You magnificent son of a biscuit. You did it. You made the commitment deep in your heart and mind that you’re going to adopt a feral cat. You are a magnificent human being and I applaud you.
It just kind of happened. You were walking in your neighborhood one day. Or maybe you saw one in your backyard. It doesn’t matter how you met, but the moment you laid eyes on her… you just knew you had to have her.
You start by asking yourself: what do cats eat? Are feral cats tame? Can they even be tamed? Should I give them water? How do they survive the winter? So many questions race through your mind… and thus you begin your journey on how to take care of your friendly neighborhood fluff.
That’s probably how you landed on this page, and I’m glad you did! My goal here is to give you a recount on my experiences on adopting my own little feral, Diba. She is the absolute best and is a creature that truly appreciates being adopted.
I will give you my experiences, tips, and ideas to help you along your way towards adopting your very own feral. I’ll have you know that it is an arduous task that will take a great deal of time and effort on your part. Be prepared!
My Story – Where It All Began
To be completely honest with you, I really didn’t like cats to begin with. I mean, I always thought they were cool animals and were nice enough pets… but I would never have dreamed I would be taking care of a cat. Let alone three!
I remember back in high school back in 2006, I was hanging out with a close friend and we had visited a local shelter. As we were walking around, we saw this cat in a cage.
Thinking you could just touch a cat, I stupidly started to poke my fingers through the cage holes… only to quickly realize that cats had things called claws. Little fuzz ball sliced up my finger!
I never really bothered much with cats afterward. It was a rather traumatic experience.
Flash forward about a decade, I start working for an organization that has various sites in the area that I have to visit during my work hours.
At one of these sites, I stumble upon a little kitten that couldn’t have been more than a couple of months old. This poor thing seemed to have had a rough week and I was at a loss on what to do.
I wasn’t sure if there was a mama cat nearby or not, so all I did was leave a box for shelter, some food, and water. I felt uncertain about what to do so I left the kitten there.
Of course, there was a thunderstorm that night… of all nights. It really made me worry about the poor thing. When I went back to my site the next day, I found my box shelter to be completely drenched and the little kitten was nowhere to be found…
Despite waiting and searching around the area, the little feral kitten never returned. Damn, it felt so terrible, like an empty pit in my stomach.
I felt I should’ve just taken in the kitten right when I first saw him, but my unpreparedness caused me to falter and hesitate. I never want someone else to experience that feeling…
Then I met Diba. My little feral. I couldn’t let this one get away.
Diba was an adult feral cat that lived at one of my other work sites. She is a fudging soldier. She survived that harsh winters and was able to hunt and live for what I believe was 5 years (at the time of this writing in 2018).
Diba was a feral who was wary of humans but knew that some people would feed her some scraps. This now brings us to our lesson: how to adopt a feral cat!
How To Adopt A Feral Cat
Let me remind you that adopting a feral cat is a long and arduous process, but one that is worth the time. When I look back on my experiences, I believe you could boil a feral cat adoption process down to Trust, Capture, and Comfort.
Your first priority is to gain the trust of the animal of choice as much as you can. Your feral needs to become comfortable enough to be near you and has an understanding that you are a good person.
By taking the time to earn its trust before you capture the feral, it will help tremendously with the comfort and transitional stage from outdoor life to the introvert ways.
I personally began my journey of attaining cat wisdom with the help of the Cat Daddy himself, Jackson Galaxy. I absolutely adore this man. You can tell he has such a passion for saving nine lives! Hahaha!! You can watch some of this Jackson’s YouTube videos here.
I initially began by feeding Diba some tuna, which is an amazingly delicious treat for cats. Just be mindful, however, that a dietary meal plan consisting only of tuna for your cat is not healthy.
Tuna is loaded with unsaturated fats which could cause vitamin E deficiency within our feline friends. This, in turn, could ultimately lead to a fat disorder called “yellow fat disease” which is a very painful illness. Mercury poison is also another thing to be wary of. Moderation is key.
I first left the food on a plate that was quite a distance from me. This way Diba could eat without feeling that I was encroaching upon her. After Diba began to realize that I was a human that was feeding her often over the days, I kept moving closer to her as she ate.
Eventually, I was able to sit next to her as she ate! Diba realized that I was there to feed her, which made her feel safe and comfortable around me. She even started to come to me whenever she saw me. Food gives you such leverage.
Then comes touch. Your feral needs to get used to being touched as physical contact is essential for building bond and rapport. This will definitely one of your biggest hurdles of adopting your own feral cat.
It depends on the cat, but most cats will be very wary of you coming close enough to touch them. Remember that cats are in a very awkward position where they are both predator and prey in the wild. They always have to be on the lookout for their next meal while avoid being one themselves!
Take it slow, and whenever the cat retreats or backs off, give her some time. The idea is to take two steps forward, one step back. You always wanna persist and try to establish that bond. However, if the cat backs off for any reason, you back off to and try again soon.
Once you are able to touch your feral, try to do some head rubs and a light brush along the back. No sudden movements, and try not to grab the cat. Slow and steady wins the race here.
Each time you feed your feral, go for the touch. Each time you are able to, do some light petting and back off. Once you do this consistently, your feral will get used to you petting her and will eventually let you do more of it.
Your main priorities during this phase of the adoption process are to get the cat comfortable with you feeding her, petting her, and with you being around her.
This will definitely take time. Personally, I spent about five months socializing this little furball until she felt completely comfortable being my outdoor cat.
Try to feed your cat often and remember to leave fresh water out on a daily basis! Leaving out fresh water is vitally important as it could be tremendously difficult for cats to find a clean source of water.
You’re about to catch your very own feral cat! How exciting! It’s even better knowing that the longer you stay with your cat and treat her with respect, the more likely your feral will come down with Stockholm syndrome and become enamored with you.
For this capture process, I highly recommend you either invest in a humane cat trap or borrow one from your local shelter. Humane traps are excellent ways to capture your feral as they do so without harming the little critter.
I tried various other methods, such as picking up the feral and placing her in a cage… WHICH IS A BAD IDEA. You will get scratched, even if the trust and love between the two of you are strong.
I even tried using a box trap with one of those strings you pull to trigger it. Trust me, a humane trap is an ideal way to go. Please save yourself the trouble.
A humane trap has two openings on either end. One side locks while the other has a trapping door. You are able to place some bait or other goodies in the trap, lock one side of the cage, and then set the trap.
What a humane trap does is when an animal goes inside and steps on a switch, the door immediately springs to a close behind it. Thus, trapping the feral inside without harming it.
You would think that you could just place the trap and some bait in and it’ll just work… but sometimes it’s a little more challenging than just that. The first thing is that cats are easily spooked, especially feral cats.
When you start lumbering over with a large humane trap, the feral will definitely know something is up and keep its distance. Diba certainly did. It took about five days for her to get comfortable with even eating around the trap. It took another couple of days getting her to even go into the trap.
Another challenge could be the presence of other ferals. All of them are hungry so it may be difficult getting the feral of your choice into the trap. You just have to be mindful of who goes into the trap or try and use multiple traps.
It may be a little mean, but I would recommend you decrease the amount of food you give your feral before trying to capture. This way, your feral of choice is a little hungrier and would be more willing to go into the trap. I would recommend you use canned tuna or Gerber’s chicken baby food. I personally used baby food.
If your feral is reluctant to go into the cage, I would leave a trail of food into the food bowl inside. With a bit of persistence and patience, you will eventually be able to capture your feral.
After the fateful moment where the cat is finally trapped, be sure to cover the cage with a blanket to help calm the cat down. Now carry the cat to your desired home location. Congratulations! You just caught your very own cat!
The third and final stage is the comfort stage and transitioning your feline friend into an indoor lifestyle. This part takes a bit of time too and you must understand that your cat will adjust at a very slow pace. Just give her time, space, and food and eventually she will become accustomed to living inside.
I suggest you purchase a cage or prepare a separate room for your feline friend. Note that you’ll only have to teach your cat once how to use the litter box. This is also the point where you can take your feral cat to the veterinarian doctor in order to get a medical checkup and blood work done. If all goes well, you will be able to introduce your new feline friend to your home!
Purr-o tip: I purchased myself a used cage from Petco which I returned after integrating Diba into a house cat. Be sure to save the receipt! The cage is not something you will need after your feral becomes accustomed to living indoors.
I personally left Diba in the cage in my room for about a week. She definitely did not know what the litter box was at first and soiled herself. What you can do is clean up the urine with a paper towel and place it in the litter box with litter.
This way, it will help your feral understand that the litter box is used as a bathroom. Cats literally cannot relieve themselves without sand, soil, or something to cover up their waste.
During your feral’s time in the cage, be sure to regularly feed her and continue to touch and pet her if possible. This is why you spent so much time gaining her trust initially.
During this phase, your feral will need to understand that you are there to feed her and love her. Give her time. If your feral is not in the mood to be touched or hisses at you, continue to give her space.
Don’t worry… you have the one thing that she always wants and needs, which gives you the ultimate leverage. That one thing is the food.
Feeding your feral will ultimately allow you to gain its trust again and develop your relationship. Continue feeding your feral some tuna, baby food, or wet food. Anything delicious and anything smelly. Cats love smelly food!
I personally fed Diba Gerber Chicken baby food with a spoon until she got used to my presence all over again.
After a couple of days, I finally left the cage open for Diba to explore her new world. It really wasn’t until it was nighttime and I was asleep that she came out to observe her new surroundings. Once she came out though, she never went back into the cage.
Diba found other hiding spots to indulge herself in. You think you cat proofed your house… but I promise you… it is never good enough. Your cat will always find a way to sneak into a hard to reach areas.
For the first couple of days out of her cage, Diba hid everywhere. She didn’t eat or go to the bathroom. It was only until it was night time and everything was dark was when she came out to use the litter box, eat the food I left out for her, and try to escape.
Pro tip: It is a very bad idea to let your feral cat outside during this stage. I personally wouldn’t even recommend you let your cat go outdoors as there are many dangers outside. However, if the feral does get out… it will try its best to get back to her home. Ultimately, this will cause the feral to get lost and possibly get in harm’s way.
This is the stage where you start setting up your routine, such as a feeding schedule and play time. Cats love a schedule and they adore routine. For the first couple of days, I would just leave some food out for your feral to nibble on from time to time. Eventually, I would do a timed feeding and stick to a concrete routine.
Purr-o tip: A feeding schedule of 2 to 4 small meals a day is ideal for cats. This simulates real life where the cat has to hunt each of its meals. Usually, the meals are small and a cat could eat multiple small meals throughout the day. This also prevents the cat from overeating and gaining too much weight.
You want to continue getting your cat comfortable with the indoor lifestyle and this will take a lot of time. It all depends on the cat and how much effort you put in with the transition.
I also recommend that you play some audiobooks or cat relaxation music to help your cat get comfortable with noises, music, voices, and sounds. Here is an excellent YouTube Channel called Relax My Cat – Relaxing Music for Cats.
How To Take Care Of A Cat
From this point on, it is all about maintaining the relationship. After a couple of weeks or maybe even months, your cat will slowly come out of hiding and become accustomed to living in your home.
I remember when Diba was first getting accustomed to living in my room, she would literally jolt and get scared out of every movement. Whenever I made my bed, changed my clothes, or moved furniture… it was all a new experience for Diba!
The main things you want to focus on are the annual veterinarian visits, maintaining a healthy diet, entertainment and playtime, frequent grooming, and managing the litter box. I personally clean the litter box twice a day, once in the morning and once at night, for my three furballs.
Congratulations! You made it to the end of my rant! I wish you all the best in your future endeavors and I hope you know that adopting a feral cat is a hard choice, but one that is so worth the investment.
I remember there was a time where I was feeding Diba some dry kibbles. I began to pet her gently and showed her lots of physical affection. She began to cry all of a sudden in a torrential downpour.
Almost as if she was crying out of sheer happiness of finally being in a home. I promise you, an adopted feral cat will know what you have done for her and will absolutely adore you. It is a deep bond that can not be broken… unless there is tuna involved!