How To Tame A Feral Cat

What do you know about taming a feral cat? If you are a reader of my newsletter, you know that I have had difficulties training our feral cat, Akita; that we captured last spring. Read on to learn more about my journey.

My father-in-law told us we had a cat on our porch. We left food out and every time we checked; the food was gone. One time my daughter and I caught sight of the kitten and followed it to my neighbour’s deck where it was hiding underneath, but we couldn’t find her. Then we tried to catch the cat in a humane, live animal trap, baiting it with ham. The first few times, the food disappeared, but the trap didn’t work. After a few days, we switched out to another trap and finally caught her. You can see from her face how happy that made her.

Feral cat in a cage

Wild Cat

Akita hissed and threw a fit, desperate to free herself from the cage and escape. I took a quick trip to Walmart for cat supplies. My husband and I took her out of the cage and released her in our finished basement giving her access to that part of the house. She took off in a flash, looking for a safe space. We left her alone to adjust.

Checking on her a while later, she had hidden under the toilet tank in the bathroom, the smallest room in the basement. She was all claws, teeth and hiss, four pounds of anger and fear, swatting at us every time we tried to coax her out with food or treats.

It was at that time we figured out she was probably feral and not just a kitten that was dropped off.

The Internet

The next step was hitting Google to see how to tame a feral cat. There were tons of videos and tutorials. My daughter and I kept trying with Akita, but she only came out when we weren’t around. Luckily, after having one accident, she taught herself how to use a litter box. The articles I read told me to sprinkle dirt in her litter box and it seemed to work.

The Vet

We wanted to take her to the vet and get her checked out. At that point, we didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl. My daughter and I spent over half an hour trying to catch her and get her into the cat carrier. The vet told us she was a healthy girl, about 4 months old. That was great because they said we could domesticate feral kittens under six months of age.

Bad Advice

Everything we read online said to put Akita in a cage where she could see us and pull her out and pet her a few times a day. We borrowed a big dog cage and set it up in the kitchen with a litter box and food. Poor Akita was terrified. We could see her heart thumping in her chest. I used gloves to pull her out of her cage and nestle her against my chest, as the experts suggested. She fought and bit me a few times, but then relented. Each time we did it, she reacted the same. We were both very stressed.

Related story: Why People Have Pets 

Good Advice

I called the vet for advice, hoping that I could tame this poor little girl. I just couldn’t think about throwing her back out in the cold. She suggested we set her up in a small room and make her feel safe. We set her up in our spare bedroom with everything she needed and gave her a few days to adjust.

The vet suggested I start by going into the room and letting her get used to me. I either read or played on my phone. After a few days, I engaged her using a feather toy with a long stick. She started by sticking out a paw, then she would come out from under the bed, but retreated every time. This went on for about a month with me, playing with her, feeding her and letting her adjust on her own terms. She even purred when we played.

Cat under the bed
Cat playing with a toy

Out of the Room

The next step was to integrate her into the rest of the house. We started by opening the door at night when we went to bed so she could explore on her own terms. Once she got used to that, we started leaving the door open a few hours during the day. A curious girl, she would come out of her bedroom and hang out on the landing overlooking the stairs, always retreating to her room whenever we tried to come near or she felt threatened.

Slow Integration

Slowly but surely, we built up trust. We progressed to giving her treats and she let us touch her head and pet her. Akita also had to get used to our pug Marge, the sweetest boy on Earth. Every time she was afraid, she would hiss at us and retreat to her room. It took months for her to trust us and even now, when she gets scared, she hisses (which is a sign of fear, not aggression).

In the last couple of weeks, she has started to sit on my lap when I am on the couch and let me pet her. She’ll even nap on the love seat when Marge is sleeping on the couch.

Final Thoughts

It’s been eleven months, and she is now part of our family and even though she is still a scared-y cat, she relaxes her guard more and more all the time. Have you ever rescued a feral cat?

Until next time



Feature image by Christel SAGNIEZ from Pixabay.

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