Intro: there is a difference between stray and feral cats. Strays are often abandoned domestic cats. Sometimes the phrase ‘stray cat’ can include feral cats, hence the confusion. Also there are community cats who are often semi-feral and even domesticated to a great extent. Then there are TNR colony cats. These too are often friendly.
But in this post I am referring to genuine feral cats who are essentially unsocialised and wild.
This title is a perennial question. It is tricky to provide a clean answer because it depends on the cat and the person. The short answer is that feral cats can make good pets but, depending on the individual cat’s personality and age, they can be permanently skittish or have a subdued wild side to their character which emerges from time to time. You might never arrive at the perfect domestic cat.
If you read stories from people who have been kind enough to adopt a feral cat, you find mixed outcomes but great patience can reap success and rewards.
It’s about socialisation. If a person adopts a young feral kitten, weeks old, it is much easier to socialise him or her. She’ll become a domestic cat more of less. Stories of people adopting genuine, adult feral cats almost always recount sometimes years of patient socialisation with a great reward at the end when their now socialised cat jumps on their lap, purrs and reaches out their paw to touch their hand. Success! She silently thinks to herself.
Indeed there are some great stories of feral cats making fine pets. It takes effort and above all patience. You’ll have to be knowledgeable about cat behaviour and know a bit about health. You’ll have to be very understanding and gentle. It’s likely to be one way traffic – you giving time and effort to your feral friend – for a while which makes the end game, when the feral cat becomes domesticated (if it happens) particularly rewarding.
I adopted a feral 7 week old feral tabby cat. It took me about a week to get him to sleep on my lap. It involved great food and tons of play. Play is the best ice-breaker and socialiser. He is now 4-years-of-age and fully domesticated except he has a wild streak which emerges sometimes. For that reason he is different to all the other domestic cats I have owned over the years.
The relationship is very close because in socialising a young feral cat you have to spend so much time with him.
Go slowly and don’t force
I can remember reading many stories of feral cats being helped and then becoming domesticated by a kind person. Sometimes the cat remains an outdoor cat. That’s okay. You let them decide. Sometimes they come inside and realise that life is better. These relationships start slowly with tentative steps of feeding and running away. Eventually the cat allows the person to approach and touch her. There are little leaps of progress like this in the long journey to domestication.
For most people trying to domesticate a feral cat is not recommended but the rewards are high for the right person.
You also have to be careful about health. If you have existing cats it is essential to ensure that the feral cat is checked out for chronic infectious diseases. The last thing you want is to bring infectious feline diseases into the home to cause illness in your existing cats. I would not bring a feral cat inside to mix with existing cats until you are sure she/he is negative for the regular diseases such as FIV, FeLV, FIP, cat colds (herpesvirus or calicivirus), Panleukopenia.
In conclusion: Do feral cats make good pets? Why or why not? ANS: yes, sometimes but not commonly. Why? Because the person who socialised the cat is a damn good cat caretaker and the cat’s personality lends itself to domestication. Why not? Because the cat is too wild and unsocialised. They distrust humans. They are not trained to live with humans.
I welcome the input others save for trolls who can…..
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