Can You Tame a Feral Cat?

Feral cats are simply felines that are considered wild due to a lack of contact with people.

Any person who has ever seen a feral cat or had a stray living near their home has probably had an idea about taming it and wondered if it is even possible to tame a feral cat.

While this is not the easiest thing in the world to do, there are a few steps that people can take to make it easier, faster, and possible.

Taking it slow is important, and following these steps will help any person get on better terms with their local stray. 

So, How Do I Tame a Feral Cat?

Here are our quick tips when looking to taming a feral cat:

  • Consider the age
  • Pay attention to their body language
  • Take enough time
  • Start slow and build contact
  • Allow the cat to feel safe
  • Provide positive reinforcement

Here’s a little more detail about each tip.

Consider the Age of the Cat

The age of a feral cat plays a huge role in whether or not it can ever be fully tamed or if it will simply become more friendly.

Generally speaking, kittens are much easier to tame than adults are, as they simply do not have years of experience of fearing humans and being on their own. 

Younger kittens who have been trapped and are between four to six weeks of age are the best age for taming.

Otherwise, people are likely to be very frustrated with the attitudes of an older cat.

Semi-feral cats, that have had interactions with people before, will be easier to tame than fully feral cats, but again, age plays a huge role in how quickly the taming process goes and whether or not a person is able to be successful. 

Pay Attention to Their Body Language

Cats are incredibly expressive and will let people know when they are dissatisfied with how they are acting.

When trying to tame a feral cat it is very easy to get overly excited and want to push the cat beyond their comfort zone, but this can backfire.

Not only can this result in the cat becoming terrified and leaving the location, but it can also cause them to lash out due to fear. 

Just like with a tame cat, feral cats will show how they are feeling by using their ears, their tails, and even their voices.

People who want to try to tame a feral cat need to read up on understanding cat body language so that they are sure they will be able to understand what the cat is trying to say to them. 

Take Enough Time

The process of taming a feral cat is not a fast one, and when people understand that and are willing to go slow, then they are much more likely to be met with success.

Even kittens, which are the easiest to tame, will take weeks.

Taming kittens can easily take between two and six weeks, but can take longer if the kitten is particularly skittish or has been on its own for a long time. 

While it is tempting to try to rush the process, attempting to push the cat beyond what it is comfortable with doing will backfire.

Additionally, since feral cats need to be interacted with regularly to see any results, people need to make sure that they have plenty of time so that they can work with the cat on a daily basis, or they will not make much progress.

Start Slow and Build Contact

While it may sound counterintuitive, one of the best ways to start taming a feral cat is to ignore it.

When there is a cat in the yard, then people can simply sit outside and allow the cat to get used to their presence.

This can take a long time, depending on the personality of the cat, but is a great way for them to get used to the presence of a person. 

After the cat has gotten used to having a person in its space, then the human can start to attempt to interact with them.

This does not mean that they will be able to pet the cat right away. Rather, it means that they can start making eye contact, leaving out treats, and speaking to the cat.

Taking it slow is the key to success. 

Allow the Cat to Feel Safe

When a feral cat doesn’t feel safe, then they are simply going to remove themselves from the situation.

For this reason, people who are trying to tame a feral cat must make sure that they have made the situation feel as safe as possible.

This is easily accomplished in a few ways.

It’s important to keep all other animals in the house.

It’s also important to avoid sudden movements or loud noises, as these can easily startle a feral cat and send them running.

By moving slowly and quietly and not trying to push the cat, people can start to interact with them while still making sure that they feel safe. 

Provide Positive Reinforcement

All animals appreciate positive reinforcement, and feral cats are no exception, although their form of positive reinforcement may look a little bit different than with other animals.

While tame cats are much more likely to want to be pet and held for long periods of time, this is not a good form of positive reinforcement for a feral cat.

Small snacks, bits of catnip, and other treats will all help to endear a person to a feral cat.

These can be placed near the person trying to tame the cat, but also far enough away so that the cat feels safe enough to come up and take their new treat.  You can also place the catnip near a temporary home they may frequent.

This gentle positive reinforcement doesn’t push the cat too fast and allows them to decide when they want more contact. 

It’s not that feral cats are all mean – they are simply unsocialized and have never spent enough, or any, time with people.

Some feral cats are actually semi-feral, which means that they have been around people in the past and will feel more comfortable looking at them and interacting with them.

Being patient, setting realistic goals, and not trying to push the cat beyond its comfort zone are all key to trying to tame a feral cat.