How to Turn a Feral Cat into a House Cat

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If you live in a residential neighborhood, you probably have semi- to full-out feral cats running around. If you live in a rural neighborhood, you have most likely had a cat dropped off on your property and have permanent feral cats roaming around. As a cat lover, you may have at one time felt sorry enough to put out food or water for this cat or decided to try to bring it inside and give him a better life.

Trying to tame a feral cat is a difficult undertaking — but it is not impossible. You may find out that he will turn into the one cat who has loved you the most of any cat you’ll ever be fortunate enough to love and care for. Take note: as a feral cat, he has not been socialized to live with humans and will be extremely fearful of you, your home and any other member of the household. You must go slowly and let the cat dictate the pace of the domestication. It is always a possibility that the cat may never become affectionate; don’t take it personally, some cats just have a naturally timid personality that they can’t overcome.

The first step is to take the feral cat to your veterinarian. A feral cat almost always has a flea infestation, possibly ticks and needs to be checked for medical conditions that need addressing. (The last thing you want coming into your home are fleas or ticks.)

Once your cat has been given the all-clear, you can bring him home. It’s best to start by confining him to one room for a few days so he can acclimate himself to his surroundings. Provide him with a litter box, food and water dishes, toys and a bed or box with a blanket in it to substitute as a bed. It’s also a great idea to have something in the room that has your scent (your natural body scent, not your perfume) on it so he can learn to familiarize himself to it and begin to gain a sense of security in relation to you. Go into the room from time to time and just sit there — do not approach him; let him come to you. Always remain calm and speak to him in soothing tones. In fact, take a book in with you and read. In the beginning, he will show no interest in you whatsoever, eventually though, he should slowly start to come over. Also, from time to time, bring some treats with you and see if he’ll approach you with treats. If he won’t, try leaving the treats in the room with him. As much as you can, try to let him see you providing the food for him.

Once he begins to warm up to you and you get a sense that he’s comfortable, you can open the door and let him explore the rest of his new environment. Again, go slowly and let him dictate the pace. If you have any other pets in residence, you’ll need to slowly introduce them to each other. The above steps are your foundation for any other introduction you’ll need to make with him. (Instead of your scent, make it the dog or other cat’s or your spouse.) Always ensure he has a safe place to run “home” to when he feels secure. (He may always run back to that room when he feels uncomfortable, so ensure he has access.)

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