How to tame a feral kitten—handy tips for new cat parents
The world is black and white for a feral kitten who’s always in survival mode. They only meet dangerous or indifferent creatures, and humans are usually the latter.
To understand how to tame a feral kitten, you must first comprehend their understandable, neurotic mental state. You shouldn’t expect to feed and pet them into submission as they don’t fathom affection and care.
Domesticating a feral kitten should be gradual and well thought through. You’ll lose their trust and be marked as another predator if you’re too pushy. We will discuss whether it’s worth rescuing a feral kitten and help you devise an effective strategy for:
- Getting a wild kitty to come out of their shell
- Adopting and training a feral kitten
- Managing their diet and correcting unhealthy eating habits
What is a feral kitten? Are they different from a stray kitty?
Most people think feral and stray kitties are the same, but that’s not the case. Both are free-roaming felines, but the crucial difference between them is approachability.
Stray kittens are abandoned or homeless, but not by choice. They can easily socialise with the people who bring them meals or show affection and would gladly settle into a home if the opportunity presented itself.
Feral kittens are completely closed off to humans and domestic settings. It’s not a plain case of shyness—they are aggressive and tend to bite or attack when approached. Kittens don’t turn feral right after birth. According to animal behaviourists, if a kitty has zero or adverse interaction with humans during the first three to twelve weeks of kittenhood, they embrace their instinctive predatory temperament and go wild.
Many domesticated kittens can also get lost and turn feral. It usually happens if you let them roam outside unsupervised, especially when they are unneutered adolescents and have a higher drive to explore and indulge in risky behaviour.
Feral kittens are slightly more malleable than adults and can be groomed for a normal kitty life—but the task will test your commitment and patience.
Source: Matteo Basile
Should you tame a wild kitten?
Many people say ferals should be left alone as they don’t want to be rescued, but these kitties have awfully hard and short lives. A defenceless wild kitten will become hunted before they even learn to hunt, and those who make it to adulthood have a life expectancy of merely two years because of:
- Traffic accidents
- Trauma from fights with other cats and dogs
- Food poisoning from:
- Consuming contaminated raw meat and rotting carcasses
- Scavenging in the garbage
- Malnutrition and starvation
- No veterinary attention
If you’re up for it, taming a feral kitten is a noble way to improve their health and quality of life. Getting them socialised and homed reduces animal street fights and prevents pregnancies that lead to unmanageable feral and stray populations.
How to tame a feral cat or kitten
After rescuing a feral kitten, your first responsibility is to create a safe and secure space for them in your home. Many people recommend confining the kitten in a crate or the bathroom, but that could further agitate them. Keep in mind that the kitten is used to moving freely, so sudden caging would leave them terrified—and that’s game over already.
There are three stages of taming a wild kitten:
You clip their wings and become THE ENEMY the moment you shove them in a tiny cage. Follow the zoo approach—forge a small habitat where they’ll eventually feel at ease.
Source: Thomas Park
How to contain a feral kitten
- A warm bed to sleep in
- Food and water bowls (place them close to the door so you can refill them at regular intervals without entering the space)
- Litter tray with clay litter (most cats intuitively figure out how to use the tray, but don’t force them to use it for the first few days)
- Stimulating toys that help harness their aggression, such as:
- Scratch posts
- Chewing toys (get the sturdy ones for teething)
- Cat towers
The containment period can last several weeks, depending on how quickly the kitty relaxes. Help them feel secure by:
- Visiting their space several times a day but keeping your distance
- Talking to them in a positive tone of voice
- Trying to engage them in interactive games like fetch
- Using anti-stress aids like pheromone sprays and catnip powder
An effective hack to win them over during visits is to entice them with tempting canned food that mirrors their natural diet instead of only dry food. In general, feral kittens are livid during the first few days of containment, but they start softening up after registering the constant supply of food and comfort. They’ll gradually become tolerant of your visits.
How to handle a feral kitten
Handling a feral kitten is the make-or-break stage of the taming process, as one wrong move can make them fearful to the point of no return.
A contained feral kitten may view you as a food source, but they’re far from trusting you enough to welcome your touch. To avoid fight-flight-or-freeze responses, caretakers often start with:
- Using a rolled towel to pet the kitty from a distance
- Petting their back or head gently while they eat
- Stooping down at face-to-face level with the kitty to make eye contact or blink (you’re less intimidating to a tiny kitty when you’re not towering over them)
Since you’re dealing with a traumatised feline, tailor your approach intuitively. Never startle your kitten by petting them when they’re asleep or forcefully grooming and bathing them. After the rough life they’ve endured, you cannot pressure them into being a domesticated cuddle bug easily.
Let them stay in control—show affection when they ask for it and retreat when they’re uncomfortable. Here are some behavioural responses you should be aware of:
Don’t invade—conquer their heart with food and respect for their boundaries. Create a safe space at a slow pace, and let time do the rest.
Source: Helena Lopes
How to train a wild kitten
Begin training a feral kitten only after they’ve completely adjusted to a domestic life around humans, which can take months. Start with basic obedience training like responding to their name and sit/stand commands.
Socialising a feral kitten is possible only if they were rescued young and aren’t too scarred by their experiences on the streets. Since they’re not as impressionable as regular kittens, it’ll take a while before they open up to other humans. Adult feral cats may never adapt to living with other pets because they see them as food rivals.
Feral kitten—development, health, and eating habits
Most feral kittens are rescued in shabby health. They are usually underdeveloped and underweight and often suffer from flea infestation and intestinal worms. Before you start the taming process, have your rescue kitty checked by a vet to get a clear idea of their medical situation.
- Leave some kibbles in a bowl—it doesn’t spoil easily, and the kitty can graze on them in solitude
- Bring a small serving of wet food every time you visit—it’s more appetising than dry food and will become a positive reinforcement for socialisation
Once your kitty moves to the handling stage, switch them to a regular wet-food diet. Dry food contributes to unhealthy eating habits in feral kittens (like gorging and overeating) because they’ve been deprived for so long. Besides, a kibble diet is typically rich in carbs and can increase the risk of developing:
- Obesity and diabetes
- Frequent gastrointestinal issues (which leads to stomach sensitivity)
- Urinary tract diseases (bladder stones, UTIs, and similar)
Bring the taste of the wild to their meals—use Untamed to score some feral trust points!
Image (c) Untamed
Tame the kitty, not their dietary needs—feed them Untamed
Untamed is the best wet food for feral kittens because it contains delicious human-grade whole meat. Ferals have heightened predatory instincts, and the aromatic scent of our steamed gravies and jellies appeals to their primal senses, making it easier for you to be the “trustworthy human who brings good food”.
Untamed helps bruised and battered kitties recuperate with:
- High-protein meals—Our meals have 60%–63% whole meat, supporting the development of muscular strength and robust immunity. We avoid iffy fillers (meat derivatives, sugar, grains, vegan proteins, etc.)
- Vet-designed formulas—Vets have helped us create the best cat food formulas with correct doses of vital micronutrients like:
- Hypoallergenic recipes—We don’t use common allergens like milk, corn, beef, artificial preservatives, and taste enhancers that tend to trigger food allergies in felines
- Easily digestible bites—Feral kittens will shut down if you feed them something that causes vomiting, retching, regurgitation, or diarrhoea. There are no tummy upsets with Untamed because our ingredients are gently steamed to stay soft and digestible but pathogen-free
Fussy cats all over the UK have opened their hearts to our delicacies made with chicken, liver, tuna, duck, salmon, sardines, mackerel, ham, and shrimp. Your in-training feral kitty will chill upon tasting our delicious flavours after a life of surviving on junk scraps—take our TRY NOW quiz to order the taster pack!
True survivors are possessive of good food. Let’s not call it a feral trait, hooman.
Image (c) Untamed
Wild ones and mild ones—Untamed works for all!
- Help felines stay lean and fit
- Stabilise their gastrointestinal health—no throwing up or constipation
- Prevent feline obesity and related conditions (diabetes, arthritis, etc.)
Our clients say that the health benefits of the Untamed diet are noticeable from week one. Here are the highlights:
Week 16 and up
Is it normal to want to cuddle your hooman back, or am I tripping on some Stockholm syndrome madness?
Image (c) Untamed
Become the provider they rely on—order Untamed for your feral kitten
To order our trial pack online, follow these steps:
- Complete our TRY NOW quiz to tell us a bit about your kitty
- Make a meal selection
- Place your order
- Free shipping
- Next-day deliveries
- Hassle-free modification or cancellation of orders
When your kitty is ready for regular wet food, choose our monthly cat food subscription to get tailor-made meal boxes delivered to your door every month. We keep our operations eco-friendly and ethical by:
- Leaving a neutral carbon footprint
- Using 100% recyclable packaging
- Cooperating with cruelty-free and dolphin-safe suppliers
Adopting and raising a feral kitten—what home is best for them?
Feral kittens usually take about a year to be ready for a home. When trained and socialised well, they will adjust to most homes, but some may prefer single-pet households. Many ex-feral kitties love homes with large farms or gardens where they can happily chase mice, birds, frogs, bugs, and slugs for recreation and have a sense of open space and freedom!