Tips on Turning a Feral Cat into a Friendly Feline

My  feral mama cat, Mia, on one of her favorite beds.
My feral mama cat, Mia, on one of her favorite beds.

Many people don't understand the difference between a feral cat and a stray cat. A stray is one that had a home and all of a sudden doesn't. They have had exposure to humans and human touch. Maybe they escaped from the car on a trip and took off, or, sadly, they were just left behind when someone decided to move. A feral cat is one that has had no, or very limited, exposure to humans. And sometimes that exposure has not been kind. Then they have a litter, and you have a whole new group of ferals. While dealing with a stray cat can be relatively easy, ferals are a whole other story. But with some tips you can eventually win over that feral cat and make him a lovable, friendly feline.

I have personally raised 26 feral cats and here are my tips:

1. How to tell the difference between a stray and a feral.

Sometimes it's hard to tell, at first, if it is a stray or feral cat. Stray cats are going to be hesitant to come near you, but usually after some food and sweet talk they will come around in a few days and even let you pet them. Feral cats, on the other hand, will be very skittish and never let you get near them. They will warn you with a hiss or growl and take off very fast. Once you've put in a few days or a week and you're pretty sure it's a feral cat, then you can start working on building trust.

2. Let them come to you.

You will have to resist the urge to try to approach the cat. If you love animals like I do (and I'm sure you wouldn't be reading this if you don't!) you want to go to them and comfort them. But this is very important- you have to keep your distance. You are trying to build up a trust with the cat and this is the way to do it. Let them know you are going to feed them, but that you are not going to try to catch them. You put the food down and go back inside. Talking sweetly to them, and telling them they are safe and everything is OK while putting the food down is good. Anytime you are actually outside with them, talk softly to them the whole time. Once you have done your job of putting the food out and fresh water, it's time to say "see you later baby" and go away. And no obvious peeking out the window at then while they eat..haha. If you can be sneaky and watch them, fine.

3. Patience, Patience, Patience.

The one thing I have to bring up is that this whole process will take time and patience. It took me a year to get a litter to the point that I could pet them, pick them up and finally move them indoors. It took me another 6 months to get their mama inside. So, if you don't have the determination, patience, or time to take this on, don't start at all. But if you do, the rewards will far outweigh the effort.

4. Keep things consistent.

Feed at the same times every day. I would recommend at least two meals a day. One thing I started doing was a "calling whistle" when I first went outside and then would yell "time to eat". Put the food down and go back inside. You will probably not see the cat until you leave, but he may be closer than you think, hiding in a bush or under a deck. Keeping up a routine works well with cats in particular. It will also encourage him to hang around, knowing that food is coming every day at a certain time.

5. Time to try out being outside with him.

Ok, this may have gone on for a few months (remember...patience!) so now it's time to try to stay outside with the cat while it eats. Put a chair, or just sit on the ground, a good distance from the eating area. Do your whistle or call and announce dinner. Then go sit, but don't look at the cat at all. Act like he's not there and hopefully he will eye you for awhile and decide it's safe to eat with you being there. You'll have to stay until he finishes eating and goes off and then you can move. If he won't eat with you there, just keep up the old routine and try again in a few days. Just remember not to look toward him while you are outside with him.

6. Back to "let him come to you".

If you sit around long enough, hopefully he will one day decide to cautiously check you out. He may only come a few steps towards your direction, but with the trust building up, he will eventually get closer. If he ever gets close enough for you to touch him...DON'T. Just talk softly to him and let him check you out. If he finally rubs against your legs, you are really making progress. If that should happen, don't try to touch him, just let him do his own thing. If he does this enough, then I suggest the next time you squat down (before he comes over to you), letting your hands dangle just over your knees. This may sound ridiculous, but it has worked for me so many times. Keep your hands very still and he may rub under them. Don't pet, just let him continue to do this. Eventually you should be able to raise your hand slightly so that when he rubs under them it becomes like you're petting him. The whole key is to stay calm, still, and let him do all the work.

7. A friendly feline.

As you can tell, the process is slow and sometimes even frustrating. And I can't forget to mention that you may encounter a few scratches or possibly bites. Keep your tetanus shots up to date and obviously, if the cat seems ill, you'll have to forget this and try to trap him and get him to a vet. But if this process works, you will be simply amazed that the cat that's snuggled on your lap was once that wild creature who wouldn't come near you. It is quite a journey and a very fulfilling one to turn "Ferocious Feral" into "Friendly Feline".

I hope this helps anyone who wants to help out a feral cat. There are many tips and tricks and you will come up with your own. They need our help, these homeless little creatures, and the love they give back is priceless.

Comments 28 comments

Carl 5 years ago

Very interesting, and I have often wondered how to tame a feral cat. I remember one cat in our neighborhood that I thought would never become tame, but a lady in the neighborhood won her over.

Thanks for the advice.


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 5 years ago from the South Author

Your welcome,Carl.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

......this a very interesting hub written with such passion and knowledge because I can tell you love animals and your pets - and it comes out in this hub as a labor of love!!!


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 5 years ago from the South Author

epigramman, I can see by your picture that you must love animals too. My pets are my babies and my whole life and I'm so glad that came across. They are such precious little beings. Thanks for reading!


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

Hi Catgypsy. Thank you for this great article. You have kindly instructed your readers in the proper ways to handle these very sensitive and frightened cats. What a service you've done! I'm very happy and pleased that you care enough to take the time for the forgotten felines and then, shared your experiences with us. Now, I support you as we share a common love for cats; feral, stray and companions. Kathy aka Lucky Cats


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 5 years ago from the South Author

Thanks Kathy! I just wish more people felt like we do, so we wouldn't have so many little "orphans" out there. I'll admit it takes "blood, sweat and tears" sometimes to raise them, but they are so worth it!


Olde Cashmere profile image

Olde Cashmere 4 years ago from Michigan, United States

This was an incredible hub catgypsy. I had an experience with a stray cat when I lived in North Carolina with my older brother. There was a beautiful black cat that always came into the yard and would scamper away when I tried to approach. Then I started leaving out food, then eventually sat down and he'd come to me. Next thing I knew we were pals and he'd come around every day. I'd even sit outside with him at night with him lying on my chest as I pet him. Now that cat lives with my brother and he named him Midnight. Excellent writing and I loved this one. Voted up, useful, interesting, and awesome :)


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 4 years ago from the South Author

Thanks Olde Cashmere. Wow, that's great about Midnight. They just need love and patience from us and they'll come around. I love all animals, I just happen to have ended up with so many cats that it's hard to bring in any other type of animal...haha. I'm so glad you helped Midnight. Thanks for your comment!


Angela Brummer profile image

Angela Brummer 4 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

This is important information and I have dealt with some feral cats!

This article has been shared on Stumble, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Reddit and my hub following.

Via: http://angelabrummer.hubpages.com/hub/Hubber-Alert

Feel free to contact the others on the list for more article sharing! And check back often!


TToombs08 profile image

TToombs08 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

I had a friend at Hawaiian Tropic that used to feed/capture and then take the ferals to the vet to be fixed. The last time I visited her, she was feeding/caring for approximately 25 feral cats. People would dump their cat in the woods near her, the cat would end up getting pregnant and then having feral kittens. Some of them fell prey to gators, coyotes, snakes, etc. This is a great hub, and pretty much what my friend has been doing for years. Voted up and more per Angela's "Hubber - Alert" hub. :)


DrMark1961 profile image

DrMark1961 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

Thanks. It is great reading a hub from someone who has the experience. I am sharing this.


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 4 years ago from the South Author

Angela, thanks so much and I will definitely share your hubs!


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 4 years ago from the South Author

DrMark, thanks for sharing! I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. I am going to be doing a lot of sharing and will include your hubs too. I am so glad angela brought up this idea!


bac2basics profile image

bac2basics 4 years ago from Spain

Hi catgypsy.I once had a feral cat hanging round here, he was beautiful, jet black. I tried for years to tame him, we had got to the point where he was eating when I was only a few steps away, but would also attack my own cat sometimes, when he did this he obviously got a telling off and I would take his food away.Then he just stopped coming, something must have happened to him. I missed him and wondered if I would ever have got to stroke him.


Minnetonka Twin profile image

Minnetonka Twin 4 years ago from Minnesota

I think I'll nick name you "the cat whisperer." Thanks for that great information on taming a feral cat. It was very interesting to read and I'm so impressed to hear you've done this so successfully.


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 4 years ago from the South Author

bac2basics, what a shame he stopped coming around. With enough patience and time, you would have gained his trust eventually. However, since he was attacking your cat at times, it's probably best that he left because you can't have that situation. But you always wonder what happened, huh? It breaks your heart to think something bad might have happened, but good for you for you for trying.


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 4 years ago from the South Author

Minnetonka, I have always understood animals much more than people...haha. I've been blessed to be able to do this as I feel they need homes so badly. People are sympathetic to homeless people and to me they are just the same, only they have fewer chances to help themselves! i'm glad you enjoyed the hub. Hope things are going great in your life!


HubTub profile image

HubTub 4 years ago from The Sunshine State

I have been caring for and rescuing feral cats for over 10 years. I have three beautiful black cats who have been residents of my home for years. They come and go out of my garage only, however, as I leave the door cracked. I also have four indoor-only kitties, and I don't allow them to co-mingle. It took me a very long time, but when they finally let me start getting close enough where I could pet them, I was elated. They have complete trust in me now, although they can still be skiddish at times.

Thanks for sharing this awesome hub and educating others about feral cats. Voted up and more!

By the way, thank you for the follow. People who love animals rock!


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 4 years ago from the South Author

There is something extra special when that feral cat finally lets you pet them! It's a great feeling of love, isn't it? It takes time and patience and a whole lot of love, but is soooo worth it! Thanks for the votes and for reading my hub!


HubTub profile image

HubTub 4 years ago from The Sunshine State

My pleasure, catgypsy! I totally agree. The day I was finally able to pet my feral cats was a milestone. I always wondered what they might have been thinking about that first human touch of love.


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 4 years ago from the South Author

Ahhh...you do wonder. They sure learn to love it! The first time my brother was able to pet Mia, my first Mama feral, he just couldn't believe it. He said he never thought any of us would ever get even near her.


LeslieOutlaw profile image

LeslieOutlaw 3 years ago from South Carolina

Great hub and great advice. I have always been a cat person and from experience I can confirm that these methods are effective. I look forward to reading more of your articles :)


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 3 years ago from the South Author

Thanks so much Leslie. Always love to meet a fellow animal lover!


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 2 years ago from California

My grandma had feral cats in her yard. I tried to domesticate one, but didn't understand patience. You must be wonderfully good with cats.- This hub would soar with some fru fru that HP likes.- My grand kitty acts like a stray when the snippy little dogs are around. She didn't ever make a good inside cat. She mows at the door and tells you she is ready for some attention. You have to go out and pet her; then she goes into the garage and is happy.


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 2 years ago from the South Author

tirelesstraveler, patience is key to be sure. And there are times when you think they will never come around! Your grand kitty has her own agenda going, huh? Cats are so funny...they all have their own unique quirks. Thanks for stopping by and reading.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 weeks ago from Hamilton, Alabama

My Dearest Catgypsy,

Wow! What a neat bit of priceless advice on cats. I know two of mine who will get me to treat them differently than I am used to. I am going to use your advice in this hub--all of it.

Thank you so much for publishing this piece.

Love, Kenneth


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 4 weeks ago from the South Author

Thanks Kenneth, my dear friend.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 weeks ago from Hamilton, Alabama

My Dearest Catgypsy,

You are always welcome. Great stuff.

Be safe. Give your precious cats and Possy my love.

Love,

Kenneth

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