Older cats who’ve been poorly socialized through abuse or neglect are considered semi-feral. Unlike their wild counterparts who’ve never experience human interaction and don’t care to, the semi-feral cat has been around humans, most likely as a kitten.
For one reason or another, usually a sad one, the kitten grew into a cat who was skittish around people. The nervous, fearful attitudes towards humans should never exclude them from a loving home, but quieter homes are much better for these cats. In a quiet home and safe space, a newly adopted semi-feral cat has the power to adjust to a new life. Here are some tips for helping a semi-feral cat adjust to his new life in your home.
You don’t need to be a cat whisperer, but you should be able to read certain cat cues and respect your cat’s boundaries. Hissing and pinned back ears are certainly a sign that he’s not happy with what’s happening. You need to give your cat space and let him direct the relationship, but don’t ignore him. Always speak in gentle, quiet tones when addressing him and in general. Excited and harsh tones will only lessen his trust and confidence in you.
Watch a video on how to tame a scared feral cat.
Encourage curiosity in your cat but give him a safe place too. Setting up cat sanctuaries and not disturbing your cat in these places will help him to build trust in you. The socialization process can be a long one, and you should stay committed to it. Each cat is different, and many prior socializations may have damaged your cat’s trust in people so you should go at his pace. You also want to share space with him. Don’t force him to sit on your lap or to be pet. He may never be a lap kitty, but you want him to be comfortable in your presence. Quiet activities where you don’t move much, like reading, working on the computer, or watching television with low volume will help your cat grow confidence in sharing your space.
Finally, interactive toys are fantastic for the bonding process but don’t force your cat to play. If he’s in the same room just start playing with a toy and not too violently at first. Pique his curiosity, and he will eventually get involved. Treats are the other way to introduce trust-building. With time, you should be able to introduce touching but don’t make wild motions or come from above to touch his head. Giving a semi-feral cat a second chance gives him a new lease on life and with patience, consistency, and love you can turn his life around.