If you’ve ever encountered a feral cat, you probably know that they don’t let people come anywhere near them. Many feral cats won’t even come out during the day while people are moving around and instead, choose to come out at night.
While it may seem impossible, you can acclimate a feral cat to people with a bit (or a large amount) of time and patience. Let’s take a look at seven ways to calm a feral cat.
How to Calm a Feral Cat — The 7 Possible Ways
1. Don’t Force It
Trying to force yourself on a feral cat will scare them. You have to allow the cat to make the first move on their own time. When the cat attempts to move closer to you, don’t move in on them. Crouch down, and use a soft, calm voice to reassure them that you are not a threat.
2. Offer Food, Treats, and Toys
Offering food or treats is one of the easiest ways to encourage a feral cat to move in. Feral cats have to hunt for their food, so they’re usually quick to take free offerings. It also encourages the cat to associate you with something positive.
Offering a toy can encourage interaction and gain a feral cat’s trust. Once you establish a connection, they may choose to sit near you or stay close by.
3. Help Them Get Used to People
The sounds that humans make while going about their daily lives can be terrifying for a feral cat. Doors opening and closing, cars starting, and even human conversation can be loud and unsettling.
If you are trying to tame or catch a feral cat, you are likely already feeding them. Mealtime can be a great time to get them used to other noises, as they focus on their food more than their surroundings. Start slowly by moving around or talking calmly. Open and close doors but don’t slam them. Too much noise can scare the cat enough that they won’t come back.
4. Give the Cat a Space of Their Own
Once a feral cat is used to you being around, make a space for them that’s all their own. This can be as simple as providing access to an outdoor shed where they can stay warm or creating a comfy cat bed in your yard. Any warm, clean, and welcoming place will make the cat feel secure.
5. Spend Time With Them
If you do get close enough that the cat allows you into their space, you can try spending time in that space. It’s a good idea to wear protective clothing when first touching a feral cat, including long sleeves, pants, and even gloves to prevent serious bites and scratches.
Establish a routine, and “hang out” with the cat at the same time each day. Stay calm and make slow, deliberate movements. It’s usually best to avoid making eye contact, so the cat doesn’t see you as a threat. The more often you are near them, the more likely the cat is to get curious and want to approach you.
6. Be Predictable
Feral cats see almost everything and everyone as a threat to their survival. They are also creatures of habit that like predictable routines and shy away from surprises. The more they can predict your movements and actions, the more likely they are to feel safe around you.
7. Be Patient
Cats operate on their own timelines. While we tend to want to see progress immediately, that will not likely happen. Young kittens are easier to tame and calm than older cats. Older feral cats often can’t be fully domesticated, as they are too conditioned to their wild lifestyle. Kittens are more curious and have less experience, so they are also less fearful.
It’s important to take baby steps when trying to calm a feral cat. Getting a cat to approach a food bowl next to your house can take days or weeks. It may take several more weeks for you to be able to exist in the same space without them running away. The more patient you are, the more likely you will be successful.
How to Tell If a Cat Is Aggressive or Frightened
Feral cats often act out aggressively when they feel threatened. Knowing what this looks like can help you know when to back off.
How Long Does It Take to Calm a Feral Cat?
There is no set time frame for calming a feral cat, and the process is likely to take several weeks. If a cat has lived their entire lives outdoors in the wild, they may have never had positive contact with humans. Unfortunately, you can’t undo a lifetime of conditioning in a few days.
If you do succeed in calming a feral cat, they can be tamed and domesticated. It’s important to keep in mind that they will not have had vaccinations or vet care before, and you should have them fully checked before bringing a feral cat into your home. They are also likely to need a good grooming.
Feral cats are often fearful of people because they have lived their whole lives outdoors. Calming a feral cat takes time and requires plenty of patience. With perseverance, you can tame a feral cat, but you must do so on their own timeline and terms.