Socializing Feral Cats

Socializing Feral Cats

by Debra Rachlen
(Malden, Massachusetts)

Feral cat near the San Mateo Bridge, San Francisco. This picture was added by Michael & is not the cat in question. - Photo by Peter Kaminski

Feral cat near the San Mateo Bridge, San Francisco. This picture was added by Michael & is not the cat in question. - Photo by Peter Kaminski

I took in a feral black and white 2 yr old. My friend fed her and her family for the first two years. She came up on her deck one night and gave birth to 3 kittens that died. A friend trapped her and had her fixed and I have had her for just about a year now. She is actually a sweet cat. The only problem I have is she runs and hides when anyone comes in my apt. She will not come out. She is afraid of others but not me. Is there anything I can do to change this?


Hi Debra, I'll put in my two pennies worth but others may have better and different views on this subject. Actually my cat is similar. She was a stray (so not feral) and was and still is frightened of other people. She has, though, become very friendly with my girlfriend. This tell us that it is about socialisation (getting used to people and other animals and being comfortable around them).

Feral cats are not accustomed to being around people and are unsocialised but can through necessity allow themselves to become socialised. The trouble is this "training" didn't happen when they were young so the process is harder. Indeed they possibly will never be quite as domesticated as a fully socialised domestic cat because I don't think it becomes quite so profoundly ingrained when learned at an older age.

The point I am gradually getting to is that your cat can and will learn to become less fearful if a gentle introduction to someone else is gradually made over time. Time, patience and gentleness would seem to be the guiding rules. Which means any other person who would like to get to know her has to interact with her quite a lot and initially with gentleness and patience.

Food is a great introduction facilitator. What I mean is if someone else wants to get closer to your cat he or she could feed her and then gently touch her and progress from there. This may happen with you and your friend feeding her together. Everything is gradual and in small increments. The long term nature of the process is against modern lifestyles of instant results but when it comes to psychology and socializing feral cats it is the only route.

As to infrequent visitors, she will probably run from those for the rest of her life.

It is not all bad though. A defensive cat is a safer cat. And this provides peace of mind for the person.

Comments for
Socializing Feral Cats

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Sep 12, 2009 Earlier post
by: Michael

I actually made a post a long time ago on the subject of taming wild feral cats and kittens (this link opens in a new window and goes to a blogger site that is a part of this site). I had forgotten about it. If there is one thing I have learned about any cat feral or not, you can never push them to do something (as Ruth mentions). The better strategy is to tease things out of a cat and get into the head of the cat and understand what motivates etc. and to use that.

Sep 12, 2009 my feral cat
by: debra

Thanks Michael

Sep 12, 2009 Thank you
by: Ruth

Thanks Michael, I learn a lot from your pages ! And your backing against declawing is much appreciated.

Sep 12, 2009 Thanks Ruth
by: Michael

Ruth, I am always appreciative of your valued input.

Sep 12, 2009 Well done !!
by: Ruth

Debra you have done wonderfully well to socialise an adult feral cat as it's very very difficult ! You really need to have them as tiny kittens to be able to fully socialise them into accepting people outside their immediate human family.

I've done cat rescue for many years and know of only one more adult cat who was happy to live in a house,she took months to come out of hiding after we had her spayed and returned to a kind lady's garden who fed her.She was terrified of this lady's husband but now lives happily with them in the house,only hiding when grand children come to visit.

I wouldn't force your cat, but anyone who comes to visit who loves cats could sit near where she hides and talk quietly to her for a while, using her name a lot,each time they call on you. The cat might with time and patience come out to him/her but don't worry if not, she may be happier just loving and being loved by you!

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