Do feral cats make good pets? Why or why not?

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.

Socialising a feral cat. Cat hiding

It depends

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.

Socialisation

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.

My story

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.

Health

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.

Conclusion

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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7 thoughts on “Do feral cats make good pets? Why or why not?”

  1. One of my indoor ferals is a tiny scarred cat who was about 5 years old when she came to be by way of a friend who had a summer cabin up north. He had to sell the place and asked if I knew of anyone who would take in a very feral cat. My answer was, “bring her here”. things needed to be rearranged and a special room with lots of hiding places was set up. Juanita Wildcat arrived in a humane trap. I sent my friend’s son out of the room and shut the door. Opened the trap with it facing a nice hiding place. She moved very fast and hid. I gave the trap to the young man and he left. There was already food and water bowls set up. Told her it would be ok, she was safe. Kept the door shut and only went in to clean her litter, change her water and give her food. Talked to her every time I went be the door. The other 5 furbabies took turns standing guard at the door. 4 weeks later, I put up the screen door, so she could see what was going on. She made friends with the rest of the Clowder, but ran and hid when I came by. She stayed in that room for another 3 months, then was given the run of the house. She learned during her confinement that I only came in to feed her and clean up. She gradually came near me and after 3 years, she is the most loving kitty. I can pick up up and give her kisses,and she knows what to do to get all the loving she wants. Her new name is Joy and she is a Joy.

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  2. There are mild and moderate ferals that can be socialized if a caretaker will put the work into it. Ofcourse, it’s easiest if dealing with kittens. But, adult ferals require a consistent and lengthy dose of “trust therapy”. Some of my indoor post-ferals took me over a year just to get them inside and more time to even come close enough to touch.
    A TRUE feral will never be a pet.

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  3. I believe a feral cat visualizes a human it comes to trust in a different way that our house raised fluffies.
    The rescues here remove kits at 4 weeks to ensure they become socialized and have a much better chance of making suitable pets.
    BabyMook is the product of a very long line of very feral cats and while taken at less than 10 days has a vastly different personality. I believe that trait is attached to the survival of the fittest. She tolerates NO ONE but us.
    In fact I would go so far as saying that an excellent specimen of a feral in the desired shape and color could well help breathe new life into some of the over bred purebreds and put the smarts back in them which may be the underlying desire to breed in the smaller wild cats by many. Personally I like the well developed totally feline persona of a feral that has learned to trust.

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  4. I agree with every word. I wish I could add something but it’s all there, save for the expertise and patience it takes. I’ve managed it myself and it is very rewarding. I give the cat much of the credit though… I just did what he needed me to do, and what I should know because I have the common human brain power to do.

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