A woman sitting next to a stray cat.

A feral cat is a stray cat that has not been domesticated by people and shies away from human attention and touch. Either born wild or seperated from/abandoned by their owners, feral cats scavenge for food, suffer temperature extremes, and are at high risk of disease and injury. Their fearful, reclusive behavior typically precludes successful placement inside human homes, but adopting a feral cat is not impossible. Patience, perseverance, and preparation can yield incredible results and make a significant impact on your community.

The Big Picture

Feral, or wild, cats are generally not interested in people, and have little interest in being tamed by them. If you happen to see a cat that behaves in a friendly manner, they are most likely stray and not feral. They may have had previous exposure to people. If left alone for significant periods of time, a stray cat can look and act like they are feral. Both stray and feral cats benefit from some human supervision and interaction, such as shelter, food, fresh water, and medical care. 


Whether you’re considering adopting a feral cat, or one that you know is stray, there are certain ways to accomplish this.

Successful trapping is key to your success. There are humane traps that, when set up correctly, will not injure the cat. They may get pretty scared by the trap, but it’s truly the safest way to transport the cat to our hospital for an examination. 

Next Steps

If you’re convinced that adopting a feral cat is the right choice (as opposed to trap-neuter-return protocols commonly practiced by feral cat enthusiasts/protectors), we recommend an immediate wellness exam. We can scan for a microchip, run tests for various parasites, establish parasite prevention protocol, and start an initial round of vaccinations. We can also schedule a spay or neuter if the cat needs to be surgically sterilized

Setting Up for Success

If you already own pets, it’s essential to keep them separated from your new feral/stray cat at first. You want to be sure that your new cat will not spread contagious disease or parasites to your resident pets. Once your new cat receives the “green light,” you can slowly start to acclimate them to their new surroundings.

Reassurance and Support

You may have made social strides with your new cat before bringing them inside the house, but it will take time to convince them that your home is now theirs.

Keep your new cat in the smallest room at first, such as the laundry room or a guest bathroom. Once they relax into their new routine (tasty meals at specific times, social/play time, and litter box cleaning), you can begin to expand their boundaries somewhat. When adopting a feral cat, it’s necessary to keep changes as gradual and supportive as possible.

Adopting a Feral Cat

Your new cat must not feel rushed to accept their new situation. While you’ll want to reduce any chance that they’ll run away, you never want them to feel trapped. Give them moments to feel in control of their environment and never force them to engage with you or others. Invite them to play with you and reward them for their attention.

When adopting a feral cat, building trust is vital. If you have further questions about the process, please call our staff at (951) 461-4100.