Taming a feral cat

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How to Befriend a Wild Cat or Kitten

Two Methods:

Many cities are full of stray cats and it is estimated that there are over 70 million stray cats in the US alone.Many municipalities are unable or unwilling to take any action, beyond capturing a few cats to euthanize them, due to a lack of time, money, and interest. Because there is little help to stray cats and their risk of death from injuries, disease and poor nutrition, you may feel compelled to help a wild cat or kitten yourself. This process may take some time, so you need to be patient, but it can be very fulfilling to befriend and help a cat in need.


Luring a Wild Cat to You

  1. Differentiate between a stray cat and a feral cat.A stray cat is someone’s former cat that no longer has a home; a feral cat was born in the wild and is a cat that is wary of humans and generally isn't adoptable due to not being adapted to humans.
    • You may have success at befriending a stray cat; a feral cat probably not although it may become acclimated to your presence.
    • Whether you have a stray or a feral cat around your home, capturing (or trapping) the cat and bringing it to the veterinarian for vaccinations and to be spayed or neutered is an excellent civic duty. Feral cats that are “fixed” can be released back where you found them.You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing they won’t be able to reproduce and contribute to the feral cat population.
  2. Take safety precautions.Wild cats can be unpredictable so you will need to practice some safety precautions as you are trying to befriend it. Cat bites usually become infected, some very seriously, so you will need to wear long sleeves and pants when trying to befriend the cat.
    • Another concern is rabies in a cat of unknown vaccination status. Use caution and common sense. If the cat starts to hiss or growl, looks sick (runny nose or eyes, scabs, sneezes/coughs, breathes heavily), or acts bizarrely don’t try to befriend it. Call animal control and retreat to your home.
  3. Begin befriending the cat.If the cat appears healthy and isn’t acting defensive and mean towards you, you can try befriending it. Find a place where the cat usually stays, and wait nearby until the cat reaches its spot.
    • Sit down or lie down, if you can, or at least crouch. The cat will find you much less intimidating that way. Stay there for a while. Teach the cat you won't hurt it.
    • This should be a fair distance away, 10 feet or so, so you don’t intimidate the cat.
  4. Offer the cat food.Try leaving out some smelly cat food (wet) or even a can of tuna to attract the cat while you are waiting for it to arrive. You want to get the cat to associate you with something good, namely a free lunch.
    • You only need to leave out smelly food the first day. After this leave out a little dry kibble to keep the cat coming back for more.
  5. Continue putting little bits of tuna closer and closer to you.Each day the cat comes to eat, move your spot another foot closer. If you hold the cat food in your hand for a while, your scent will be on it, too. This won't discourage the cat from eating it, but it may cause the cat to associate you with food, which is good in general. Put out your hand to let the cat sniff it.
    • If the cat starts hissing, or its ears go back, etc., you're too close. Pull your hand back slightly and slowly.
  6. Show the cat some affection.Eventually the cat should get close to you then put out your hand let the cat sniff your hand. Continue feeding the cat, and sitting nearby quietly, and eventually you should earn its trust to the point it will come up to you for food and gentle pats. Don't expect this to happen right away. Don't expect them to even eat any of the tuna right away.
    • Veterinarian Pippa Elliott MRCVS suggests: "Although you want to make friends, staring at the cat can be misunderstood as a sign of aggression. When it comes to befriending a cat, less is more. Sit quietly, sideways on, and ignore the cat. Let them come to you, but you can make yourself more attractive by scattering treats close to your feet."

Taking Care of a Wild Cat or Kitten

  1. Help find the cat's owner.Ask around your neighborhood to see if anyone has lost their cat. Cats that get outside can get lost or roam around. Make some calls to local veterinary clinics and pet stores to see if anyone is missing a cat; taking a photo with your phone and making up fliers or posting to social media sites can also help reunite a stray cat with its owners.
    • If the cat is feral instead of stray, it will not have an owner to be returned to.
  2. Get the cat checked out by a veterinarian.Once you are able to approach the cat and pet it, make an appointment with your veterinarian to have the cat examined and neutered or spayed. If funds are tight, call your local humane society to see if there are any funds available to assist with these costs.
    • The cat will have a tiny bit of blood drawn to test for the feline leukemia virus. If the results are positive your veterinarian will discuss options with you, which include isolating the cat from other cats for its life or euthanasia. If it is negative, a fecal sample will be looked at to determine if the cat has intestinal parasites and it will be given the appropriate medication.
    • In addition, the veterinarian will check for fleas and ticks and treat if needed. Vaccines (rabies, distemper, and possibly feline leukemia) will be given and its sterilization operation will be performed. A microchip may also be placed under the skin if so desired. This is highly recommended.
  3. Find a home for the cat or kitten.Now you will have a healthy pet to take home after its operation and vaccinations. Your hard work will pay off knowing you have saved another cat from a harsh life on the street. Either adopt the cat yourself or find another loving home for it to go to.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    Is milk a safe alternative for food?

    Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
    Dr. Elliott is a Veterinarian who specializes in Companion Animal Medicine in England. She registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1987.
    Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
    Expert Answer
    No. Many cats lack the ability to digest the milk sugar, or lactose. This results in milk fermenting in their gut and causing diarrhea. If a wild kitten is too young to eat, then purchase some KMR (kitten milk replacer) from your vet or pet store.
  • Question
    How can I pet a wild cat with kittens?

    Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
    Dr. Elliott is a Veterinarian who specializes in Companion Animal Medicine in England. She registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1987.
    Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
    Expert Answer
    The first consideration must be the welfare of the kittens. If the mother is intolerant of people, then approaching the den will upset her and could lead to abandonment of the kittens. If she is tolerant of people, then help her get used to your presence by leaving offerings of food. Once the kittens are 2-3 weeks old, this is the ideal time to stroke them and start socializing them with people. Distract the mother with food and gently stroke the kitten, but without disturbing the nest too much. As the kittens get older and venture out, they are then more likely to approach you for food and petting.
  • Question
    How can I befriend a stray cat without it thinking that I want to take it home?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Cats don't think about being taken to a home. By approaching the cat slowly, you can discover whether it is scared of you, it may hiss or run away. Try placing food and water outside, if the cat observes you doing this, it may learn it can trust you. Start gradually getting closer to the cat and offer it treats or catnip. The cat will then associate you with good things. This may take some time.
  • Question
    How can I get a wild cat to follow me?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Carry treats with you to induce the cat into following you.
  • Question
    How can I get my wild kitten to trust me enough to come close to eat the food I put out?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Make sure that the food is not too close to your house; you might also want to leave the area. The kitten will still be able to smell you on the food you set out, so don't worry. Place the food closer and closer to your home each day. Eventually, you may be able to sit near the kitten while it eats, but it will need time to get used to you.
  • Question
    Where can I touch a wild cat?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    While it is best is not to touch it, but let it give you affection by purring around you and nudging you of its own accord. When it climbs in front of you, this means it is possible to pet it. Beware -- you must touch it gently and not around the lower body, its legs, tail, or genitals as those areas will cause it fear and it may bite, scratch or run away from you.
  • Question
    Can I try this with a coyote?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    No. A coyote is a wild animal and is much more dangerous than a cat. Trying to tame them may lead to serious injuries.
  • Question
    How am I able to tame cats that I cannot see them very often?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    You have little chance to tame a cat that you often see, especially if it doesn't follow you around. The best way is find the spot where it stays and try the steps outlined here.
  • Question
    What should I do if the wild cat does not like other cats?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Keep it separated from other cats for the time being. Try introducing them slowly by keeping them in separate rooms where they are able to smell each other through the door. Then allow them to meet under your supervision. If it doesn't go well, separate them, wait a while, and try again. It may take some time.
  • Question
    How do I care for someone else's cat who hates me?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    If the cat hates you, give her time so it gets familiar with the surroundings and you.
Unanswered Questions
  • If she trys coming into my house and I have an aggressive cat what do I do?
  • How can I get a cat to come near me and let me pet it if I still had it since it was a kitten and still won't come near me
  • When can you let the wild kittens mix with your own cats?
  • What if you want to tame a feral abandoned kitten that can't eat hard or soft food?
  • What to do when we buy a cat?
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  • If the cat comes into your ownership, you may want to consider buying toys for it. Squeaky toys, scratching post, or even a ball of yarn can keep it occupied for those times when you are too busy to play with it.
  • If the cat seems very sleek and well-fed, do your best to make sure it doesn't already have an owner.
  • If the cat is truly afraid of you, leave it alone. Feel free to leave food for it; it may eventually warm up to you.
  • If you notice the cat giving you a slow-blink, make sure to slow-blink back. This means 'Love you' in cat, and it may tell you that a cat has fully accepted you and is ready to be adopted. However, if it is giving you an unblinking stare, back up and avert eye contact. This means 'Get out of my territory.
  • If the cat is just a baby or a kitten, there may be a litter near by. Pay close attention!
  • Give the cat treats. Lure the cat closer to you. If you have a cat already (or just have string/cat toys) then give it a toy to see if it likes the toy. If it does like the toy, play with it using the toy. It should become more friendly if you treat it like this.
  • If you adopt a stray kitten, spay or neuter them. This makes your cat more loyal and affectionate, and helps to avoid unwanted pregnancies.


  • Refrain from posting about the cat in question online. It may be claimed by its owner that way but it can also be claimed by poachers, hoarders, people who use cats in dog rings, and people who sell cats to be tested on. If you really want to put an add online don't post a picture of it or describe it. The true owner should be able to describe it to you.
  • If the cat is aggressive, don't try to befriend it. Even if you manage, it will still be a wild cat, and may be nasty.
  • Remember always to wash your hands thoroughly after touching the cat until you’ve had a chance to bring it to the veterinarian.
  • Remember, only adopt a cat if you're willing to take care of it for its whole life, or find it another home. If you need to find it another home, it's best to find someone to adopt it, not to take it to a pound. These tend to be overrun by animals, especially cats, and may be forced to put down cats if they don't have any more room. So even if they don't specifically put down your cat, you may cause another one to be put down.
  • Never run towards any cat. It will find this as aggressive behavior and it may try to bite or scratch you.

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

  1. www.aspca.org/about-us/faq/pet-statistics

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