's picture
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That's very true! Any time

That's very true! Any time you pick up a kitten, whether it's a feral, semi-feral, a stray, or none of the above, you should always get it spayed or neutered. 

Thank you for bringing that up! : ) 

Dec 8, 2012
by Anonymous
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Thanks. I used your tips in

Thanks. I used your tips in conjunction with other things I found. I was able to let my kitten out free in the house after only 2 nights. Now she's so comfortable in my house and loves to cuddle... and REALLY loves to play. With EVERYTHING! <3

Dec 16, 2012
by Anonymous
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Awesome! There are some

Awesome! There are some feral cats at the us post office that I would love to trap and tame.

Mar 6, 2014
by Anonymous
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This also works for older

This also works for older feral cats it just takes more time. My own feral cat was about a year and a half when I brought him home. It took six months to get him to trust me enough to safely trap and transport him. First trip to the vet for spay and shots, then home where he could recover from surgery and get acclimated to his new life.
Bearing in mind he'll never act 100% domesticated, he has a fantastic relationship with my dog and LOVES to cuddle up on the bed. :) No regrets taking a chance on him.

Feb 7, 2015
by Anonymous
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I rescued a feral kitten

I rescued a feral kitten almost 2 years ago, it was tough at first but once he knew I wasn't going to hurt him he became very dependant on me. I had to walk around doing things with one hand because I couldn't put him down or he would cry. He took showers/baths with me and I could never be out of his sight...so we saw this little cute loving female that needed a home so we took the chance, it worked out perfectly, I had a break and he and her fell in love it is the cutest thing ever. She taught him cat things I couldn't like jumping and playing. I still can't close a door on him but it is way better than before. He now weights 13-15lbs..shocking cause he fit in my hand...and her owners said the father was a very large breed and mom was a mix..she looks like a munchkin she is so small framed but has huge paws...weird. so thanks for letting me share

Feb 7, 2015
by Anonymous
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Oh and I taught them both to

Oh and I taught them both to walk on a leash outside, how to high five for a treat and give kisses for treats...people are amazed by the things I have taught them to do...it is pretty awesome

Apr 3, 2015
by Anonymous
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We have (2) feral cats, got

We have (2) feral cats, got them when they were just 6 weeks old. They are 9 yrs old now and still
afraid of people. If in the house they will run under the bed, if someone knocks on the door. I want to get a dog but they have never been up close to one. At their age now would I do the wrong thing to bring a dog home? Would they accept it, or run away? I want a dog now more than ever for protection. It would never get any easier than right now to bring one home. What do you think?

Oct 10, 2015
by Anonymous
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some great tips here. thanks

some great tips here. thanks i will use them.

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