Ferdinand's calf injury, a complaint he was understood to be carrying before Manchester United's UEFA Champions League final, means he will miss the trip to Almaty but could return for the clash against Andorra next week after the problem is assessed.
With Phil Jagielka sidelined, England boss Fabio Capello turned to Cahill after the 23-year-old's impressive season with Bolton.
"I was at home and I got a phone call from the FA saying that they wanted me in the squad," said Cahill. "I've had to get a few tools together - the boots and the shin pads - and now I am really looking forward to the opportunity.
"I've had a good season and I've worked really hard. I've been in the provisional squad twice before and then this third time I was included once again, so I'm obviously delighted to get the call."
Tottenham skipper Ledley King, whose call-up in March caused controversy as he cannot play matches in quick succession because of a chronic knee problem, would have been another option but he could only have played in one of the two qualifiers.
Cahill now joins Matthew Upson and Joleon Lescott as the players competing for a place alongside skipper John Terry at centre-back for the clash against Kazakhstan.
The rest of Capello's squad have trained, including Chelsea full-back Ashley Cole, who sat out yesterday after taking a knock during the FA Cup final at the weekend.