Can Ferals Be Tamed?

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Perhaps the first question is should ferals be tamed. No one agrees on this question, and I feel that any broad statement in answer to this would be wrong. My answer is this: it depends on the feral.

It is up to each individual depending on their own situation, and I can tell you that I have tried all the options when it comes to ferals. I have trapped, spayed/neutered and released both kittens and adults. I have tamed both kittens and adults (although plenty of experts still tell me this is not possible, I’m inclined to go with my own experience and knowledge). I have also taken ferals into my house with absolutely no intention of taming, but only to be sure they are safe. We do not have a policy with ferals except for this: we do what we can, when we can, and we try to do what is in the cat’s best interests.

Ferals can be tamed, even if they have never had human contact in their lives. I’ve been in one place long enough to watch it happen with cats I have a complete history on. Miss Kitty was the first adult we ever tamed, and the 3-legged Miss Bobbie followed that success. Kittens are relatively easy to tame most of the time, and so we have done quite a bit of that. It is always a risk to attempt to touch a feral, though. With adult ferals, I recommend going slowly, or not at all. There is nothing wrong with being wild, and if they are going to be outside the rest of their lives, it is probably safer for them. With kittens I recommend lots of touch and holding early on, as often as possible. I can generally tame a kitten 3 months or younger in just a couple of days if I do it on a weekend where I can basically saturate his/her life with human touch and kindness.

I want to add a word here about relocation for ferals. Generally, even if you remove an entire population of ferals, more strays and ferals will move in because these locations generally contain a food source and/or shelter. It is often the location itself that attracts cats to it, and not people feeding. The best we can do sometimes is to spay/neuter to prevent more homeless cats. Relocating a population is very risky for the cats. They must be confined in some sort of kennel in a safe place for a few weeks. During that time, someone must be able to safely get food and water inside the kennel, as well as scoop the litter box. Even then, once released into the new location, the cat may disappear for good. A new environment that is unknown represents new dangers. For instance, trying to move them to the country, you may be eliminating people and cars, but you are adding to the mix racoons, coyotes, dogs, etc. So think very carefully before attempting to do this.

by Victoria M. King