View Full Version : Feral cat guidance

Dec. 7, 2009, 07:52 AM
I've been feeding a feral cat for 11 months....I guess I'd have to call him semi-feral now! He will let me sit next to him while he eats, and seems interested in rubbing up against my legs. But I'm a little concerned on how close to get. He still hisses when he's alarmed, and has twice threatened to claw me.

Of course, I don't want to get bitten! I know that taming an adult feral cat is next to impossible, but he has come a long way...and I'm interested in seeing whether he might come 'round.

Any suggestions?

Dec. 7, 2009, 08:30 AM
Depends on what he's been through before he came to you. If his parents were feral, then he'll probably always distrust you. If he was beaten or run off a lot, he will be hard to tame. Some of these cats and dogs have been thru h*** before we get them.

If he had a home and was just a dump off, he might come around. Depending on how long he's been out on the street, so to speak.

And then again they can become totaly lap cats and take over your house or barn.

It does help to spay or alter as then the hormones don't interfere with the cat becomeing a pet. Also of course his age is important. I've had much better luck taming young dumpouts that taming ones that are 2 or 3 yrs old.

And he needs his rabies shot if you can trap him. When he comes home from the hospital and being "fixed" and getting his shots, if you can keep him in a room for a few days, that will help. Some will then be tame, and some will run off but at least then they have been helped a little.

Then again, a wild one can become very friendly and a young kitten can have what I call the "wild gene" and never trust you. :confused: Cats have their own minds and there are few people who can read them.
Good luck with kitty!

Dec. 7, 2009, 09:03 AM
Catching an adult feral by hand is nigh on impossible, but with the right tool (eg a have a heart trap or the like) it's a simple matter of setting the trap with some yummy canned food and then waiting a bit out of sight.

Zu Zu
Dec. 7, 2009, 09:27 AM
My speciality ~ feral cats - have eleven - barn and house - all fixed and vaccinated. They moved with us in '06 - lots of "learned from experience" stories. If the cat is to be house cat or barn - same ideas apply - trap with cage - transport to vet - tell them FERAL- get fixed - shots while sedated ~ home to confinemnt in tack room or small house room for a period. Allow them to work on their time schedule. We just brougt a life-long feral barn cat into our home to be our house cat - she -Katharine Ann Berry is less than 24 hours inside ~ progressing smoothly. She had lived in an out building at our old family farm her entire life. She was spayed in 2001 and then we started to tame her VERY gradually within the stable setting. She made the move with our other barn cats to our new property in '06 and has now made the move into the house. I also have "DERALS" domesticated ferals - hand raised since 6wekks old - in a specialized cat room in our house. That group has their own living quaters as they tend to be a little destructive. * Back to Katharine is adjusting - slept on bed for part of the night. pm me if you have any questions or concerns but ALL are different . Good Luck - you will love this cat ! Nothing better than a DERAL !!! IMHO You just never want to try to hold onto a feral or "deral" when they are scared ~~~allow them to flee to a safe place - that's in their blood and you don't want them to draw your blood ! Again enjoy !! the journey ~~~ you will love this cat who has deceided you are a "keeper".

Dec. 7, 2009, 09:30 AM
I gave up on havaheart(hart?) traps years ago since all I caught were coons. (one time 2 coons at once.) They work fine for others but not for me.

I use the old southern coastal custom I learned as a kid: Feed kitty his favorite food. Net kitty with crab net.:lol: Throw blanket over kitty and push/lift into carrier.

Zu Zu
Dec. 7, 2009, 09:39 AM
I use a really safe live trap - that you bait from the back ~ no trouble at all ~ will try to find the name and number - will post later.

Dec. 7, 2009, 10:24 AM
Depends on what he's been through before he came to you. If his parents were feral, then he'll probably always distrust you.

Not true at all. All of my cats are feral indoor cats - 5 of them and they trust me with their lives. Without me, they would not be alive right now and they seem to know it. :yes:

The thing is to catch a feral when they are young. It is known that after 8 weeks they are accostomed to flight conditions and will stay that way if they have had no human interaction at all. Meaning, no one feeding them, around them and the like.

OP is he welcomed to stay in your yard and be fed by you? Or are you looking to catch him and take him to the shelter or somewhere away from your house? If he is not bothering you why not let him do what he is doing? Or, are you trying to catch him to bring him in and give him a home?? :yes: He will come around if you looking to bring him inside your home. You are half way there already. He is only hissing and attempting to claw you because he is scared... but wants to come around just as much as you want him to.

I am against people trapping older ferals and brining them to the shelter because they do not get adopted. Basically you think your doing right by the cat but your not. They are better off living their lives outside, if they survive then they are survivors, if not well at least they did not go to death in a shelter infurmeory..

We have 3 + dad, so 4 feral outdoor cats. I feed them every AM and PM, they have their own stall in the barn with old coolers. They are happier there then they would be anywhere else. I can go in and feed them, they won't move but they won't let me touch them either. I don't try to touch them, I want them to know I am ok with them.

Can you tell I am a cat advocate? :D I wouldn't want any of them to be in a shelter. :cry:

Dec. 7, 2009, 10:43 AM
He clearly is a survivor, and I don't want to stress him. But he sits on my porch, meets me at night when I come home, and seems to want interaction. If I were to trap him, it would be to make him an indoor cat. Last winter I worried about him when it got really cold. This year I built a "shelter" (using guidance from one of the feral cat groups, and 2 Rubbermaid totes) but he's not interested.

Dec. 7, 2009, 11:14 AM
I have had very good success with the cats that show up at the barn as ferals. They always showed up at feeding time, but would not allow a human within 10 feet. eventually, they are more comfortable and will let someone pet them briefly while they eat. This can take anywhere from a few weeks, to a few months. Once they are to that point, I pick a day that they can go in for SX, and make sure that the carrier is ready, and in one very quick motion, reach in a scruff them and put them in the box (which I leave standing up on its end so the cat ends up in the bottom and less likely to escape while you get the door shut. If you scruff them correctly, they are imobile while you put them in the box. I cannot use a trap because I end up trapping the other, tame barn cats, and coons, and NOT the ones I'm trying to get.

Once I get them to the Spay/Neuter program (that I happen to volunteer at) I stay throughout the process, and do their Vaccinations and Pen while they are out. They then go into a crate to wake up.

Once I get them home, regardless of if they are going to go back to the barn or stay a house cat, is they stay in a large wire dog crate in the MAIN part of the house with food/water/litter box, and a smaller carrier to hide in if they'd like. By keeping them in the main living area, they see you everyday, they watch you interact with the other animals. and.....The best thing is, they know who brings them their food. Mine normally stay in the house (in their crate) at least a week after surgery, depending on the cat. I don't try to love on them, just let them be, and they have all come around eventually. All of the cats that we have done this with have been adults, and have been what I would call feral when they showed up. Now, after having been moved back to the barn, they LOVE to be loved on, and they come when I call for the barn kitties at dinner time. It has been quite successful, and hasn't been traumatic for anyone.


Dec. 7, 2009, 11:42 AM
all of my feral cats, as they aged, have eventually become house cats. The current one decided 2 years ago at age 16 he should probably sleep on the heating pad in my office and now sleeps comfortably on the power source for my computer beside my monitor. Not a lap cat and will draw blood if treated as one, but no longer a wild ratter either.The next in line is 9, came to us at 2 having been trapped in between walls at a construction site. She's already decided that morning scritches are a good thing and if I forget to feed her in the barn she has figured out the cat door and sneaks in late at night to eat the house cats' food. The one someone dumped on my doorstep in a box at 8 weeks is 8 now and is the house cat but has the "wild gene" and is quick to hide under a bed or in a closet if there's any noise or upset.

Zu Zu
Dec. 7, 2009, 04:54 PM
GO FOR IT !!! If you are going to make him a housecat - EXCELLENT - just trap him and off to the vet's and then home. He will be stressed but that is where pre-planning helps and organization --- you can do this !!!! You will only love him more and he will be a wonderful house cat !!!

Dec. 7, 2009, 06:37 PM
This year I built a "shelter" (using guidance from one of the feral cat groups, and 2 Rubbermaid totes) but he's not interested.

Try building him a shelter out of stacked straw bales. Cats love to hide in small spaces in hay or straw bales. They are wonderful insulation. My parents had a farm on a busy road, and we routinely had very pregnant cats being dropped off, sometimes in the process of delivering (don't you just LOVE people?). I got to be an expert at building nesting spaces for the cats in the hay mow. I never had a cat refuse to use one I made. The secret is not to make the space too big and make the entrance private. More recently, we built a cat shelter for two feral cats, and they rejected the shelter but loved the straw bales we had used to cover the entrance to the crawl space in the house.

I currently have befriended two feral cats in my new barn, a mother and kitten. I saved the kitten after she fell way down into the stacked hay and couldn't get out because she was too young. The mother was hanging around, but couldn't get to her. She watched me get the kitten out, and I gave it back to her. I didn't see them for about two weeks, until the kitten was older. Now I feed them twice a day, and the kitten plays with my fingers and sometimes lets me pick her up. The mother has stopped hissing at me, and doesn't run away. She trusts me with her kitten when I play with it. I am planning on trapping them, but I wasn't sure how to transition them after surgery. This thread is very helpful.

Dec. 7, 2009, 10:33 PM
I'll second the net for catching a cat providing you can get close enough. I have a big fish net, the kind you scoop the fish up with to get it into the boat. It has a 5 foot handle and about a 18 inch "circle". Once you set the net down over the cat, throw a towel over the cat as well and then you can maneuver the cat into a carrier. The cat won't like it, but short term stress is worth it for a chance at a better life.

It is always a good idea to wear leather gloves when handling unfamiliar cats.

Ellenore Abernathy
Dec. 9, 2009, 10:12 AM
Another thing you could check is if local rescues "tip" feral cats that have been neutered. I have two that came from a rescue, and each has a tiny tip cut off their left ear. That way, if they run away or end up at another place, it is easy to tell if they have been fixed.

I let new barn cats loose in a workshop connected to the barn. By the time they figure out how to use the cat door, they have also figured out where the food is. They usually picked up behavior from the established barn cats.

Dec. 9, 2009, 10:29 AM
Another thing you could check is if local rescues "tip" feral cats that have been neutered. I have two that came from a rescue, and each has a tiny tip cut off their left ear. That way, if they run away or end up at another place, it is easy to tell if they have been fixed.

Good point!

That is the case with mine too. I have three feral cats gotten thru a TNR program.

The two younger cats have allowed us to pet them for quite some time. I did it just like was described above. Wet cat food and touching while they ate. They learned that being scritched was a good thing.

The older female is just starting to let me touch her and it has been almost two years (though I did not see her all summer this year).

I agree with the stacked bale shelter idea. My three live in nukes and crannies of the hay pile even though they have cat beds all over the place in the barn.

Dec. 9, 2009, 10:34 AM
a suggestion to get Kitty Cat used to touch without losing a finger.

Use an appendage, like a stuffed dishwashing glove on a stick or a cheap feather duster to start petting the cat. Make it a game that Kitty gets a treat if he lets the fakey touch him. That way you can introduce touching and be out of danger if the cat strikes back.

Once Kitty is used to touch, you can progress to your own hand.

Dec. 10, 2009, 02:21 AM
He clearly is a survivor, and I don't want to stress him. But he sits on my porch, meets me at night when I come home, and seems to want interaction. If I were to trap him, it would be to make him an indoor cat. Last winter I worried about him when it got really cold. This year I built a "shelter" (using guidance from one of the feral cat groups, and 2 Rubbermaid totes) but he's not interested.

Don't trap. Let him come to YOU, as he's BEEN doing. Not good to destroy that trust with a massively traumatizing removing of his only REAL defense, getting away. Sounds like things are progressing nicely! BTW, MY feral-turned-domestic cat was ALWAYS wary; I couldn't even CATCH him outside, although he would sleep under the covers with me at night ;).

Dec. 10, 2009, 06:58 AM
Thanks to everyone for the advice....I am quite fond of this cat! He/she will NOT use the shelter I built and hay bales would just not work on my suburban porch. But I've put (of course!) an old saddle pad and towel on my porch bench, and he seems quite happy there. I've tried "scratching" his back gently with a long bamboo stick, and he seems pretty indifferent. But since I still get the occasional hiss, I'm reluctant to try petting him....yet.

Dec. 10, 2009, 07:57 AM
Giggle, mine still hiss at me when I do not get their wet cat food to them quickly enough. :lol: I laugh at them.

Dec. 10, 2009, 03:28 PM
We have an old man feral. . . His name is Pop cat. He has a broken foot and has been around for about 10 years now. He looks old and now when he sees you he does not even move.. we don't touch him though to test out his still feral tendencies :)

Good Luck I hope you can get him in somehow. Since he is on your porch why not crack the door while you are home? Maybe if you put some food inside the door where he can see it he may just walk in. Although, then he will be under your couch or bed for the next 6 weeks or so until he gets the guts to come out ;) I love feral kitties!

Dec. 12, 2009, 06:50 AM
I started feeding ferals that lived around an office I worked in (converted old house). At first it was mama cat and 2 kittens. At first, I would just sit near by, but got closer and closer. Eventually, both kittens would let me pet them and the would climb all over me if I could sit there long enough. Both of the kittens grew up to be very affectionate and got new homes. Mama Cat brought me her next litter to learn to eat solid food. Then she abandoned one in the bushes off the porch - tiny tiny thing, would not let me touch it. Solution - canned cat food - worked a charm. He/she had a home that day.

Then Tom Cat started showing up for groceries. Mama would let me stroke her while she ate - and she would purr. That progressed to her rubbing up against my legs - but she would never just flat out let me pet her. Tom Cat - could pet him with one finger as he ate as well, but he was much too regal for that leg rubbing stuff.

Dec. 12, 2009, 07:52 AM
We've got 3 cats that were ex feral.

Two: Basil and George (!) are now totally domesticated - now 10 and 2 respectively. One: Sid Vicious (!!) is sort of as described in the OP - about aged 13.

I honestly am of the view that dogs have owners and cats have servants. So that means cats choose to come and stay with you. Feed them and they'll hang around. Don't free feed them though. Make sure you get into a routine and put food out at certain times each day. We tend to feed feral cats just once a day so they're waiting for it and remain food motivated and dependent on you for food.

All ours were trapped and from feral colonies that were in breeding and extensive and causing problems. We adopted slightly different approaches with all of them. More to do with circumstances than deliberate strategies. Basically though all along the lines described by ZuZu.

I'll tell you what we did and see if it works for you. But I think quite simply it's a game of providing what they want - food first. Somewhere warm and comfortable next. Then companionship. If they let you stroke them and they purr then you'll crack it.

Basil was about 7 months old when trapped brought to the farm handled from the cage trap by Susan wearing welding gloves and a welding apron and goggles! (kid you not!) Released in the feed room where he ran straight up the wall! and settled in a roof beam and there he stayed for about 3 weeks! Cat food put out on the freezer top every night and morning. He only came down to eat it when we weren't about for about a month. Then one day he pissed off! Not seen for weeks but we continued to leave feed in the feed room. (It's a couple of old stables and so has an open top door). Eventually he used to come to us just as you describe and if Susan sat quietly next to his feed he'd come and eat it and let her stroke him just when he was eating and he purred. Eventually he'd sit on her knee when she used to sit on the feed room step and she'd stroke him but if she made a sudden movement or anyone else came by then he'd hiss and run! Then time to put him back in a cat box and to the vet to have him neutered and vaccinated. That night it was freezing so he was permitted in our kitchen and with his cat box door open and food just outside it and a litter tray next to that. He'd used the litter tray. Food was gone the next day and so was the cat! He was behind the fridge! all day! But same the next night. Day after he was in the cat box hissing so the door was closed and he was taken back down to the yard (about 200 metres from the house). He then started to follow me about when I was doing riding lessons and then one night when I let the dogs in late, he just came in with them. Can't get away from him now!! He's a total pet and does most of my riding lessons with me!


George was trapped when about 8 months old and totally assaulted! Taken straight to the vet for feline leukaemia and AIDS tests - had his ear clipped as he tested negative, so just neutered and was about to be turned to fend for himself once a farm was found when Susan went to have a coffee at the vets and came home with him! We (she!) decided as he was already in the house from the get go that we'd keep him in.

So he was shut in our bedroom and provided with food and a litter tray in the ensuite bathroom. Even though after a couple of weeks we left the door open, he spent many weeks hiding under the bed and only coming out to eat and use his tray. HIGHLY food motivated though and if you sat next to his food he'd still come out to eat and let you touch him ONLY when he ate at first. Then over time he'd come out and so we stopped feeding him upstairs and he had to take his chances in the kitchen where cats and dogs are fed. For months Susan was the only person who could pick him up or handle him. He's still picky about who can hold him and he's not too keen on me! I'm good enough to be his waiter and door opener and stroke him but no way will he let me pick him up! He's all over a couple of the staff who work here and the second Sue is home he's following her everywhere and on her knee the second she sits down.

Sid was trapped as an unneutered Tom cat about 7 years old. The size of a small terrier! We've never been able to handle him though he'll come out to eat. Sue has once in 7 years handled him. We trapped him by mistake when we were trying to trap another feral unneutered that happened by! When she let him out she thought good time to give it a go so she hung on to him wedged between her knees and groomed him and removed a mass of dead coat. He stayed still and even purred after a while and she thought she might have won him over but when she finished and withdrew her (gloved) hands he hissed and determinedly struck out! Then vermoose! He's ordinarily just seen about once a month munching on a mouse or carrying a rat out from the barn. It's an open sided hay barn and he comes and goes and if you get close to where he is then you hear hissing from behind the hay bales and occasionally see him vanishing out at about 30 mph!

Dec. 12, 2009, 08:52 AM
Glacial progress. The cat seems more "demonstrative" and rubs against the porch railing --he's sometimes even acrobatic. I also heard him purr this morning, and he came close to touching my leg with his nose.

I've offered him entry to the house....but he's having none of it. And, now that it's 20 degrees, I can't leave the door open ad finitum!

Zu Zu
Dec. 12, 2009, 04:30 PM
While nice to offer him entry to the house - if he goes in - which will be awhile - he will be very upset and try to get out ~ to the point of hurting himself. Thus for his safety and your sanity ~I would recommend trapping him - by live trap or by carrier with string on door to pull shut when he finally enters. This will take time & and alot of patience-- either method. He will need to get used to the trapping device and eat around it for awhile - then after he will approach the trapping device - next his food will have to be placed inside with NO consequence for a long time - then finally when he is entering and exiting calmly ~~~ then a couple of days feed very lightly - get him a little hungry! and then food in back of trapping device and be prepared to wait to capture! If you fail it will take more days to make up your steps. Once inside the carrier or trap ~ he will need to go directly to the vet for surgery and vaccinations and then home to the house ~ a small bedroom for several weeks with litter box water and food and a consistent schedule. He will be very scared and try to flee and or hide ! If he is to live in the barn setting ~ a tack room with same accomodations -- A consistent schedule is very important. I usually have a bell on my key ring so feral cats know it is me when I come to feed -- before capture -only feed in daylight as not to attract predators and pick up all left-overs before dark- I continue to carry the bell in my pocket esp when going to the vet for pick up & when I enter the room for feeding and when if ever someone else has been sent to feed in my absence so the cat knows by the bell that he is safe and what he can expect. These cats are wonderful but require patience and work off their senses more than domestic cats - so think sound (Bell ) smell ( your perfum) sight ( no hat or always hat) be consistent! They have been taught to HIDE Quietly by their mothers for survival ~ so this is a process to be figured out. I wish you Good Luck - as I said before I have 11 "derals" and LOVE each and every one of them and no two are the same in needs! The point is to keep them safe for life once you may the commitment to feed them - spay and neuter -feeding and shelter and medical and emotional attention - sorry so long ! Enjoy your new cat ! What is his name?

Zu Zu
Dec. 19, 2009, 07:38 PM
Vaevent ~ How is your cat ??? Any update ??? Have you named him yet?