Dear Doctor: Adjusting feral cats to life in your home


Q. I adopted three feral cats from a shelter when no one else would — a mother and two of her kittens. The littermates, 5 months old at the time, were a boy and a girl. It’s now almost 3 years later, and the girl has become my best friend. She and I have bonded to the point that she literally follows me around the house and enjoys being a lap cat. Her brother is coming around, too, although slowly. He occasionally sleeps in the bed with me, even lying against my leg. He seems content as long as I am lying down or sitting; however, if I stand, he becomes spooked and slinks off. Mom, too, seems okay unless I move toward her, at which point she backs away.

How can I “tame” the mother and her son? Do I continue to allow them to make the decision about how much human contact they have? Or do I now take the advice of the shelter and “force” human contact? (I didn’t take the shelter’s advice initially as it seemed to be scaring them more.) I do continually see small progress as time goes by, but my heart aches to show them my love. Any advice you can give would be most helpful.

Sandra Conner
Lincoln University, Pennsylvania

A. Dear Ms. Conner,

Continue to let the cats make the decision! Cats, even more than many other species, do not fare well when forced to do anything. Best to let them come to you for petting and other closeness — and decide how much of it they want.

You are doing great, by the way! The fact that the girl has become your “best friend” and the other two are gradually coming around speaks volumes about your patience and love. The mother and son may never become as cuddly as the daughter, but even if they don’t, so what? The fact that they are not out-and-out running away from you indicates how much they trust you. You have shown them your love, and they have “received” it. Thank you for all the good you are doing.


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