What It Takes to Tame a Wild Cat.

Pete Wedderburn
31st March 2020 - 3 min read
owner with black and ginger tamed cat

Tabitha was a feral cat when I first met her. I had been called to visit Mrs. Moloney’s house because Tabitha was limping. After opening the front door, and welcoming me in, Mrs. Moloney gestured vaguely to the far end of the living room. “She’s over there”. I could make out the shape of a small cat hiding in the furthest possible corner.

So I approached her slowly, but when I was five feet away from her, she bolted for the opposite end of the room. I asked Mrs. Moloney if she could catch her for me, but I could see from her expression that there was no hope of this.“She is her own cat” she told me. “Ever since she strayed in here, she has done her own thing”

She explained how her husband and herself had always been too busy with the children to worry about extras like pets, and she had always found cats a bit creepy. Her husband had passed away five years previously, and it was soon after that that she had noticed the cat in the garden. She started to feed her regularly, and soon she began to come into the house. She had learned about the comfort of cushions and the warmth of central heating.

But strangers – especially vets – were still a step too far. I was unable to examine her properly that day, but it was very likely that her lameness was caused by a minor wound. I gave Mrs. Moloney antibiotics to give in her food, and when we spoke on the phone a week later, she had stopped limping.

Surprise Arrival

I didn’t see Tabitha for another year. When I saw a note in the daybook that another house call had been requested, I wondered what had happened. When I spoke to Mrs. Moloney on the phone before I visited, she was strangely cryptic. “I just want you to come and check up on her – you’ll see why”.

When I arrived, I was shown into the living room as before. This time, there was a large cat basket at the far end of the room. I could not see into it until I was right up beside it, and then I was astonished by what I saw. 

owner with black and ginger cat

“She’s Like A Different Cat”

Tabitha was lying on her side purring. There was a litter of six newborn kittens tucked snugly up against her, suckling. As I drew closer, Tabitha continued to purr, and she even stretched her head up, to press against my hand. “Isn’t she a great mother?” Mrs. Moloney said.

The two of us watched the cat and her kittens for a while. Then I lifted each kitten and checked it carefully. Tabitha did not mind this at all. When it was time to examine the mother, she didn’t even stop purring as I picked her up and checked her over. “She’s like a different cat,” I told Mrs. Moloney. She smiled and agreed. “We’ve spent a lot of time together in the past year, and these kittens are providing the final link that we’ve needed – she’s suddenly become relaxed and calm, not just with me, but with visitors like you”

From that point on, Tabitha could no longer be classified as a “feral” She was a pet cat, like any other, and when she came in to be spayed a few weeks later, nobody at the clinic could believe that she had once been feral. As Mrs. Moloney, herself told me, “It just shows the power of love”.

Tips

  • Feral cats are sometimes only wild because they are not used to human company
  • With time and care, some feral cats can become surprisingly tame
  • It can be very time consuming for owners, but the rewards can make it worthwhile