My friend asked me for advice on her cat’s behaviour. I already knew that her cat had been a feral kitten and had taken a long time to accept any humans into her life. Many people do not understand the difference between stray and feral.
Stray cats have been socialised to humans at the critical stage of their lives. This is between the age of two and seven weeks. They also may have once been a family pet but through unforeseen circumstances have been separated from their home.
Feral cats on the other hand were not socialised to humans at the critical stage and have usually had little or no contact with humans before being rescued.
Feral cats can learn to live among people and may even learn to love their owners but they may never be the cuddly lap cats that a lot of people want.
My friend’s cat has adapted quite well but she still has some issues – she runs and hides as soon as she hears my car and only comes out when she knows I’ve gone as I was the one who had to capture and crate her when my friend moved house and she has never forgiven me.
The other thing my friend has noticed is that when her family stay, Molly carries her food into the middle of the sitting room – usually on the rug – and eats it in full view of everyone. She doesn’t do this when my friend is alone or when her partner visits but when the kids are there too, she feels the need to do this.
She seems to feel more confident if she can see everyone while she eats. She doesn’t growl or hiss, she simply keeps a watchful eye on everyone.
My friend and I have discussed the issue and we have decided that Molly just needs more time to gain confidence. She used to eat on the rug the whole time, watching my friend, but gradually she began to use her bowl when she felt secure. She extended this to include my friend’s partner so in time, I am confident that she will extend this to all the members of the family – she may still have problems with strangers but perhaps in time she will learn to cope with them too.
It can be difficult to take on a feral kitten. There can be many unforeseen problems but it is worth persevering if you can spare the time and if you have loads of patience.
Just because a kitten is feral, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need the same love and care as any other kitten.