With patience and the right approach, you can help a frightened stray cat relax and reveal his/her true personality…(hopefully sweet!)

  • Give the cat 48 hours of undisturbed, quiet down-time in a small den or bathroom.  A feral cat is best caged.
  • Be predictable and consistent.  Don’t make fast movements or make a lot of noise.  Talk softly and alert the cat with your voice before you open the door.  Spot clean only at this time.
  • Always wash your hands before approaching the cat.  Their noses are 40 times more discerning than ours, and they may smell something on your hands that frightens or upsets them.  Always use fresh, clean linens, carrier, beds, toys, as well as food and water dishes.
  • Let the cat approach you first.  Let the cat smell your hand, and let them know that your hand is not something they need to worry about.
  • After the 48 hours, you cannot keep the cat totally isolated.  You need to start the positive behaviors and reinforcements.  Remember, talk softly and move slowly.
  • Do not stare directly into the cat’s eyes.  This could be seen as a threat.  If the cat is looking directly at you, slowly blink your eyes several times.  An approachable cat will most likely blink back at you.
  • Don’t let the cat hide all of the time.  If there is something that the cat is consistently hiding in, remove it and replace it with something that he/she can not hide in.
  • Encourage the cat to approach with food, treats, petting, or toys.  If the cat allows petting, it is a good time to check for flea dirt, ticks, or anything that shouldn’t be on his/her skin or coat.
  • Hissing is the language of the cat and is usually used as a warning.  Low growling is an expression of anxiety.  Ears pinned back is also a warning.  A wagging tail with a cat is not a sign that the cat is happy, but usually a sign of irritation.
  • Do not attempt to pick up the cat just yet.  Some cats may never enjoy being picked up.
  • When the cat is approaching you freely, and loving your attention, you can start picking him/her up.  But it must be done correctly.  Start out with very short pickups, using both hands, one in front and one supporting behind the back legs, pick up and snuggle close.  Immediately scratch in the cat’s favorite spot and talk softly.  As soon as the cat starts to struggle, gently put the cat back down.  Never let the cat struggle in your arms.  The cat needs to know that being picked up is a good thing.  Next time, try to hold a tiny bit longer, and put back down.  It takes patience, but it is well worth the time.
  • Always use a top loading carrier, or turn the front loading carrier on its end, and carefully set the cat into the carrier back feet first.  Do not drop the cat into the carrier!!  Face first can be scary to many cats.
  • If you need to scruff a cat, always support the body with your other hand under the back legs.  Never let a cat dangle with just a scruff!
  • Never reach into a carrier or cage of a cat you don’t know and grab the cat!  Remember, if you don’t know the cat, then he/she doesn’t know you either.
  • Pheromone plug-ins, calming sprays and elixirs, and treats can be helpful.  Give them a try.

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