Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Can Wild Cats be Tamed

A "Domestic" house cat that was born owner-less and lived wild from the start is not really a "wild" cat, it is correctly known as a feral cat; with the term "wild" referring real wild cats, lions, tigers, and so forth.  This article is about taming feral cats that have been living as wild all their life, not about taming tigers, lions, bobcats, and others.

At one time I was told it is impossible to "tame" any feral cat unless you caught them before they were 8 weeks old, but this is not true!

I live in the country, on 10 acres, with no neighbors in sight.  An old house sits as it waits to fall in on itself, and from time to time a feral cat had litters in the house.  Although we tried to trap her we were never able to but we currently have four of her kittens (from 2 or 3 different litters) in our care, only one of which was caught as a wee kitten. 

We know these kittens had been living wild their whole lives, and yet now all are tame, and you would not know they had been without human contact for much of their early lives.  The latest was well over a year old before we managed to catch him.

This snobby looking fellow was at least a year old when we caught him, yet is quite tame now. 

As a result of our own experience, we at the Cabin, would like to share with everyone that even adult cats born totally wild can be tamed.  One has to be willing to work at it.  Typically once they know that it is warm indoors, and you have food, they will change their way of thinking.  

* Be sure to spay or neuter as soon as possible!

How to Tame Young Kittens

To tame young kittens we would keep them in a small cage, as for guinea pigs, but a dog kennel would work too, or even a very small bathroom (keep the toilet lid shut).  The kittens need dry food, water, and a small litter box.  The idea of the small cage makes them easier to catch.

As many times a day as possible (at least 3 times) you should go in and hold each kitten.  They will hiss and freak out so you must be unafraid.  If you are worried about the kitten getting away from you, do this in a room with the door shut at first.  Hold the kitten for at least 15 minutes at a time.  Eventually there will be a time when the kitten will relax and even start to purr.
Cage with 3 kittens.

When you put the kittens back in their cage then offer them some canned food on a plate.  This way they associate people with good things.  Eventually the kittens will be less afraid, and will even start to climb up the cage to get attention/food.  The overall taming process can take 1 week or more depending on how old and how feral the kittens are.  

Read more about What to feed a new kitten, click here.

Real wild cats are a different matter....

Lions, Tigers, and so forth are not easy to tame when caught in the wild even if caught as young kittens, and can never be fully trusted.  Even those raised in captivity from captive parents are not as tame as domestic cats.

These animals can never be trusted to the same level in part because of their size and in part because they still have such strong "wild" instincts.


  1. Hi! I have seen lots of wild cats - or semi-wild. I've always wondered if they really are totally untamable, but to me it seemed that if they were used to seeing people around they were not "hopeless". (This was mostly at stables were I rode)

    A friend of hubby dear's family lives in the countryside and sure enough they also got their wild cat which soon had kittens. They fed the mommy cat and gained its trust and one day it allowed itself to be lifted up and petted. The kittens were more tame than the mommy, and so they could give them to good homes. Unfortunately no one cares to spay / neuter their cats around there so there will be many wild cats in the future as well...

    I think if a cat descends from pet cats gone wild there is a chance of taming them. But I have no first-hand experience, which is why it was very interesting to read your blog.

    (I only have three tame couch potatoes here - and I'm not counting hubby to that number LOL)

    Leena :)

  2. You are spot-on with that; I've also seen totally feral (which doesn't necessarily always mean it had an owner at some point, but that it is a domestic breed) domestic cats tame down well (including one that I had for 17 years), but other species of cats should never be kept as pets. People who keep lions and tigers and tell people that they have tamed them are fooling themselves and don't know as much about wild cats as they believe that they do, and their ignorance will unfortunately probably have a very expensive price later.

    Thomas Knight

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  5. I found your blog very useful

  6. Great article. If the first picure on this blog is the wild cat you mean, then it is a cute wild cat. Just look on its fur.

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  7. great and amazing article, it was a pleasure to read this post.

  8. My experience is that it can be done, but it requires a looooot of patience and understanding. It is not something that can get done in a week, but rather a few months. It is all about trust


  9. We have rescued an older feral cat that was mauled by a coyote last week. We knew him for a couple of months and have fed him and yes he became more and more friendlier. Yet the main issue is that he does not get along with my other cat and of course is not "potty trained" - he marked the whole house even being neutered which causes some issues. I agree, patience is key and also let the cat know the boundaries (takes also some time). He is healing and is very lovable even though he picks fights with my other older cat. Yet I can say that he trusts me all the way but we still have a long way to go for him to be "my lil' Brutus".