Can you get a feral cat’s trust without taking her in?

Can you get a feral cat’s trust without taking her or him in? I don’t actually think that it matters whether you take him in or interact with him outside. Theoretically it is easier to socialize a feral cat in your home because it’s more comfortable and you won’t have to contend with weather conditions and other disturbing elements. And it will take a long time so being comfortable during the process is quite important. However, you’d be unlikely get him inside the home until he trusts you so it’s a catch 22 situation.

Feral cat trust gained

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Normally outside

However, the process of socializing a feral cat can take place outside and nearly always does. There are situations where the home owner has covered outside space suitable for a feral cat home which is a nice way to proceed. I have read the statements and stories of many feral cat caretakers, normally involved in TNR programs, who have formed close relationships with feral cats. These cats clearly trust the person caring for them and they love their feral cats in return. When an individual feral cat shows their trust in their caretaker, it is a magic moment and quite emotional.

Trust and socialisation

Trust does not necessarily directly equate with the cat being fully socialised or domesticated. But socialisation is part of the trust-making process. Also a lot of feral cats are not totally feral by which I mean they are semi-feral and therefore accustomed to having people around.

Then there are stray cats as well which are wondering domestic cats which may distrust people but it will be easier to gain their trust. I remember stories from women who have spent months and months gaining the trust of a feral cat. They have succeeded by taking very small incremental steps through feeding the cat and then perhaps gently playing with the cat and finally touching him or her.

Cat prefers to stay outside

Sometimes the story ends with the cat happily ensconced in the woman’s home, getting on nicely with the resident cat. Sometimes it won’t end that way. The feral cat will learn to trust the person but prefer to stay outside, in which case the best course of action is to build an outside home for the cat and learn to interact with the cat on their territory.


The answer to the question is, yes, you can gain the trust of a feral cat without taking him in. All you need is lots of patience, slowness, gentleness, commonsense, time, energy, a loving attitude, excellent food and a bit of play because playing with your cat is the greatest way to get him used to you.

6 thoughts on “Can you get a feral cat’s trust without taking her in?”

  1. Generally a feral cat’s most driving need is food and oddly I’ve found fresh water. When tended on a regular basis even the most feral cat will start appearing at a designated feeding time. You can then set up a base of observation sitting sideways always never facing or making eye contact. Move closer until you are sitting there quietly while the cat eats. The last tactic is to drop your arm and remain motionless. Without fail and if I’ve done the groundwork I will eventually get a sniff or body rub on my limp hand. You may have to start over a bit after TNR. A cat that uses vocals to greet me early on is generally a misplaced house pet or has some domestication.
    I used the same method on feral cats as I did fearful horses which means a quiet nor reactionary and non confrontational trust building period.

  2. We’ve had MyBoy who was feral and injured to the point of near death inside for the past year and the only thing we haven’t gotten was to get him to play with us or let us touch him. We thought we had hit the jackpot when he learned how to play with toys by himself. He still is timid about new toys and it is painful to watch him cower Away from them until he gets used to them. Treats don’t interest him. My husband thinks that his hiss is actually his greeting although it is performed from the shelter part of his area. Any ideas anyone?

      • Thanks for your encouragement. Sometimes when I’m a little low, I second guess myself and wonder if I’m doing the right thing. Today we did a thorough cleaning of his area and he complained and showed his teeth. It had to be done. I felt bad it upset him.

        • The most domestic cat can become upset over routine housecleaning. The showing of the teeth was most likely fear. Simply act like nothing happened and return to your regular routine. There are many cat groups on FB and The Cat Site has wonderful members many of them highly skilled in handling indoor ferals.


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