How to Deal With a Stray Cat

Most cats that appear to be wandering around aimlessly are taken as strays. However, before you jump to conclusions, or rush to pick it up and pet it, you need to carefully determine whether it is a stray, and what you plan to do with it if you find it on your hands. In short, dealing with a stray cat can be a complex and long drawn out process, that will require a lot of patience and careful handling on your part.


  • 1

    Start by determining whether the cat in question is actually a stray, or simply a feral cat – a stray cat is usually a pet that has gotten lost or been abandoned, while a feral cat is a wild, non-domesticated feline. Strays can generally be dealt with safely (unless they’ve contracted a disease like rabies), but feral cats can be dangerous to handle, are generally never comfortable around human beings, and are best left alone.

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  • 2

    It would also be wise to consider whether the cat might simply be an outdoor cat which is just wandering around, and will return home for the night. To check whether the cat is simply roaming about, look for signs such as tags or a collar, or a well-groomed appearance, which would indicate that the cat belongs to someone. You should also check to see if the cat might not simply be lost – it is very likely its owners might be looking for it, as cats tend to slip out when doors are accidentally left ajar. If you are looking into this possibility, talk to neighbours to see if anyone is looking for a missing cat, or look around the neighbourhood for flyers that mention a missing cat.

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  • 3

    Once you’ve determined that the cat is a stray and without a home, the next step is deciding what you want to do with it – at this point, you can drop it off at an animal shelter, put it up for adoption, or simply adopt it yourself. While the first two options are easy enough, bringing the cat into your own home can be a complex process that requires delicate handling.

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  • 4

    If you want to adopt the stray, begin by putting food and water out for the cat – use a combination of dry and wet cat food, and clean water. Place these things outside, in a place where the cat is bound to have some privacy so it feels secure. Continue feeding the cat regularly, until you begin to develop a bond with it. Start interacting with it slowly, and be careful about approaching it – do this gradually, and build up the trust before you venture for bolder actions, like petting it.

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  • 5

    Once you have earned the kitty’s trust, and are ready to take it in to your home, set up a room for the cat – this should be a spacey, well-ventilated room. Since you are not aware of the stray cat’s health, make sure you keep any other pets away from this room until you’ve had the chance to take the stray to a vet. Meanwhile, stock the room with food bowls, a litter box, a comfy cat bed, and cat toys.

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  • 6

    Coax the stray into a cat carrier with some food, and once it is safely inside, take it into your home. Let it out in the cat room you prepared. The cat will be nervous and stressed, so don’t try to approach it. Either leave the room, or simple sit down and busy yourself in some activity like reading – in short, do not pay any attention to the frightened cat.

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  • 7

    Once the cat has become accustomed to its new surroundings, it’s time for a trip to the vet for vaccines – you should also get the cat spayed or neutered, and checked for worms, fleas, and any other diseases.

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  • 8

    After this is taken care of, bring your new kitty home, and gradually acquaint it with the other family members and pets, in order to make it a part of the family. Kudos on having given a stray kitty a good home!

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