The life of a community cat is not always easy. Outside, there is fierce competition over food sources. Feral cats are also at higher risk of contracting diseases, engaging in fights with aggressive animals, ingesting toxic chemicals, and getting injured.
However, converting a feral cat into a household cat can pose a lot of challenges. These cats have spent all of their lives outdoors, and keeping them contained in an unfamiliar environment can be both stressful and unhealthy for them.
So, do feral cats want to be indoors? The quick answer is no. Most feral cats are better off living in the wild as this is their natural habitat. As such, adopting a feral cat and forcing it indoors can be a cruel thing to do.
Feral versus semi-feral cats
Seeing a poor, homeless kitty living in harsh conditions outdoors can be heartbreaking. As cat lovers, we want to lend a helping hand to these outdoor cats with the hope of improving the quality of their lives. But is keeping them inside a warm, comfortable home the best option for them?
Before you decide to welcome a homeless feline into your home, it is very important to assess the cat’s state of wildness. Not all cats can adapt or would want to live indoors like an ordinary house cat. Some cats that are used to living in the wild can also be very difficult to tame. Hence, forcing them indoors would not be safe, either for you or the cat.
Some cats are semi-feral or stray cats. At some point, these cats have experienced human interaction before becoming homeless. Perhaps they were abandoned from their previous homes, or have lost their previous owners. Some of these cats have also socialized with humans through medical care or feeding, even if they have lived their entire lives in the wild.
Feral cats, on the other hand, have never experienced any form of human contact. Because they are unsocialized, ferals have no desire to be touched or handled by humans. Whenever you encounter a feral in your neighborhood, it is most likely to run away and hide. These cats also do not come to your home to beg for food. Overall, they are independent creatures and excellent hunters, and often look healthier and cleaner than a stray domestic cat.
Due to their lack of human interaction, it is almost impossible to tame a feral cat. A stray cat, on the other hand, can be re-tamed and adopted into a home like any other domesticated cat. Stray cats are more vocal, too, compared with ferals.
For these reasons, it is generally not advisable to adopt a feral cat. While there might be rare occasions when a feral cat can be tamed, even this does not guarantee that the cat will be happier as a domestic cat. Hence, if you want to help a feral, then “TNR”, or the “trap-neuter-return” method, would be the best thing you can do.
Do feral cats want to be indoors?
While it can be tough to see a cat living outdoors, the truth is that no feral cat would want to live indoors. The wild is their natural habitat, and bringing them home would not make them happier. Since these cats are not socialized, they are also not adoptable, so taking them away from their outdoor home is neither the best nor the healthiest option for a feral.
There are other ways to help improve the lives of feral cats, and most vets recommend the trap-neuter-return method. This will help reduce the feral kitten population and unwanted mating behavior such as noisy yowling, fighting, and spraying. The trap-neuter-return method also helps stabilize a feral cat colony and lower the population over time.
So, do not worry! Even if you cannot adopt a feral cat into your home, take comfort in knowing that the cat will be happier and healthier in the wild. Feral cats can also live about the same life span as domesticated cats, and tend to have low rates of diseases, like any healthy indoor cat.
Can feral cats be tamed?
While there is a small chance that adult feral cats can be tamed, it is still best to leave these cats in the wild. Feral cats, like other wild animals, are a part of the ecosystem. Rest assured that these cats live a happy, healthy, and normal life in their natural habitat, so there is no need to rehome them.
However, if you are taming a feral kitten, there is a higher chance of successfully converting the cat into a domesticated feline companion. The younger the cat, the better. Below are some of the proven ways to tame a feral kitten:
1. Separate the kittens
Separating the kittens makes it easier to manage them one by one. Make sure to provide each a pet tent or cage with bedding, food, water, and a litter box. Visit the kittens frequently so that they can get used to your presence. You can also turn on the television or radio so that they can become accustomed to human voices.
2. Carefully handle the kitten
Domesticating a feral kitten involves petting and picking them up so that they get used to human touch. On the first day, the kittens might hiss, scratch, or even bite your hand, so make sure to approach them carefully. You can also wear a protective glove to prevent possible injuries.
Remember to pick the kitten up from behind, not in front, while you grip the scruff of its neck. Then carefully place it on your lap with a towel and gently stroke its body. Try to talk to the kitten in a soft, reassuring tone.
Make your first physical contact short and sweet. Afterwards, you can give the kitten a tasty reward for its friendly behavior.
3. Earn the kitten’s trust through treats
Offering treats is an essential part of socializing a cat. Most kittens love human baby foods like Gerber chicken and you can offer them a spoonful every time they approach you. This way, the kittens will be enticed to approach you through the positive reinforcement of the food.
4. Interact with the kitten
Once the kitten feels more comfortable being held or touched, you can start interacting with it. Make sure it is contained within a room with closed doors and no hiding places. Using toys, try to engage the kitten through playing. You could also invite another kitten if the first one feels shy to interact.
5. Socialize the kitten with other people
The last step is to introduce the feral kitten to other people. Invite family members and friends to pet or play with the kitten. Remember that feral kittens will bond easily with one human who feeds and cares for them frequently. Hence, while they are young, it is best to socialize them with other humans so that finding them a forever home later on will be a smooth process.
Feral cats are not meant to be domesticated, as they thrive better outdoors. Due to their wild state, taming feral cats is an almost futile act. So, instead of adopting them into your homes, you can help these community cats through the trap-neuter-return method. Rest assured that these feral cats are happier and healthier outdoors than if they were kept indoors.
Image: istockphoto.com / bankmoophoto