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Tips On Caring For A Feral Or Scared Stray Cat

Updated on January 2, 2015

Feral cats are outdoor cats that are not tamed or used to human contact. They do not have socialization skills so it makes it makes it harder for them to have as pets. A person who is taking in a feral or very scared stray cat needs a lot of patience and time to make the cat feel more comfortable and sociable. I haven taken in a feral kitten and I also helped tame and socialize feral cats that other people have taken into their homes and I am writing from personal experience. Here are some tips on socializing and taking care of a feral cat.

Take The Cat To A Veterinarian

Before taking the feral kitten into my home, I first took a trip to a local veterinarian to make sure that the kitten did not have any diseases or fleas. I also wanted to know approximately how old the kitten was and if she needed any shots. I would advise anyone taking in a stray animal to have the animal checked by a veterinarian first, if possible.

When I took the kitten to the veterinarian, she was so scared that the veterinarian had to put a towel over her head to calm her down. She was very wild, jumping up and down, trying to claw at the walls of the office to get out of the treatment room. It was sad and terrifying to see how afraid she was. The veterinarian said she was healthy and he administered her a shot. He also checked her teeth, which he said helps him to determine approximately how old a cat is. You may want to have this exam done and shots if necessary to ensure proper health in case you would like to keep the cat or adopt it out to someone who may want it.

Confine The Cat To One Room

Once you have let a feral cat or kitten into your home, the first thing I would suggest that you do is to confine the cat to one room in the house. If you let the cat have free run of the house, it may end up hiding for days and you will lose out on time trying to socialize it. I had an extra spare bedroom in my house when I took the feral kitten in. I put her in that room and kept the door shut at all times.

If you want to take the cat for a check up, try throwing a towel or small blanket over the cat and place it in a cat carrier or box with holes. Be careful as feral cats may attack you out of fear. I wore a pair of thick gardening gloves and long sleeves when I had to take the kitten back to the veterinarian to get spayed because the first time I tried picking up the kitten, she scratched me up pretty bad.

Frequently Visit The Cat

Whenever I would walk into the room that the feral kitten was in, she would hiss at me or run away and try to hide under something. I made it a point to visit her a few times throughout the day to get her used to me. I would bring food, water, cat treats and cat toys in the room with me. You may want to keep visiting the cat and bring in things that the cat would like. This way the cat can see that you are not trying to it but rather take care of it.

Cat Toys

Cat toys seemed to help the most whenever I socialized feral cats. I bought a cat toy that had a stick with a string and feather attached to it. I gently glided the toy across the room and would swish it back and forth to see if I could get a reaction out of her. In the beginning, she would not even look at the toy. She was just too scared. Then after a week of showing her the toy, she started staring at it like she wanted to chase it. I would recommend getting toys that are more interactive between human and cat.

Eventually, after going into the room each day and week after week with the cat toy, my feral kitten starting coming out of her hiding spots to play with me. I feel that playing with the cat creates a bonding experience and helps to make the cat more comfortable around you.

Hold Off On Petting The Cat

I would recommend not trying to pet the cat until it feels more comfortable with you. Putting your hand up or stroking the cat's fur too soon may make the cat even more scared. When my feral kitten would get close enough to me for me to pet her, I would hold back, because I didn't want to scare her and have to start all over again. I waited until the kitten was comfortable with me, when she would start playing and eating in front of me.

Use A Large Dog Cage

I had borrowed a large dog cage from my parents to put the kitten in after her time in the spare room. I put the dog cage in the living room so she could be around other people but not run away. I put food, water, a small litter box and toys inside the cage. By having constant exposure to other humans besides myself on a day to day to basis, she started becoming more and more comfortable and less scared to be in the house. This also helped to expose her to the noise from the television and other people talking in the house hold, so eventually she started becoming more and more comfortable around humans. You may want to buy a large cage to put the cat in. You could start off this way if you do not have a spare room in the house. By placing a towel or blanket over the top of the cage, it may help the cat feel less exposed and more calm.

Slowly Pet The Cat

I would play with her through the cage by waving the toy around and she would respond. This also helped me to pet the cat through the cage. What I did was I used the stick part of the toy to gently stroke her back and around her cheeks. She would arch her back and start purring whenever I would pet her with the stick so I felt that it was time for me to put my hand into the cage and start petting her.

Use gloves if you do not want your hand getting scratched up. After the cat seems more comfortable in the house, you may want to start petting it. You can start out using a toy or something else first to get the cat used to the feeling of being stroked. When I started petting my kitten, she started responding by purring and rubbing against me. I cried tears of joy because I knew that this kitten who was once so afraid of humans was now going to be a domesticated house cat and part of the family.

Give The Cat Free Roam Of The House

When you notice that the cat is getting a lot more comfortable and less scared, you can let the cat out to have free roam of the house. When I let the kitten out of the cage, she ran up to the spare bedroom that I had first kept her in. She hid under a table but then a day later, she came downstairs into the living room. I grabbed one of her toys immediately and started playing with her so that she would be occupied with something entertaining and so that she would enjoy her time with me.

Months went by and the little, scared hissing kitten finally came out of her cocoon and became a beautiful, loving social butterfly. She loves being pet and enjoys the company of people. It took a lot of time and patience, but it is well worth it and quite rewarding. I have socialized other cats over the years and have had the same experiences doing the same things that I had mentioned.

Be Patient

You may get upset or frustrated that the cat is not like a regular house cat and it may bite, hiss or scratch you. However, you have to realize that the cat does this because it is scared and it is not necessarily a mean cat. You will have to have patience and understanding and eventually you will most likely see some progress. Feral cats can become loving house pets. It just takes time and determination to get them to that point.

When I first saw the feral kitten I took in, she was walking around in the snow and ice with her siblings and she kept licking her paws as if she was trying to keep them warm. I worked full time with overtime and took on a stressful assignment at work at the time, which took up more of my free time. I also had other responsibilities and was busy maintaining my first house, so it was not easy, but it was well worth the time and effort. I always made time to care for the feral kitten and make sure that she was getting socialized and more comfortable. Now I appreciate her affection even more because I know how hard it was in the beginning for her to show it.


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