Wild and homeless - there are still too many stray cats and each adoption is worth its weight in gold. However, taming a cat straight off the street or one of the little descendants of a half wild cat can be more difficult than we think. Not all cats - especially those that know only life in the wild - may be predisposed to domestication and the whole process may end in failure for a potential handler. So when to try and when to let go? We will try to figure it out.
Taming little wild things - it can be more difficult than it looks!
Taming a cat is a time-consuming process, and regardless of whether we’re talking about a street furry or one that was born among humans, you have to take into account that it takes time for a cat to become attached to its human caretaker. Taming is a multi-stage process and only gradual actions and being patient has a chance to bring success. We will discuss this in specific scenarios, but before we get into it, it’s worth raising an important issue that may facilitate the approach to the taming process. A solution easier for a potential caretaker than an attempt to domesticate a pet from scratch, and as socially responsible as acting on your own.
From the street or shelter?
That’s the question! If you want to help reduce the stray cat population and you have no experience in taming wild cats, instead of looking for them in corners of streets, on roadside or rural outskirts, simply go to a shelter. Why so? Quite simply - it will be easier in the beginning. Especially if you're making your debut as a cat caretaker. We did it ourselves in the case of our first cat - Luis. This boy was from the shelter, and the idea to look for our first cat there was a great idea and we were lucky to live with the best cat in the world!
More to the point… In a shelter, some of the work related to the socialization of the cat has already been done. Such a cat meets people on a daily basis, and the sight of a human most often evokes friendly connotations (provided that there have been no unpleasant incidents involving people in the past), related to the care and receiving of food. This is a friendlier and easier to implement scenario, especially when it is going to be your first cat in your life.
Sometimes, it happens that a cat will appear in our lives unexpectedly, even if we didn't plan it. These are, for example, situations when a homeless cat, looking for food, appears near a house, garden or a place where no one would expect a cat (e.g. at a metro station). Often such a cat is so desperate (the result of starvation) that it will come close to a stranger if it sees a shadow of a chance for food. This doesn’t mean that the cat trusts us, it is rather a consequence of the struggle for survival. Can such a cat be domesticated? In many cases, yes, but there are exceptions to this rule. It all depends on the experience of the animal, its character and even genetic predispositions.
When to try to tame?
Now we can come to the previously mentioned scenarios. We will discuss a few cases where the cat may be domesticated. And we start ... from our own backyard!
Scenario no1. We tame a cat from a wild or semi-wild mother
This scenario is quite common. The cat looks for a quiet place where the young can come into the world, often choosing a storage box for garden tools, a garage or a farm building. This type of intrusion can also happen on your property, and the sight of small kittens can evoke strong emotions and arouse the need for care. It often happens that when we see cat babies in our own yard, we don't want to part with them, even if we didn't plan to become a cat parent before. What to do in that case?
It’s said that when taming kittens living in the wild, the first three months of their life are crucial. Regular contact with humans, not marked by negative associations for the animal, will be important in the process. The first months of life are an important time for a kitten - he learns to live among representatives of his own and foreign species, socializes, learns behavior and takes his first steps in the big world. If we are taming kittens from a wild cat, it’s important not to separate them from their mother until 12 weeks of age. Separating the young from the mother too early can result in many behavioral problems (orphan disease, fearfulness, lack of bite inhibition) and hinder the socialization process.
If we want to catch kittens of a free-living female cat, it’s recommended to catch the whole cat family. Thanks to this, the kittens are still in contact with the mother, and at the same time with humans, while the mother can be castrated after the litter is brought up to prevent further expansion of the cat family.
Scenario no2. Cat from the street
This scenario can be much more difficult for a potential cat caretaker. Half-wild cats or cats that have been in the wild for generations will not be easily tamed (and in some cases even never!) These cats are naturally distrustful and rather keep their distance - they don’t seek contact with humans, and don’t trust a person who regularly feeds them. Unfortunately, taking such a cat from its usual place and locking it in a house or apartment is a huge stress for an animal, which often leads to a decrease in immunity and, consequently, diseases. Taming by force is not an option. In such a situation, it will be better to catch the cat for castration, vaccination, deworming, possible treatment. It may not sound like a good thing, because that kind of acting deprives us of the joy that comes from a cat's company, but doing so is as important to the cat population as caring for stray pets at home.
However, what to do with a stubborn, who cannot be tamed, but we aren’t indifferent to his fate? Asylum for free-living cats may be the solution. Furries live there in a colony created for their needs. They are supervised by volunteers, although it’s difficult to talk about progressive socialization or attachment to a human caretaker. The animals living in such colonies are provided with care and a substitute for life in the wild. This solution is particularly useful for sick cats, which require constant care.
Tamed cats should not be released back into the wild, as the confidence they have built up may prove dangerous to them, especially in contact with hostile people.
Scenario no3. Cat with adoption potential
Sometimes a free-living cat at some point decides to get closer to humans, and even an older furry, who has survived many things, shows progress in the socialization process. If we found that one, perfect! There’s a chance for a long-term friendship. How to deal with the cat with high potential for domestication?
- Provide the cat a safe space that should be limited at first. It can be a separate room equipped with the necessary cat accessories or a kennel cage. Be in the vicinity of the cat, but do not necessarily interact with it - let the animal get used to the fact that you are nearby.
- If the cat is in the cage, place it in the corner of the room, cover the sides and top of the cage - this will minimize stress on the animal.
- Before the cat arrives, you can use pheromones to help your cat gain confidence and believe that the new environment is safe.
- Hand = feeding. Make the cat associate your hand with giving food.
- The furry should have a safe hiding place. It can be a transporter without a door, a cocoon-type lair or a cardboard cat house (ours is perfect for this purpose!). A cat that can hide will feel more confident in its new surroundings.
Once you implement these few tips, your socialization process should go nice and easy. Remember, time will play a key role here and you have to be patient. Sometimes trust is built for weeks, sometimes for years. Depending on your cat's character, disposition and past, it will be a more or less long-standing process. In each of these cases, it's worth trying! And if it fails, nothing prevents you from asking a cat behaviorist, vet or shelter worker for advice. After all, every cat's life is worth every effort.
Have you ever tame a wild cat, fabCats? Share your experiences in the comments!