Feral Cat to Domestic House Cat
Turning Feral (Wild) Cats into Domestic Cats
If you are a cat lover, then it’s likely that you’ve noticed stray or feral (wild) cats and kittens in and around your neighborhood and you probably feel sorry for them. This is especially true if these cats hang around your house or backyard. Many neighborhoods have unowned cats running about due to people not spaying their domestic cats and letting them run around outdoors. Despite this situation many cat lovers leave food outdoors for stray or feral cats in order to help them out. Occasionally cat lovers feel so sorry for feral cats that they decide to bring them indoors and adopt them. This article is meant to provide some very basic information and a few tips in order to make this process easier.
Feral cats are harder to domesticate than kittens or cats that have lived with humans simply because feral cats are ‘wild’. They haven’t been socialized with humans so most feral cats fear humans. When you bring a feral cat into your home it will likely take much longer for the cat to warm up to its new surroundings and it will likely take a while for the cat to warm up to the members of the household. Depending on the experiences the cat had as a feral, its particular personality, as well as how old the cat is will determine how long it will take to domesticate a feral cat. Although some feral cats do adapt nicely, some feral cats may never become very affectionate. Some may remain timid their whole lives; it really depends on the cat and your own patience and dedication.
If you do decide to rescue/adopt a feral cat, before you actually bring it into your house you want to bring it to a veterinarian. Many feral cats have fleas, ticks or other medical problems and you don’t want to bring these problems into your house. As such, being prepared is half the battle. Many humane societies have safe traps that they are willing to lend out in order to capture feral cats. It also makes sense to ask the humane society in your area if there are any bylaws that you need to be aware of.
If after the vet visit all is well then you can bring the cat home and confine it to one room for at least a few days until the cat starts to feel more comfortable. Have a litter-box in one corner of the room, a food dish in the other, and maybe some toys, a cat bed, or a box or two with a blanket in it. It makes sense to also have something that you have worn that contains your scent in the room with the cat as this will get the cat used to your smell. Go into the room from time to time and just sit there. Don’t approach the cat, let the cat approach you and watch the cat’s body language. Let the cat make all the moves at first, and just stay calm and speak to the cat in a calm voice. Take a book into the room and just read if the cat won’t interact with you. The cat may or may not check you out at the beginning. Remember, this is a totally foreign experience for the cat; it doesn’t know that you are improving its quality of life. Feel free to bring in treats and see if the cat will approach you for the treats. If not, just leave the treats in an area of the room that does not threaten the cat. When it comes to feeding the cat, try as much as possible to let the cat see that you are the food giver, especially for the first week or so.
Once you start feeling comfortable that the cat is starting to warm up to you, you can then open the door and let the cat explore the whole living space which should be ‘cat-proofed’. If you need more advice on taming a feral cat then your veterinarian, humane societies, or cat rescues/shelters can provide you with additional invaluable information.