How to Help a Semi-Feral Cat Get Used to Life Indoors

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio
Stray cats are common sight in many neighborhoods. If you’re thinking about asking one to move in, here are some tips on how to help make the transition easier.

Adopting a semi-feral cat is a wonderful way to save a life, but it will likely be quite challenging at first to get your new friend adjusted to living her life completely indoors and under the care of humans. With time, commitment, and patience, however, your cat can transform into a pet who’s completely at ease and totally in love with her new family.

Check out the tips below if you need some guidance when it comes to helping your semi-feral cat get used to life indoors. If you’re having a lot of trouble with getting your cat to adjust, consider contacting a feline behaviorist or veterinarian for some customized assistance.

Don’t Force Your Cat

While well-socialized kitties will gladly jump into your lap and appeal to you for snuggles, a semi-feral cat probably won’t be too comfortable with the idea of physical contact with you until she realizes that she has nothing to fear. Therefore, let your cat approach you when she is ready to do so, rather than forcing her to be near you.

Related: 5 Awesome Spay and Neuter Feral Cat Programs

Give your pet the space that she needs, and use food to entice her to come out when she is more at ease. You can even try placing a bit of food on your finger so your cat can lick it and initiate contact in a positive way.

When it comes to petting, it is best to approach your cat calmly with your first closed. Look away so you don’t intimidate her, and let her approach you first. Again, you want her to be the first one to make contact when she is ready.

Don’t Make Eye Contact

Extended eye contact translates to aggression amongst cats, so even if your kitty is looking at you, avoid the temptation to stare back.

Related: What is TNR?

If you end up accidentally staring back at your cat, blink slowly and calmly, relaxing your face. You can also close your eyes for a couple of seconds as you turn your gaze away from the cat. This will prove to your kitty that you aren’t a threat, that you don’t want to fight, and that she can feel confident and safe in her home.

Give Your Cat Her Own Room

Before inviting your kitty home, you’ll need to set up a room where she can have everything that she needs to feel cozy, safe, and comfortable.

In addition to her litter box and food and water bowls, include several toys and a scratching post or two. It’s also a good idea to have some safe areas where your kitty can hide, whether that’s in a cat tree, a covered cat bed, or simply a cardboard box. Just make sure that the hiding places are accessible to you as well (you don’t want your kitty hiding under a bed, as an example).

Ensure that this room is quiet and that it can be reserved for your kitty so she won’t have to deal with a lot of people moving through it. Then spend some time in the room with your pet several times a day, including when she eats. In addition to trying to initiate play with toys, you can also call someone on the phone, talk to your kitty, or read aloud so that she can become acclimated to the sound of your voice.

Always Have Patience

It can’t be stressed enough that when you’re working with a semi-feral kitty in your home, you need to have loads of patience, build trust slowly, and pay attention to the animal’s body language.

Transformations don’t take place overnight, and you’ll need to operate on your cat’s terms, not your own. Do your best to think like a feline and understand where your pet is coming from. Before you know it, your cat will understand that you’re a friend, and she might turn into a kitty who loves being snuggled.

Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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