How To Domesticate A Feral Cat

6 Steps to Taming a Semi-Feral Cat

I’m Jenny Dean, the brains behind the Floppycats cartoon series. Ragdoll cats have been a favorite of mine since my Aunt brought the first one into our home. Rags, my childhood Ragdoll cat, inspired me to establish Floppycats, a website that allows Ragdoll cat lovers all over the globe to connect, share, and be inspired by one another.

Let the cat make the first move.

According to Becky Robinson, president and creator of Alley Cat Allies, ignoring a cat that you are attempting to befriend will spark its curiosity and drive it to initiate contact with you. Cats are social creatures who seek pleasure and attention from their owners. If they are accustomed to receiving attention, they will seek it out. Waiting for the cat to approach you and then offering a good encounter can demonstrate to it that you can be relied upon.

Keep her coming back for more.

The next stage is to give relaxing, non-threatening enrichment to ensure that the cat loves spending time with you and continues to return to you on a regular basis. According to cat rescues, the optimum moment to establish an interaction with a cat is at mealtime. Treats and toys should also be provided to encourage the cat to interact with you on a personal level.

Slowly desensitize her to life with humans.

Always keep in mind that many of the things we take for granted as being normal elements of life might be quite terrifying to a semi-feral cat. Sounds such as human voices, music, and the opening and closing of doors might cause a scared kitten to flee for his or her life. During feeding time, talk quietly and execute slow, methodical actions in order to desensitize the cat and demonstrate that you are not a threat to the cat.

Respect her space.

You will still have work to do once you have welcomed your new semi-feral kitten into your house. Here are some tips to help you. The cat will be naturally anxious and will want a safe haven to hide if he or she becomes overwhelmed. This will assist to keep her from feeling like she’s being cornered. The natural fight or flight reaction is triggered in this situation. If they are not given the chance to run, they will have no choice but to engage in combat. They are really frightened, and they are forced to protect themselves.

While offering an excessive amount of room might be beneficial in some cases, it can also be overpowering and cause problems – particularly with curious kittens.

Remove anything delicate or possibly damaging – such as wiring that may be eaten – from the room before allowing your cat to enter it for the first time.

Consider a calming remedy to help her with the transition.

Just like a hot bath and a cup of herbal tea may help you relax after a long day at work, offering a soothing solution for your new cat, such as catnip, pheromone sprays, or calming vitamins, may do the same for your new feline companion. Alley Cat Allies advises the following:. the use of non-pharmaceutical behavior modifiers such as Feliway, Rescue Remedy, or Composure Soft Chews to help with stress management These products, which include essential oils or extracts, or which replicate natural feline pheromones, can assist in calming and comforting cats.

Alley Car Allies are those that work in the alleys.

Be patient!

While some semi-feral cats can be tamed in a matter of weeks, it normally takes many months or even a year before they are entirely domesticated and no longer pose a threat to humans. Most cats can be tamed, according to Robinson; all you have to do is be patient, keep to a plan, respect her natural wants, connect with her on a daily basis, and give her lots of goodies! Dina Fantegrossion contributed to this article. The 28th of October, 2017

How to Tame a Feral Cat

In contrast to domestic cats, feral cats (another term for homeless cats that have spent their whole lives outside) are born in the wild and have had very little interaction with people throughout their lives. Many animal lovers who come into contact with a feral cat wonder whether or not the cat can be domesticated, trained, and eventually accepted into their home as a pet. This is especially true if the cat is found living outdoors in cold weather or in a heavily trafficked and/or potentially unsafe environment.

The first stage, however, is to complete a number of really crucial tasks, since domesticating a wild cat is not a chore for the faint of heart and will demand a significant investment of time and patience.

What to Do If You Find a Feral Cat

If you find yourself in the company of a feral cat, whether it has found its way into your yard or you have noticed a particular homeless cat lurking around your neighborhood on a regular basis, there are some precautions you can take to ensure both your own safety and the safety of the feline in your care. Take note that, due to the fact that these cats have never had the pleasure of developing a genuine attachment with a human, they frequently see all humans as huge predators and are not hesitant to act as such by biting, hissing, clawing, or in some cases, even assaulting you.

If a wild cat shows up at your back door out of nowhere, there’s a good possibility he or she has rabies.

The most essential thing to remember when considering taming a wild cat is that it will likely take several weeks—or even longer if you’ve met a particularly frightened kitty—and that patience will be required at all times.

How to Tame a Feral Cat

Feral cats have different personalities and experiences on the streets, which can affect how well you can train them (as well as how well you can train them to interact with other humans). There are several factors that will determine your ability to train a feral cat, including the cat’s age and personality, as well as the kinds of experiences the cat has had on the street (including previous encounters with other humans). However, there is one item that we humans have at our disposal that will significantly improve your odds of successfully educating a wild cat, and that is food.

  • If you’re considering taming a feral cat in your area, you’ll want to start by creating some form of feeding schedule for the cat.
  • When you see the cat, though, avoid making direct eye contact with it (like dogs, eye contact can be perceived as a threat).
  • After a few days, you should be able to gradually increase your confidence in speaking to your cat in a calm and soothing tone.
  • You might also experiment with serving a few special goodies with the meal.
  • As soon as you’re ready, reach out and pet the cat gently, without making any abrupt movements.

If the cat reacts negatively to your contact, wait a few days before attempting to touch it again. Consider also allowing him or her to sniff your finger before you introduce him or her. Eventually, you will be able to advance to touching the cat and even gently taking him up on your own.

Safety and Other Considerations When Bringing Home a Feral Cat

While it may appear that you may finally open your door to your new kitty buddy, you should refrain from inviting her inside, especially if you have other pets in the house (or children). As an alternative, take the cat to the veterinarian for a comprehensive examination and vaccines (this will of course include the cat trusting you enough to be placed in a carrier while on the journey), as well as to be spayed or neutered (if the cat is not already spayed or neutered). This stage may need numerous efforts, but it is extremely necessary for your own health and safety, as well as the health and safety of your new cat.

Consider outfitting your cat’s new living space with items such as cat trees and towers, scratching posts, and hiding and sleeping spots, among other things.

The good news is that even cats that have spent their whole life in the outdoors are usually able to comprehend the notion rather quickly.

In due course, your new cat should forget about their days on the streets and be glad to rest and play at home with their new family, rather than on the streets.

Can You Tame a Feral Cat?

While it may appear that you can finally open your door to your new kitty buddy, you should avoid inviting her inside your home, especially if you have other animals in your home (or children). It is preferable to instead take the cat to the veterinarian for a comprehensive checkup and immunizations (which, of course, will need the cat trusting you enough to be placed in a crate for the journey), as well as to have her spayed or neutered, as appropriate. Taking this step may take several tries, but it is vitally necessary for your health and safety, as well as the health and safety of your new kitten.

Cat trees and towers, scratching posts, and hiding and sleeping spots should all be included in the design of your cat’s new living space.

The good news is that even cats that have spent their whole lives in the outdoors are usually able to comprehend the notion rather quickly.

In due course, your new cat should forget about their days on the streets and be glad to rest and play at home with their new family, rather than on the streets themselves.

How Is a Feral Cat Different from a Stray Cat?

The most significant distinction between stray cats and feral cats comes down to the degree to which they have been socialized with humans. A stray cat has been abandoned by or separated from its owners; although they may currently be living on the streets on their own, they are accustomed to associating with humans because they formerly lived in a household. While feral cats are similar in appearance to stray cats in that they too live outside on their own, the primary distinction is that they have never been socialized with humans and are thus most likely the offspring of other stray or feral cats.

Feral cats can become wild and unapproachable as a result of their lack of human socialization. When people are around, feral and stray cats often act in a different manner. Cats that roam free:

  • Humans should be avoided at all costs. When in the presence of people, they might look afraid or timid. Will most likely adopt a defensive posture, keeping his or her feet close to the earth and crouching
  • When in the presence of humans, cats frequently make little or no eye contact, purr, or meow.

Cats on the loose:

  • Cats on the run:

Stray cats and feral cats can live alone or as part of a colony, and they will hunt or take food from anywhere they can find it – whether it’s from garbage cans or the outdoor feeding station you set up for your pet to eat from.

Can a Feral Cat Become a House Pet?

You might be able to tame or domesticate a wild kitten if you try hard enough. However, taming a wild cat is not typically suggested, and it is almost always impossible to tame an adult cat. Feral cats aren’t accustomed to being around people, and they’re unlikely to become as docile and sociable as a domesticated cat in the future. Despite the fact that a feral cat is unlikely to want to live in your home, cats may gradually get the confidence to sleep in a less-constricting location such as a garage, shed, or utility room that has easy access – as long as there are no people present.

Do Feral Cats Pose Health Risks to You or Your Pets?

Because wild cats and people do not come into physical contact very regularly, it is difficult for humans to get illnesses from them. However, because wild cats can carry illnesses, worms, and fleas, it is likely that they will infect your domesticated pets and spread the ailment to them. Make sure you are aware of the fact that, in the case of an existing cat or dog, the presence of a feral cat may bring additional problems. A wild cat that comes to your door on a daily basis may be offended by your pet, and a feral cat may not accept them and may act violently.

How Can You Help Feral Cats?

The first step is to notify your local cat protection organization or wild cat rescue shelter about the situation. They’ll provide advise and, more than likely, will participate in an official “catch, neuter, return” (TNR) campaign. Specialists in trapping and neutering will catch the cat using a baited cage. After that, they’ll sedate the cat and check it for a microchip, evaluate it for ailments, and treat it for worms and fleas if it has any. They will also spay or neuter the animal in order to prevent the animal from contributing to the local feral population.

Finally, if the cat’s fur is matted or heavily infected with parasites, it may be necessary to shave them.

While attempting to tame a wild cat is not a smart idea, there are plenty of cats in shelters and rescues that are in need of a warm, loving home, especially senior cats who are more likely to get along with other pets you currently have in your household.

Can Feral Cats Be Domesticated? [Taming vs. Helping Feral Cats]

“Adopt, don’t shop,” as the saying goes, is a common refrain among cat enthusiasts. While all homeless cats deserve to be adopted into a loving home, feral cats are an exception since they have never lived with humans and are thus fearful of us. Despite the fact that animal rescuers sometimes disagree, the majority of vets feel that wild cats cannot be tamed. If a wild cat is to have any hope of becoming housebroken, it must be very young. Feral cats above the age of five are entirely feral. If you try domestication, it will be a time-consuming and exhausting process with no assurance of success in the end.

It is not necessary to adopt a feral cat in order to enhance the quality of its existence. Consider implementing a “Trap, Neuter, Return” (TNR) strategy. You can continue to offer food and shelter to feral cats on your land, but you must be mindful of the dangers that may arise as a result.

What Is A Feral Cat?

A feral cat is a cat that does not have human company. There are an estimated 100 million feral cats in the United States alone, according to some estimates. These cats live in colonies and have a high reproductive rate. If you have a homeless cat that comes to your door on a daily basis, it will be tempting to take it in. Before you do so, be certain that the cat is not a feral cat but rather a stray. Wild cats, on the other hand, will have a far more difficult time reintegrating into domestic life.

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Differences Between Feral and Stray Cats

Stray cats are domesticated pets that have become homeless, either temporarily or permanently, due to a variety of circumstances. Due to the fact that feral cats are wild creatures, the cat’s behavior will be dictated by its natural survival instincts. The following characteristics distinguish stray cats from feral cats:

Feral Cats Stray Cats
Avoid all human contact Will approach humans for food or petting
Live in groups and colonies Sleep, live, and wander alone
Move silently and stealthily Walk tall with a prominent tail
Never verbalize unless scared or angered Will meow to ask for food or attention
Well-groomed, sleek fur Dirty or disheveled coat
Primarily nocturnal Wandering around by daylight
Ignore toys or food Investigate toys or food

Feral cats may also have a clipped ear tip, which indicates that the cat has been trapped, neutered, and then released back into the wild at some point in the past. Feral cats reproduce prolifically, and TNR is an attempt to keep the population under control. According to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, feral kittens have a life expectancy of fewer than 6 months in most cases. They are at risk of accidents and disease if they do not have human support. A feral kitten may be tamable if caught and cared for at an early stage in its life.

Helping vs. Domesticating Feral Cats

You may provide assistance to wild cats without having to take them into your house. Leave food out in the cold and provide cover when the weather becomes chilly. Open your garage doors and position boxes in strategic locations outdoors. However, there are hazards involved with this type of activity. Feral cats almost seldom travel by themselves. Feral cats will claim your land as their domain after they have discovered that it is safe and welcome. The cat will establish its territory and call out to other wild cats to join it.

This entails catching the cat and transporting it to a veterinarian.

This may appear to be cruel, yet it is actually a compassionate gesture.

To catch a stray cat, follow these steps:

  1. Become familiar with the cat’s habits and daily schedule of activities. Purchase a huge cat trap for your home. Food should be left in the trap. When it is safe to do so, the trap should be sprung.

After the cat has been captured, it should not be taken to a shelter. The majority of cat shelters are already overcrowded, and they lack the resources to care for wild cats. Feral cats are also unsocialized, and they are more likely to be sick or unhealthy than other cats. They will also fight with other cats. As a result, many animal shelters put wild cats to death. In order to handle feral cat issues, contact your local animal control or wildlife rehabilitation organization for assistance.

Can You Tame Feral Cats?

Opinions on this matter are mixed, according to The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. When it comes to animal rescue workers, yes. When it comes to veterinarians, no. In order to have any hope of successfully taming a wild cat, it must be extremely young. The longer a cat survives on the streets, the more self-sufficient it will grow to become. Animal control officers will find it quite hard to approach feral cats that are more than a year old. If you already have pets, you should never introduce a wild cat into your house.

Aggressive and belligerent behavior is expected in feral cats. The cat may not assault your pets, but it may bring parasites and illnesses that might be harmful to them. The expertise of dealing with challenging cats will be required before attempting to domesticate a wild cat.

How To Domesticate a Feral Cat

You’ll have to capture the feral cat because it will not come to you on its own own. As a result, it should serve as a warning that the cat has no desire to become domesticated. It may take many days and numerous different approaches to capture a wild cat, as the cat may have been exposed to traps in the past. When you’re ready to bring the cat indoors, be prepared for a long and tough trip ahead of you. There will be five distinct phases in this process:

Assign Territory

Due to the fact that you cannot let a wild cat to roam freely around your home, you’ll need one place where the cat will not depart. Prepare this space by providing the cat with everything he or she will require, including hiding spots, food, and water. Feral cats are not accustomed to living indoors, and as a result, the cat may become destructive. Everything of value should be removed from the cat’s new area. The cat will mark a great deal with pee. Allow them to do this, at least for a short period of time, since it will help them feel more safe.

  • It is necessary for the cat to become used to being around humans.
  • Concentrate on your voice since cats know their owners by their tone of speech.
  • Speaking to the cat on a regular basis will foster a sense of affinity between you and the cat.
  • At this point, you should avoid becoming very emotionally connected to the cat because you are unlikely to be able to train it.

See a Vet

Feral cats can carry illnesses, be pregnant, or be infected with parasites. Inquire with your local veterinarian about whether or not they will treat stray cats. Some surgeons are adamant about not doing so because of safety concerns. Check to see if the veterinarians’ offices charge for their services, since some may deal with wildlife on a pro gratis basis. When you take your cat to the veterinarian, the veterinarian will examine the cat to determine whether it is:

  • Because the cat might be a long-lost stray, it should be microchipped. Pregnant
  • Infected with an infectious illness
  • Or otherwise vulnerable Insufficiently hydrated or malnourished Having fleas, mites, or ticks on one’s body

Blood and urine samples will be collected, and the veterinarian will most likely do x-rays to determine whether any broken bones have occurred. This is why it’s crucial to find out if the surgery charges for their services before bringing in a wild cat because pet insurance will not cover feral cats. If the cat hasn’t been spayed or neutered yet, this is an absolute must. Feral cats are able to live by reproducing in a continuous cycle. A wild cat in heat will yowl in the middle of the night, becoming increasingly frantic to get away from the house.

If the wild cat is found to be healthy, you can discuss the following steps with the veterinarian. Most veterinarians will advise you to release the cat back into the wild, and if you refuse to follow their advice, a veterinarian may refuse to take the cat as a regular patient.

Build Trust with Food

Increase the bonding process by chatting to the cat and refraining from handling the animal at first. Food is the most effective technique to acquire the trust of a wild cat. Ten thousand years ago, cats came to humans seeking care because they needed regular access to food sources. It may take some time to locate cat chow that the cat will eat. Be prepared for stomach troubles because the cat’s digestive system is not accustomed to eating cat food. Feral cats subsist by consuming garbage can contents and pursuing live animals, according to the ASPCA.

Feed the cat at the same time every day, as this will help to establish a sense of trust and security in the cat.

Keep an eye on the cat when it feeds for a couple of days after that.

In addition to food, you may provide toys to keep the cat entertained, but don’t be shocked if the cat ignores the items you provide.

Litter Training

You’ll need to litter train your wild cat before long, if you want to keep him around. Again, this is going to take some time to complete. Feral cats are used to eliminating wherever they wish, generally to establish their territory’s boundaries. Because your wild cat is accustomed to eliminating outside, provide some natural elements to its litter box. Fill the litter box with dirt that smells familiar to the cat or flowers that are safe for cats. Another option is to purchase a spray from a pet store that will induce elimination.

If required, create a passage for the children by utilizing boxes or baby gates.

In the event that it becomes essential, you can try to place your cat in the tray, although this may result in scratches.

The training process might take up to 8-10 weeks, even if it is effective.

Attempt Handling

After a while, you’re going to have to deal with the wild cat on your property. If the cat continues to be frightened of you, it will never be able to adjust to life as a domesticated companion. It will spend the rest of its life terrified of everything and everyone in your home, including you. Never underestimate the difficulty of handling a cat that does not want to be picked up. When it comes to wild cats, the risk is increased since they will not back down if they feel threatened.

Feral cats are accustomed to putting up a struggle for their life. Get down on the cat’s level, but keep a safe gap between you and him. Take another step closer to the cat, paying great attention to its reaction. If the cat exhibits any of the following behaviors, leave the room:

  • Hissing or snarling
  • Collapsing in on itself Puffing the tail and body hair
  • Swiping with the claws
  • Yowling are all examples of behavior.

It might take months before a wild cat will allow even the most basic of handling techniques. Begin with gentle caressing around the back of the neck. Don’t try to touch the cat’s face unless it shows signs of enjoying the attention. The final stage in the process is to pick up the cat from its hiding place. Although your wild cat may take handling from you, this will be an exceptional circumstance. In spite of this, the cat will continue to be scared of other humans. Consider the implications of this while deciding whether or not to retain the cat.

Feral cats are notoriously difficult to domesticate and care for.

The inability to domesticate a wild cat does not imply that you have failed in any way.

Taming Feral Kittens

Version Optimized for Printing Taming kittens can take anywhere from a few days to many months, depending on their age and past exposure to humans before you rescued them, individual temperament even within a single litter, and their level of wildness or previous trauma. The process of domesticating a kitten and training it to love and trust humans is a highly pleasant one. You are saving their life while also providing a beautiful companion to a very fortunate human being! The following are the steps involved in the taming process: 1.

Handling on a regular and brief basis 3.

Direct contact with other individuals Adoption is a fifth possibility.

Initial Confinement

Kittens under the age of 8 weeks “tame up” extremely rapidly. In most cases, within a few days. Keep in mind that you are a big-scary-human to them, and that they have experienced some significant life upheavals in a short period of time. They may hiss, spit, and hit you in the face, but remember that it is only out of fear, not out of aggressiveness. All bites are considered to be serious. IF THE KITTEN HAS BEEN BITTEN, SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION AND QUARANTINE IT. It is possible to handle at 8-12 weeks of age, but it will take a bit longer.

  1. The fact that it was being fed at a wild feeding station means that it has already learnt that people + food = good for it.
  2. The kitten will catch up on Mama’s worry and will take longer to trust you if you do not do so.
  3. There are many trusting feral moms who know that humans would bring them food, but who do not appear to be tame, who give birth to lovely kittens who are simple to tame despite their wild nature.
  4. Kittens may normally be tested when they weigh around 2 pounds or are 8 weeks old.
  5. Most likely, the kittens are healthy, but you should not put your own pets or other fosters at risk by caring for them.
  6. Prepare the new “house” by putting a litter box, food, drink, and bedding inside it.
  7. Keep them away from other pets and children until they have had time to acclimate to their new environment.
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Keep in mind that an experienced rescuer will not normally wait two days and will usually retain the kitten overnight while de-fleaing and de-worming it the next morning after allowing it to settle for a couple of hours.

It is dependent on the rescuer’s previous expertise as well as the kitten’s age and temperament (s).

Slowly and boldly make your way forward.

Food, water, and bedding should all be provided for the animal in the cage or carrier.

If you don’t have a cage or your carrier is too tiny to accommodate a litter pan, you can place the kittens in a small room, such as a bathroom, while the carrier is being transported.

Having fuzzy bedding and a cat bed with a lip are very appealing to young kittens.

You do not want them to be able to see you or be easily reached when you are ready to deal with them, therefore do not offer them a box with only one aperture in which they may hide.


After 2 days, choose the kitten who is the least aggressive and take it up with a towel over it or leather gloves on your hands (welding gloves are good because they are long). If at all possible, avoid approaching from the front since a hand going towards them and reaching above their heads might be terrifying, causing them to hiss or bite. If the kitten stays quiet, hold it securely by the nape of the neck while placing a towel on your lap and placing the cat on the towel on top of the towel.

  • The images below show what I mean.) Gently stroke the kitten’s head and speak in a quiet and gentle manner to the cat.
  • Make this first physical touch as brief as you possibly can.
  • It will aid the kitten in learning to transfer its desire for parental affection to you by imitating the motion of a mother grooming her kittens while caressing and patting it.
  • The use of Advantage or Frontline (following the manufacturer’s directions) is recommended for kittens older than 6 weeks of age.
  • You must do this if the child is younger than 6 weeks old since they are too young to get topical therapy.
  • Using a flea comb to comb through the hair might also aid in the bonding process.
  • You can moisten your fingers to provide a more realistic experience for the baby kitten for the best possible result!
  • Using “kitty tease” toys (a small piece of cloth tied to a string that is tied to a small stick), wand toys, or lightweight cat toys, engage in playful interaction with the kittens.
  • It is important not to leave string alone with the kittens because they may swallow it, which could be fatal to them.
  • Advanced Bundle Mode: He is wrapped in a flannel pillow case with only his head peeking out so that he cannot wiggle, and a hair clip is secured around his neck to keep him from wriggling.

Because he is unable to wiggle his legs out and make a break for it, you have complete command of the situation. Robe snuggle mode, courtesy of Pamela

Bathroom confinement

With young kittens, you should notice significant development within a week, and they may then be put into a bathroom. Cats who are older may require more time in the cage or carrier. It is normal for each kitten to develop at a distinct rate. What is the purpose of a bathroom? There are very few hiding spots. In most restrooms, the only place to hide is beneath the toilet, which is still easily accessible to you, the “cat tamer,” even if it is out of sight and out of mind. Bedrooms, offices, and laundry rooms all contain far too many hiding places for a cat, and attempting to chase or pull them out recreates the terrifying human environment they are trying to avoid.

  • Identify any openings beneath your bathroom vanity that should be sealed off.
  • Even a hole with a diameter of 2′′ might be fatal to a cat.
  • Keep the toilet seats in the down position at all times when using the toilet.
  • If there is one kitten who is not taming, it should be placed in a separate cage in a different room, away from the other cats.
  • It will also inhibit the transmission of wildness to the next generation of littermates.
  • If the kittens come up to you and get on your lap, rather than running away and hiding, they are ready to go to a larger enclosure or den.
  • Eliminate clutter, and keep an eye out for mini-blinds and their wires, lightweight breakables (vases, lamps, and so on), drapes (which are excellent for climbing!) and other items you don’t want the kitten(s) to get their hands on.


Encourage family and friends to handle the kittens as much as possible once they have stopped biting and scratching. It is critical that kids mingle with other people and learn that all humans are willing to show affection and care to one another. Feral cats have a tendency to form strong bonds with a single human, making it easier for them to adjust to a new household if they are socialized with other humans before being adopted.

Helping Stray and Feral Cats: What You Should Know

The mysterious felines we occasionally see peeking out from under our porches or darting into abandoned buildings go by many names. Feral cats, wild cats, stray cats, stray cats – we have many names for the mysterious felines we occasionally see peeking out from under our porches or darting into abandoned buildings. Despite this, the majority of them share a same fate: short, harsh lives.

Fortunately, assisting stray or abandoned cats is not a tough task to complete. WebMD turned to the experts in feline health and behavior for advice on how to make a difference in the lives of our feline companions that are on the verge of extinction. Here are their recommendations.

How the Problem of Feral Cats Multiplies

To begin, what exactly is a wild cat? ASPCA senior director of epidemiology and animal health services Margaret R. Slater (DVM, PhD) defines a feral cat as “any cat that is too poorly socialized to be handled and who cannot be placed into a typical pet home.” Feral cats are defined as “any cat that is too poorly socialized to be handled and who cannot be placed into a typical pet home.” There are between 60 million and 100 million feral cats in the United States, according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

They are often the offspring of cats who have been lost or abandoned by their owners, and they are raised in an environment where they are not acclimated with people.

A single mother cat and her kittens have the potential to create 420,000 more cats in seven years.

Wild in the Streets: The Life and Health of Stray and Feral Cats

Feral cats frequently dwell in vacant lots, dodge automobiles, and feed from garbage cans; they are susceptible to infection and disease; they are subjected to an ongoing cycle of pregnancy; and they are subjected to extremes in both treatment and weather. The life of a feral, stray, or abandoned cat is very brief, lasting only two or three years at the most in certain instances. In addition to causing problems on the human side, feral cats also bring problems to the human side, including loud fights, foul smells, peeing to indicate territory (also known as “spraying” or “marking”), flea infestations, and the inevitable mating that results in even more undesirable cats.


In order to reduce the number of unwanted cats, trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs capture and neuter or spay the cats before returning them to their natural environment. Known as trap-neuter-spay-return or trap-neuter-vaccinate-return, these techniques are authorized by both the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States. Cats who are stray or feral are “humanely captured, checked, vaccinated, and surgically sterilized by veterinarians,” according to the website of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

According to proponents, the following are the benefits:

  • Benefits for wild cats are numerous. Neutered cats are more likely to gain weight and have fewer health issues, such as breast, testicular, and uterine cancer, than unneutered cats. Spaying also helps to lessen the dangers associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Fewer females in heat also implies fewer tom cats drawn to a region, and hence fewer potentially dangerous cat fights
  • Benefits for humans Feral cats should be spayed or neutered in order to maintain population control. Fighting and marking behaviors are also decreased, although other benefits like as rodent control continue to be realized. In the end, less cat misery translates into less human suffering as a result of cats that are dying or are harmed.

Feral cats get the benefits of this program. Neutered cats are more likely to gain weight and have fewer health issues, such as breast, testicular, and uterine cancer, than unneutered cats do. Spaying also helps to lessen the hazards associated with pregnancy, which are discussed more below. More females in heat also implies fewer toms attracted to a region, and hence fewer potentially dangerous cat fights; benefits for humans Cat population management is achieved by spaying and neutering feral cats.

Fighting and marking behaviors are also decreased, but other benefits such as rodent control continue to be enjoyed by the community. In the end, less cat misery translates into less human suffering as a result of cats that are dying or are in distress.

The Problem With Relocation and Eradication

Some individuals advocate for moving or “putting down” wild cats rather than trapping and capturing them. In spite of the fact that relocation appears to be a compassionate option, it is ultimately useless owing to the “vacuum effect.” Feral cats congregate in areas where there are many resources, such as food, water, and shelter. When a feral cat colony is relocated (or eliminated), a new flock of feral cats will quickly discover the same resources and come in to “fill the vacuum” left by the removal.

A displaced cat may attempt to find its way back home, resulting in an accident or death along the way.

It is possible that the relocation region already has a colony established, or that it lacks food, water, and shelter.


The majority of the population is also opposed to eradication efforts. The TNR initiative will garner “time, money, and resources,” according to Slater, author of Community Approaches to Feral Cats (Community Approaches to Feral Cats). In the instance of cat capturing and euthanasia, “you’re not going to have a lot of volunteers to do it,” says the author. TNR, she believes, may also be used as a teaching tool. People are prompted to consider how we can prevent cats from ending up on the streets and how we can control cat populations, according to the author.

Why Feral Cat Adoption Is Not an Option

Many specialists believe that wild adult cats are just incapable of being domesticated. They are wild creatures, such as raccoons, and must be protected. They have a tendency to avoid humans, to hide throughout the day, and, once adopted, can be extremely difficult to socialize with. Just like you would never try to pick up a raccoon, you should never try to pick up a wild cat. It is extremely dangerous. Inquire with your local humane society or other animal welfare organization for assistance.

Nonetheless, wild kittens, particularly those under the age of eight weeks, may frequently be successfully socialized.

How do you tell the difference between a stray and a wild cat?

Slater, on the other hand, is of the opinion that TNR is the most humanitarian and successful long-term approach.

We are not referring to the practice of neutering cats and then discarding them. The controlled colonies that we’re referring to are those in which a human is in charge of feeding the cats, caring for them, giving them with health care, and providing them with housing.”

5 Ways You Can Help Stray and Feral Cats

There are several ways to assist stray and feral cats, ranging from little to large. Here are a few examples, starting with one that you can accomplish at home:

  • Don’t add to the situation by doing so. Cats should be spayed or neutered on their own, says Linda P. Case, MS, author of Canine and Feline Behavior and Training: A Complete Guide to Understanding Our Two Best Friends. “It goes without saying that you should spay or neuter your own cats,” she adds. She also recommends that you keep your cat indoors – not just for their protection, but also to prevent them from becoming separated from you and becoming a member of a feral colony
  • Wild cats should not be fed and ignored. Feral and stray cats should be fed generously, but they also require medical attention. If you are unable to provide continuing care, Case recommends that you “at the absolute least” get the cat neutered. Demonstrate your affection with money. A small sum of money may go a long way toward assisting a cat in need. Spay/neuter procedures may be performed for as low as $17 per cat at shelters, thus a single $20 gift can make a significant difference in the life of a wild feline. Contact your local Humane Society to see whether they have a TNR program
  • If they don’t, they’ll be able to refer you to someone who does. You can also make a financial contribution to animal welfare organizations through your estate or will, or you can contribute your time. TNR and related programs are frequently sponsored by nonprofit groups that rely on volunteers to carry out their missions. If you are unable to assist in a clinical setting, you may still get active at the community level by contacting local vets and companies, sending letters, raising funds, or staffing a booth at a community event
  • You can even volunteer as a colony caregiver if you are able. “Cats may live to be 12 to 16 years old if they are in a well-managed colony,” adds Slater. Even studies of 100,000 controlled feral cats in TNR programs indicated that the vast majority of them were in good condition, she says. If you believe you will be able to offer continuing shelter, food, and health care to a colony of feral cats, contact your local Humane Society, veterinary hospital, or other animal welfare organization to learn more about how to become involved. First and foremost, realize that taking up the task of colony maintenance is a significant undertaking. The colony will become reliant on you, much as a pet cat would become reliant on its owner. If you have to travel or relocate, it is critical that you find someone to care for your cats while you are away.
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“Part of being a citizen of a civilized community is having a responsibility to care for individuals who are weak, sick, or helpless,” Slater explains. “Our obligation extends to our domestic animals, which we snatched from the wild and domesticated to the point that they rely on us.”

Feral and Stray Cats—An Important Difference

  • “Community cat” is an umbrella phrase that refers to any member of the Felis catus species who is not owned and who lives in an open area without protection. Feral cats and stray cats are both considered community cats. Cats in the community exhibit a wide range of behaviors and levels of sociability, depending on their environment. See our thorough Cat Socialization Continuumguide for more information. If you pay attention to your cat’s behavior, particularly their body language, you can tell how socialized he or she is. When you understand a cat’s degree of socialization, you may make decisions that are in their best interests. No matter what their degree of socialization, trap-neuter-return (TNR) helps to safeguard and improve the lives of all community cats.

They are all domestic cats; they are all members of the same species, which is the feral cat or the stray cat. However, stray cats and feral cats differ from one another in a very significant way, and this difference is in their connection to and interactions with humans, among other things. It doesn’t matter whether you work in a shelter, are a veterinarian, are a cat advocate, or simply live in a neighborhood where there are community cats; knowing how to distinguish between the two can help you decide how to interact with a cat and what, if any, intervention would be in the cat’s best interests.

  • What is socializing and how does it work? In what ways are stray cats and feral cats different from one another
  • What is the significance of this
  • When the cats are outside, how can I determine the difference between them? How can I determine the difference between feral and stray cats once I have captured them? What should I do now?

What is socialization?

“Socialized” refers to a cat who is accustomed to and appreciates being in the company of other animals or people. To socialize a cat is to adapt her to human touch, human environments, and human sights, scents, and noises, among other things. It’s a lengthy process that is impacted by a variety of events in a cat’s existence and need the dedication of caring individuals. Early interactions with people, such as being held, spoken to, and played with, help kittens to socialize and develop their personalities.

What is the difference between a stray cat and a feral cat?

Cats that are kept as pets or stray cats are socialized with people. Feral cats have not been socialized with humans. While they are socialized to and attached to their feline family members, they do not have the same attachment with humans as they have with other felines.

Community Cats

Community cat is a general word that refers to any member of theFelis catusspecies who is not owned and who lives in the wild with other felines. Cats that are wild or stray are considered communal cats. Community cats exhibit a wide range of behaviors and levels of socialization, but they do not want to live inside and are therefore unadoptable in the majority of cases.


  • An indoor cat who has been socialized to people at some time in her life, but who has left or lost her home, or who was abandoned, and who no longer has regular human interaction is referred to as a stray cat. As her contact with humans diminishes, a stray cat may develop the characteristics of a feral cat. It is possible that an unsocialized stray cat will grow less socialized—or perhaps feral—if she is left alone for an extended period of time without good interaction with humans
  • However, this is not always the case. It is possible for a stray cat to reclaim its status as a household pet under the correct circumstances. It may take some time for stray cats that have been living outdoors to re-acclimate to their new indoor environment
  • They may be fearful and distrustful after having spent time away from people in the wild.


  • Cats that live in the wild are known as feral cats. They are unsocialized outdoor cats who have either never had physical contact with humans or whose physical contact with humans has lessened over time to the point that she is no longer acclimated to it. The majority of wild cats are scared of people and are unlikely to ever become lap cats or to appreciate living in an enclosed space. The adoption of kittens born to wild cats into indoor households is possible if they are socialized at a young age. Alley Cat Allies does not, in general, encourage attempting to socialize a feral kitten that is more than 4 months old. Socialization takes time and effort, especially for older kittens, and there is no assurance that the outcomes will be positive. Learn more about socializing kittens by reading this article.

Why does it matter?

  • Understanding the many levels of socialization that cats may demonstrate can assist you in determining the most effective strategy to care for, assist, and protect them. For more information, please see our guide, “The Cat Socialization Continuum: A Guide to Interactions Between Cats and Humans.” Cats that have been abandoned by their owners can learn to live with people and may become suitable candidates for adoption into indoor homes if they are given the opportunity to foster and adopt them. Identifying the difference between stray and feral cats may be challenging, especially when the cats are imprisoned or afraid. The need for time to relax and demonstrate their degree of socialization is common among scared stray cats. Adult feral cats have not been socialized with humans, and as a result, they are unable to be accepted into indoor households. The upshot is that animals collected by animal control or placed in shelters are more likely to be killed than if they are allowed to continue living outside. Trap-Neuter-Return saves the lives of feral cats and is beneficial to all community cats, regardless of their level of socialization. Cats that are part of TNR programs are humanely captured, scanned for microchips, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped, and microchipped (if they do not already have one) as part of the program’s procedures. If stray cats are in good health and do not have microchips indicating that they are lost, they can be returned to their outside habitat or fostered and adopted.

How do I tell the difference when the cats are outdoors?

The following principles should be followed while observing cats on their own in the wild because it is impossible to evaluate each cat’s socialization after a stressful event such as capturing. The Socialization Continuum exhibits a great deal of variety, as previously stated. Cats may or may not fall neatly into either the socialized-stray or the unsocialized-feral classifications. Learn about the various variants that are conceivable by consulting ourSocialization Continuumguide.

Socialization to Humans

Stray: It may approach people, houses, porches, or automobiles, among other things.

Feral: Will not approach and will most likely seek cover in order to escape being approached by people.

Socialization to Other Cats

Stray:Will most likely live alone and not as a member of a group. Feral: Could be a member of a colony.

Body Language

Strolling and moving like a house cat, such as walking with the tail up—a sign of friendliness—can be observed in stray cats. Will most likely stare at you, blink, or establish direct eye contact with you. Feral: Can crawl, crouch, keep low to the ground, and use its tail to defend its body from predators. It’s unlikely that you’ll establish eye contact.


It is possible that the stray will be vocal, meow, or “respond” your voice Feral: Won’t meow, beg, or purr unless forced to.


Stray:Will be most obvious throughout the midday hours of the day. Feral: Most likely to be active at night, although may also be seen during the day.

Physical Appearance

Stray: He or she will most likely be unclean or untidy, and he or she will not have an eartip. Feral:Will most likely have a clean, well-kept coat on display. A male with a large head and thick neck, a strong physique, and/or scars from fighting is more likely to be feral, because they are characteristics associated with intact males, such as large heads and thick necks (and only 2 percent of feral cats are neutered in the U.S.) As a result of elevated testosterone levels and less time spent grooming, he may also develop a “stud tail,” which is characterized by hair loss, greasiness, or lumps at the base of the tail as a result of hormonal changes.

If neutered as part of a TNR program, he or she will almost certainly have an eartip.

Pregnancy, Nursing, Kittens

Because only 2 percent of feral cats in the United States are neutered, a female who is pregnant or breastfeeding is more likely to be feral than other females. Please keep in mind that a cat’s level of socialization and behavior is not always black and white, especially in the case of community cats who recognize their carer. They may display signals of familiarity, such as raising their tails or loitering on a caregiver’s porch, but these behaviors are generally restricted to the cat’s connection with the caregiver and only occur after a period of time has elapsed since the beginning of the relationship.

How do I tell feral and stray cats apart once I have trapped them?

When placed in a dangerous or stressful setting, such as a trap or a shelter, a loving stray cat may behave as if it were a feral cat, avoiding humans and maybe even exhibiting aggressiveness to avoid being touched to prevent being trapped. Who can blame them, after all? The cat has arrived in a strange and unfamiliar environment. In the event that a feral cat or a fearful stray cat is present, or if they are in a new environment, the following methods will assist you in distinguishing them.

Touch Barrier

The cat may gradually allow you to touch her, or she may tolerate a tiny bit of contact with an object at first. Feral: Cannot be touched by anybody, not even a carer, since they are feral.

Cage Behavior

Stray: It is possible that the stray may come to the front of the cage. It is possible that it will finally rub against the cage in a pleasant manner.

Feral:Will most likely remain in the rear of the cage, retreating as far back as possible from the other animals. If shocked or scared, the animal may shake, rattle, or climb the cage, and it may become harmed if it bangs its head on the cage bars.

Level of Relaxation

Stray: It is possible that it will become less stray over time. Feral: Will continue to be uptight and unsociable.


Stray: The animal may examine toys or food that has been put near the cage. Cats may respond to sounds in the home, such as the opening of cat food cans or bags. Feral cats, on the other hand, will likely disregard all humans, toys, and food, and may even refuse to eat. Will not demonstrate any acquaintance with or interest in everyday sounds.

Fear and Anxiety

To express worry, the stray may hiss or snarl. When frightened or trapped, a feral cat will strike out and lash out hard (signs of aggression include ears back and eyes dilated).

What do I do next?

Make certain that you have all of the information necessary to make an accurate assessment. Following a thorough evaluation of a cat in which you feel confident in your understanding of the cat’s level of socialization, the next step is to have the cat neutered. Utilize your findings to determine what is in the cat’s best interests, which may involve the following actions:

  • Bringing the cats from the community back to their outdoor habitat
  • Increasing the likelihood of a frightened stray being adopted
  • Finding a nice adoption home for well-socialized cats
  • Kittens being socialized in preparation for adoption

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