Last Updated on: June 20, 2023 by Crystal Uys
Feral cats are not a breed, but rather cats that have had very little to no contact with humans and have reverted to their wild instincts. Feral cats can live in all sorts of environments, ranging from rural areas to cities and suburbs. While these cats may seem unapproachable at first glance, the attitude of feral cats towards humans is not always one of instinctive fear and distrust. Feral cats can, in fact, become friendly, although it will take a lot of time, patience and understanding on the part of the caregiver to bring out the best in them.
Approaching Feral Cats
Feral cats are often wary or even terrified when approached by humans, so it is important to remember that the goal should never be to pick up a feral cat or even try to touch it. Instead, the best way to start building trust with a feral cat is by providing food and shelter. A safe place where the cat can access food and water will help her feel more comfortable in her environment, so she may eventually start to associate the presence of humans with something positive, such as food and warmth.
Once the cat is used to being around humans, it may become more comfortable with people and start to approach them for social interaction. This can be a long process depending on the individual cat’s history and temperament, but there are some things that caregivers do to help foster friendliness in feral cats. Providing regular meals and treats, petting the cat gently while speaking softly, and playing with toys all help to build trust between people and cats. The cat may never become a lap-cat or bond strongly with people, but it can certainly learn to tolerate human contact and enjoy social interaction.
Feral Cats: Indoor vs Outdoor
If you are able to form a bond with a feral cat, you may be tempted to bring it inside your home. But for some feral cats, the transition to living indoors may be too stressful, so it is important to consider both indoor and outdoor options when caring for a feral cat. Outdoor housing should provide adequate shelter from the elements and protection from predators. Some caregivers opt to build an outdoor enclosure or “catio” as a safe place for their feline friends to spend time outdoors. For cats that are comfortable enough to live indoors, it is important to provide enrichment and create a safe space for them to explore and relax.
Outdoor vs Indoor: A Complicated Decision
Ultimately, the decision of whether to keep a feral cat as an outdoor or indoor pet depends on your own personal preferences and circumstances. Outdoor cats can still provide their caregivers with companionship and entertainment while helping to reduce the local rodent population. However, there are numerous risks associated with allowing cats outdoors, including predation, exposure to harsh weather and contagious diseases. Indoor cats can be just as rewarding, but they may require extra enrichment and attention to keep them happy and engaged. It’s important to remember that feral cats may never be able to be fully domesticated, so bringing them inside, especially if you have other pets, may not be the best option.
The Best Way to Help Feral Cats
The best way to support feral cats is by providing them with food, water, shelter, and veterinary care if you can trap them. Additionally, you can try to socialize a feral cat in order to improve its quality of life. This may be a long process depending on the individual cat’s personality, but with patience and understanding it is possible for even feral cats to become friendly and enjoy human contact.
You can also help feral cats by advocating for their rights, volunteering, donating to local animal organizations that specialize in trap-neuter-release programs, or by donating your time as a foster parent. Finally, help spread the word about the plight of feral cats and educate others on how to humanely help these cats in need.
FAQ: Everything You Need to Know About Befriending Feral Cats
Q: Can I touch a feral cat?
A: While you should never try to pick up a feral cat, it is possible to slowly and gently build trust by petting the cat on its own terms. Start slowly, providing treats and eventually allowing gentle stroking while speaking softly.
Q: How long will it take to befriend a feral cat?
A: It depends on the individual cat, as some will take longer than others to become comfortable around people. However, with patience and understanding it is possible for even feral cats to build trust and learn to tolerate or even enjoy human contact.
Q: Will a feral cat make a good pet?
A: Feral cats can make wonderful pets, but they may need more patience and understanding due to their history of mistrust. It is important to remember that all cats require regular meals, proper vet care, mental stimulation and socialization in order to be happy and healthy.
Q: Are there any special considerations when taking care of a feral cat?
A: Yes, due to the history of mistrust and fear associated with feral cats they may need more patience than other cats. It is important to give the cat plenty of space and time to adjust to their environment, as this will help them feel safe and secure. Additionally, make sure that the feral cat has regular meals, proper vet care, mental stimulation and socialization in order to be happy and healthy.
Q: What should I do if a feral cat is displaying aggressive behavior?
A: If a feral cat is displaying aggressive behavior such as hissing or swatting, it’s best to give the cat some space and allow them to calm down. Speak softly and slowly approach the cat with caution, but don’t try to pick up the animal. Once the cat is comfortable again, you can begin to slowly and gently build trust by providing treats and eventually allowing gentle stroking while speaking softly. With patience and understanding it is possible for even feral cats to become friendly with people.
Q: Are there any health risks associated with feral cats?
A: Feral cats face the same potential health risks as all other cats, including parasites, infectious diseases, and viruses. To keep feral cats healthy and safe, it is important to have them spayed/neutered and vaccinated by a veterinarian. Additionally, providing regular meals and proper shelter can also help ensure the health of feral cats in your area.
Feral cats may seem unapproachable and untrusting at first, but with patience and understanding they can become friendly. Providing food, water and shelter is the best way to start building trust, and regular meals, gentle petting, and playtime will help develop friendliness in the long run. With a little bit of time and effort, it is possible for caregivers to turn a feral cat into an affectionate companion.
Featured Image Credit: ivabalk, Pixabay
About the author
Cat mom to Ivy – a feisty little rescue kitten that is her one and only child. For now! Throughout her life, she has been introduced to the special love that can be found in the bond with a cat. Having owned multiple felines, she is more than certain that their love is unmatched, unconditional and unlike any other. With a passion to educate the public about everything, there is to know about felines, their behavior, and their unique personalities, Crystal is devoted to making sure that all cats and their owners know the importance of conscious living – and loving!