Some personal advice about how to domesticate a feral cat from someone who has done it twice.
There is a lot of literature online about how to domesticate a feral cat or homeless cat and feral cat rescue, but I can add to this advice with my own personal experience taking in two feral cats.
** I personally don’t recommend trying to domesticate an older feral cat who is aggressive or won’t allow a human to touch or come near him — especially if you already have cats in your home. Use your best judgment. **
Get them Shots and Have Them Neutered
The feral cat you want to take in has probably been roaming around outside for months, mixing with other cats, raccoons, and sleeping in bushes full of ticks, fleas, and other nuisances. So before you allow a feral cat to live in the main areas of your home, you need to take them to the vet for a check up.
This is possibly the most difficult part of domesticating a feral cat because it is 1) hard to catch them in a carrier if they run from you whenever you come near and 2) sometimes difficult to get them to calm down enough to be seen by a vet. Vets usually have ways to deal with difficult cats though, so your main feat is just getting the feral cat into the cage. The TNR (Trap Neuter Return) program at your local vet or pound can lead you in the direction of some humane cat traps that close as soon as the cat enters. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and come upon a feral or outdoor cat that actually likes humans and comes right up to you.
Wash and Isolate Your Feral Cat With a Litter Box
Once the cat’s shots are done and he’s been cleared of fleas, ticks, mites and other possible problems, you can take him into your home. If the cat will allow you to handle him without going crazy (some young cats will; older ones probably not), give him a bath. If the feral cat is very scared, just lock him in the bathroom with you and talk to him for a while. Do your best to get some water and soap on his back (use a bucket with a washcloth and just rub him down). If water is out of the question, try a waterless cat shampoo (usually foam or powder) and a good cat brush. To assist the cat with future cleaning, you can also try installing a cat door that has a self-cleaning brush around the inside edges.
This will be the only time you have to clean your new feline friend since cats clean themselves. After the “bath,” envelop your new cat in a nice fluffy towel and rub him dry. This small action is a great bonding moment between you and your new feral cat. If possible, pick him up in your arms as you dry him. Whenever I have had to do this with my new cats, afterwards they felt a lot more comfortable around me.
Isolate the Cat for a While
Next you have to isolate the feral cat from the other cats in your home with a litter box in the room. The other cats will need to gradually get used to having the cat’s scent in the home. You may be surprised at how immediately he understands to go in the litter box. Isolate your new cat in a room to himself for at least a week.
Leave The Feral Cat Alone
Once you finally let the feral cat loose in your home, you have to leave it alone. He will probably run immediately to find a hiding place. He may run from you whenever you come around. That’s normal — feral cats are naturally mistrustful of humans. It will take some time for them to warm up to you. My first feral cat still runs from me many years later, but he sleeps on top of my chest at night like a baby.
Leave your new feral cat alone. Just feed him, keep his litter box clean, and eventually you’ll start to see some progress. Usually once the feral cat starts to realize that you will be feeding him every day from now on, and he knows for certain that you are not trying to hurt him, he will develop more trust for you.
Also, be patient with your feral cat if he does annoying things, like knock over the garbage and try to eat chicken bones. They are still getting used to living in a home where they don’t have to scavenge for food. Both of my feral cats did this for a couple weeks after I took them in, but eventually stopped once they saw that they could count on breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day.
A feral cat rescue mission is a noble thing. I have found that owning a feral cat is most rewarding because feral cats genuinely appreciate having a home. Feral cats have memories of what it was like living on the street, and they know that this lifestyle is much better. Love them, feed them, keep them healthy, and you will soon see the rewards of your good deed.
“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” ~Mother Teresa
Posted by Jade
Did you enjoy reading How to Domesticate a Feral Cat? Well we enjoyed having you and would like to be friends!
This post contains affiliate links.