If you have gotten through Step 1 and Step 2, the first thing you need to do is give yourself a huge pat on the back! You now have your feral feline letting you stay nearby while he/she eats. That’s a huge accomplishment.
Hopefully, at this point he is not only eating somewhat near you, but also hanging around a little after he eats. The next step is to hang around a little too. You need to move a little closer to the eating area and sit. You can sit in a chair, but I’ve found sitting on the ground, if possible, if even better. You need to always try to get down to a cat’s level…it’s less threatening to them.
One of my ferals, Cuddles.
So you grab a chair or sit on the ground and read a book or magazine or whatever you like. Pick something that is not noisy and can be done in a relaxed way. Remember, you don’t want loud noises or fast movements that will spook the cat. Be slow and relaxed, speak softly and sound comforting. Just sit and do your thing and ignore the little furball. You can look at them once in awhile briefly and say something sweet, but try to keep your attention on your book.
I have to remind you again that this whole procedure takes a lot of time, so have patience. The reward though is that you will build a long trusting relationship with this cat. It will be built on mutual love and is a bond that will be strong forever. So just sit and read. The next achievement will be that the cat will eventually come to check you out.
When this happens, let the cat come near you and continue to read. Don’t make any sudden movements or try to pet them. Let them come to you at their own pace. If they sniff your arm or rub against you, just say something sweet to them and tell them what a good baby they are. Still, don’t try to pet them. As much as you want to (and I know how tempting it is!) don’t touch yet.
One trick I used was to leave my arm resting on my leg, but with my hand hanging over my knee. They would eventually rub against my hand and this got them used to feeling my hand on them. I still didn’t actually put any pressure on them or try to turn it into a petting action, but just let them rub against my hand. There will then come that day when you can actually pet them. That is quite an exciting day, let me tell you.
These may sound like ridiculously slow, simple steps, but they are very important. As I said in the very beginning, you have to let them come to you and go at their pace. When you conquer this step, you are almost there!
I have to say something here about safety. You should definitely have your tetanus shot up to date and some people get Rabies Vaccines. It is very likely that at some point you may get scratched or bitten by a feral cat. This is one of the reasons you have to go so slowly with them, it helps prevent this. I have reached out many times way too soon and been scratched, so I’ve learned from my own mistakes in the past! Obviously, if a cat seems sick, you want to make other arrangements to try to trap them and get them to a vet before you attempt to deal with them on your own.
Step 3 is the most exciting step because at the end you will have some contact with that spooked little creature you saw hiding in your bushes! It will make your heart melt the first time they let you actually pet them, so all the hard work is worth it. You can just keep going with this step until they let you pet them without jumping away or swinging at you. Slowly, but surely, you will be able to approach the cat and give it a pet and it will welcome it. If your reading this, please leave a comment and let me know how you’re progressing, or ask me any questions you might have. I would love to hear from all my fellow cat lovers!