How to Help a Feral Cat Adjust to Being Indoors

Cropped Shot Of Black Cat. Pets, Cats Concept. Cute Tuxedo Cat. Cat.

Sharing is caring!

Many people think cats are better off living outside, but between traffic, diseases, aggressive animals, and poisonous substances, cats who stay indoors live much longer than those who stay outside. However, transitioning a cat who has spent most of its life outside isn’t always easy. When you want to help a feral cat adjust to living inside, the following tips can help.

Put Together a Dedicated Room

Before you bring a feral cat indoors, it’s important to have a room set up exclusively for the cat. You’ll want to include all the amenities the cat will need, including food, water, a litter box, scratching posts, and a few toys. Make sure you keep the food and litter box on opposite sides of the room from each other. While you want to keep this room quiet and just for the cat at first, you also want to spend time there every day to help the cat get used to your presence, even if you simply read out loud or talk on the phone.

Use Food to Gain Trust

Cats first domesticated themselves because it gave them a steady and secure source of food. Therefore, it helps to use food to get your cat to trust you. Stick to a regular feeding schedule so that your cat associates you with daily feedings.

In the beginning, you might need to leave the room so your cat will eat. Once your cat feels comfortable eating in your presence, stay in the room during mealtime. However, don’t interfere or try to initiate contact. This is simply a time to let the cat know it is safe around you.

Offer Physical Contact Slowly

Cats are skittish by nature, so you need to let them approach you when they feel comfortable. If you want to encourage contact, try putting some gravy on the tip of your finger and letting your cat lick it off. This helps create a positive association with you. When you’re ready to try petting, start by looking away and extending a closed fist. Let your cat come to you and be the first to initiate any contact it feels comfortable with.

Train to Use a Litter Box

Even if your feral cat has never used a litter box before, you can train it on what to do. You might need to start by keeping your cat in a smaller enclosed area to encourage litter box use. When your cat uses the litter box, offer a treat as a reward. With more frequent litter box use, you can begin to expand its area.

Practice Patience

A cat who has spent the majority of its life outside won’t immediately transition to being an inside cat. This means you’ll have to exercise a lot of patience and move slowly. While the entire process might take longer than you were hoping, by not overwhelming your cat, you can have a smooth transition.

By following these tips and tricks, you can help a feral cat become comfortable living indoors and being a member of the family.


Related Story: Werewolf Cat Logan’s Rescue Story Inspires One Family To Help Their Beloved Feral FelineRelated Story: Importance Differences Between Stray And Feral Cats–And How You Can Help!




Sharing is caring!

The ads on this site allow us to raise the necessary funds to continue helping cats in need.

Thank you FUR your support!

Check out the Cole & Marmalade store! -- CLICK HERE


Leave a Reply
  1. My feral boy led the way in his “taming,” even though he is still a wild child. There were a few other cats around, and I dubbed this one “Marble” because of the pattern of his tabby coat. My brother and I both would cheerfully call out, “Hi Marble!” whenever we saw him. He would flinch, but then give us a strange look, because we did not continue hollering, or try to chase him off, or throw things at him. “Presents” in the forms of moles and shrews started turning up on the patio, much to the annoyance of our indoor “grumpy old men” who did not like this upstart DARING to try to take the attention they felt was rightfully theirs!

    In August 2015, we were in the midst of a nasty drought/heat spell, and saw Marble coming across the yard – he looked like a fur draped skeleton. It was just a matter of who was going to cave first and feed him, my brother or me. I sent my brother out, since he has a much better touch with animals than I do. He would get no closer to the door than about 3-4 feet, and he would hiss at us every time either of us came out to feed him, or put more water in his water dish. The nickname, Hiss Majesty, was earned at this point.

    It took almost 6 months, but he slowly began to relax. I finally decided to start feeding him on the step, so that he would be closer to the house, and this would hopefully discourage the raccoons and possums. Marble began showing up twice a day for food, because between feeding times, I would put his food in the house, to discourage the freeloading varmints. He would watch through the sliding glass door as either my brother or I would scoop up some food for him, then he would back off as we opened the door, and we put down his dish. Sometimes, I would open the door, and just talk to him as I was getting the food ready, and he would sit there, listening. He started getting bold enough to come in just a little, and rub up against my legs and ankles. When all this started, he kept his tail low, almost between his legs, which I knew was a sign that he was uneasy, if not outright scared. But I just let him choose when to start trusting me, and he finally came in one day, with his tail raised about half way.

    When he started coming in with his tail raised all the way, I took a chance, while he was rubbing against my legs and ankles, to “tail tip” him – by this, I mean I would take the tip of his tail between my fingers, and then let him slide it back out again. I would apply just enough pressure to let him know that my fingers were there, but not “imprison” his tail. The first few times, he would yank his tail away, and back off, sometimes even hissing at me. But he started getting used to it, and he even seemed to be enjoying it.

    By mid October of 2016, I had a breakthrough – I was sitting out on the patio, and Marble came up to me, rubbing against my legs, with his tail up. I tail tipped him a few times, then took a chance, and put my fingers on his back, between his ribs and his hips. He darted away, staring at me for a few minutes, then apparently decided to take a chance, to see what I would do. I’ve been making jokes over the last few years that everyone has a purpose in life, and mine apparently is the application of great butt scritches. I rubbed the flat spot at the base of his tail, and the next thing I knew, his front end was on the patio, his behind was in the air, and he was purring like an idling diesel. It took more time, but now I can rub almost his entire body.

    During the winter of 2017, it was getting mighty cold, so we decided to start letting him stay in the house overnight. While he does have a few good places to curl up outdoors out of the wind, my brother and I still thought it might be better for him if we let him stay inside, where we usually have a fire in the wood stove to warm the place at night. Again, this was done in stages, letting him take the lead in how far he wanted to trust us.

    These days, he will stay in overnight, but he likes to wake me at odd hours, so when the weather is warm, he will be outdoors. We do feed him indoors, however, because that means no raccoons or possums causing trouble. He still wants to stay close to the door, though, I guess because he wants to make sure we won’t forget him in the house if we have to leave.

    Patience on the part of the human is paramount – don’t try to force anything, because NO CAT will tolerate being ordered around. Let him or her take the lead, and learn to trust, at their own pace.

  2. I’ve taken in many feral kittens (usually about 4 months old) as well as adults. It has been my experience that boys are much more open to trusting humans than the girls. There is only one little girl I have never gotten to trust me. I have been doing this without any advice from professionals, so I appreciate this article. Maybe I can still get my little sweetie to trust me!

    • Hi Carol, I care for a feral colony by my house and one of my males has been attaching my other male. They both sleep in my garage and come into my basement for breakfast and dinner. I have had Shylo (the one who is getting attacked) inside with me now for 24 hours and he does good off and on. He’ll cuddle with me for 20 minutes and then yowl to get out for 3 hours straight. I am nervous to let him back out because of the other cat. They have never got a long but tolerated each other until Blacky became very territorial. I am wondering if I am causing too much stress on Shylo by keeping him in? He has a beautiful finished basement with everything a cat could want but he still wants to get out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Written by JessiCAT

We’re Learning Quickly! ~ Best Tips for Becoming a Kitty Foster Parent

Beloved Cat Attends School For Almost 2 Decades; Fondly Remembered As He Graduates To The Rainbow Bridge