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How Do I Calm a Feral Cat? 5 Steps That Can Help

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on May 9, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

two feral cats

How Do I Calm a Feral Cat? 5 Steps That Can Help

Have you ever interacted with a feral cat? “Interacted with” might not be the right wording, as feral cats will often not let you get close to them, let alone let you touch them. In fact, a feral cat might run away should you even make eye contact!

Although it takes time, you can calm a feral cat so they’re more social around you and other people. This article goes over information about these cats and the steps involved with calming a feral feline that’s not used to being around people.

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What Is the Difference Between Feral Cats & Socialized Cats?

A socialized cat is a domestic feline that’s comfortable around people. Likewise, a feral cat is not domesticated because they have had little to no contact with people and are basically wild.

A semi-feral cat falls in between a domestic cat and a feral cat. A semi-feral cat doesn’t like being touched, but they may make eye contact with you or even vocalize in your presence.


The 5 Steps to Calm a Feral Cat

1. Allow the Cat to Make the First Move

Don’t try to force yourself on a feral cat because all you’ll do is scare them. What you should do is give the cat time to make contact with you. When they attempt to come close to you, talk to them in a positive way using a soft and gentle voice to assure them that you can be trusted.

feral cats resting outdoor
Image Credit: Dimitris Vetsikas, Pixabay

2. Provide Treats & Toys to Encourage Interaction

Once the feral cat comes near you without running off at the slightest movement or sound you make, reward them with treats. Make sure all your actions are calm, and keep your voice low.

By offering the cat a tasty treat like a piece of chicken, you’ll begin to earn their trust. At this point, the cat may come closer to you and connect on a one-on-one basis. They may choose to sit near you or wander around close by.

3. Help the Cat Get Used to Being Around People

A feral cat will likely become frightened when they hear human conversation, music, doors opening and closing, and other sounds people make. This is why you should help a feral cat get used to being around you and others.

A good time to expose a feral cat to human activities is during mealtime. While the cat is busy eating, perform a few slow and deliberate tasks to get them used to the movements and sounds you make. If you’re near your back door or garage with the cat, go in and out of the door, but don’t slam it! Be calm and somewhat quiet, so the cat doesn’t take off and never return.

animal rescue volunteer taming a feral cat
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

4. Make a Space for the Cat

Once your new feline friend is getting used to being around you, make a space for them to call their own. This can be anything from a shed with an open window for easy access to a comfy cat bed placed on your porch. Just make sure the space that you create for the cat is clean, warm, inviting, and something that will make the cat feel secure.

5. Spend Time With the Cat

Once the cat has been given time to settle in, start spending some time with the animal in their new space. It’s a good idea to wear long sleeves, pants, gloves, and shoes when you’re around the cat to prevent scratches and bites.

Plan on spending time with the cat at the same time each day to establish a routine. Don’t approach the cat too quickly or make loud noises. It’s also wise to avoid making eye contact with the cat so they don’t feel threatened. Sit down, and spend an hour or so with the cat as often as you can, to get them used to you.

It’s a good idea to play with the cat once they feel safe spending time around you. Pick up a few cat toys like a string and feather toy or a plush mouse. Slowly introduce the toy to the cat, so they know that it’s not a threat. Then use the toy to entice the cat to interact with you.

cat laying on ground playing
Image Credit: Ingus Kruklitis, Shutterstock


How to Tell If a Cat Is Scared or Aggressive

It’s easier to calm a feral cat if you know how they feel. You certainly don’t want the cat to attack you with their claws or teeth when you’re trying to tame them. You also don’t want to frighten the cat to the point where they head for the hills and never come back.

A frightened cat will hiss and growl to keep you at bay. The eyes of a scared cat are not usually dilated, and the animal will keep their head straight while hissing and growling in an attempt to scare you away.

An aggressive cat will have dilated eyes and make plenty of growling noises to keep you away. An aggressive feline will also cock their head while holding their ears back. The cat’s fur will stand on end to make themselves look bigger and more frightening.

If the feral cat shows signs of aggression when you’re trying to tame them, back off and give them the space that they need—otherwise, you may get hurt.

How Long Does It Take for a Feral Cat to Adjust?

You’re not going to see overnight success when trying to calm a feral cat. The process will take several weeks, so be patient. Remember that the cat may have lived their entire life outdoors without coming into contact with any humans.

If you succeed at calming a feral cat, they can become your new live-in pet. Once you get the animal tamed, schedule an appointment with a veterinarian for a health check and vaccinations. You’ll also need to groom your kitty, so pick up some cat shampoo and a slicker brush to keep your kitty’s fur clean and tangle-free.

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If you cross paths with a feral cat that appears to be scared of people, they were probably born wild. If you want to calm and tame the cat, follow these steps and do everything as calmly as possible.

With time, perseverance, and patience, that feral cat may become your friend. Don’t forget to give them plenty of time and space and allow them to warm up to you on their terms! Who knows? Maybe that feral cat will become your new live-in companion.

Featured Image Credit: JancickaL, Pixabay

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