Can a Feral Cat Be Domesticated? Read Before You Bring One Home

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For animal lovers, it can be difficult to walk or drive down the street and spot homeless cats roaming around. In some areas, entire cat populations live on their own from birth. These cats, born without a home, are known as feral cats. These cats have never had a cuddly bed or doting owners. When you see these cats wandering around your neighborhood or street, you may ask yourself if it’s possible to tame a stray cat.

Unfortunately, the answer to that question is a little difficult. Some experts may argue that it is impossible to tame an adult stray cat and should only be attempted with kittens. But you’ll hear from people who claim they’ve done it. Is a domesticated cat really a wild cat, or was it an abandoned cat that needed a little taming? What’s the difference? That’s what we’re here to learn. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly a stray cat is and whether it can be tamed.

What is a feral cat?

Not all cats that run when you approach are stray cats. Unfortunately, there are many cruel people in this world who do heartless things. Often it is the animals who suffer at the hands of these kinds of humans. You may see cats roaming around looking for food, but they are not really stray cats. In some cases, these cats may become abandoned or lost. These cats may be scared of you thanks to the situation they find themselves in, but that doesn’t mean they’re truly wild.

As already mentioned, true feral cats are born in the wild and have never been domesticated. Abandoned or lost cats have at some point become domesticated and, in some cases, even loved. True feral cats have no interaction with humans. They know nothing more than a fight for survival and are not very willing to change their outlook.

Stray cat surrounded by fallen leaves
Image credit: Shino, Unsplash

Can stray cats be tamed?

If you think about it, the ancestors of those lazy cats lying on the couch were wild. They weren’t always pets. So how did these cats get to humans? They were tame. Knowing this, open-minded people will want to try their hand at getting rid of stray cats. At least you know the likely outcome even if you don’t try. It is this desire to help that raises the question of whether stray cats can be tamed. Unfortunately, not all stray cats can be tamed. However, this does not mean that there are no people who can be saved. After all, you’ll never know unless you try, especially with adult cats.

One of the biggest reasons for the large number of feral cats is uncontrolled breeding. Stray cats do not have owners who will spay or neuter them. Instead, when a female cat goes into heat, all nearby male cats will start chasing her. Many experts and organizations may tell people to stay away from adult feral cats, but they seem comfortable telling people that feral kittens can be tamed. Of course, the younger the kitten, the better. It’s great to rescue stray cats from the streets. However, it won’t come back to life in your house right away, so you need to be prepared. Even though they are young, they are still new to human relationships, so it will take some time for them to get used to them.

Gray cat near the toilet indoors
Image credits: New Africa, Shutterstock

Tips for taming a stray cat

If you want to persuade your neighbor’s beautiful stray cat to be your friend without being too cautious, there are a few things you can try. We humans have some tricks. One of those tricks is what all stray cats want: food. A stray cat’s life consists solely of searching for food, shelter, and safety. If you offer them a little food, they may find it difficult to refuse a simple meal. Don’t think this means they’ll jump on your lap. Food should be prepared so that it is visible to the cat every day. That way they can associate you with something good. At first, give your cat enough space to enjoy his meal and don’t approach him. However, every few days it will inch closer and eventually the feral cat will be able to invade the space.

Once you consistently like the cat in question, the next step is to pet the cat. This is often the place that causes the most fear. Stray cats have never felt love or human touch. It’s natural for them to be scared. Slowly and let them sniff your hands with pleasure. Allowing your cat to touch you and then running off may mean starting the process all over again. Persistence is key. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work, but if you’re determined, it’s worth a try.

If your cat finally comes and you allow him near your house, never try to let him inside. Before attempting to share living space with a stray, feral, or strange cat, you should seek veterinary care. Finally, even if you are successful and your cat receives a clean bill of health, just because you brought it into your home does not mean it is tame. Yes, cats will be safer, but there will always be a little bit of wildness in cats. They may be friendly towards you and avoid others. Kittens may spend most of their time hiding. If you decide that a stray cat is the right friend for you, be prepared for all scenarios.

Hungry stray cat eating at outdoor feeding area
Image credit: Joseph M. Arseneau, Shutterstock

what you can do

Domesticating stray cats can be haphazard and sometimes dangerous, so you may want to find other ways to help them. Some cats simply cannot be domesticated. If you find yourself in this situation, your only option is to give the kittens a little help. This may include food, shelter set up in the area to protect them from the cold, or contact with trapping and release groups. These are programs that trap stray cats, spay/neuter them, and release them back into the areas they frequent.

Although this does not give the cats proper homes, it does help control the population. Unfortunately, many feral cats have a very short lifespan. These programs can help prevent your kitten from going through the same cycle and suffering a sad fate. You can also continue to support feral cats in your area by donating to these trap and release programs.

3 cat partition

final thoughts

For cat lovers, it’s hard to imagine that there are so many homeless cats. Some stray cats can be tamed, but not all stray cats can be tamed. We must remember this and try not to get discouraged. Instead of just giving up because the cat you want to help doesn’t show up, think outside the box and do something else to help your cat have a better life.


Featured image credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969, Pixabay

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