How to Befriend a Wild Cat or Kitten

Two Methods:Luring a Wild Cat to YouTaking Care of a Wild Cat or Kitten

Many cities are full of stray cats and it is estimated that there are over 70 million stray cats in the US alone.[1] Many municipalities are unable or unwilling to take any action, beyond capturing a few cats to euthanize them, due to a lack of time, money, and interest. Because there is little help to stray cats and their risk of death from injuries, disease and poor nutrition, you may feel compelled to help a wild cat or kitten yourself. This process may take some time, so you need to be patient, but it can be very fulfilling to befriend and help a cat in need.

Method 1
Luring a Wild Cat to You

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    Differentiate between a stray cat and a feral cat. A stray cat is someone’s former cat that no longer has a home; a feral cat was born in the wild and is a cat that is wary of humans and generally isn't adoptable due to not being adapted to humans.[2]
    • You may have success at befriending a stray cat; a feral cat probably not although it may become acclimated to your presence.
    • Whether you have a stray or a feral cat around your home, capturing (or trapping) the cat and bringing it to the veterinarian for vaccinations and to be spayed or neutered is an excellent civic duty. Feral cats that are “fixed” can be released back where you found them.[3] You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing they won’t be able to reproduce and contribute to the feral cat population.
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    Take safety precautions. Wild cats can be unpredictable so you will need to practice some safety precautions as you are trying to befriend it. Cat bites usually become infected, some very seriously, so you will need to wear long sleeves and pants when trying to befriend the cat.
    • Another concern is rabies in a cat of unknown vaccination status. Use caution and common sense. If the cat starts to hiss or growl, looks sick (runny nose or eyes, scabs, sneezes/coughs, breathes heavily), or acts bizarrely don’t try to befriend it. Call animal control and retreat to your home.
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    Begin befriending the cat. If the cat appears healthy and isn’t acting defensive and mean towards you, you can try befriending it. Find a place where the cat usually stays, and wait nearby until the cat reaches its spot.
    • Sit down or lie down, if you can, or at least crouch. The cat will find you much less intimidating that way. Stay there for a while. Teach the cat you won't hurt it.
    • This should be a fair distance away, 10 feet or so, so you don’t intimidate the cat.
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    Offer the cat food. Try leaving out some smelly cat food (wet) or even a can of tuna to attract the cat while you are waiting for it to arrive. You want to get the cat to associate you with something good, namely a free lunch.
    • You only need to leave out smelly food the first day. After this leave out a little dry kibble to keep the cat coming back for more.
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    Continue putting little bits of tuna closer and closer to you. Each day the cat comes to eat, move your spot another foot closer. If you hold the cat food in your hand for a while, your scent will be on it, too. This won't discourage the cat from eating it, but it may cause the cat to associate you with food, which is good in general. Put out your hand to let the cat sniff it.
    • If the cat starts hissing, or its ears go back, etc., you're too close. Pull your hand back slightly and slowly.
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    Show the cat some affection. Eventually the cat should get close to you then put out your hand let the cat sniff your hand. Continue feeding the cat, and sitting nearby quietly, and eventually you should earn its trust to the point it will come up to you for food and gentle pats. Don't expect this to happen right away. Don't expect them to even eat any of the tuna right away.

Method 2
Taking Care of a Wild Cat or Kitten

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    Help find the cat's owner. Ask around your neighborhood to see if anyone has lost their cat. Cats that get outside can get lost or roam around. Make some calls to local veterinary clinics and pet stores to see if anyone is missing a cat; taking a photo with your phone and making up fliers or posting to social media sites can also help reunite a stray cat with its owners.
    • If the cat is feral instead of stray, it will not have an owner to be returned to.
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    Get the cat checked out by a veterinarian. Once you are able to approach the cat and pet it, make an appointment with your veterinarian to have the cat examined and neutered or spayed. If funds are tight, call your local humane society to see if there are any funds available to assist with these costs.
    • The cat will have a tiny bit of blood drawn to test for the feline leukemia virus. If the results are positive your veterinarian will discuss options with you, which include isolating the cat from other cats for its life or euthanasia. If it is negative, a fecal sample will be looked at to determine if the cat has intestinal parasites and it will be given the appropriate medication.
    • In addition, the veterinarian will check for fleas and ticks and treat if needed. Vaccines (rabies, distemper, and possibly feline leukemia) will be given and its sterilization operation will be performed. A microchip may also be placed under the skin if so desired. This is highly recommended.
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    Find a home for the cat or kitten. Now you will have a healthy pet to take home after its operation and vaccinations. Your hard work will pay off knowing you have saved another cat from a harsh life on the street. Either adopt the cat yourself or find another loving home for it to go to.


  • If the cat comes into your ownership, you may want to consider buying toys for it. Squeaky toys, scratching post, or even a ball of yarn can keep it occupied for those times when you are too busy to play with it.
  • If the cat seems very sleek and well-fed, do your best to make sure it doesn't already have an owner.
  • If the cat is truly afraid of you, leave it alone. Feel free to leave food for it; it may eventually warm up to you.
  • If you notice the cat giving you a slow-blink, make sure to slow-blink back. This means 'Love you' in cat, and it may tell you that a cat has fully accepted you and is ready to be adopted. However, if it is giving you an unblinking stare, back up and avert eye contact. This means 'Get out of my territory.
  • If the cat is just a baby or a kitten, there may be a litter near by. Pay close attention!


  • Remember, only adopt a cat if you're willing to take care of it for its whole life, or find it another home. If you need to find it another home, it's best to find someone to adopt it, not to take it to a pound. These tend to be overrun by animals, especially cats, and may be forced to put down cats if they don't have any more room. So even if they don't specifically put down your cat, you may cause another one to be put down.
  • Remember always to wash your hands thoroughly after touching the cat until you’ve had a chance to bring it to the veterinarian.
  • Refrain from posting about the cat in question online. It may be claimed by its owner that way but it can also be claimed by poachers, hoarders, people who use cats in dog rings, and people who sell cats to be tested on. If you really want to put an add online don't post a picture of it or describe it. The true owner should be able to describe it to you.
  • Never run towards any cat. It will find this as aggressive behavior and it may try to bite or scratch you.
  • If the cat is aggressive, don't try to befriend it. Even if you manage, it will still be a wild cat, and may be nasty.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Cat Training