Wanting to rescue a feral cat is only natural since these animals can seem cold and hungry living on the streets or out in the wild, but feral kitten behavior isn't like that of tame, domesticated animals, and wild cats as pets may not be the best idea if you're new to pet ownership. Still, learning how to tame a feral cat is certainly possible. Ask about the wild cats in your area before approaching them (they could already be under the care of someone else) and then offer your services. This may include helping to erect shelter, buying food, and trying to wrangle them for some much-needed health care.
Feral cat definition
Learning about feral cats starts with the proper definition, and it turns out that the term "feral" is falling out of favor. In the past, ownerless cats living in the outdoors were termed "feral" or were called alley cats, but today, these kitties are better known as community cats. These creatures may gather in pairs or groups and can be spotted in both urban and country neighborhoods (outside the city, they may be called barn cats). They usually survive thanks to the kindness of local people who provide water, food, and shelter.
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Some community cats have lived outside for generations, though others are newly abandoned by their human owners. By some estimates, community cats may number between 30 and 40 million in this country, and this large number of felines can reproduce rapidly, bearing 80 percent of the kittens born each year. Containing the kitten population requires a community effort to spay or neuter cats so they are kept out of cat shelters and feline euthanasia programs.
Helping to neuter feral cats
If you're hoping to help the cats living in your area, you could look into a local Trap-Neuter-Return-Monitor program, which is often shortened to TNRM. This community effort is a humane way to give health care to cats and monitor their numbers in a particular neighborhood. A TNRM program has volunteers who carefully trap the cats and then transport them to a vet to be spayed, neutered, and vaccinated for rabies. Once the animals are returned to their outdoor setting, the monitor portion of the program kicks in, and a volunteer watches for new cats that may join the pack.
Not only is TNRM a kind way to treat community cats but it's a successful approach too. By sterilizing 75 percent of the cats in a feral setting within six months, the number of cats in the community can be halted and even reduced. Fewer outdoor cats also means less middle-of-the-night hissing and screaming from packs of fighting cats, and smaller communities of cats have more room to grow, gain weight, play, and thrive in a safe environment.
How to tame a feral cat
Are you hoping to meet and bring home wild cats as pets? A slow approach is best, or you could frighten a community cat. If the animal you like seems hungry, bring some food with you along with treats and maybe a cat toy or two. The goal is to show your affection and gain the cat's trust. Try not to make loud sounds or speak in a raised voice to the cat you're trying to tame.
If you're able to bring home a semiferal cat, give her space and time to adjust. Pheromone sprays may help to calm a nervous kitty, but time and patience are the real avenues to follow. Remember that it could take weeks to get an outside cat used to life indoors and even months or years before a formerly feral cat is truly part of the family.