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Taming a Feral Cat

Gingerale's story

This tiny kitten started showing up at the feeding station shortly in the new year. I estimated he was no older than 8 weeks. He was very wild and I rarely saw more than a flash of him for the first couple of weeks. He was very hungry and thin but seemed healthy otherwise. He did not come every day. Because he was so young the older cats of the colony did not attack or drive him away.

first-photo of gingerale

I have no photos of him as a tiny kitten. He would come in gulp down some food and run away immediately. Up to this day he is blindingly fast.

Our late winter and spring was very cold. Here Gingerale is sunning himself. Photo taken with big zoom. He can't see me.

This kitten attached himself to another of the colony's cats. One Ear is a rough and tumble Tomcat and surprisingly he took the kitten under his wing. This involved some protection, some mentoring and great games. It also involved the kitten in long rambles when One Ear went around protecting his turf and fighting.

I've seen older cats take over the care of kittens before. My Oscar has tutored kittens when I had fosters in the house.

After this happened I saw more of the kitten because One Ear would bring him when he came for supper.

just captured

Here I have just captured both cats with the intention of neutering them. I was afraid the kitten might be a girl cat and I did not want kittens around. One Ear had been furiously fighting everyone and needed neutering as well. Read about how I caught and neutered the cats here. One ear got released.

cat in a cage

After a couple of days I released One Ear back to the outside. He was too wild to tame. I wanted to try to tame the kitten before I released him. He was about 5 months old and this is usually too late to tame easily but I wanted to give it a try.

Photo at left taken with a zoom. If I came closer he would dash in the carrier on the right and hide. At this point he is very wild.

The puppy crate is set up in the bathroom because it is small and safe and can be closed off.

I made a point of coming into the bathroom often and talking to him as much as possible. After a week he started staying out when I came in, later he did not hide when I put food in the cage.

cat in a cage

Once he was comfortable with me in the room I opened the bathroom door and allowed the other cats to come and inspect him. The kitten was not particularly afraid of the other cats and was very interested.

I started playing with the big cats in the bathroom, and brushing them. I have one cat, Jenny, who is very vocal and this was great fun for the kitten.

After a short while the kitten would play with a long handled cat toy through the bars as long as another cat was around. At that point I gave him a cat toy in his cage. It's a ball inside a round track. He had much fun with this.

I started playing with him with the cage door open (but the bathroom door closed in case he bolted). I would touch him with the handle of the toy and eventually with my hand. He did not like this much but was not hugely worried either.

cat outside cagecat outside cage

Once I could touch him, I gave him the freedom of the bathroom. He was careful at first but soon was playing up a storm with me.

I also allowed Winston in with him to amuse him and help socialize him.

The kitten was always more comfortable with me if another cat was around.

He gradually became more at ease with me in the room and if I quietly sat down, would allow me to pet him. I could also carefully lift him onto my lap and pet him there.

cat in bedroom

When he allowed me to pet him and play with him with some confidence, I brought him into my bedroom. Another room that closes. It is larger than the bathroom and I can leave the door slightly open for him to talk to other cats. They played through the gap without having to deal with each other too much.

He was quickly comfortable to come and get petted when I was reading on my bed and soon I could walk around without him running away. We spent a lot of time playing with his ball. He actually brings it to me to throw. He is a golden retriever cat!

He naturally fetches and brings his ball to me hoping I will throw it. I did not teach him this. I guess I would throw the ball when I was taming him and he learned to bring back the ball and wait till I threw it. Cute! He gets all tired and out of breath.

He likes playing on the bed, I'm not sure why but he feels safe. If I walk into the room and he is in the bed he lets me pet him with no trouble. If I'm looming over him when he's on the floor he is more timid.

cat in bedroom

After a week in the bedroom I just opened the door to the house and let him explore. He had a glorious time and played himself silly. At this point I allow him out during the day and keep him in at night. I still want him to enjoy being petted and play with me. My house is huge and a cat can disappear for days if he wants.

cat in bedroom

Feral cat in the warm laundry, with his ball of course.

Gingerale has been with me for just under 4 weeks, at this point he is a charming little cat. He is smart, fast, playful and learns very quickly. He is not perfect. He does play more roughly than I would like but he is learning.

I have been able to tame him this quickly because of his very sociable temperament, and I have some experience. I think he will be a very good pet and one with a superb personality.

I will put him up for adoption. With the right kind of adoptive parents he would be just fine and they would get a good chance to bond with him.

Gingerale has not been used to children so he will definitely not "get" kids.

Taming Feral Cat, 5 Weeks

I had a fright, Gingerale got out of the house and went for a "big explore" in the neighbourhood. I was afraid he would revert back to the wild. He came back though and I got him back into the house. He was extra cuddly even. It was a cold rainy day with no food so I guess inside looked better than outside.

I still bring him in the bedroom at night so I will have some time to handle him and play with him. He has associated this room with a safe room and will allow me to handle him with no fear. Elsewhere he stays just out of reach. Mind you he is starting to come when called and always seems to come back to see me regularly, just like any other cat.

cat in backsharpening claws

After spending some time fixing holes in the meshing that protects my enclosed back garden, I let Gingerale out. It's meshed in so the cats can't get out and they really enjoy playing and sleeping ouside. I feed the birds on the garage, mostly pigeons right now, so there is lots of fluttering and bird watching.

Here is more information on making a cat friendly garden

cat in gardencat on hose rack

I have many photos of him but he's mostly a blur and out of focus, he's always darting around so fast and having such a great time.

cat in the grasswith lizard

I keep a small grass patch in my otherwise all pots garden and the cats love it. Ever curious, Gingerale checks out the bearded dragons taking a bath.

After 6 weeks Gingerale is a spark of joy in the house. Curious, happy and friendly he is a tame cat! He has not shown any great inclination to be a lap cat but he comes when called and loves a quiet cuddle. He adores playing ball though.

Happy Ending

2 days after posting his story on the adoption site of the Annex Cat Rescue, Gingerale was interviewed by a potential adoptive parent. He behaved beautifully and has gone to his new home. He has 2 human friends and 2 cat friends and is adapting well. The good guys win again!

NOTE: Most cats can be tamed by controlling their food and gradually feeding them closer and closer to you. Eventually hand feeding them. In this case Gingerale was very social and was quick to learn from other already tame cats. Food was less important than playing. So in this case playing was the key to his heart.

I try to be accurate and check my information, but mistakes happen.

email me if you find mistakes, I'll fix them and we'll all benefit: Christine