Feral Vs. Wild?
A feral cat is one who was once owned and has turned wild. They are often scared and have become antisocial to people as a result of fending for themselves. They may be strays or cats who were abandoned. Wild refers to any cat born wild and continuing to live wild.
You can re-tame a feral cat, you can tame a wild kitten, but you cannot tame a wild cat. If they have been born wild and remained truly wild (no human contact) past a point of four or five months it is generally considered impossible to fully tame them.
Do not delay. The longer you leave the cat or kitten loose the harder it will be to tame it. You can often rent or borrow cat traps from your vet, animal shelter, or pound. Or you can lure the cat into your home and trap it in a small room. See also below on how to make your own trap for a kitten. Canned food or sardines are the most attractive bait.
Keep it and Tame it!
Once caught you must contain the animal in a small space, where it can have food, water, and a litter box. For a feral adult cat, a small bathroom will work well. However for wild kitten you need something even smaller, like a large dog crate or even a rabbit cage, use a smaller litter box too. The idea being that you must force the animal to become used to you. A lot of people say you should do this slowly by allowing the animal to learn to trust you. While this may worth with a new scared cat, or possibly even with the feral cat, it is not the best approach to taming a wild kitten.
As mentioned, you must provide them with food, water, and a litter box. However, the food should be dry food. The secret is that cats love canned food, so this is their lure to become more tame. You want to offer canned food ONLY when you are there. One teaspoon per feeding is plenty, because you will do this several times a day.
For Feral cats, go into the room with the canned food and sit on the floor near the food, allowing the cat to approach. If he or she does not approach on their own you must be patient. Try to catch the cat and show it the food. Talk in a soft voice, and allow the cat to become used to human presence once again. Even leave a radio on in the room to accustom the cat to noises. Do not leave canned food in the room when you are not there. Try to touch the cat as often as you can, pulling it out from its hiding spots several times a day and patting it or offering it treats. The whole process may take as little as one week or as much as three months.
For wild kittens it can be a real challenge. Wild kittens put on big displays of being fierce. They will be very claw aggressive, and will try to bite, or flee. You must be firm and not let go. Do not be intimidated or nervous. For the first few days, take the kitten out of the cage and hold it for about five minutes at a time. Offering it a tiny amount of canned food when you return it to the cage. You should stay by the cage for a while when it is eating.
Depending on the age of the kitten the taming procedure may go very fast or take several weeks. The kitten will hate being in the kennel so being out of it is a reward. Extend the amount of time you hold the kitten, eventually it will feel comfortable enough to close its eyes and sleep. Still, its’ wild nature is strong so do not release it. It will take a while before you can loosen your grasp on the little feline. Keep the door of the room shut so if it does get away from you, you can catch it. Eventually you can offer it the canned food while you are holding it. As the kitten gains your confidence you can leave it out for the day, but plan on returning it to the kennel at night. Thus, the kitten is rewarded by you every morning when it is released.
Feral cats and wild kittens will need veterinarian attention. Once you have tamed them you should take them to a vet for vaccinations, worming, spaying or neutering, and a general check up. It is not uncommon for wild kittens to have ear mites. You might want to talk to the vet about identification options.
These two methods work well for catching kittens if you cannot find a cat trap. Use a cat carrier or small dog kennel. Set it up where the kitten frequently goes, leave it there for a while so the kitten is familiar with it. You can even put some canned food inside to get the kitten used to entering it. Have the door turned away from you, but in a way you can see when the kitten is fully inside. Or have a mirror set up so you can see if the kitten is inside. Have a long strong string attached to the door and run it back to where you can be hidden from the kittens view. Practice pulling the door shut and holding it shut. You will have to pull the string tight to shut the door and keep it shut until you can get near enough to lock the kennel door.
There is another method of catching wild kittens which works if they are very young and very hungry, but are in a place you cannot quite reach, like under a shed. Place some canned food just outside of their shelter so they can smell it, you have to be right there, patient, and very still. Have a cat carrier handy and open. I recommend using leather gloves and hover your hand right above the food. Sit and wait until a kitten approaches the food. Then quickly grab it and shut it in the carrier. You might be able to catch only two kittens at a time before the others become too frightened to come out. But you can try another time for them.
Wild kittens will hiss and claw, they think they are very tough. It is quite funny actually, but do not let them get the best of you. Hold tight. I have used both methods successfully to catch wild kittens.
Important note regarding Feral Cats
Every feral cat once had an owner. If the cat is new to your area you need to file a found report with your local SPCA or animal shelter (whoever deals with strays) in case an owner is looking for it. Cat ownership should be taken seriously – if you cannot care for a cat, do not turn it loose, you should take it to a shelter, rehome it, or euthanize it humanely. In most countries abandoning an animal is a crime. If your pet goes missing for some reason or another, you should look for it and immediately file a Lost Report with your local shelter.