Stray cats in your neighborhood can be very charming, and they may even get attached to you. When a stray cat keeps returning to your home, it can be difficult to know how to proceed.
You’ll need to decide on the best course of action to keep them safe and healthy.
This can vary depending on the cat, as feral cats have very different needs than a lost stray.
A feral cat lives outside and has not been domesticated by humans, but they may be the offspring of stray or abandoned cats. Feral cats are born in the wild, so they avoid human contact and may appear aggressive.
Stray cats, on the other hand, are comfortable with humans and were likely domesticated in the past. They may have run away or been abandoned. They may even live nearby and just appear to be a stray. If you have ongoing interactions with a neighborhood cat, your first step should always be to determine if they are a friendly stray or if they are feral.
You have a few different options for cats that show up at your door.
Here’s what you need to know about the stray cats in your neighborhood and how you can help them.
Next Steps: Options For Dealing With A Stray Cat
Here are some of the choices to consider when dealing with a stray cat. You’ll need to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each to see which choice makes the most sense for your household.
Reunite the cat with their owner
If the stray cat is comfortable around humans, it’s always worth trying to find their previous owner. The first thing to do is to take the cat to the vet to check for a microchip, which will give information such as phone numbers and addresses of previous owners.
If there is no chip, or if the phone numbers are out of order, your vet will be able to advise you as to next steps. In many countries, you have a legal obligation to try to find the owner. There are many places where people look for lost cats, so keep an eye out. Contact local animal shelters, vets, and check online classified ads to see if anyone is looking for a lost cat.
You should also advertise the cat that you found. Create flyers with a clear photo of the cat and post them around the neighborhood. You can also post an advertisement online or in a local newspaper. This further increases the chances of the cat’s original owner finding them.
If you go down this route, you’ll need to come up with a backup plan in case you cannot find the cat’s original owner. Decide if you would be open to adopting the cat, or look into other rescue options for them.
Adopt the cat into your home
If the cat is friendly and you are starting to develop a bond with it, this can be a very tempting option. Cats make wonderful, loving pets, and you’ll be providing an animal with food, shelter, and companionship. However, this is a big decision, and there are many things to take into consideration when adopting a stray cat.
The first is that the cat may already belong to someone else. In some areas, it’s common for owners to let their cats outside during the day. The first owners could be looking for the cat, and if you adopt them, you will take away their chance to reunite. This is why you should always make an effort to see if the cat has an owner before permanently adopting them.
It’s also important to consider how the cat will fit into your lifestyle. Pets can be expensive, so it’s important to make sure that you can afford things like food, litter, toys, and vet visits. You’ll also need to make sure your living space is large enough to accommodate a cat, and that your housemates are comfortable with having a cat.
If you have other pets, you should also consider their needs first – will they want to share their space? Cats are territorial and many cats living in multi-cat households are chronically stressed by having to share their space – you need to decide if it’s fair on your current cat.
Create an outdoor space for the cat
If you don’t feel comfortable bringing the cat indoors but still want to provide them with safety and comfort, consider adopting them outside. This option can work well if you have a yard and live in a relatively safe area. This is also a good transitional step if you’re on the fence about adopting the cat indoors.
Start by building a small shelter where the cat can go in the event of inclement weather, and place it somewhere in your yard. You’ll also need to place food and water bowls nearby. Over time, the cat will keep returning to get the food.
You should also take the cat to the vet to take care of any medical issues and ensure that they are spayed or neutered.
By creating an outdoor shelter for a stray cat, you’re allowing them to maintain their independence while also ensuring that they don’t go without food or shelter if they need it. For many people, it’s also an easier option than bringing the cat directly into your home.
Bring the cat to your local shelter
If you cannot adopt the cat and you can’t find its previous owner, you may also want to consider taking the cat to your local animal shelter. The advantage of this is that the cat will get care and will be put up for adoption, so they can find a loving forever home or be reunited with a previous owner.
While the shelter can be a good way to keep the cat safe, there are also some very serious downsides to taking a cat to the shelter.
The biggest problem is that many shelters are overcrowded at the moment and don’t have the resources to take cats for long periods of time.
Some shelters do euthanize animals if they aren’t adopted after a certain period of time. Do your research and keep this in mind when deciding where to take the cat.
Before taking a cat to a shelter, reach out to others in your community to see if they would be willing to adopt the cat. A friend or family member may be willing to provide a stable home.
You also can look into private cat rescue organizations in your area. These organizations will typically be willing to foster the cat until they can find them a long term home that is the right fit.
Leave the cat alone
While this option can seem harsh, it’s sometimes the most effective one. Ignoring the cat will encourage it to move on, which makes them more likely to find a new home or return to an old one.
Remember, many ‘stray’ cats already have a home, they just like to wander during the day. A cat’s idea of territory doesn’t end with boundary fences, and they may see your home as an extension of theirs. This means that encouraging the cat to move in, or taking him to the shelter, will mean that a neighbor is missing their cat.
Stray cats will normally continue to return if you are providing them with something they want. This could be shelter, food, or even just attention.
To get the cat to leave you alone, you’ll need to commit to not engaging with them, no matter how loud or persistent they are being.
If you stop giving the cat what they are looking for, they’ll quickly move on to someone else.
There are a few situations where this could be the best option for you. If you can’t adopt the cat, they might have a better chance of finding a forever home if they move on.
There’s also always a chance that they are an outdoor cat that already has a permanent home, and ignoring them will encourage them to return to their owner.
Consider a local TNR program
If the cat seems feral, adoption likely won’t be the best choice for you. While young feral kittens can be socialized, adult feral cats are not comfortable around humans and are unlikely to adapt. If you have feral cats hanging around your property, you may want to consider a local TNR, or trap-neuter-return/release program.
TNR programs aim to control the population of community cats in an area that is prone to overpopulation. To participate, you’ll need to contact a local animal organization that runs one of these programs. They’ll give you instructions for safely trapping the cat. You’ll then bring them to the organization for a (free) spay or neuter surgery. Afterwards, you’ll return the cat to the spot where you found them.
The benefit of this approach is that feral cats get to stay in their communities, but you’ll reduce the number of feral cats in the area in the future. Many programs encourage you to continue to provide food and water for the cats after they’ve been released back into their communities, but this isn’t always the case.
If return isn’t possible because of the location, the rescue organisation may be able to find a home for a feral as a rat catcher at a farm, stables, or similar location.
How to Adopt A Stray Cat
If you’re developing a bond with a local stray cat and they keep returning to your home, sometimes the best option is to just adopt them. Adoption can be incredibly rewarding, but it also comes with some unique challenges, particularly when you are adopting a stray cat. Here’s what you need to know about adopting a stray cat.
Start slowly and get to know their personality
You’ll never know exactly what your stray cat experienced out in the wild. Because of this, it’s very important to get to know a stray cat gradually and work up to adoption. Start by seeing how they respond to being given food and affection. If they keep coming back, try opening your door to see if the cat will come inside.
If the cat is comfortable with coming inside for short periods of time, you can move towards adopting them. Keep in mind that the cat will likely be scared at first, so be gentle with them and give them time to adjust.
Be mindful of other cats in the household
If you already have cats at home, you’ll need to be very careful with introducing them. Start by keeping the stray cat isolated until you can get them a medical check-up and ensure they are properly vaccinated.
Start by introducing the cats slowly for short periods of time. Have them sniff each other through a closed door at first, and then you can work up to having them in the same room together. Make sure that each cat has their own personal space where they can go to cozy up alone. Over time, your cats will get used to each other scents and work out their own territorial disputes.
Remember that affection may be overwhelming
If the cat hasn’t been around humans in a while, affectionate behavior might feel overwhelming instead of comforting.
Go slow with things like picking them up and petting them to make sure they are truly relaxed. Observe their behavior closely to see what stresses them out – this can help you create a more comfortable environment for them.
What Not To Do With A Stray Cat
There are plenty of options for how to proceed with a stray cat, but there are also several things you should avoid doing. Here are some actions you shouldn’t take when interacting with a stray cat.
Don’t relocate the cat to another outdoor area
It can be tempting to take your cat to a different neighborhood in an attempt to give them a safer outdoor home. However, this approach is typically ineffective. This is because most cats will just go back to where they came from in search of familiar sources of water, food, and shelter.
Don’t participate in eradication programs
For a long time, people thought the best way to get rid of stray cat colonies was to put them down. However, this strategy has ultimately proved to be inhumane and is also ineffective for controlling the population. TNR programs are a much better alternative.
Don’t take in a cat you aren’t ready for
If you’re starting to develop a bond with a cat, you may feel compelled to adopt them. However, you should only adopt a cat if you are completely ready for all of the challenges that come along with this.
Caring for a cat requires you to maintain a regular schedule and commit to additional expenses that you may not be used to. If you adopt a cat you aren’t ready for, you may just end up having to give them up later, causing a more stressful situation for them.
Other Ways to Help Stray Cats
We’ve already mentioned TNR programs, which are one of the most effective and humane ways to keep local cat populations under control. If you have the time to participate in these programs, it’s a worthwhile way to help the animals in your community.
You should also remember to always spay and neuter your own cats, particularly if they spend time outdoors. This can prevent accidental pregnancies that increase the number of stray cats on the streets and in shelters.
Finally, if you don’t have the time to physically help the cats in your community, consider donating money to a local animal rescue organization. Even a small donation can make a big difference for the cats in your community.
If you have formed a bond with a stray cat, please take the proper steps to ensure nobody is missing them before you consider adoption. Don’t feel pressured into adopting a stray, there are lots of other things you can do to help them stay safe!