How To Adopt A Stray Cat

Thinking About Adopting the Neighborhood Stray Cat? We Asked a Vet For Advice!

In my ten-year experience as a stray cat foster parent, I’ve witnessed firsthand how wonderfully fulfilling the process can be. Although it may appear that adopting a stray cat is a difficult task at first, many people are astonished by how fast cats become acclimated to their new home. There are around 3.2 million cats in need of forever homes in the United States at any given time, so there is never a shortage of four-legged buddies to cuddle with. Obviously, families that are considering adopting a stray from the neighborhood should make certain that the animal is not someone else’s pet first.

In an interview with POPSUGAR, Zay Satchu, DVM, Bond Vet’s cofounder and chief veterinary officer, said that not all outdoor cats will wear collars, but many will.

Do they appear to be well-nourished?

Are there any apparent wounds or significant patches of hair loss on their bodies?

Do they appear to be clean?” Additionally, potential adopters should use caution when dealing with feral cats, who are felines that live outdoors and are not used to being around people.

While we’d love to be able to provide a home for every unwanted cat on the planet, it may be more beneficial to set out bowls of food and water for wild cats rather than taking them in.

Is It OK to Adopt a Stray Cat From the Shelter or Off the Street?

It’s possible that taking a cat to the shelter is the best option for families who haven’t had much experience with cats. However, while there is a certain amount of guesswork involved in adopting a cat from the neighborhood, the staff at animal shelters can provide all of the information potential cat parents could possibly need, such as what sex the cat is, whether or not the feline is good with other pets and children, and whether or not your new best friend has any health issues or special requirements.

Although it does not matter where you obtained your cat in the long term, there are some additional considerations to keep in mind if you bring a cat into your home directly from the street for the first time.

I was able to tell this because they both had an ear tip — or a tiny portion of their right ear missing.

In the case of taking in a stray, Dr.

“You should get the animal examined by a veterinarian as quickly as possible to rule out the presence of fleas, intestinal parasites, and other potential health problems in the animal. You will also want to make certain that your new furry companion is up to date on his or her vaccinations!”

What Should People Do When They First Bring a Stray Cat Home?

A cat owner who brings home a kitten (and has already checked that the cat is not someone else’s pet!) should immediately set up a private room for the cat and begin investigating veterinarians in the region. Without a doubt, it’s amazing how friendly some stray cats can be, but it doesn’t imply they’re in great health, as some have shown. Despite the fact that Duckie and Little Mister were only 6 months old when I acquired them, they needed to be treated for worms, which are quite prevalent in outdoor cats and kittens, especially while they are young and growing.

  • Ensure that the cat is kept in a different room from your other pets. Put the cat in a bathroom or a different area where they will not be disturbed. According to the SPCA, cats like to be in tiny places because they feel more secure. If you have other pets, putting them in a distinct room will also help to reduce the possibility of disease transfer. Take the cat to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Consult with a veterinarian to ensure that testing for feline AIDS and feline leukemia are performed, that they are given rabies and distemper injections, that any worms or fleas are treated, and that spaying and neutering appointments are scheduled as appropriate.

Because many strays have had minimal human connection in the past, it’s understandable that they’ll require some time to acclimatize. Keep in mind that your new buddy is being thrust into a completely unfamiliar situation, and as a result, they will most likely be afraid and require time to get acclimated to their new surroundings. Do not be concerned if your cat is not particularly outgoing at first; it will take a few days for them to become adapted to their new environment.

How Do You Socialize a Stray Cat?

The excitement begins as soon as your cat has finished settling in. It is perfectly OK to purchase an overwhelming amount of toys and treats online and spend as much time with your four-legged companion as possible without irritating them (we all know how temperamental cats can be!). “It is very vital for cats and kittens to be socialized,” Dr. Satchu said. “When done between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks, it is most beneficial; but, it may absolutely be done on older cats as well.. Slow down and encourage your efforts with positive reinforcement.

If they are apprehensive around other people, it is preferable to introduce them to each member of the family one at a time.

Spend very brief periods of time in the same room with her and allow her to come to you instead!” Featured image courtesy of Getty Images / Kseniya Ovchinnikova

Steps to Take If You Find a Feral Cat or Friendly Stray Cat

Following Are the Steps to Take If You Discover a Feral Cat or a Friendly Stray Cat Amadie Hart is a well-known actress. 2020-12-09T20:15:06-05:00

Note: We are a local animal rescue organization in Northern Virginia. We take in stray cats only from this geographic area (N VA, MD, Washington DC).

A “feral” cat is one that has not been socialized with people. The cat was born in the wild and is still considered to be a wild animal. A wild cat will be extremely wary of humans and will avoid direct contact with them if they feel threatened. Over time, a wild cat may feel more comfortable in the company of the human who is providing them with food.

How to Determine If a Cat Is Feral vs. Friendly

It can be difficult to tell if a cat is feral (i.e., not sociable with humans) or friendly at first glance (social with humans). Even a friendly cat may be apprehensive at first until the cat learns to trust you and your intentions. In most cases, if you are supplying the cat with food and water and are patient and non-threatening, a friendly cat will warm up to you in a matter of days.

The determination of whether a mother cat with kittens is feral can be more difficult due to the likelihood that she would hiss and spit if you approach her babies. Therefore, more time and greater caution may be required when attempting to discern if a mother cat is friendly or wild.

If the Cat is Feral

  • Provide food, drink, and a place to stay
  • Check to see if the cat’s left ear has been taped or not. If this is the case, it indicates that the cat has been previously captured and has been spayed or neutered. If the cat has not been spayed or neutered, capture the cat (seeStep3below), get the animal spayed or neutered, and then return the cat to the location where it was discovered (translocation and return). It’s also important to make a commitment to giving the cat with food, water, and housing (such as wood homes or dogloos) for the remainder of its life.
  • Ensure that they have access to food, drink, and shelter Check to see if the cat’s left ear has been taped or tucked. The cat has been spayed or neutered if this is the case, which indicates that someone previously caught the cat. When dealing with a cat that has not been spayed or neutered, catch the cat (seeStep3below), have the animal spayed or neutered, and then return the cat to the location where it was discovered. It’s also important to make a commitment to provide the cat with food, water, and housing (such as wooden homes or dogloos) for the remainder of its life.
  • Provide food, drink, and a place to stay. Check to see if the cat’s left ear has been taped or tipped. If this is the case, it indicates that the cat has been previously captured and that the animal has been spayed or neutered. When dealing with a cat that has not been spayed or neutered, capture the cat (seeStep3below), have the animal spayed or neutered, and then return (TNR) the cat back where it was discovered. Aside from that, you must commit to provide the cat with food, water, and housing (for example, wood homes or dogloos) for the remainder of his or her life.

Friendly Stray Cats

When we say “stray,” we are referring to cats that are sociable with humans but do not have a permanent home. They are either missing or have been abandoned in the open air. Unfortunately, cats do become separated from their owners, and far too many are purposefully abandoned outside when their owners move away or just decide they no longer want to care for the cat.

Determine if the Cat is a Stray (i.e., Lost or Abandoned)

Make an effort to ascertain whether the cat is lost or abandoned rather than merely a neighbor’s indoor-outdoor cat.

  • If the cat isn’t a neighbor’s indoor-outdoor cat, try to figure out whether it’s lost or abandoned.
  • Attempt to reach out to the shelter in the county where the cat was discovered, as well as other counties if they are near by

After Determining the Cat is a Stray (i.e., Lost or Abandoned)

  • Provide food, drink, and a place to stay
  • Send an email to cat [email protected] to see whether the SPCA of Northern Virginia can assist you. Friendliness stray cats receive first consideration, especially if the cat is ill, emaciated, or otherwise damaged.
  • Do not call — sending an email is the most efficient approach to receive assistance
  • If the SPCA of Northern Virginia is unable to assist, contact a number of different rescue organizations at the same time for aid — email is generally the most effective method of reaching out. Other groups to take into consideration are:
  • The 4 Paws Foundation, Animal Allies, Fancy Cats, Feline Foundation of Greater Washington, Friends of Homeless Animals, Homeless Animal Rescue Team, Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, Lost Cat and Dog Rescue Foundation, and Tails High are just a few of the organizations that help homeless animals.
  • Never give up hope if no one is able to assist you immediately away. Continue to contact rescue organizations until you find one that has a “opening.” If you are unable to locate the cat’s “guardian” and rescue organizations are unable to assist you, please assume responsibility for the cat yourself.

Tips on Handling Stray Cats on Your Own

1. Make sure there is enough food and water.

  • If you don’t have any cat food on hand, you can feed adult cats tuna or cooked meat if you don’t have cat food on hand. Cats are carnivores, which means they consume meat. Whenever feasible, provide kitten food for nursing mothers and their kittens. Make sure there is enough clean water. Do not offer your cat cow’s milk since it is difficult for them to digest.

2. Entice the cat into a carrier where it will be safe.

  • Picking up a cat should be done with caution since the cat may become frightened. If possible, delicately attract the cat into a carrier with food
  • This is the best option. If you are able to transport your cat securely into your home, allow the cat to relieve themselves in a small, enclosed space.

3. Trap the Cat – Only if the cat cannot be safely lured into a carrier using the previous two methods.

  • If it is absolutely necessary to capture a cat, use a humane trap to do it.
  • It’s possible that a rescue organization or a local animal shelter may be able to lend you one. Alternatively, you may get one from a home improvement store.
  • It is not recommended to leave the trap unattended for more than 30 minutes. Cats trapped in a cage may harm themselves while attempting to escape.
  • The cat will be less likely to damage themselves attempting to escape if they can’t see out of the trap, which will aid in luring the cat inside, as well as protecting the animal after the cat is inside.
  • Place a thin sheet of newspaper (one or two sheets) in the bottom of the trap to act as a base.
  • The raised plate that the cat steps on to activate the door to close is hidden underneath this to keep their paws safe once they are inside the house.
  • Make use of fishy-smelling canned cat food to entice the cat inside the house by doing the following:
  • Small amounts placed in front of the trap and somewhat within the trap, and a bigger amount placed in the back of the trap (on a paper towel or plate, rather than in the can, which is sharp and can cut the cat’s tongue when attempting to eat out of the can)
  • Small amounts placed in front of the trap and somewhat within the trap, and a larger amount placed in the back of the trap (on a paper towel or plate, rather than in the can, which is sharp and can cut the cat’s tongue when attempting to eat out of the can), are all effective.

4. Determine whether it is necessary to transport the cat to an animal shelter in your area.

  • Identify the number of cats currently in shelters and their policy on taking in friendly stray cats by contacting local animal control agencies.
  • What actions you have previously taken to determine that the cat is a feral (either lost or abandoned) are described in detail. Be specific about why you believe the cat requires assistance (e.g., the cat is unwell, hungry, damaged, etc.)
  • Unfortunately, many local shelters will not accept friendly stray cats or will strongly discourage you from bringing them to the shelter unless the cat is in immediate need of medical treatment.
  • Some shelters will explain that there is no reason why the cat cannot just live outside
  • However, this is not the case. While shelters strive to minimize overcrowding, which can result in the euthanasia of adoptable cats, many fail to provide assistance to friendly cats that live outside and require assistance.
  • Others would say that there is no reason why the cat cannot just live outside
  • However, this is not always the case. However, while shelters strive to avoid overcrowding, which can result in the euthanasia of suitable cats, many fail to provide assistance to friendly cats who live outside.
  • Stray cats are frequently struck by automobiles, get into fights with other cats or dogs, hungry, or suffer injuries as a result of their circumstances.

5. Take the cat into your home and provide veterinary care for it.

  • The majority of individuals are capable of welcoming a cat or kittens into their household, at the very least temporarily. If you have other pets of your own, you may simply keep the cat/kittens in a separate room from the rest of your animals. Put the cat/kittens in a bathroom or a different area where they will not be disturbed. Take note that they feel safer in a confined place, and if you have cats of your own, this will help to reduce the possibility of disease transfer. Take the cat/kittens to the veterinarian as soon as possible for checkups, testing for feline AIDS/leukemia (FIV/FELV), age-appropriate rabies and distemper vaccinations, treatment for worms and fleas, and spaying/neutering as determined by the cat’s health and maturity. Ensure that your cat/kittens are kept away from your other cats for at least 10 days to prevent the spread of infectious illnesses such as upper respiratory infections
See also:  How To Repair Cat Scratches On Leather

6) What to Do If a Stray Cat Has Kittens – Tips for Socializing Feral Kittens

  • If you come across a pleasant stray mom cat with kittens, it is vital that the kittens receive the correct socialization. The socialization of feral kittens (those born outside without any human contact) that are older than 6 weeks of age might be difficult, while it is made simpler if their mother cat is sociable and trusts people. Although some older feral kittens, who have had more time to socialize, may learn to trust one person (their caregiver, who is feeding and caring for them) over a longer period of socialization, they are unlikely to entirely transfer that confidence to another person in a new home. More information on Taming Feral Kittens may be found here. More information about rescuing homeless kittens may be found here.

A loving stray mother cat and her kittens should be socialized as soon as possible when they are discovered; otherwise, the kittens will become ill. The socialization of feral kittens (those born outside without any human contact) that are older than 6 weeks of age can be difficult, while it is made simpler if their mother cat is friendly and trusting of humans. After a longer period of socialization, some older feral kittens may learn to trust one person (their caretaker who is feeding and caring for them), but they do not generally fully transfer that confidence to another person in a new household.

You may find out more about rescuing homeless kittens by visiting their website.

  • If the cat is more than 4 months old, have the cat or kitten spayed or neutered before releasing them to a new home.
  • If the kitten is younger, require the adoptive family to have the kitten spayed or neutered when the cat reaches the right age (4-5 months old). Make an announcement to the adopter about low-cost spay/neuter programs, such as the SPCA of Northern Virginia’sSpay Inc. program. They can also get in touch with local animal shelters, many of which offer low-cost adoption programs.
  • Post alerts on social media websites such as Facebook and Nextdoor, put up posters in vet offices and on neighborhood bulletin boards, and spread the information by word of mouth. Ascertain that the cat will be placed in a secure, loving, and permanent home. Our adoption rules provide information on what to search for in a suitable adoptive home. Here are a few noteworthy points:
  • Do not allow the cat to be declawed
  • Insist on the animal being kept indoors. Moreover, puppies and kittens should be kept together or in a household with another kitten or puppy
  • Tiny kittens should not be placed in homes with very young children or toddlers
  • Cats and kittens need to be placed in appropriate homes, which requires effort and dedication.

What To Know Before Taking In A Stray Cat

Getty Images News/Getty Images Christopher Furlong/Getty Images The temptation to pet, chat to, and even leave a little bowl of food for a cute cat walking about your area may be strong if you’ve noticed one strolling around your neighborhood recently. In the case of stray cats, though, there’s more to it than simply opening your door and allowing them to come inside your home. According to experts, each time you bring a new pet into your home is a momentous occasion that requires careful planning and preparation.

Before everything else, make sure you aren’t accidently snatching someone’s lost or collarless pet by mistake.

“As soon as you’ve earned enough confidence to hold the cat, check to see if it’s wearing a collar,” she suggests.

Although there is no collar on the cat, it is still suggested that you take the cat to be checked for a microchip because cats have been known to tear their collars off. According to experts, there are certain things you should consider before adopting a stray cat.


Images courtesy of WPA Pool and Getty Images News. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of spending time with a cat, you’ll know that cats like small places. A cat will squirm their way into any opening, whether it’s an empty cardboard box or a space between two cushions, no matter how small. In addition to being really adorable, providing safe hiding places for your new kitten is critical to helping them feel secure. The experts advise that, in addition to cat-proofing your house, you should consider providing a few quiet spots for your new pet to ‘hide’ while it gets used to its new surroundings.


If you’re adopting a cat that has been without a suitable home and care for an extended period of time, you’re likely to have no knowledge about their medical history or whether they are currently suffering from any health problems. “As soon as you’ve decided to bring a cat into your home,” Landis-Hana advises, “make an appointment with a veterinarian to ensure the health of everyone involved.” The vet will be able to examine the cat for parasites such as ear mites and fleas, which are common in cats that have been abandoned.


Press Photographer Putu Sayoga/Getty Images News/Getty Images If you’re bringing a stray cat into your home, you might anticipate to have to confine it to your home all of the time. However, by allowing them to spend some time outside, you will most likely allow them to make the adjustment more gradually. Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, a small animal and exotic veterinarian who also serves as a consultant for DogLab, recommends that you have a stray cat examined by a veterinarian before taking them in.

Even if you accept a cat who has the capacity to impregnate others, it is your responsibility as a responsible cat owner to ensure that they do not leave any unwanted litters behind in their absence.


As a cat parent, you’ll have to make certain that your feline companions have all they need to live happily and comfortably. According to Ochoa, the most important things to need for the pet are a litter box and food, so be sure to get those before you bring the pet home. It is important to remember that the first thing your cat will want to do when they arrive home is use the toilet. As a result, she suggests that you make sure everything is set up in a location where they can easily access it.


Photograph by Andrew Burton/Getty Images News courtesy of Getty Images Before adding another animal into your house, make sure you prepare your current pets, especially if you have a cat or are also a dog parent. If your present pet is fearful of other animals, schedule some animal playdates with them to get them acclimated to it. You may also work with a trained trainer if you’d want some more advice. However, according to Ochoa, it is also critical to ensure that your new pet gets along well with other animals.

“If you already have other cats or dogs, make sure your new cat gets along with them,” she advises. “Most shelters will introduce new cats to other animals to see if they get along,” says the author.


The desire to assist a gorgeous cat in need of a home is understandable, but it’s critical to ensure that it’s a realistic option for you in terms of practicalities before proceeding. Dr. Geoff DeWire, DVM, a practicing veterinarian and veterinarian-in-chief for PrettyLitter, tells Bustle that adopting a new pet is “essentially the same as adopting a new child” since they may be “very expensive.” “Make sure to evaluate your financial situation so that you can provide the time and resources your new furry companion deserves,” he advises.


Courtesy of Carl Court/Getty Images News courtesy of Getty Images As DeWire points out, “If you want to adopt an older cat, it may be helpful to invest in pet insurance, but this is something you should consider in terms of your budget.” In his words, “it can make it simpler financially to offer normal treatment and protect you from huge (and little) unexpected bills,” but he cautions that policies can be complicated and that consumers should thoroughly understand their coverage.

Read all of the small print and consider adding on optional coverages such as dental care or travel insurance, based on your pet’s needs and your own lifestyle.


In the case of cat adoption, the odds are that you’re quite thrilled about the prospect of welcoming a feline into your home. However, it’s crucial to remember that for children, this might be a frightening moment of transition in their lives. Even if they are grateful for the food, a place to sleep, and the affection you can provide them, they may be quite fearful of you. In Landis-words, Hanna’s “be aware that integrating a new cat into your household will take time.” “As with any difficult procedure, patience will be required throughout.


Getty Images News/Getty Images Bruce Bennett/Getty Images Landis-Hanna advises that if you decide to adopt a cat from a tough background, you should make sure you have the tools necessary to acclimatize and retrain him or her properly. Not every cat is a suitable match for every family, despite the fact that all cats require love and deserve a safe home environment. Depending on the cat, “some cats are good for families with children or elderly people and others are not,” she explains. Make sure to keep that in mind to avoid placing a pet in an environment that will not work out for them in the long run.

A stray cat into your house may be a stressful experience, especially if you’re doing all of the preparation yourself. However, make sure to set aside some time to properly appreciate the love that a new pet may bring into your life.

Feral and Stray Cats—An Important Difference

  • “Community cat” is an umbrella phrase that refers to any member of the Felis catus species who is not owned and who lives in an open area without protection. Feral cats and stray cats are both considered community cats. Cats in the community exhibit a wide range of behaviors and levels of sociability, depending on their environment. See our thorough Cat Socialization Continuumguide for more information. If you pay attention to your cat’s behavior, particularly their body language, you can tell how socialized he or she is. When you understand a cat’s degree of socialization, you may make decisions that are in their best interests. No matter what their degree of socialization, trap-neuter-return (TNR) helps to safeguard and improve the lives of all community cats.

They are all domestic cats; they are all members of the same species, which is the feral cat or the stray cat. However, stray cats and feral cats differ from one another in a very significant way, and this difference is in their connection to and interactions with humans, among other things. It doesn’t matter whether you work in a shelter, are a veterinarian, are a cat advocate, or simply live in a neighborhood where there are community cats; knowing how to distinguish between the two can help you decide how to interact with a cat and what, if any, intervention would be in the cat’s best interests.

  • What is socializing and how does it work? In what ways are stray cats and feral cats different from one another
  • What is the significance of this
  • When the cats are outside, how can I determine the difference between them? How can I determine the difference between feral and stray cats once I have captured them? What should I do now?

What is socialization?

“Socialized” refers to a cat who is accustomed to and appreciates being in the company of other animals or people. To socialize a cat is to adapt her to human touch, human environments, and human sights, scents, and noises, among other things. It’s a lengthy process that is impacted by a variety of events in a cat’s existence and need the dedication of caring individuals. Early interactions with people, such as being held, spoken to, and played with, help kittens to socialize and develop their personalities.

What is the difference between a stray cat and a feral cat?

“Socialized” refers to a cat who is accustomed to and appreciates being in the company of other animals or humans. Human contact, human environments, as well as human sights, scents, and sounds are all part of the process of socializing a kitten. There are numerous things that impact a cat’s life, and it is a process that needs time and effort on the part of caring individuals. Early interactions with people, such as being held, spoken to, and played with, help kittens to socialize and develop their personality.

Community Cats

Community cat is a general word that refers to any member of theFelis catusspecies who is not owned and who lives in the wild with other felines. Cats that are wild or stray are considered communal cats. Community cats exhibit a wide range of behaviors and levels of socialization, but they do not want to live inside and are therefore unadoptable in the majority of cases.


  • An indoor cat who has been socialized to people at some time in her life, but who has left or lost her home, or who was abandoned, and who no longer has regular human interaction is referred to as a stray cat. As her contact with humans diminishes, a stray cat may develop the characteristics of a feral cat. It is possible that an unsocialized stray cat will grow less socialized—or perhaps feral—if she is left alone for an extended period of time without good interaction with humans
  • However, this is not always the case. It is possible for a stray cat to reclaim its status as a household pet under the correct circumstances. It may take some time for stray cats that have been living outdoors to re-acclimate to their new indoor environment
  • They may be fearful and distrustful after having spent time away from people in the wild.


  • Cats that live in the wild are known as feral cats. They are unsocialized outdoor cats who have either never had physical contact with humans or whose physical contact with humans has lessened over time to the point that she is no longer acclimated to it. The majority of wild cats are scared of people and are unlikely to ever become lap cats or to appreciate living in an enclosed space. The adoption of kittens born to wild cats into indoor households is possible if they are socialized at a young age. Alley Cat Allies does not, in general, encourage attempting to socialize a feral kitten that is more than 4 months old. Socialization takes time and effort, especially for older kittens, and there is no assurance that the outcomes will be positive. Learn more about socializing kittens by reading this article.

Why does it matter?

  • Understanding the many levels of socialization that cats may demonstrate can assist you in determining the most effective strategy to care for, assist, and protect them. For more information, please see our guide, “The Cat Socialization Continuum: A Guide to Interactions Between Cats and Humans.” Cats that have been abandoned by their owners can learn to live with people and may become suitable candidates for adoption into indoor homes if they are given the opportunity to foster and adopt them. Identifying the difference between stray and feral cats may be challenging, especially when the cats are imprisoned or afraid. The need for time to relax and demonstrate their degree of socialization is common among scared stray cats. Adult feral cats have not been socialized with humans, and as a result, they are unable to be accepted into indoor households. The upshot is that animals collected by animal control or placed in shelters are more likely to be killed than if they are allowed to continue living outside. Trap-Neuter-Return saves the lives of feral cats and is beneficial to all community cats, regardless of their level of socialization. Cats that are part of TNR programs are humanely captured, scanned for microchips, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, eartipped, and microchipped (if they do not already have one) as part of the program’s procedures. If stray cats are in good health and do not have microchips indicating that they are lost, they can be returned to their outside habitat or fostered and adopted.
See also:  How To Make Your Cat Like You

How do I tell the difference when the cats are outdoors?

The following principles should be followed while observing cats on their own in the wild because it is impossible to evaluate each cat’s socialization after a stressful event such as capturing. The Socialization Continuum exhibits a great deal of variety, as previously stated. Cats may or may not fall neatly into either the socialized-stray or the unsocialized-feral classifications. Learn about the various variants that are conceivable by consulting ourSocialization Continuumguide.

Socialization to Humans

The following principles should be followed while observing cats on their own outside because it is impossible to evaluate each cat’s socialization after a stressful event such as trapping.

NOTE: The Socialization Continuum has a great deal of diversity. The socialized-stray and unsocialized-feral classifications may not be completely applicable to all cats. Our Socialization Continuumguide might help you discover additional alternative possibilities.

Socialization to Other Cats

Stray:Will most likely live alone and not as a member of a group. Feral: Could be a member of a colony.

Body Language

Strolling and moving like a house cat, such as walking with the tail up—a sign of friendliness—can be observed in stray cats. Will most likely stare at you, blink, or establish direct eye contact with you. Feral: Can crawl, crouch, keep low to the ground, and use its tail to defend its body from predators. It’s unlikely that you’ll establish eye contact.


It is possible that the stray will be vocal, meow, or “respond” your voice Feral: Won’t meow, beg, or purr unless forced to.


Stray:Will be most obvious throughout the midday hours of the day. Feral: Most likely to be active at night, although may also be seen during the day.

Physical Appearance

Stray: He or she will most likely be unclean or untidy, and he or she will not have an eartip. Feral:Will most likely have a clean, well-kept coat on display. A male with a large head and thick neck, a strong physique, and/or scars from fighting is more likely to be feral, because they are characteristics associated with intact males, such as large heads and thick necks (and only 2 percent of feral cats are neutered in the U.S.) As a result of elevated testosterone levels and less time spent grooming, he may also develop a “stud tail,” which is characterized by hair loss, greasiness, or lumps at the base of the tail as a result of hormonal changes.

If neutered as part of a TNR program, he or she will almost certainly have an eartip.

Pregnancy, Nursing, Kittens

Because only 2 percent of feral cats in the United States are neutered, a female who is pregnant or breastfeeding is more likely to be feral than other females. Please keep in mind that a cat’s level of socialization and behavior is not always black and white, especially in the case of community cats who recognize their carer. They may display signals of familiarity, such as raising their tails or loitering on a caregiver’s porch, but these behaviors are generally restricted to the cat’s connection with the caregiver and only occur after a period of time has elapsed since the beginning of the relationship.

How do I tell feral and stray cats apart once I have trapped them?

When placed in a dangerous or stressful setting, such as a trap or a shelter, a loving stray cat may behave as if it were a feral cat, avoiding humans and maybe even exhibiting aggressiveness to avoid being touched to prevent being trapped. Who can blame them, after all? The cat has arrived in a strange and unfamiliar environment. In the event that a feral cat or a fearful stray cat is present, or if they are in a new environment, the following methods will assist you in distinguishing them.

Touch Barrier

The cat may gradually allow you to touch her, or she may tolerate a tiny bit of contact with an object at first. Feral: Cannot be touched by anybody, not even a carer, since they are feral.

Cage Behavior

Stray: It is possible that the stray may come to the front of the cage. It is possible that it will finally rub against the cage in a pleasant manner.

Feral:Will most likely remain in the rear of the cage, retreating as far back as possible from the other animals. If shocked or scared, the animal may shake, rattle, or climb the cage, and it may become harmed if it bangs its head on the cage bars.

Level of Relaxation

Stray: It is possible that it will become less stray over time. Feral: Will continue to be uptight and unsociable.


Stray: The animal may examine toys or food that has been put near the cage. It is possible that the cat will respond to household noises such as cat food cans or bags being opened. Feral: Will most likely disregard all people, toys, and food, and may even refuse to eat. Will not demonstrate any acquaintance with or interest in everyday sounds.

Fear and Anxiety

To express worry, the stray may hiss or snarl. When frightened or trapped, a feral cat will strike out and lash out hard (signs of aggression include ears back and eyes dilated).

What do I do next?

Make certain that you have all of the information necessary to make an accurate assessment. Following a thorough evaluation of a cat in which you feel confident in your understanding of the cat’s level of socialization, the next step is to have the cat neutered. Utilize your findings to determine what is in the cat’s best interests, which may involve the following actions:

  • Bringing the cats from the community back to their outdoor habitat
  • Increasing the likelihood of a frightened stray being adopted
  • Finding a nice adoption home for well-socialized cats
  • Kittens being socialized in preparation for adoption

What to Do When A Stray Cat Adopts You

Photo courtesy of Written by Kate Hughes According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, there are tens of millions of feral and stray cats in the United States. Many of these cats are afraid of people; yet, some stray cats desire for human connection from time to time (or the full bellies that these interactions tend to guarantee). As a result of these incidents, it appears as though stray cats have decided to “adopt” an unsuspecting individual as their new guardian.

So, what should you do if you find yourself the target of a crime?

And, if you’re unable to care for the little man, how do you find someone who will?

How You Know You’ve Been Adopted by a Stray Cat

The following is explained by Megan Phillips, BS, ADBC: “When a cat starts coming about your house and asking for attention, begging for food, or attempting to sneak into your front door, there is a strong likelihood you have been adopted.” The cofounder of Train With Trust, a Colorado Springs-based firm that provides customized behavior solutions for owners of all sorts of animals, Phillips has a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

  1. “And once you start putting food out, there’s no question about it.” “That cat is going to keep showing up.” Phillips does point out, however, that not all stray cats who come around begging are truly stray cats in the traditional sense.
  2. Dog and cat behavior expert Elise Gouge, owner of Pet Behavior Consulting, LLC, is a qualified dog and cat behavior consultant.
  3. “Some cats are really skilled at making the rounds in the neighborhood and have a number of buddies who they enjoy seeing,” she explains.
  4. Even if the cat does not have an owner, it is your obligation to make every reasonable attempt to reconnect it with its owner.
  5. Make a photo of the cat in your yard and upload it to social media sites, asking if anybody knows where it came from.

Applications like Nextdoor, which allow users to easily find out which neighbors have been adopted or where the cat truly dwells, are very useful for this purpose. Using this method can also help you determine whether or not the cat has been to the veterinarian or is on flea and tick medication.

What to Do With a Stray Cat That Has Adopted You

When it comes to selecting what to do with a stray cat that has “adopted” you, you have a couple of alternatives to consider. It all boils down to determining what is best for both the cat and yourself.

Adopting a Stray Cat Into Your Home

If you are certain that you want to bring this stray cat into your house and you are confident that they do not belong to anybody, you may begin the adoption procedure right away. However, it is critical that you gain the trust of the outside stray cat, take them to the doctor for a checkup, and have all of the required cat supplies on hand before you begin to domesticate the cat.

Earning Your Stray Cat’s Trust

The majority of stray cats are friendly straight away; but, with some, it may take some time and patience to build trust. In the event that a cat is not comfortable around humans, they would most likely scratch or bite you if you attempt to handle them.” Keep things moving slowly, and always provide the cat a route out of the scenario so that they don’t feel trapped,” Gouge advises. In his work with the Cypress Feline Rescue in Brooklyn, New York, Martin Fernandez, a trap-neuter-release (TNR) program trainer and stray cat specialist, argues that winning a cat’s confidence is partially a waiting game.

Fernandez believes that if you attempt to push it, he would flee.” The most direct route into the heart of your new feline companion is through his stomach.

Begin approaching the cat gradually, over a period of several days or perhaps weeks.

Taking Your Stray Cat to the Vet

While food and shelter are crucial, according to Phillips, the most important thing to do, especially if you have other cats, is to make sure the stray cat is healthy. “You have to make sure that their basic veterinary requirements are met, therefore if at all possible, attempt to grab the cat and take her to the veterinarian.” When carrying your new cat to the veterinarian, it is critical that you have a cat carrier on hand. When bringing a cat to the veterinarian, the great majority of them will insist on you using a cat carrier in order to protect the cat’s health.

  • Putting food in the box or cat carrier is something Phillips suggests.
  • Then, while he’s eating, begin to close the door a little more.
  • Then try latching it with your other hand.
  • “Then, after you’ve seen the veterinarian, you should keep the carrier outside.” Continue to fill it with food.
  • In addition to basic immunizations and spaying or neutering, if the cat hasn’t previously been done, Phillips recommends taking it to the veterinarian.
  • According to the article, “They may also do tests for feline leukemia, FIVand parasites, and provide low-cost microchips.” Most veterinarians collaborate with government-recognized charity groups, which allows them to provide low-cost care to feral cats that come into their clinics.
  • You will need to purchase a cat flea and tick treatment if your new cat is found to have parasites, such as a cat flea shampoo or topical flea treatment, if the doctor determines that he or she has them.
  • Heartworms, hookworms, roundworms, and ear mites may all be prevented with prescription flea and tick medication for cats.

In the event that getting near to your cat isn’t a possibility, you may sneakoral flea and tick medicine for cats into their wet food instead. You can also talk about flea and tick treatments for your house and yard during this appointment.

Transitioning a Stray Cat to Your Home

Prepare your home for your newly adopted stray cat by making sure you have all of the necessary cat supplies on hand. It is recommended that if your new feline buddy was formerly a house cat, the transition to an indoor environment should be quite simple. When a cat hangs around on your back porch, it’s likely that she’s been inside before and has been taught to associate with people. In this scenario, Delgado proposes first acquiring the kitty’s confidence with food, and then giving him with the requirements of life inside the house.

  • “As well as providing a comfortable setting for the cat to adjust to his new home,” she adds.
  • It’s important to gradually improve their comfort level by linking your presence with something they genuinely enjoy—in this case, food.
  • That can be frightening and distressing, and it can also be damaging to your long-term objective of converting your stray into a house pet,” says the veterinarian.
  • As the cat grows more accustomed to being petted or scratched while eating, you will be able to move the bowl closer to you.
  • Whatever piques the interest of your new cat should be your first choice.
  • Included in this is the provision of enrichment activities such as cat puzzle toys as well as climbing and playing places.
  • “There is also a litter that is designed to assist cats in making the transition from outside to indoor living—called it’s Touch of Outdoors,” she explains.

Caring for Stray Cats Who Prefer to Stay Outdoors

If your new kitten is refusing to come inside, you should consider providing some sort of enclosure. The wild cat box may be made (there are several internet tutorials), or the garage can be opened on very chilly nights, according to Phillips. If you are unable to construct your own wild cat box, you can purchase one. Cat heated beds and unheated choices are available, as well as “houses” that may be used as a sanctuary for stray cats, among other things. If you reside in a very chilly region, a heated water dish would be a wise purchase to make as well.

  1. You may use a cat dish, such as theNeater Feeder polar pet bowl, to assist ensure that your cat has access to a fresh stream of cold water at all times during the day.
  2. According to Delgado, “it’s vital to be realistic about the outside kitten that you discovered.” “A wild cat isn’t going to try to break into your house,” says the author.
  3. There are organizations that may assist you in ensuring that the kitten either gets a nice home or—in the case of wild cats—receives adequate medical treatment and attention.
  4. “There are so many cat lovers out there who are eager and able to provide a hand in situations like these,” Phillips points out.
  5. When it comes to stray dogs, it’s all about finding the proper match for their personalities.
  6. Delgado advises anybody searching for a new home for a stray cat to become familiar with the services available in their local area first, before going further.
See also:  How To Comfort A Sick Cat

Adopting a stray cat – do’s and don’ts and what you need to know

Some individuals insist that it was the finest thing they’d ever done; others claim that despite their best efforts, it just didn’t work out for whatever reason. It doesn’t matter what other people have said about their experiences; adopting a stray cat is a significant commitment that should not be made on the spur of the moment. It is possible that taking in a stray cat with no known past will turn out to be quite gratifying in the long term, but doing so will involve some significant lifestyle changes, a significant amount of patience, and financial resources in order to have the best chance of a good conclusion.

Do… your research

It’s the finest thing some individuals have ever done, but others claim that despite their best efforts, it simply did not work out. What others have experienced, adopting a stray cat is always a major commitment that should not be made on the spur of the moment, regardless of their own feelings about it. A stray cat with an unknown background may turn out to be really rewarding in the long run, but it is likely to need some significant lifestyle changes, a great deal of patience, and substantial financial resources in order to have the best chance of achieving a positive ending.

Do… know the difference between a stray cat and a feral cat

When it comes to cat adoption, this is a critical question to ask since the answer might determine whether your efforts are successful – or unsuccessful – in the long run. Essentially, an aferal cat is a cat that has had little or no interaction with people and has never been raised as a domesticated animal. Feral cats are scared of people and have learned to live on their own in the wild; they are essentially wild creatures that have not been socialized with humans and are unlikely to ever become a lap cat or like living in an indoor environment.

  1. When it comes to domestic cats, an astray cat is a domestic cat who has been socialized to people at some time in her life but has subsequently been abandoned or lost.
  2. It is possible to return stray cats into domestic life under the correct circumstances; nevertheless, they will most likely take some time to re-acclimate to an indoor existence and they may be fearful and distrustful after having spent time away from people.
  3. In certain cases, it’s difficult to discern the difference between an uninvited stray and a wild cat, especially when the cats are imprisoned or scared.
  4. Strays are typically more comfortable in human company and will commonly seek to establish a home near humans – beneath porches, in garages, sheds, or backyards, for example.

When stray cats are scared, they frequently require time to relax their guard and demonstrate their degree of socialization. Over time, you may become acquainted with them and perhaps tempt them into your home.

Don’t… try to adopt a feral cat

If the cat looks to be wild or incapable of being socialized, but is otherwise healthy, the best course of action may be to to leave her alone. According to Pet Rescue, an Australian animal welfare organization that encourages the adoption of stray animals, not all homeless cats are thought to be lost; in reality, in practically every urban city, there are semi-owned or ‘community’ cats that are content to live amongst people. According to Pet Rescue, these cats have a good chance of surviving if they are provided with food and water.

Nonetheless, if the cat looks to be in bad condition or you are unsure about the best course of action, it is recommended to seek assistance from your local animal welfare organization.

A stray cat can be adopted through an animal shelter or rescue organization, or a homeless cat can be fed and gradually befriended until she is comfortable enough to move in with you.

Consider the following: If you’ve been tempted to open your backdoor to a supposedly destitute moggy who’s been slinking around your yard in the hope of a handout, but who flees as soon as you approach, remember that adoption isn’t always the greatest option.

Do… try very hard to find the owner

First and foremost, even if the cat does not appear to be sociable or socialized, she may still have an owner, making it critical to ensure that you are not unintentionally transporting someone’s misplaced companion. However, not all cats that come around begging are actually lost; some may simply be wandering outdoor cats who have a home in your neighborhood and are drawn to something in your yard. Assuming that the cat has an owner, it is your obligation to make every effort to bring the cat back to him or her as soon as humanly feasible.

However, the absence of a collar or identification tag does not always imply that a cat is unowned; some cats have successfully removed these devices from their necks.

If you are unable to identify the owner after taking these measures, the Cat Protection Society of NSW recommends that you aggressively explore your neighborhood – ask around, contact local veterinarians and your local government, put up posters, and utilize social media to your advantage.

Also, look into whether someone has recently moved into your neighborhood; cats are particularly vulnerable when they have recently moved into a new home.

If no owner can be discovered after an exhaustive search, or if a person can be found who no longer wants or is able to care for the cat, you may seek to find the cat a new home – as long as she is agreeable to the idea!

Do… consider adopting from a shelter

It is highly recommended that you adopt from a reputable animal shelter since the animals available for adoption have typically been tested and determined to be healthy and well-behaved on both a medical and a behavioral level. You will also need to think about what sort of cat you want and/or what type of cat is ideal for you and your family because many shelters have an adoption procedure that incorporates connecting the right owner with the right animal. In South Australia, according to the RSPCA, the most majority of cats who pass through their shelters are in great condition and are gregarious, and they are in the vast majority of cases successfully and happily rehomed.

Don’t… rush or overwhelm her

Acclimatizing a cat to you and your environment is going to take time, whether you have adopted her from a shelter or are attempting to befriend a stray off the street. Here are some tips to help you along the way. In most cases, if you approach a semi-feral stray, she will be frightened of you and will initially resist being handled, maybe clawing or biting you if you attempt to hold her. While you may want to pat and play with her, instead of overpowering her, give her as much time as she requires and wait for her to approach you on her own terms.

She will come to you when she feels secure in her surroundings.

Do… use food strategically

The first step in developing a connection with a suspicious, yet interested, stray cat is to provide him with food. Food, in conjunction with time and patience, may play an important part in building her confidence in you. Cats have a natural tendency to domesticate themselves in order to have a reliable food source. It is critical that you establish a consistent feeding routine early on so that she learns that you are her reliable source of nourishment. Once she is comfortable with the food you are providing, you may begin to sit in the room with her as she eats.

Providing food rewards outside of mealtimes can also aid in the development of your bond with her and the development of her confidence in you.

Putting a small amount of her favorite food on your finger and encouraging her to lick it off is a good way to start a physical relationship.

It may take some time and a number of efforts before she is comfortable approaching you on her own, but allowing her to approach you on her own can help to build her confidence in you.

Do… gradually introduce her to your home

As recommended by the Cat Protection Society, you should gradually introduce the cat to your home, beginning with one small, quiet unoccupied room at a time, because providing the cat with too much space can be overwhelming for him. Prepare the room by putting a litter box, a cat bed, and a little amount of food and drink on the floor of the room (positioned as far away as possible from the litter tray). Scratching posts, toys, and something for her to climb on are all optional items to consider.

Spend time in her room with her every day so that she develops accustomed to your presence.

Continue to take things gently and let her to progressively explore her new surroundings as she appears to be more confident, comfortable, and prepared to explore.

Do… give her places to hide

When cats are terrified, they prefer to hide in confined, dark locations. It is understandable that a stray may be apprehensive in her new environment and will seek a safe spot to hide if she becomes overwhelmed. The provision of a few quiet hiding areas throughout the house can assist in preventing the child from feeling besieged and will allow the child to feel safe – these might be anything as simple as an empty cardboard box, blanket thrown over a chair, or a spot between two cushions. But make careful to close up any small spots where she can get stuck and protect windows and screens so that she can’t sneak out from behind them.

Don’t… let her go outdoors

When cats are terrified, they prefer to hide in compact, dark areas.. It is understandable that a stray will be apprehensive in her new environment and that she will seek a safe place to hide if she becomes overexcited. A few quiet hiding places throughout the home will help prevent her from feeling besieged and will allow her to feel safe — they may be as simple as an empty cardboard box, a blanket draped over the back of the couch, or an area between two cushions. But make careful to close up any small spots where she can get stuck and fasten windows and screens so that she can’t sneak out from under them.

Do… provide stimulating indoor experiences

Provide your cat with a variety of distractions and enjoyable experiences in your home, such as a variety of hiding and resting places in various locations, scratching posts with various types of scratching surfaces (for example, vertical, horizontal, carpet, sisal rope), a variety of toys, puzzle feeders, perches near windows that are greater than a metre high so that your cat can look outside and down on the world from a height, and lots of toys.

Don’t… introduce her to other pets until she’s been to the vet

Even if you’ve adopted from a shelter or animal welfare organization, you’re likely to have little knowledge of your cat’s medical history or whether or not she is currently suffering from any health problems. Until you’ve had the opportunity to get your new stray street cat vaccinated, inspected, and tested for contagious diseases, don’t allow her to come into touch with any other cats in your home. If you’re going to be in close proximity to her and other cats in a multi-cat home, wash your hands first.

This will ensure that she is healthy.

Testing for feline leukemia, FIV, and other disorders may be performed by the veterinarian.

She should get medical attention immediately if she is suffering from a serious disease. The sooner she receives care, the better. Additionally, spaying and neutering, as well as immunization, are critical components of her health-care regimen.

Don’t… rush the introduction to other pets

It is best to introduce other pets to the stray cat carefully, starting from either side of or behind a closed door. If you have other pets in your home, they should be introduced to the stray cat cautiously as well. Eventually, introduce her to other pets one at a time, starting with a dog. Think about placing the new cat in a carrier and allowing the other pets to get a chance to get to know her, or putting the other pets in carriers and allowing the new cat to get to know them as well as the new cat.

Make sure that all of your dogs receive extra love and care during the process.

Do… have her microchipped and registered

The microchipping and registration of your pet may be required by law in your state or municipality, depending on the legislation in effect at the time. Cats must be microchipped and registered by the age of six months in New South Wales, and if your kitten or cat has been desexed, you will receive a significant reduction on your registration price. Microchipping and registration are required by law in New South Wales. More information about registration may be found in a factsheet published by the Cat Protection Society of NSW, or by visiting

Do… consider Pet Insurance

Food, litter, and unforeseen medical bills are just a few of the expenses that come with owning a pet cat, so plan ahead of time and set up a specific budget for each one. The cost of basic care might be less stressful on your wallet if you have pet insurance, and it can shield you from large, unexpected bills. Pre-existing conditions may be crucial when getting pet insurance for a stray cat; thus, it is important to clarify with the provider how this would effect any future claims. Bow Wow Meow offers cat-specific pet insurance products that are tailored to the needs of felines.

Get a free, no-obligation quotation.

Do…be prepared for some challenges

When adopting a wild cat, patience is the most crucial quality to possess. If you adopt a stray cat, it is possible that it may develop certain behaviors that will require significant altering or retraining in order to fit in with your family and/or home setting. You will almost certainly never know the whole extent of the baggage that your rescued stray cat may be carrying, but certain concerns may become apparent as you get to know her better over time. Always be prepared for unexpected events to occur at any moment, even years later in certain cases.

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