All animals need three things: food, water and shelter. When taking in a stray cat, the animal also needs time, love and patience. The key to taming a stray or feral cat successfully is to go through the process slowly, always making sure the cat is comfortable with the pace.
Provide a Safe Room
It is recommended when taking in a stray you have a room set aside for the taming process. This room should be completely enclosed so the cat cannot escape and should include food, water, a litter box and a hiding place for your new friend. If the cat won't follow you into the room willingly, you can trap her in a carrier or humane trap, using food as bait, and bring her into the room.
The easiest way to tame a stray cat and form a bond is to feed her. If the cat is underweight, provide extra food until she gains a healthy weight. Speak in a comforting voice to the cat while she eats. Stay in the safe room during feeding, but do not impede on the cat's space before she's ready. Work up to the point where the cat feels comfortable enough to let you pet her while she eats.
Petting a stray cat is an important means of building a relationship. However, you should never try to touch a stray cat before she's ready. A feral cat is more likely to bite or scratch. When the cat allows you to touch her and enjoys the contact, take small steps in increasing the affection until you reach the point of picking up and holding the cat. This can be a slow process, where patience is needed.
If your stray cat does her business outside the litter box, spend some time getting her acclimated to using it. Take samples of your cat's feces or urine and place them in the litter box so she can find her scent. Restrain the cat to the safe room until she consistently uses the litter box to do her business. Fortunately, even feral cats quickly learn to use a litter box.
The Hiding Place
Stray cats will feel a need to hide at times to feel safe. Provide a small, semi-enclosed hideout for your stray cat so she can retreat when necessary. A wooden crate turned on its side with a blanket makes a good hiding spot. Make sure to respect the cat's space and do not attempt to touch her when she is in the hideout.
Madeline Masters works as a dog walker and professional writer. In the past she has worked as a fitness columnist, fundraising copywriter and news reporter. Masters won two Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Awards in 2009. She graduated from Elizabethtown College with a Bachelor of Arts in English.