How to Tame a Wild Cat

When I first saw the cat one morning in June, it was scrounging for seeds spilled under the bird feeders in the back yard. It was a tiny thing, not more than a few months old. Its skeletal appearance and desperate hunt for food told me it was just days away from death by starvation.

"I have to give that cat something to eat," I told my husband.

"If you feed it, you'll never get rid of it," he replied.

"If I don't feed it, it will die."

I took a can of cat food out to the yard. The little cat disappeared into the woods as soon as it saw me, but I set the can down under the bird feeders. When I checked a few hours later, the food was gone.

The cat reappeared a couple days later. I took it another can of food. Again it ran off but later the can was empty.

It didn't take long before the cat was coming back every day, just as my husband had predicted. Not wanting to use up any more of the pricey food intended for my indoor cat with special dietary needs, I bought a big bag of inexpensive dry food and kept it with the bird seed in a storage bin on the patio. My husband agreed that having an outdoor cat wouldn't be such a bad thing; it would help control the burgeoning ground squirrel population that was decimating our garden and retaining walls. So my goal was to tame the cat enough to get it into a carrier and to the vet to be neutered and vaccinated. Then it could live out its days in our back yard and woods.

What is a feral cat and can it be tamed?

A feral cat is a cat that grew up in the wild with no human contact or only negative contact. In contrast, a stray cat is a previously domesticated cat that was lost or abandoned. While strays may approach humans for food, exhibit behaviors like purring and meowing, and even allow themselves to be touched and petted, feral cats are scared of humans and view them as any other large animal – a potential predator. Feral cats tend to live in colonies in abandoned buildings, junked cars or other sheltered areas near a food source, like a restaurant dumpster. With threats of starvation, disease, bad weather, and attacks by other animals, the lifespan of a feral cat is less than two years on average.

Some believe a feral cat cannot be tamed. Depending on a number of factors, including the cat's age, personality and experiences in the wild, socialization is possible. It will take much time and patience. The older the cat, the more difficult it will be. Some cats may never become comfortable with human interaction, even after several months. Other cats may bond only with the human who socialized them, making them unsuitable for adoption elsewhere. There is a much greater chance of success taming a stray that has reverted to feral behavior than a cat that never had human contact, especially if its past interactions with humans were positive.

Organizations like the Humane Society and ASPCA recommend using the trap-neuter-return method in dealing with feral cats. This involves humanely trapping the cats, neutering them to prevent the birth of more kittens, and returning them to their colonies to live out their days. A colony caretaker, a person or group interested in animal welfare, then provides food, water, and adequate shelter to the colony while monitoring the health of the cats. The non-profit organization Alley Cat Allies provides an on-line guide for conducting trap-neuter-return.

Birdie, about a month after she first appeared
Birdie, about a month after she first appeared


By July, the cat no longer disappeared when I went out to feed it. It would retreat a few feet into the woods, watch me as I set out the food and come up to eat as soon as I walked away. I started talking to her (I guessed, correctly as it turned out, that she was a female) and gave her a name – Birdie, because she was eating bird seed when I first saw her.

Birdie grew comfortable in my presence. She started coming when I called her. Although she wouldn't allow me to get close enough to touch her, she greeted me with little meows. When I spoke to her, she would roll and stretch and rub against the trees, but from a safe distance. I don't know where Birdie came from but her behavior and circumstances suggested she was born in the woods to a stray that didn't fear humans and didn't teach her to be afraid.

Making the decision to socialize a feral cat

Before you begin the long socialization process, consider your goal. Do you want to tame the cat and find a home for it? A feral cat may bond with you but regress when placed elsewhere. It may not be a good candidate for adoption.

Do you want it to become your indoor pet? This may be possible, if it is the right kind of cat and you are patient.

If you are planning only to feed the cat and let it live outdoors, you must accept the role of caretaker and see that it gets neutered and vaccinated, then continue to monitor its health and well-being and provide medical treatment as necessary.

In deciding whether to socialize the cat, consider the following:

  • Does the cat appear healthy? There is no non-lethal way to test a cat for rabies, so observe the cat at a distance for symptoms of rabies or other odd behavior. Do not make contact with a cat that appears sick. Call animal control for assistance. Keep in mind that although the cat may appear healthy, it may be a carrier for feline leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus, so avoid exposure to any other cats in your household until the feral cat tests negative for these highly infectious and incurable diseases. Wash your hands and change clothes after any contact with the feral cat.
  • Does the cat remain in your presence when you feed it? Has it shown growing trust by staying closer over time?
  • What is its body language? Is it crouched low to the ground with its ears back, which shows fear, or is its tail straight up in the air, which indicates that it is comfortable?
  • Does it display signs of being outgoing and friendly, like meowing and rubbing its head and body on objects?


As the weeks passed, Birdie went from being emaciated to plump. In fact, she was getting downright fat in her midsection. Although she was no more than a kitten herself, I began to suspect my little Birdie was about to be a tween mom. Since I wasn't able to touch her, I couldn't get her to a vet to find out for sure.

Shortly before Labor Day, Birdie turned up one day in a foul mood and hissed at me when I approached. That was the last I saw of her for several days. When she finally returned, it was clear she had given birth. There had been a bad storm over the weekend and I wondered if any of the kittens had survived. Birdie appeared to be nursing, so I assumed there was at least one or two.

Cat pregnancy and birth

Cats can become pregnant as early as four-and-a-half to five months. Signs that a cat is pregnant include:

  • Enlarged and pink nipples
  • Weight gain around the midsection
  • Increased appetite
  • More affectionate behavior
  • Nesting behavior

The average gestation period is around 65 days. When the cat is about to give birth, it may display signs of restlessness or make howling sounds. It will seek out a quiet, private place to give birth. The birth process can take from anywhere from two to six hours, with an average litter size of two to five kittens.

A socialized Birdie in October
A socialized Birdie in October

Where are those babies?

Despite my best efforts to find them, Birdie kept the kittens well hidden. With several acres of woods behind the house, they could have been anywhere. I instead focused my efforts on taming her so she'd eventually bring the kittens to me and I could find homes for them.

Nursing made Birdie ravenous, and I used her hunger to my advantage. Now, when I set the food down, I'd sit down right next to it. She had to come to me to eat, and she did. While she ate, I talked to her in a calm, low voice and hovered my hand above her head, moving slowly so she wouldn't get spooked. Each day I moved my hand closer and closer until I eventually touched the top of her head. The first time I touched her, she jumped away. So I tried again the next day, and the next. This continued for two or three more weeks until finally one day she didn't back off when I touched her. I was able to pet her. This was late September, nearly four months after I first saw her.

Establishing trust

To socialize a cat, begin by establishing a routine around food. Feed the cat at the same time of day in the same place. The cat will grow to trust you as it begins to associate you with the positive experience of eating. As you feed the cat, talk to it in a calm, low voice.

Remain nearby as the cat eats. When the cat gets used to your presence, make it come closer and closer to you each day to get to the food. Don't watch the cat or make eye contact with it because it will see that as an act of aggression. Sit quietly and ignore the cat while it eats.

Don't touch or pick up the cat until you sense it is ready. Take your cues from its reaction; if it backs off, you need to back off, too. Go slowly, be patient, and be prepared for occasional setbacks.

If you move to quickly, the cat may react defensively. Try not to let this happen. If you are bitten, seek immediate medical attention. If you are scratched, monitor the wound and go to the doctor if it appears to be infected.

Birdie with her babies
Birdie with her babies

A mess of kittens

My next door neighbor found the kittens a few days later in a hollow tree stump in the woods near her house. There were four of them, all healthy and plump. They were about four weeks old. Birdie apparently wasn't ready for them to be found because she moved them somewhere else and we didn't see them for another week.

At about five weeks of age, the kittens were ready for solid food. Now, when Birdie met me at the back door each morning, the kittens weren't far behind. They were living in a hollow log in the woods about 20 yards from the house. On those October mornings I could hear the leaves rustle in the pre-dawn darkness as four kittens scampered up the hill to eat. They climbed over one another to get to the food and, when they had their fill, climbed all over Birdie until she plopped down on her side to nurse them.

The only thing more adorable than a kitten is four kittens, and that mess of kittens ("mess" is a more fitting term than "litter" in my opinion) romping through my backyard provided hours of entertainment to my entire household, including the dog, and to the many neighbors who dropped by daily to see them. I handled each kitten every day to get them used to human contact. I also started to work my connections and social media networks to find homes for them, knowing they'd be ready to leave their mama in a couple more weeks. By the end of October, when they were about eight weeks old, all of the kittens had gone to their forever homes.

One of the kittens in the hollow log where they lived
One of the kittens in the hollow log where they lived
Another kitten
Another kitten
Birdie on the prowl with the kittens
Birdie on the prowl with the kittens

Kitten care

A mother cat typically will provide all the care and food a kitten needs during the first four weeks of life and needs no human intervention. At four or five weeks of age, kittens will be ready for other sources of food while continuing to nurse. If a mother cat has kept her kittens hidden from her human caretaker until now, this is the age she will lead them to her food source.

At six and seven weeks, the kittens develop motor skills and eye-paw coordination. This is the age they begin playing with objects – leaves, toys, their siblings' tails – and the mother cat teaches them to hunt.

Kittens burn a lot of energy and require a high protein diet. Feed them specially-formulated kitten food (it's fine for the mother cat to have this, too – she also requires lots of calories).

At about two weeks old, you should begin handling the kittens (gently of course). If they are at four or five weeks old before their first human contact, they may spit and hiss. React calmly and make their first interaction with you a positive one. Arrange positive interactions with the other humans in the household and the family dog before eight weeks of age. (Avoid exposure with other cats in the household if the mother has not yet tested negative for infectious diseases.)

Kittens are ready to leave their mother by eight weeks. They may be separated earlier if appropriate care is given, but to have the benefit of their mother's milk and development of social skills through interactions with their litter, it is best to wait until eight weeks.

The final step

The day the last kitten went home, I called my vet for the next available appointment to have Birdie spayed and vaccinated. I scheduled the appointment for first thing in the morning, knowing that when she greeted me at the door to be fed would be my best shot of capturing her. I lost sleep that night, concerned that I wouldn't be able to pick her up or get her into the cat carrier, or that I'd be scratched and bitten in the process. Fortunately, the leather grilling gloves I wore for protection turned out to be overkill, as Birdie went right into the carrier with little fuss.

I had warned the vet in advance that I was bringing in a feral cat so he would be prepared for chaos, but again my concerns were unfounded. Birdie was extremely docile when released from the carrier for the examination. She checked out to be in relatively good health. She did have worms, which is typical for a cat living in the wild, and would require an oral de-worming treatment after her surgery.

I left Birdie in the capable hands of my vet for her surgery. When I picked her up the next morning, she seemed happy and relieved to see me. As I drove home with her carrier strapped in the back seat, she sat at the front of the carrier and meowed to me all the way home.

I confined Birdie to the screen porch with a litter box, intending to keep her there for a few days to recuperate before releasing her back to the woods. She took to the litter box right away, and spent most of the next few days sleeping on a little bed I made for her. I imagined she was catching up on her sleep after taking such diligent care of those kittens for the last eight weeks.

On the fourth day, I propped open the screen porch door so Birdie could leave. She walked out onto the deck, took a look around, and went right back to her bed. Over the next few days, she did leave for a bit, but always came back. On November 5, with the weather turning colder and after completing her course of worm treatment, Birdie moved into the house to stay.

Bringing a cat indoors

Before bringing a cat into your household or exposing it to your other cats, it should be examined by veterinarian, have tested negative for feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus, be up-to-date on vaccinations, and treated for any parasites. The cat should be neutered (spayed if female) by no later than six months of age to prevent inappropriate behaviors, like urination and howling, and unwanted pregnancies.

If the cat has not been housetrained, this generally can be accomplished quickly by keeping the cat in a confined area like a crate or even a tiled bathroom, with a litter box as its only option. After it begins using the litter box consistently, its space can be expanded. Some cats may try to use a potted plant as a litter box; if so, cover the dirt with aluminum foil.

Offer the cat a scratching post so it can engage in its instinctual scratching behavior on something other than your furniture. Rub the post with a little catnip to attract the cat's interest. Provide a variety of cat toys for entertainment. These need not be fancy; most cats find even bottle caps to be amusing.

Birdie with her new best friend, Moe
Birdie with her new best friend, Moe

A happy ending

Although many people told me I could never adopt a wild cat, Birdie has never tried to escape. She doesn't even go near the door, although she will sit in a window to watch the birds at the feeders where she once scrounged for food. She's friendly, affectionate, and will curl up on any available lap. She and the other cat are inseparable. She tolerates the dog, at least as much as we do. She's a fully integrated member of the family.

As I write this, I have trouble imagining the plump, happy cat curled up on the chair next to me as a scared, scrawny kitten eating bird seed to survive. I have come to realize we didn't adopt Birdie, she adopted us.

Tolerating the dog
Tolerating the dog

Comments 72 comments

JKenny profile image

JKenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

What a great story. I remember having a similar experience with stray Cat that decided to call the Garden Centre, where I work home. Initially one of the managers used to feed her old bags of dog food in return for keeping the mice at bay. Eventually as time went on, she became less and less afraid, to the point where she would let most of us touch her. We christened her Tiger, it was a bit of a joke really, because she was the most gentle Cat ever. She used to follow me everywhere because I used to feed her and make sure she always had fresh water. I even managed to persuade the manager to fit a cat flap on the staff room door, so that she had somwhere safe to sleep on cold nights.

Unfortunately the story, doesn't have a happy ending. In February last year, she became very sick. One of the guys took her to the vet, and we learned that she had cancer, so unfortunately the only option was to put her to sleep. Still, she was a great companion and really lit up the workplace, I still miss her now.

instantlyfamily profile image

instantlyfamily 4 years ago

This is awesome & useful. Thank you so very much for sharing this.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Unfortunately, all pet stories eventually have a sad ending, JKenny. But yours is a great story, anyway. How awesome to have a pet at work! You would think Birdie would be a good mouser, too, but the real irony is that shortly after we brought her inside, a mouse somehow got into the house and took up residence in our kitchen. We finally trapped it. But where were the cats while all this was going on? I guess Birdie had enough of the great outdoors and doesn't have any interest in hunting for her food any more. She's a real sweetheart and I hope our sad ending doesn't come for many more years.

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DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

You are welcome, instantlyfamily. Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

KathyH profile image

KathyH 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

This is so awesome, thank you for sharing, I'm so glad those cute little kittens found good homes, and your Birdie is the luckiest kitty ever! :) One of our cats was a stray that had previously been around humans, she was found on a college campus, we assumed whoever had her in their apartment for the school year was only there until May, then opened the door and let her out to fend for herself... I'm so glad my son and daughter in law found her! :) We had trouble at first introducing her to our other cat, but now they are inseparable! :) Thanks for sharing your great story! :)

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Kathy. My husband was glad I found homes for them, too. He was worried I would keep all of them! (I was secretly sad, because I did want to keep at least one.) Thanks for sharing your story. I think that happens a lot on college campuses. Good for your family for taking her in!

Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

Like your hub here Deborah. What is it with a cat that is born feral, never had human contact, but rather quickly becomes domesticated once taken care of?

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DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Alastar. I think the key was she was so young when she first found us (I'm guessing about 4 or 5 months old) and most likely her mother was a stray that wasn't afraid of humans and therefore didn't teach her kittens to fear them.

Lori Miene 4 years ago

Great story. Glad Birdie has found a loving home and Moe has a new friend!

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Lori!

GiftedGrandma profile image

GiftedGrandma 4 years ago from USA

Wonderful! Beautiful story.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Gifted Grandma. Every time that sweet little cat curls up in my lap, I'm thankful I took the time to tame her.

Kari C. 4 years ago

I love this story. Your patience and care are to be admired. And, who doesn't love a happy ending?! Thank you so much for sharing all of the details and helpful information.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks for reading and commenting, Kari. She's a great little cat. It was worth the time and effort.

tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

That is just too precious! I LOVE the photos. I moved to an apartment complex and there are strays and ferals. One is a large orange tabby who was declawed and left behind. Two look like twins and they are feral. One will run and hide as soon as he sees someone by the door. The other is slowly coming around. I always sat out when she ate and this works. She doesn't want to be petted, but she will rub on my legs and attack my fingers in play. I am not sure if she will ever get tame. She has poor social skills with the friendly cats. I really love this hub and the photos!

kelleyward 4 years ago

This is a beautiful story. My mother did a similar thing with a feral cat she found. The cat loves her so much but still is pretty shy and scared around everyone else. Thanks for sharing those pics!

Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland

I love the pic and caption to "tolerating the dog" because that's exactly what it looks like too!!! hahah I think its great you were able to take the time and be patient with Birdie to domesticate her. She is a beautiful cat and had such cute babies! I have feral cats in my woods too (15 acres) that I feed and some I have been able to get to like me and others I just can't. And that ok - I just let them watch me from trees :) This was a great Hub - Im off to share now

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Tammy. And good for you for attempting to tame those feral cats! Just remember, patience, lots of patience. Good luck. I hope you have as much success as I did with Birdie.

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DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Kelleyward! Birdie is still pretty shy around others, too, but she's starting to come around. We had people over for dinner the other night and she actually hung around (at a distance) instead of going downstairs to hide.

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DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Ardie! And if you knew our dog, you would fully understand what I mean by tolerating her, but the picture is a good representation of that dynamic. : ) (She's not a bad dog, really, just pretty high strung. It turns out springer spaniel and coon hound isn't a real great combination!) I actually liked the idea of having a backyard cat to keep down the mice and ground squirrel population, but I guess I'm just too big a softie.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Wonderful, wonderful story. I am so glad it had a happy ending. 12 years ago at the college where I work the library staff noticed a feral cat colony living in the woods near a storm drain. With great patience they trapped three kittens and took them to the vet. One of them came home with me.

He was very unhappy and destroyed my bedroom, pulling down curtains, pictures etc., and hiding under my bed whenever I came into the room. In the middle of the night he would start mewing louder and louder. I learned he wanted me out of the room so he could use the litter box. This craziness went on for five weeks, although I never tried to grab him and talked quietly in a calm voice.

One day after work I lay down on the floor and looked under the bed and there he was, as far away from me as he could get. I put me head down, closed my eyes and for the hundredth time stretched my hand under the bed so he would get used to my smell. A couple of minutes later I realized a wet nose was toughing one of my fingers...I was afraid to breathe, to move, I didn't want to scare him.

Within five minutes he inched close enough for me to softly scratch under his chin and behind his ears and I just kept talking. He stretched out next to my arm and started purring. After 20 minutes I slowly got up and climbed onto my bed and quietly started reading a book. Within ten minutes he had pulled himself up on the bedspread and climbed into my lap!

We sat together for two hours and that night he slept next to my pillow, he never went under the bead again, and he still sleeps on my bed every night. It was over, finally, like flipping a switch (although I don't think this was typical, I think 3-6 months to fully acclimate is more typical)

It took another two months to acclimate him to my other two cats. To this day he has been the sweetest, most affectionate cat I have ever had...but he is still a mighty hunter and reveals his feral past when he brings home moles and birds. Amazingly the tim=ny cretaures are not hurt and he will let them go and I scoop them up in a bath towel and put them abck outside. meanwhile Sebastion, the mighty hunter, marches around the house purring like crazy. :)

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thank you for sharing your story, phdast7! I was holding my breath for the first several paragraphs hoping that it wouldn't end with you deciding he couldn't be tamed and releasing him back to the wild. I love happy endings! Sebastion sounds like an awesome cat. I hope you have many more wonderful years together.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Thank you Deborah. I hope we all have many more wonderful years with all of our beloved animals. :)

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a wonderful hub! I love the photos, your story of taming Birdie and her kittens and all your advice. I'm very glad that the story had a happy ending.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Alicia! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for commenting.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 4 years ago from The Ozarks

While I am not a cat person, I found this hub to be very useful and I'm pinning it!

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Aya. My husband and I joke about Birdie's cuteness being impossible to resist. That's what saved her life. I think even a non-cat person would fall under her spell. Thanks for the pin.

tristin 4 years ago

I want to help the local strays and get them clipped because every year there's a new litter of kittens but I don't have enough money to pay for them clipped...

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Hi Tristin. You may want to talk to some of the local vets. I'm betting many would offer their services at a reduced rate, or even free, if the goal is to reduce the stray population. Or talk to the local chapter of the Humane Society or ASPCA and see what programs they might have available. Good luck.

midget38 profile image

midget38 4 years ago from Singapore

Deb, you have great patience and a fantastic heart. It really took a bit of time but you finally managed to tame her! Thanks for sharing this lovely story, I hope that all three (Moe, Birdie and the little dog) are great friends now. From a fellow animal lover, Michelle

Julie DeNeen profile image

Julie DeNeen 4 years ago from Clinton CT

I read this whole story carefully, start to finish, and loved it. Great job! We just adopted a kitten found in the wild (stray not feral mommy) and so I was curious to see how you had managed to get Birdie's trust. Sharing this!

adjkp25 profile image

adjkp25 4 years ago from Northern California

We have three feral cats that have kind of adopted us. We are confident that one was a house cat that was abandoned in our country neighborhood, the other two we don't know where they came from.

The other two were very skittish of us at first but now they know we are OK and come right up to us, they even invite a pet or two.

Loved your story, voted up and useful/awesome.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Michelle, Julie, and adjkp. It did take a lot of patience, and probably would not have happened with someone who doesn't love animals as much as I do, so Birdie chose wisely when she showed up in my back yard.

Yes, Michelle, the three are now the best of friends.

Julie and adjkp, I wish you the best of luck with your adopted kitties!

laptopfinger profile image

laptopfinger 4 years ago from Nairobi

Birdie, you adopted the DeborahNeyens' family, made the mom write a great post of you, enough to cause phdast7 to leave the longest comment I have ever read. I wish you knew, the memories, joy and happiness you present to all readers of this hub. Congratulations DeborahNeyens for laying this out correct because everything just wows, it would be great without pictures, but now they make the hub magical. :-)

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Laptopfinger, thanks for the great comment. I've had 8 cats as pets over my lifetime and Birdie definitely is special. She had to be extra cunning to survive out in the wild with her babies at such a young age herself. And now she's been rewarded with the good life. So somehow I think she knows. : )

Image Jones 4 years ago from San Antonio, Texas

What an inspirational story! I, too have an outdoor friend that I have been considering making an indoor one. "Tuxedo" (named for his white bow tie and gloves in contrast to his black body) has become quite friendly; even going so far as letting me pick him up, and trying to come inside when the door is opened. I was concerned that it would be too difficult getting him comfortable with my other two cats, and they with him. Bolstered by your patience and affection for Birdie, I just made an appointment with my vet in the hope of taking the first step in giving him a forever home too. Thank you!

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Image Jones, thanks for your comment and best of luck with Tuxedo! He sounds beautiful.

Nat Amaral profile image

Nat Amaral 4 years ago from BC Canada

A very sweet story. You're a hero to these kittens and their mother. :)

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Nat. The funny thing is that a year later, and Birdie is now my husband's cat through and through. I keep telling her that if it wasn't for me ... but she still seems to like him best!

BlondieKayla19 profile image

BlondieKayla19 4 years ago

Thank you for this article! I am right now taking care of a feral cat, and she had 2 kittens about 3 months ago. They live outside, but I'm feeding them, and making them a shelter.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Good luck with your cat and kittens, Kayla! When I look at plump, happy Birdie curled up on my bed now, it's hard to believe that a year ago she was living outdoors fending for herself and taking care of 4 kittens.

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 4 years ago from Oklahoma

Fabulous Hub, Deb! I love the challenge and patience it takes to tame feral cats. I always try to tame one or two a year so they can go to good homes. My mother was "adopted" by a feral cat that was a couple of years old and had already had three litters of kittens.

One day she brought one of her sick kittens to my mother (didn't even have its eyes open yet), and afterwards just sorta moved into my mom's yard. She trusted us to care for the kitten, and over the years she has gone from being untouchable to being social. Mostly all on her own. My mother was just going to feed her and let her stay to keep down the mice and stuff in the yard.

I love how you wrote this, breaking the personal account up with information and advice. And Birdie is a lovely cat who lucked into the ideal home.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks so much, Sharkye. My husband and I consider ourselves lucky that Birdie chose us. She turned out to be one of the best cats I've ever had. And good for you and your mom for also helping feral cats! I really appreciate your comment.

Enelle Lamb profile image

Enelle Lamb 3 years ago from Canada's 'California'

What a great story! I was adopted by two 'strays'. One was only 6 mos old, but the other was much older and had been on his own for a long time. It took quite a bit of persuasion on my part to gain his confidence, but I never quit and now he has his forever home, along with the youngest who is well past 6 months now!

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 3 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks for sharing your story, Enelle. Good for you for not giving up on the older cat! What a great feeling it must have given you to finally gain his confidence. I hope you and your kitties have many wonderful years together.

moonlake profile image

moonlake 3 years ago from America

We just saw a wild cat today. We took food to the spot where we think he is going. I tried hard to get him to come to me but he wouldn't. We want to make sure he is safe and warm for the winter. Our winters are very cold. We have a very big gray wolf coming and going in our yard and if he needs food he will get this little skinny cat.

Enjoyed your hub and voted up.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 3 years ago from Iowa Author

Good luck with your stray, moonlake. Be patient; it takes some time to build trust. Hopefully, he can outwit the wolf!

DaffodilSky profile image

DaffodilSky 3 years ago from Cardiff, Wales, UK

This is a lovely story. I admire your patience and common sense and share your love of cats. Very enjoyable - voted up!

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 3 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, DaffodilSky. She's a great cat, so I'm glad I mustered the patience I needed to tame her. Although, sadly, somehow she's become my husband's cat and seems to prefer him to me. And after all I did for her! : )

DaffodilSky profile image

DaffodilSky 3 years ago from Cardiff, Wales, UK

That's a shame. Cats are fickle creatures! :)

Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 3 years ago from South of France

What a gorgeous, gorgeous story, I just loved this. What a beautiful girl Birdie is, what adorable kittens, and didn't she choose her adopted home well?! I am full of admiration for your patience and care. I'm currently cat-less (after 17 years) and, although not strictly ready for more cats, I'm quietly hoping that one (or two) will turn up in my garden, just like Birdie did yours. Thank you for making my evening!

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 3 years ago from Iowa Author

Thank you for the wonderful comment, Riviera Rose. I sometimes look at fat, happy Birdie and find it nearly impossible to remember that scared, scrawny kitten who found her way into our backyard. And then I wonder if she remembers those days herself. I sure hope a sweet little kitty turns up in your garden someday soon!

Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 3 years ago from Burlingame, CA

I have to say this is an amazing hub. Thanks for the contribution!

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 3 years ago from Iowa Author

Thank so much for reading and commenting, Paul. It's been two years since I first saw Birdie scrounging in the backyard for food, and she has become a truly beloved member of the family. : )

vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

What a beautifully written account of the taming and adoption of Birdie! I'm sure it makes her even more special when you reflect on your patient efforts to tame and care for her. I'm glad the story had a happy ending and Birdie decided to move in and end her feral living. Thank you for sharing! Voted up and shared.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Your wonderful story of Birdie and her evolution has given me hope for my feral cat(s). I love the way you took the reader through the steps of gaining the confidence of the cat and the pointers about not making eye contact. Your pictures really were awesome and the story, heartwarming.

It's been about a year that I've been feeding Brian Williams (the former Ms. Kitty) who shows up on our porch every night about 5:30 pm. She brought a companion a few months after her initial visit, who turned out to be not much more than a kitten, but like Birdie, began to widen in her midsection. I was able to gain her confidence and eventually captured her and took her in for the proper exams, shots and hopes for a home as my Labrador was definitely not welcoming. He nearly went through the window due to her ongoing teasing.

Brian still shows up for his daily meal and finally allows me within 5 feet instead of the 30 foot distance that used to be the norm. I keep hoping that he will let me take him to the vet for an exam and neutering so he will not father any more feral offspring.

I'll be trying your method of sitting near his bowl going forward. Perhaps there is still hope as the dogs seem to accept his routine visits to a degree.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 3 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, vespawoolf. And you are so right about how special she is to me (and my husband).

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 3 years ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, PegCole. Good luck with your feral cat. You definitely need a lot of patience. Let me know how sitting next to the food bowl works out for you.

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

What a fantastic story. Birdie looks very healthy and happy with her friend, Moe. Your photos are precious. I have helped Trap Neuter Return feral cats for years and have several pets who are former ferals. Perhaps consider a link to Alley Cat Allies, the nationwide feral cat advocacy group or tips/benefits of humanely trapping as an alternative to using a carrier? It may help folks who can't get the cat into a carrier or don't want to run possible risks. Not a criticism, just an idea for making a great hub even better. I loved your success story.

Ferals are strong and devoted companions, having been alone in the world sometimes in some pretty ugly circumstances. I have a male feral at the low cost spay neuter clinic today. He is a "walk-up" at our house, much like Birdie and no longer feral. Thanks for speeding the important message of spay/neuter. Voted up and more.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 3 years ago from Iowa Author

Hi, FlourishAnyway. Thanks for the comment and suggestion. I already do have a link to Alley Cat Allies (it's at the end of the paragraph right before the first photo of Birdie). I will revise the hub, however, to make it clear to what organization I am linking.

imtii profile image

imtii 2 years ago from Dhaka, Bangladesh

I have a horrible experience with wild cats. So, I have a great fear when i see them in front of me. So, Taming one will be impossible for me. Though still your tips may help,but I am still not trying. I liked your writing so giving you a up vote :)

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 2 years ago from Iowa Author

I understand, imtii. Some people have a fear of cats. I do appreciate you reading, commenting, and voting. Have a wonderful day.

Suze 2 years ago

This article gives me hope. I had a feral cat about the same age as Birdie was show up about a month ago at my house. She has started talking to me and is letting me closer while she eats. I am hopeful I can get her to come inside after gaining her trust. Being patient is hard but can pay off in the long run. Thank you for the tips and encouraging words!

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 2 years ago from Iowa Author

Good luck with your cat, Suze. It sounds like things are on the right track with her (the vocalization is a really good sign). Patience is the key!

Suze 21 months ago

Deborah, I came across this again saved on my computer after posting 4 months ago. I just wanted to thank you for posting this article. My little Mittens is now safe and sound in my house (since right before Halloween) and is totally acclimated to indoor living with my other cat. Your article gave some great tips and encouragement. It is hard to believe she is the same cat sometimes! Thanks again!

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 20 months ago from Iowa Author

Suze, thanks so much for stopping back with the update. I am so happy to hear you were successful in taming Mittens. And I know what you mean. I look at Birdie sometimes and am just amazed that she is the same scrawny, scared kitten that hung out in my backyard for all of those months.

Plinus 17 months ago


This is a wonderful story, thank you! I do have one question though: why don't you let your cats out any more? Our cat used to spend all day outside, exploring and playing, and came in whenever he wanted to. He slept inside at night too, but I think he also enjoyed his adventures in the garden very much :)

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 16 months ago from Iowa Author

Thanks for reading and commenting. My cats are strictly indoor cats and really have no interest in going outside (they never try to go out). We live on the edge of timber where there are foxes, coyotes, and raccoons. I would be worried about their safety.

Elsie Hagley profile image

Elsie Hagley 11 months ago from New Zealand

Beautiful story.

I have a ferrel cat I'm feeding every evening, but I'm still at the stage that everytime it see me it rans away, so I leave the food in the same place every time, it always comes and eats it when I'm gone.

Looking forward to the time when it won't run away. I don't have a cat.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 11 months ago from Iowa Author

Be patient, Elsie. It takes time, but it is so worth the effort. Thanks for commenting.

Snakesmum profile image

Snakesmum 5 months ago from Victoria, Australia

Lovely story, and thankyou for taking the time and effort to ensure Birdie has a good forever home. You were very patient with her. She seems to have blue eyes, so I'm wondering if she is part Siamese. My current cat is from a shelter so I don't know her history, but she is very loving and happy.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 5 months ago from Iowa Author

Thanks, Snakesmum. Birdie does have beautiful blue eyes. I've wondered myself if she has some Siamese in her. I'm glad to hear you gave a shelter cat a forever home.

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