How to tame a feral cat – Part 1

Many cat lovers have found they enjoy working with feral cats, those “wild” creatures that can be found living in colonies near restaurants and other food supplies. Feral simply means born in the wild – it doesn’t necessarily mean that the animal is actually “wild” or aggressive.

Feral colonies are common, unfortunately, since they grow through constant interbreeding. But concerned pet lovers have found that a steady program of capturing, spaying/neutering, and releasing the ferals – or, ideally, finding homes for those that can be tamed – has helped to greatly reduce the feral cat population.

But how does one go about “taming” a feral cat?

It helps to start with a young cat. Kittens under four months of age are the best candidates for socialization. With rare exceptions, adult ferals usually cannot be trained to trust humans. The best we can do is usually to have them spayed or neutered and given to good homes as barn cats or released into managed feral colonies where they can get regular food and veterinary care if it’s needed.

Feral kittens, on the other hand, are good candidates for taming if the “foster parent” is willing to be patient and work with them. I had a cat companion who started life as a feral kitten living in a drainage ditch near a Wendy’s restaurant with her mom and brother. Merry grew into a perfectly socialized house cat who got along with me and my roommate, as well as other cats and even dogs.

Usually a local cat rescue group will humanely trap the animal and take her to a veterinarian to be spayed (or if it’s a male, neutered). You, the new guardian, would most likely pick your new kitten up at the vet a day or so later and bring her home. The best situation for both of you would be if you could isolate the kitten in a spare room or bathroom in your home for a day or two with a good supply of food, fresh water, and a litter box.

There are two other items I would recommend you place in the “isolation room.” One is a radio tuned to a talk radio station with the volume set fairly low, so that the kitten can get used to the sound of human voices. The other is an item of your clothing or bedding, like a t-shirt that you have worn or a pillowcase you’ve slept on. Put it near the kitten’s carrier or in her bed so that she can get used to your scent.

My advice would be to put the kitten’s carrier in the isolation room with its door open and simply leave her be. Her first few hours will be very frightening for her, and the

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