Can You Make A Feral Cat A Pet?
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UPDATED: Nov 18, 2020
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All cats are special, but some tug on your heartstrings more than others. If there’s a scrawny, scaredy-cat that lives rough in your neighborhood, it’s difficult for any cat lover to walk past and not be moved.
In the winter, you put food out. The cat starts to recognize you and slinks out of hiding, trusting you enough to nibble the kibble. And the first time the feral cat rubs around your ankles in anticipation of a meal, there’s no way you don’t get a big lump in your throat.
At that point, you may consider catching the cat and giving him a home. This is a praiseworthy thing to do, but for both your sake and the cat’s, it’s important to be realistic about feral cats and the slim chances of them becoming pet-ified.
There are also a number of factors to consider before you commit to taking in a feral cat as a pet.
Things To Think About Before Bringing Home A Feral Cat
Do you have other cats?
This question is significant because even assuming a feral cat fits in (which is hugely unlikely), there is a risk of the feral cat carrying infections that could be transmitted to your pet.
Common Diseases Feral Cats Could Have Include:
OK, so your best bet is to trap the feral cat and take them straight to the vet. Get a thorough check-up, including blood tests for FeLV and FIV, a worming shot, flea treatment – and spaying or neutering. Only if you get the all-clear from your vet should you consider introducing this guy into your existing fur-family.
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How To Win A Feral Cats Trust
Making friends with a feral cat is never guaranteed. It’s a good start if the cat trusted you enough to rub around your ankles, but this a far cry from becoming fully friendly. The trouble is feral cats lack a vital piece of their upbringing which makes them comfortable around people.
The missing puzzle piece is called “socialization,” and for a cat to confident with two-leggers the kitten must be handled daily from just after their eyes open at two weeks of age. If this doesn’t happen, by nine weeks old their young brain puts people in the “scary” box, and it’s incredibly hard (if not impossible) to get reassigned to the “friends” file.
When you think of a hissing, spitting, feral cat, it’s fear then makes them feisty – indeed, their ferociousness is a measure of their fear. Given time and patience, you can build bridges, but it takes months, if not years, and there’s no guarantee of success.
To win their trust you must think like a cat.
Top Tips To Win The Trust Of A Feral Cat:
Given time, the feral cat may understand you are their caregiver and learn to trust. But you also have to accept that you now own a cat that hides each time you enter the room and lashes out when you try to stroke her.
Some Wild Cats Are Just Not Meant To Be Inside
It might be better all-round to consider a compromise. This could mean leaving the cat where he is, but providing a weatherproof shelter and a feeding station.
It’s also good to think of these animals not as feral cats but as community cats. If you can involve other people in feeding and caring for them, the cats will be covered when you’re on vacation. Give them just a little care and feral cats will reward the neighborhood by keeping the vermin population down.
And finally, if you do nothing else, get the cat fixed as part of a trap-neuter-return (TNR) scheme. This will prevent this cat having kittens and perpetuating the feral cat population.
For more information on cats check out our blog.
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