Who are Feral cats?
Who are feral cats? A feral cat is literally a wild cat that is afraid of humans. A feral cat can also be an adult house cat that has been abandoned by its owner for a variety of reasons.
Many lost cats become feral cats when they cannot find their way home.
The life of a feral cat is filled with many scary moments, it is a true fight-for-life experience for any cat.
Finding a food source is a primary occupation for a feral cat along with finding a relatively safe place to stay.
In many areas there are large colonies of feral cats that people try to take care of. A colony is usually started when one female cat has a litter and then that litter has several litters and the numbers just keep growing.
I am not going to talk about the plight of feral cat colonies (though the subject is dear to my heart.) In this article I am going to going to help you befriend that stray, that is beginning to tug at your heartstrings.
When dealing with a stray feral cat the first thing you must have is PATIENCE. I cannot stress the importance of patience.
You must remember first of all if the stray was once a house cat with human parents and it became abandoned or lost, its feelings for humans have moved way down on the list of things to befriend.
If the cat is one of a litter of feral cats, you must remember that mommy taught that cat as a kitten to be very wary of humans. The mantra in feral colonies is “Most Humans Mean Trouble.”
With that understanding in mind the next step is to establish the beginnings of a relationship. This of course depends on where this cat is hanging out.
If the cat is staying around your house you have a pretty good chance of establishing a permanent connection.
If it is near your building at work, it will take a lot longer and in truth you may never establish enough trust to take the next step.
Wherever the location, in my mind it is really worth the effort to try.
Trying to befriend a feral or stray cat at the work place is going to be a labor of undying love on your part.
It will require you to bring food every day and possibly to spend your break times and lunch hours talking and coaxing the cat into accepting you.
Patience is the answer, along with time and it will take a great deal of time if the cat is a true feral.
An abandoned stray may be easier to befriend, as it did once have human parents and lost them for whatever reason.
If you are truly committed and are willing to be patient you should be successful.
As soon as you have built a relationship it is time to think about how you are going to take your furry friend home.
Before you even attempt to take the animal home you must have had the opportunity to pet, touch and possibly hold the cat.
Trying to take a cat home that you haven’t built a touching relationship with is risky business.
You have to remember that these cats are scared and very fearful and without a touching relationship you could be seriously hurt.
Even with a touching relationship, we suggest you lure the cat into a carrier with treats or food, rather than trying to handle it.
The next obstacle if you have pets at home is the new cat needs to see the vet, before it enters your household.
There is a definite need to be certain that the cat is healthy.
This can be a “real fun” chore.
Picture this: a scared to death cat in a carrier it has never been in before, going in a car to see a vet that is probably going to try and examine it.
I never have had this experience and the thought occurs to me that I wouldn’t relish it.
Once all of the above has been accomplished and your nerves are back to normal, the next thing is going to be building the relationship all over again at home.
Prior to bringing the cat home, hopefully you have made arrangements within the household. You will need a quiet room where kitty can get its nerves back in order.
It is a good idea to have food, water and a litter box already in the room.
Be certain that you have removed any safety hazards like electric cords, things that can be knocked over, keep the windows closed and make certain kitty has some hiding places.
A radio playing soft music might be a good touch and a calming influence.
Leave kitty alone for at least 12 or more hours.
Then go into the room only to leave food and clean the litter box for the next couple of days. You can talk softly to the cat, but make no effort to touch or go near it. If the cat is hiding let it be.
Leave an article of clothing that you have worn on the floor or near where the cat is hiding. Cats are very scent sensitive and this will help establish a bond.
One interesting thing is, “do not look directly into the cat’s eyes,” looking into the cat’s eyes at this time will be considered an act of aggression by the cat.
Do not make any attempt to reach the cat in its hiding place. Let kitty come out to you.
I have mentioned before that it will take PATIENCE to win your cat over, but the rewards will be great once you do.
During this re-acquainting time you should consider some catnip toys for the kitty to investigate, along with a wand type toy or two that might encourage the cat to come out of hiding.
If you have other pets, do not even think of introducing them to the new kitty until your relationship is well established.
Then it is suggested that you keep a pet or child’s gate between the visitor and your pets. You may have to put 2 gates one on top of the other to prevent one or the other of the pets from climbing over.
Never leave the animals alone with each other until you are certain they have established a friendship.
Do not allow your dog near the new kitty unless it has a leash on.
Even cat friendly dogs will chase a running cat just for fun.
Scaring the cat by a fun chase is not what we are trying for at this time.
We know this seems like a tremendous amount of work, time and effort and it is.
It takes a very special caring person to devote so much of themselves, in an effort to provide a home, shelter and love to an animal that may never have known it before.
However, if that “outside by the work place cat” does not respond to you, while you are trying to make friends with it do not despair.
Some cats have been so scarred by humans that even the kindest most-gentle soul will not be able to break down the barrier.
You can only try and hope for the best.
Most of the cats that have come into our life during the last 30 years or so have been stray feral cats or kittens that have found us.
We have not had to go through the experience of trying to bring one home, as they found our home.
Our Mr. Whiskers, a black and white tuxedo, required weeks and weeks of food coaxing.
It was our belief that he was not an original feral cat, but a cat abandoned by humans.
He lived for several months in our ficus bushes and was scared of everything.
By leaving food in the bushes and standing by the bushes talking softly to him I was able to make slow progress.
At intervals I would move the food dish closer to the house one step at a time until I moved it near the back door.
Once he became used to me, he would eat in my presence and let me touch him while he was eating.
Finally I moved the dish into the house by the back door and left the door open.
The need for a meal brought him in and he slowly became our “grandpa cat” for 8 years.
During the transition time I never once made an effort to pet him to touch him except when he was eating.
I let him make the effort to come to me and eventually he even adopted my husband.
Once Mr. Whiskers became comfortable, a trip to the vet was necessary, as he was not neutered, had worms and needed to be checked over and get whatever shots our vet deemed necessary.
During that trip we found out that Mr. Whiskers was approximately 10 years old, which convinced us that he actually was an abandoned cat and not a feral cat.
He lived with us for the last 8 years of his life and became a grandpa to the additional kittens we acquired during his lifetime.
For some strange reason we started acquiring feral tuxedo cats.
Isaac was next, he too lived in our bushes (or that is where I found him) and the game began again.
This time however it was much quicker and easier because Mr. Whiskers helped in convincing Isaac that we were okay.
Then Boots arrived, a feral tuxedo kitten my brother found.
Boots is probably the most loved cat in the world, but he doesn’t know it.
We have had him for 9 years and he is as scared of everything today as he was then.
We have learned to put up with his strange ways; we give him space and accept his loving when he feels up to it.
He is totally afraid of men and only on rare occasions will he let my husband touch him.
However, on cold nights he can be found curled up next to my husband’s legs on our bed.
We have two other feral cats, which we found as kittens, that had been abandoned by their mothers.
Miss Tiger I found in our garage, her eyes were closed, but she sure could “meow.”
Smokey, a male was about 2 days old when our neighbor’s dog found him in a compost pile alone with a 3- legged litter-mate. I lost the 3-legged male, but Smokey survived.
I hand fed them and raised them into 2 beautiful cats that are now 5 and 6 years old.
For now I would just like to pass on some information I have gathered through the years in dealing with our cats and some things I have found doing research.
Food and patience is the key to winning over a feral cat.
Once the cat has become used to you hanging around during its feeding time, get down on your haunches and talk gently to the cat. Tall humans can seem very frightening, getting down to a smaller size is less scary to the cat.
If the cat you are trying to win over is hanging
around your house, try winning it over with some catnip or
If the cat is hiding in your bushes, garage or nearby,
leave an article of clothing or a towel with your scent
For whatever reason, feral cats seem afraid of men. We have tried to figure that one out and the only conclusion we can come to is that men are generally taller and their voices are deeper. Maybe you can figure it out.
Patience and more patience are what it takes to win over a feral cat, but it is worth the effort.
Remember; no matter how tame your feral cat gets, it will always have memories of days gone by.
A tame feral cat will panic when it hears loud sounds, sees strangers in the house and when it feels trapped.
Your feral cat will want to hide from anything it does not understand. so please allow it to do so.
In trying to pet a feral cat even if it is tame, pet from behind. Do not come forward with your hand as it will seem like a threat to it and panic might set in.
Once your cat seems to have adapted to its safe room and you are eager for it to become a real member of the family, start leaving the door open (only if you do not have other pets.)
Do not force the cat to come out, let it explore on its own terms. Remember patience is your motto.
However, if you have other pets do not attempt to let the cat out of the safe room until it has met and established a somewhat friendly relationship with them.
If you have a dog it is a good idea to have it on a leash or in another room with the door shut. You do not want to frighten the cat any more than it already is.
A cat friendly dog will chase a cat in fun that runs from it.
Do not let your dog chase the cat or you will have to start all over again.
Your feral cat may get along better with your other cats than it does with you, especially if it had been brought up in a colony.
Remember some hissing and growling is part of the acquainting program.
Your feral cat may never be that wonderful snuggling lap cat you were yearning for, but nine chances out of ten it will become a very good friend to you.
Remember just like humans you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.
Feral cats are the same way you may tame them and they are loving, but once in a while something will happen and their feral instinct will kick in.
Be patient and understanding and give them their necessary space.
Feral cats are not overly fond of children. They do
better in adult homes.
I hope that this article has in some small way helped your understanding of feral cats.
If you are in the process of trying to make friends with one, we wish you good luck.
If you are the proud parent of one, you know how great they can be.
For information on introducing your feral cat to your other cat click on
(Bringing Home a Second Cat)
and should you find a kitten that you would like to raise click on
(Raising Orphan Kittens and Puppies)