Thursday 4 August 2022

Why are some street cats afraid of humans while others are friendly?

This is a question asked on a social media website and it is an easy one to answer so I can be brief. It is all about socialisation. The street cats, or let's call them feral or semi-feral cats, who are afraid of humans are those that have not been socialised to humans. It is likely, therefore, that these feral cats have been born in the wild and never had the chance when they were newborn kittens to interact with humans and learn that humans are friendly and not to be feared. 

That, of course, is provided that the humans with whom they interact are indeed friendly! And there is also the issue of the personalities of the cats. Some are more confident than others. Timid cats are more likely to be fearful of strangers. But the biggest factor by far is socialisation.

It is part of a cat breeders job to ensure that this process takes place. Without it a cat cannot be a human companion.

Child protects a street cat from the rain
Child protects a street cat from the rain. Image: Tumblr.

The way you socialise any cat to a human is to ensure that they are around humans and are interacting with humans as much as possible when they are very young and then they learn quickly that they are safe to be in the company of humans. It is quite likely, too, that some feral cats have the exact opposite experience and are therefore justifiably afraid of humans. That's because a lot of humans dislike feral cats.

RELATED: Kitten development – comprehensive discussion.

Those street cats who are friendly to humans are probably stray domestic cats who have been fully socialised to humans (stray domestic cats) or semi-feral cats that are part of a TNR program during which they interact with volunteers who care for them and ensure that they are spayed and neutered. So, it is all about early interactions with humans which if good ensures that the cat is unafraid when in their company.

RELATED: Sensitive Period of Socialisation for Kittens.

In some countries, there are street cats which are in between true feral cats and domestic cats. These are semi-feral community cats who are looked after by people in the community such as shopkeepers. The trouble is that they're not looked after in a complete sense. They are fed but the caregiving does not extend to veterinary treatment and therefore they must have shorter life spans on average than normal domestic cats.

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