Domesticating a Feral Cat

While domestication of a feral cat is neither an easy nor an overnight process, it is possible to socialize these near wild creatures. The keys of success to this endeavor are great amounts of love and patience. The younger the cat is when socialization is attempted the greater the chances of success and females generally are easier to socialize than males although these are not hard and fast rules.

Beginning the Domestication of a Feral Cat

In order to begin domestication you must first humanely and safely trap the animal using a cage that preferably has swinging doors. These types of cages prevent serious injuries to the cats that can occur from drop down doors. Once the cat is trapped then a trip to the vet is the next course of business to determine overall age and health and to receive vaccines and spaying or neutering. Once it is determined that the animal is young and healthy enough, socialization may begin.

The best way to begin socialization is to place the cat in a wire crate similar to the ones used for housebreaking puppies. This will simplify tending to the animal's needs for food and sanitation while allowing him to become conditioned to having you in close proximity. Place the crate in a quiet, dark room away from other animals; this will help to reassure the cat. Over the course of the next couple of weeks spend as much time as possible with the cat and talk softly to it. Begin to offer the cat treats, but do so sparingly as a well-fed cat is less friendly.

Beginning to Handle the Cat

After a couple of weeks, use a glove or oven mitt to protect your hand and attempt to pet the cat, talking softly to it. If the cat hisses or backs away, drop your hand to the floor of the cage. Never corner the cat, as this will cause it to become frightened. Some cats may respond if you extend your arm with your fingers downward and let the cat come to you. Their curiosity may eventually get the better of them.

Once the cat is allowing you to pet and stroke him without reservation, you can move on to the next step, which is to pick up the cat. Begin by placing your protected hands on either side of the cat’s abdomen. Don’t touch the cat at first, get him comfortable with your hands being there, and then work up to touching and moving under his belly slightly. Then pick him up slightly off the floor. If he begins to panic at any point, back off. Don’t undo all that is being accomplished by forcing the issue.

Advancing the Socialization Process

Once the cat becomes used to human handling you can begin to let the cat roam freely within the closed room, and finally about the house. The cat may meet each of these new experiences with panic, if the cat retreats leave the cat and return in a few minutes to talk softly to it. The bonding time that you have spent on the cat will pay off. Once the cat is comfortable within the confines of the room, it is time to allow other family members to become involved in the care of the cat before it makes the final transition to having free reign about the house.

Having realistic expectations regarding the progress of your socialization and domestication efforts is essential. Some feral cats may never be lap cats, and some may never accept dogs or other pets. Sometimes the cats will bond to one person over any others. But no matter the degree of success, the life of one animal is made better for the effort.