Some people may find this a little repetitive if they follow me on Twitter, but I’m going to post my best tips for socializing a semi-feral cat. At least I can elaborate a little more here than Twitter’s character count allows me.
So here’s my top eleven tips and tricks for getting a semi-feral to love you. Well… at least tolerate your presence and make them more comfortable.
Give the cat their own space
A bedroom, a bathroom, a laundry room, really anywhere’s with a door will do. This will allow a semi-feral to not only be contained so you can work with them, but it also allows them to get comfortable in your home. Their own space will have their scent, their litter, their food… everything theirs.
Another thing this does is have a place soaked in the other cats scent, so if you have resident cats, scent swapping becomes much much easier.
Give the CAT space
After getting them home, leave them alone for the rest of the night/day. Some websites recommend leaving the cat alone for as long as a week or more. I honestly believe this is counter-productive. They need time, yes. But they need you more. I would say no longer than 12 hours alone in the room works fine.
Be cautious of how you have the room set up
Semi-feral cats hide. And while it can make them feel safe, if you have a bed and they’re curled up in a little ball underneath it, it doesn’t exactly give you much space to work with them.
My foster room is set up in a very particular way. All furniture is completely flat on the floor. There is nothing for them to hide under or behind or next to. But that’s not to say they don’t have a safe space. I took a large storage bin and cut a hole in one end of it, put down some soft baby blankets and put the top back on. This gives them a nice little cubby, but also allows you access to them if they require medical care.
Best thing about this is after a while, when they’re becoming a tad more comfortable, you can take the lid off and take away the hidden cubby! Great for giving them the confidence they need.
You know how they say a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. To a (typically) starving semi-feral… it’s the same. I don’t want to sound cold in saying this, but use their lack of food to your advantage. Cats who need to put on weight should always be free fed, usually wet and dry food to help them gain back that weight… but you should always have extras.
Cat nip, kibble treats, tube treats. All of these are loved by most cats. You can even use coconut oil if the cat has some issues with their skin or hairballs. Or just cause, since most cats just love it and it’s high in calories.
Associating yourself and your hand with tasty treats is a sure fire way to earn their trust. It also helps hand-shy cats get past their fear.
All cats are different, but they all need time to warm up to humans. Pet them only if they’re not hissing/growling or lashing out. Stick to safe areas: chin, head and cheek scratches are the best. This also gives the cat your scent and make you smell like them since they have scent glans around their mouths.
Palm up, fingers relaxed
Whenever you’re reaching for a semi-feral, always reach forward palm up with your hand lower than their face. This is the least threatening way since if you just reach for them, it looks like you’re grabbing for them.
This way, it’s more like an offer for them to smell you.
(I totally wrote this part wrong on my twitter thread… oops)
Smother them in your presence
No. Seriously. Spend as much time as possible in the room. Not just interacting with them or doing their litter/filling their bowl, either. Grab a book or a laptop and find a comfy spot to hang out. This will get them used to you being around.
A benefit of this, as well, is if the cat is terrified of people or a more masculine sounding voice or whichever, you can watch shows to get them used to hearing other people.
A lot of websites say not to do this… and it’s very true. This does not work for every cat. Truthfully, I only found it has worked with a couple. But if they allow you do, and they don’t get aggressive, pick them up and sit them on your lap. You can keep them there by giving them their favorite pets or treats.
Osiris was one cat that this worked for so well. I immediately noticed the difference in his comfort level with me. He was more alert around me, allow me to pet him and give him belly rubs, and I got my first purr from him after a forced cuddle session.
Always end a socializing session on a good note
Whether that’s giving them a treat or playing or just leaving before they become over stimulated, never end a session after they’ve lashed out or acted aggressively. It’ll only compound the issue.
I have had my fair share of set backs with semi-ferals. You’re going to go forward one step and then back two. It just happens. Take your time and don’t feel bad about going back a step or two. If they’re not liking the pets or lashing out, go back to just being in the room and talking to them. All semi-ferals are different and all socialize at their own pace.
Adjust your expectations
It can happen that semi-ferals turn into the most loving lap cats, but don’t expect them to be like that. All cats show love differently.
Take George and Ruby for example. Both semi-feral, both came in at the same time, both got the same socialization from me. George is the sweet, cuddly cat that wants to be held and picked up and loved on. Ruby, not so much. She shows her love by staring you down and purring while kneading the floor. But if you try to pick her up, she straight up goes for the jugular. (To escape, not attack LOL)
There it is.
Fostering and socializing semi-ferals may be difficult. But it’s so nice in the end to know that you helped this cat get ready for their forever home.
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments ❤
Until next time,