Taking in a Stray Cat

Picture of cats outdoors

Do stray cats seem to naturally gravitate towards your home? Or are you known in your neighborhood as a cat lover? If either of these situations apply to you, you have probably taken in one or two stray cats in your lifetime. Whether you’re thinking about giving a home to a stray cat or have taken in many stray cats, there are things that you must keep in mind when you are performing this act of benevolence.

Make Sure the Cat Is Stray

Before possibly taking someone else’s cat, you need to make sure it is a stray cat. Look for any collars or tags identifying if the cat belongs to someone else or indicating that a microchip has been implanted. If you live in an area in which there are lots of pet cats, or even if you don’t, you should make an effort to find the stray cat’s owner. Put up flyers with the cat’s photo around your neighborhood to let your neighbors know that you have found a cat, in case it does belong to someone else. You might want to call your local humane society, or newspaper if you live in a small town, to see if anyone has reported losing a cat. Just make sure you aren’t adopting someone’s pet.

Approach with Caution

Don’t just go right up to a stray cat and try to pet it or pick it up, or you’ll likely receive a few scratches for your efforts. Most cats are lured by food, so you can try to lure the cat closer to you with cat food. Make eye contact with the stray cat, and blink slowly, as this will indicate to the cat that you are saying “I am friendly, I am not a threat, I love you.” Once you get the stray cat inside your home, let her explore on her own as much as you can, so that she can learn that you aren’t going to be frightening or a threat. Let her rub up against you before you start petting her, as if she’s comfortable in your home, she will start rubbing up on everything (including you) to mark her new territory.

Take the Cat to the Vet

The first and most important step that you must take when taking in a stray cat is to take the cat to a veterinarian for a thorough checkup. You have no idea where your stray cat has been, or what diseases or parasites she might be bringing into your house. She needs to be examined and, if not already spayed or neutered, that should be done as well. You should have the cat scanned to see if it has a microchip too. A vet can also help you to determine what, if any, immunizations your new cat should receive at this time. If the cat has fleas, the vet can tell you the proper treatment so that she doesn’t bring these nasty buggers into your home.

Slowly Incorporate the Cat into Your Home and Lifestyle

If you have other pets in your home, don’t plop the stray cat down among them and expect them to all get along immediately. It’s best to wait until after you’ve taken the stray cat to the vet and had her checked out before introducing her to your other pets, to save them from any possible diseases, fleas or parasites she might be carrying.

When you do introduce your stray cat to other animals in your home, do so slowly and make sure to monitor their interactions initially. You don’t want any cat fights to occur over territorial claims. Remember that a stray cat is likely used to fighting for her food, so she might try to take over your cat’s items such as her food bowl or her bed. Make sure to purchase separate food and water bowls, beds, and even litter boxes for your new stray cat and encourage her to use these to help her to realize that they are hers and that she is at home. If the stray cat has accidents, don’t punish her as this will not help. Instead, motivate her to use the litter box by following these guidelines. Before long, your new stray cat will be a happy, well-adjusted member of your family.

If you’re going to try to put a collar on your new stray cat, do so with caution. Some strays will likely never have worn collars and might fight it. However, having some type of identification on your new cat is the best way to prevent her from ever wandering off and becoming a stray cat again.



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