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Domesticating A Feral Cat

Updated on January 20, 2015
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By definition a feral cat is one that is not domesticated or comfortable being around humans. Some feral cats have been born in the wild state while other cats have been abandoned or lost and have simply reverted back to a wild state. Feral kittens are the ideal option for domestication, but even relatively young cats at a few weeks of age may already be very avoidant of human contact.

Semi-Feral and Feral Cats

There are some feral cats that are somewhat tolerant of humans, especially those that live in and around urban areas. These are sometimes referred to as semi-feral and are most often someone’s pet cat that has been living the life of a wild cat for a significant period of time.

Unfortunately many semi-feral and feral cats are simply not going to be able to be domesticated. However, they can be trapped, neutered and spayed, and re-homed to a farm or a cat charity where they can live in a protected space while still enjoying their freedom.

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Feral Kittens

Taming feral kittens is perhaps the very best possible option to domesticate and the ideal time is between three to nine weeks, however at the beginning of this point the kittens should ideally still be with the mother. While the mother maybe frightened of humans, often feeding her while simple talking and sitting around the kittens will accustom them to human voice, smell and presence.

The Capture Process

It is possible to capture the feral kittens and remove them after 5 weeks of age. There are very humane cat cages that can be used or, if you have sturdy leather gloves, long welder’s gloves are highly recommended, you can capture them by hand. Ideally make your first stop the vet, and let the vet know that the kitten is feral before opening up the carrier door.

This is going to be very traumatising for the kitten and for the human as well. The kittens will fight, claw, bite and yowl and it is critical to keep them in a firm yet safe grip as they will be extremely difficult to catch again should they wriggle and fight loose

Early Socialisation

Start by keeping the feral kittens in a kitten-pen in a secure room in the home and avoid any contact or cross contamination with any pet cats you may have. Spend as much time around the kittens as you can but for the first few days don’t force any contact. Just let them hear your voice and be aware of your presence. Give them a carrier or a secluded area in the pet where they can go if they are really stressed.

Feed the kittens and provide clean water and a litter tray and bedding. Prepare some healthy snacks such as small bits of cooked chicken or cooked fish and also start them on a good quality kitten food. Drop the snacks close to the kittens so that they begin to associate your voice and presence with something really special and positive. You can also introduce little toys such as ping-pong balls or cat toys to help the kitten accept the new environment.

Early Handling

As the kitten becomes comfortable they will naturally come towards you and this is when you can start to touch and handle the kitten at his or her own pace. It is critical to keep the kitten in the kitten-cage or secure room until he or she is completely calm and accepting of your contact and handling.

Through the next few days, weeks and months you will notice that you can move from stroking the kitten to picking him or her up and holding them. Always watch for the signs of irritation; the growling, the tail flicking and the ears back, and take your cues from the kitten as to his or her comfort level.

It may take weeks or months for your feral kitten to be completely comfortable around you. Then, and only then, start to allow others to interact with the kitten. You will also need to ensure that it is always positive for the cat. Often these kittens may be aggressive towards other cats and pets so be very careful and slow with these introductions as well.

These kittens, and young cats, may never be as comfortable around humans as kittens that were raised by humans all their life. Be reasonable with your expectations and you can find a wonderful companion cat that will suit your lifestyle.

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