Can a wild cat be domesticated? Read before you bring one home

It’s hard for an animal lover to walk or drive down the street to find homeless cats wandering around. In some neighborhoods, entire populations of cats have been fending for themselves since birth. These cats born without a home are called feral cats. These cats have never had a bed to snuggle in or an owner to adore them. Seeing these cats roaming the neighborhood or down the street, you may wonder: Can a wild cat be domesticated?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is a bit tricky. You will find experts who say that domesticating an adult wild cat is not possible and should only be tried with kittens. But you will hear stories of people claiming to have done it. Is the tame cat really wild or was it an abandoned cat that needed a little coaxing? What is the difference? This is what we are here to learn. Let’s take a closer look at wild cats, what they really are, and if they can ever be domesticated.

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What is a wild cat?

Not every cat you see that runs when you approach it is a feral cat. Unfortunately, this world is full of cruel people who do heartless things. It is often animals that suffer at the hands of these types of people. You will see cats wandering around, trying to find a meal, but they are not really feral cats. In some cases, these cats have been abandoned or lost. Even though these cats may be afraid of you, due to the situation they find themselves in, that doesn’t mean they are truly wild.

As we’ve already mentioned, true wild cats are born in the wild and have never been domesticated. Abandoned and lost cats have, at some point, been domesticated and, in some cases, loved. A real wildcat has had no human interaction. They know nothing other than the struggle to survive and are not very willing to change this outlook.

wild cat surrounded by dead leaves
Image credit: Shino, Unsplash

Can a wild cat be domesticated?

If you think about it, our lazy cats lying on the couch had wild ancestors. They weren’t always pets. So how did these cats find their way to humans? They have been domesticated. Knowing this, people with good hearts want to try wild cats. If there isn’t at least one attempt, we know the likely outcome. This hope to help is why the question arises whether wild cats can be domesticated. Unfortunately, not all wild cats can be domesticated. That’s not to say there aren’t any that can be saved. Ultimately, you won’t know, especially when it comes to adult feral cats, until you try.

One of the main reasons for large feral cat populations is uncontrolled breeding. Feral cats do not have owners to sterilize them. Instead, when a female cat goes through her heat cycle, any nearby males will chase her. Even though many experts and organizations advise you to avoid adult feral cats, they seem willing to tell people that feral kittens have a chance of being domesticated. Of course, the younger the kitten, the better. Saving a feral kitten from the street is a good thing. However, you need to be prepared as they won’t instantly come to life in a home. Even though they are young, human interaction is still new to them and it will take time for them to adapt.

gray cat near litter box indoors
Image credit: Nouvelle Afrique, Shutterstock

Tips for Taming a Wild Cat

If you want to be cautious and try to convince your neighborhood’s beautiful wild cat to become your friend, there are a few things you can try. As humans, we have a few tricks up our sleeves. One of these tricks is something all feral cats want: food. The life of a wild cat consists of nothing more than the search for food, shelter and safety. If you offer them a little food, it may be difficult for them to refuse this easy meal. Don’t think this means they’ll jump right into your lap. You will need to prepare food every day, allowing the cat to see you when you do so. This will help them associate you with something good. At first, stay back and give the cats plenty of space to enjoy their meal. However, every few days, move a little closer until the wild cat finally allows you into its space.

If you are consistent and convince the cat in question, trying to pet it is the next step. This is often where fear sets in the most. Wild cats have never felt love or human contact. It’s natural for them to be afraid. Go slowly and allow them to sniff your hand if they want. A cat may even allow touching and then run, leaving you to start the process again. Persistence is the key. Unfortunately, this won’t always work, but if you’re determined, it’s worth a try.

If the cat eventually comes back and allows you to approach, never try to take it inside your home. Any feral, stray or unknown cat should be seen by a veterinarian before attempting to share your living space with it. Finally, if you are successful and the cat is healthy, welcoming it into your home does not mean that it is domesticated. Yes, they will be safer, but there will always be a bit of wildness in the cat. They may be friendly to you and avoid everyone. The cat may spend most of its time hiding. Be prepared for any scenario if you decide a feral cat is the right friend for you.

a hungry feral cat eating at an outdoor feeding station
Image credit: Joseph M. Arseneau, Shutterstock

How you can help

Because feral cat domestication is so random and in some cases dangerous, you may want to help in other ways. Some cats just aren’t tame. If this is the situation you find yourself in, offering the kittens a little help is your only option. This could be food, a shelter you set up in the community to protect them from the cold, or contact with trap and release groups. These are programs where feral cats are caught, spayed or neutered, then returned to the area they frequent.

While this doesn’t give the cats a suitable home, it does help control the population. Unfortunately, the lifespan of many feral cats is very short. These programs help prevent kittens from going through the same cycle and suffering a sad fate. You can also help by donating to these trap and release programs so they can continue to help feral cats in your area.

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Final Thoughts

For cat lovers, it’s hard to imagine that there exists there are so many without homes. While some wild cats can be domesticated, not all can. You must remember this and not get discouraged. Instead of just giving up if the cat you want to help doesn’t come back, think outside the box and do other things to help them live a better life.


Featured image credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969, Pixabay


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