Whether you’ve come across a long-time stray or a neighborhood kitty that’s escaped the yard, earning the trust of a stray cat can be tricky. The goal is to catch the cat without harming them or scaring them off completely, but we have to make sure to keep ourselves safe as well. A scared cat can become aggressive when they are trying to defend themselves. Remember, they don’t know you’re there to help. Regardless of how you found the cat, you’ll want to keep these tips in mind when building trust.
#1 – Understand Body Language
Perhaps the most important part of building the trust of a stray or loose cat is understanding feline body language. Misreading a cat’s signals can send them running into the dangerous street or lead to a potential bite. Knowing when the cat is stressed, when the cat is beginning to feel more comfortable, and when you can approach is important for a safe rescue. With a frightened cat, timing is going to be crucial. If you try to approach them too soon, you might never be able to catch them.
#2 – Use Food
Food is your friend. Use food that smells delicious. In this instance, a few table scraps might entice a hungry cat to come out of hiding. That said, you’ll obviously want to avoid foods that are toxic or dangerous, such as cooked chicken bones. You’ll first want to place the food on the ground and walk away from it. If you are too close, the kitty won’t go near the food because they’re afraid of you. Offer just a little bit of food at a time. Start by watching the cat eat while you stand away at a distance (you might have to leave completely and return the next day), and move closer and closer until the cat will eat the food out of your hand. Once you can feed the cat this way, you can start trying to pet the cat. Eventually, you’ll be able to touch the cat easily and get them crated and off to a new start.
#3 – Be Patient
Patience is key. A stray cat is likely not going to feel confident interacting with people. Even your neighbor’s loose kitty might be afraid to greet strangers. Patience will prevent both you and the cat from getting injured. Don’t rush anything. The process of building trust takes a long time, even if you are trying to lure the cat into a humane trap. Catching a stray cat can take many hours and sometimes even days. Rushing the process is going to cause more fear for the cat, potentially scare them into a more dangerous area, and put you at risk for being bitten. We all want to see stray cats rescued and in good hands, but doing too much too soon can cause much more harm than good. Be patient, earn trust gradually, and soon enough, you’ll be heading home together.