Socializing a Feral Cat how to Introduce a Feral Cat into your Home Welcoming a Feral Cat

It can be incredibly difficult to socialize a feral cat. Unlike a stray cat, which has probably grown up with people, it will be very wary of humans; after all, it has probably been chased away from people’s gardens on a regular basis. However, with a great deal of patience and time, it is possible to socialise a feral cat. Each cat will be different, of course, but there are a few tips that can help to tame the cat.

Think like a feral cat

Of course, you can only guess at the experiences a feral cat has had to go through, but it has almost certainly had to cope with scavenging for food, as well as bullying from other animals and from humans. You will therefore need to be incredibly patient and appreciate that the cat is not going to come to you easily – you may not even be able to get close enough to trap it. Don’t force the issue unless you have to for some reason. Instead, give it time to realise that you aren’t going to chase it away or harm it.

Go slow

To begin with, if you can’t get close enough to the cat to trap it, getting it to come anywhere near your home may be impossible. Be very patient. When you see the cat, talk to it gently and offer it food. Leave the food outside, slowly moving it closer to the house over a course of days, or even weeks if necessary. In time, the cat may come into the house of its own accord, so let it explore in peace. Any sudden movements or loud noise will startle it and may result in you having to start all over again.

Set a routine

Start to build up the cat’s trust in you by setting a routine – putting out food and water at a particular time and speaking to it calmly while you do so. Try to ensure that you are the only person around when you do so, at least to begin with, because you need to let the cat get used to one person at a time. Once the cat has moved into your home, you can work on introducing the other members of the family. However, to begin with, you will need to initiate contact at regular hours of the day, as well as giving a warning knock before opening the door.

Try confinement

Once you have managed to catch the cat, you will need to confine it to a small area of your home so that it has the chance to acclimatise. Ideally, this should be a room without too many places to hide – otherwise when you do attempt to go into the room and interact, you won’t be able to find the cat. You may also want to confine it to a cage for a couple of days. If so, the Stanford Cat Network recommends keeping the cage at waist level so that your size isn’t quite so intimidating. Keeping the cat in a cage also means that you can take it to a vet’s more easily. 

Don’t be too eager to pet 

You will need to face the fact that a feral cat may never be very affectionate towards you. To begin with, at least, your cat will see you as a threat, so attempting to pet it will make it back away from you. Try and avoid looking it in the eyes, because this will also be seen as a threat. The Stray Pet Advocacy recommends not even putting your hand out to the cat, but rather, placing your hand palm down on the floor next to it and allowing it to sniff you before making the next move. You will know when the cat trusts you enough for you to be able to touch it because of its body language, so pay attention.

Avoid contact with other cats

As well as avoiding contact with other members of the family to begin with, you will want to keep other pets away from a feral cat. If other cats are around in particular, a feral cat will start to socialise with them rather than you, if you want to build up a relationship with a feral cat, you will want to keep them away. Ideally, you won’t already have cats – or if you do, you will keep them separated until the feral cat has had a thorough check-up at your local veterinarians.

Take a trip to the vet

You will need to take the cat to the vet for a check-up and for the necessary injections. Be prepared for a fight. Even if the cat has had time to get used to you, it will probably complain loudly and ferociously when taken to a strange place and handled by unfamiliar people. Ensure that you warn your vet that this is a feral cat and you may want to wear gloves and a coat to ensure that your hands and arms are protected.  However, a check-up is a necessary part of accepting a feral cat into your home.

If you’re hoping to welcome a feral cat into your home, you need to be aware of the problems that surround socialising it. However, provided that you are willing to take the time to do so, it should be perfectly possible.