If you are now at Step 4 you have done a fabulous job! You have created a bond of trust and are well on your way to turning that feisty little furball into a snuggly lap cat. You can feel proud of yourself for all the time and patience you have put in.
Your next step is to continue on until you can easily pet and pick up your cat. Even if they just let you pick them up for a minute before becoming squirmy, that’s great. Always put them back down immediately when they show any sign of irritation or stress. Remember that to “tame” a feral cat, you have to cater to them. That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t gently scold them if they get too irritable with you. For instance, at this point, if you’re petting them and they swat at you, you can gently say, “No, no. that’s not nice.” Then ignore them for awhile.
If you have no other cats in your house, you can now start trying to lure them inside. If at all possible, leave your door open and go sit down in the house. If they wander in, just let them look around and don’t bother them. If you need to shut the door, go ahead and see how they react. The minute they panic and go to the door or start racing around looking scared, open the door back up and let them escape. Just do this every day.
At this point, if you can lure them into a carrier and get them to the vet, that would be terrific. They obviously need to be checked out, get their shots and be fixed. But again, you will have to be careful about this so you don’t spook them and undo all of your efforts. One thing people worry about is that they will never have anything to do with you again when you bring them back home from the vet. All I can say is that I have never had this happen. They may be shy for a few days afterwards, but they get over it quickly. It’s amazing…I’ve often thought they know instinctively you are helping them. Once you’ve built that trust, they will be yours forever.
I can’t say enough about the incredible feeling of helping a feral cat. It is a bond you will cherish forever and truly a gift of love. They need our help and though it takes enormous time and patience, it is so rewarding. I’ve often joked that I put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears for my cats. Blood, because scratches, and sometimes bites, are going to happen. Sweat because I live in the South, so all the time I spend with them in the process outdoors results in some damp hours! And tears, both from joy and grief. The first time my first feral cat let me pet her, I cried from joy…it was such an incredible feeling. Unfortunately, I have had a few who tested positive for leukemia or FIV and had to have them put to sleep. So, yes, tears from grief too.
Congratulations to all of you who have taken on a feral cat and won. You have the heart and soul of an angel, believe me, because it’s not easy. And a huge thank you because you have saved one more cat from a terrible life. Please let me know your experiences. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. The very best of luck to you!