Socializing a feral animal can be a difficult but very rewarding
experience, and the outcome will have a lot to do with how old the
animal is, how feral the animal is, and your personality and patience
level. The hardest cat to socialize is an older, totally- feral
animal. This type of animal has spent a long time in the wild and
will be very wary of ever accepting human contact. However, if you
can socialize a totally-feral cat, that cat will likely develop
a deeply devoted bond with you, and you only, and you may want to
consider keeping this cat as your pet. These cats, once they allow
themselves to trust that one person, take time trusting anyone else,
and if abandoned by that one person can revert to their wild behaviors.
Of course, the easiest cat to socialize is a young kitten. Kittens
at about 5 weeks old will start to exhibit feral behaviors, thus
if you can get them before or near 5 weeks your task will be easier.
Here are some tips on socializing a feral animal:
1. Once the cat is in your home, keep the cat in a very small area,
because too large of an area will stress and frighten the cat. Make
sure that this room is quiet and calm and that there are no other
animals or small children in this room.
2. First, only 'visit' the cat to take care of his/her personal
needs such as food, water, and the litterbox. Again, food is a very
big motivator for feral animals, so get the cat used to the fact
that you are the one taking care of his/her needs. While you are
taking care of the cat, feel free to talk to the cat very slowly
and softly, this will also get the cat used to you and your voice.
And always move slowly around the cat.
3. Once the cat seems comfortable with your presence, try sitting
with the cat for a few hours a day. Don't try to touch the cat yet--just
sit near him/her and talk to the cat. Each time you 'visit', you
can also try to sit closer and closer to the cat, being sure to
pay attention to his signs. Remember that anytime the cat gives
you a signal to 'go away', do so. Never push. Let things go at the
pace the cat chooses.
4. Once the cat seems comfortable with you near, you can try to
touch the cat. You may want to wear a long shirt or gloves just
in case you get scratched or bitten. When you start, always move
your hand slowly towards the cat and let the cat smell your hand
before you touch him/her. If the cat seems calm enough you can try
to pet the cat gently. Again, don't push it. Start slow, pet the
cat for a minute or two the first day, and work your way up to more
time. At any time, if the cat seems to be angry or scared, stop.
And remember, most cats strongly dislike their paws and backsides/tails
to be touched so try to stay away from those areas at first.
5. If the cat is resisting touch, you can try a few tricks: try
to give the cat a little tuna or shrimp before touching to coax
the cat into trusting you, or tie a sock or a piece of clothing
of yours (with your smell on it) around a stick and 'pet' the cat
with it from a distance. This contact is a big step, so be patient.
6. Once he/she can sustain long contacts and seems comfortable with
your touch, you can try to hold the cat. You can start off by holding
the cat for short periods of time and working your way up to longer
'hugs' and putting the cat on your lap.
7. If he/she allows this, and seems comfortable with you and the
room, you may want to then try to show the cat other parts of the
house or other animals. You may also want to try to get the cat