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What Is a Semi-Feral Cat? Facts & Tips to Tame Them

Written by: Misty Layne

Last Updated on June 3, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

two feral cats

What Is a Semi-Feral Cat? Facts & Tips to Tame Them

You’ve heard of stray and feral cats, but what about semi-feral cats? These felines fall somewhere in between stray and feral and have had at least a couple of instances of positive human interaction in the past. This makes them friendlier than completely feral cats but not quite as friendly as the kitties that used to live with people.

If these felines are friendlier than feral ones, does that mean they can be tamed? They can! However, it will take a lot of time and patience; a semi-feral kitty is still one that is used to living on its own, and it will be skittish. So, taming a semi-feral cat will be a time-consuming process.

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Stray vs Feral vs Semi-Feral Cats

What exactly is the between a stray, feral, and semi-feral cat?

Well, stray felines are ones that lived with people at one point and then were abandoned or simply got lost. So, they will be much friendlier toward humans than feral and semi-feral cats (though stray cats can eventually end up adopting feral behavior).

Feral cats are felines born in the wild that have never lived with people. They’re perfectly happy being wild kitties and don’t often enjoy interacting with humans, though they more than enjoy taking advantage of human garbage to find tasty meals! Feral kitties will run from or get defensive when confronted with people.

And semi-feral kitties are the ones in between. These cats are born in the wild but tend to be fairly social. This makes them still wary of humans but a bit less skittish. At some point, they’ve had a positive interaction with a person, so they might meow at a human or even make eye contact rather than run.

vocal semi-feral cat
Image Credit: museumsmaus, Pixabay


How to Tame a Semi-Feral Cat

The first thing to know about taming a semi-feral cat is that it will take a long time and a lot of patience. Every feline is different, so some semi-feral cats you might be able to tame in a handful of weeks, but most likely, it will take months (and even up to a year) to tame one of these kitties. So, make sure you’re up to the task before starting, and once you’re ready to begin, here’s what you’ll need to do.

1. Ignore the cat.

It seems like a counterproductive move to ignore a feline you want to tame, but by doing this, you’re stimulating the kitty’s curiosity about you. And making a semi-feral cat curious will force it into making the first move by approaching you. Ensure the first encounter is positive, and the cat should return for more!

2. Engage it slowly.

Once the semi-feral cat has come back for more encounters, it’s time to slowly start engaging with the cat via enrichment. The best way of engaging is to interact with the cat during mealtimes using treats and toys.

semi-feral cat eating food on the ground
Image Credit: Anna Kumpan, Unsplash

3. Desensitize the cat to life with people on a slow scale.

Though a semi-feral cat will have had human interaction before, it doesn’t mean it’s used to human company. So, things like too many voices, slamming doors, and loud music might make the cat nervous. This is why you need to slowly get the cat used to being around humans by speaking to it while it eats or doing tasks around it while it’s eating. After the cat is used to being around people, you can try moving it into your home.

4. Don’t go overboard.

You need to respect the cat’s boundaries and space when inviting it into your home (and this can be a fine line to walk). Semi-feral kitties will likely be overwhelmed and nervous being in a home and around people at first, so it’s vital that you leave them room to run and hide if needed. You never want to corner one of these felines! But neither do you want to give the cat free reign over your home because curious kitties can lead to trouble. Ideally, you’ll want to start the cat off in a single room that provides all its needs (litter box, food, and water).

a feral cat lying under a car
Image Credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969, Pixabay

5. Keep the cat calm.

If you’ve brought a semi-feral cat into your home and it’s still a bit too nervous for its own good, try some catnip or products that mimic pheromones from felines to help the kitty feel calmer and more comfortable!

Congratulations! You’ve managed to tame a semi-feral feline!

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Final Thoughts

Semi-feral cats are cats born in the wild that have managed to have positive interactions with humans in the past. This makes them just a touch friendlier than feral felines (but not as friendly as stray cats). Though it will take patience and a lot of time, you can tame a semi-feral cat, bring it into your home, and gain a new lifelong friend!


Featured Image Credit: JancickaL, Pixabay

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