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Steps to Take if You Find a Stray or Feral Cat

Posted on May 24 2022

Image Source: Unsplash


Steps to Take if You Find a Stray or Feral Cat


It’s not uncommon for people to use the terms “stray” and “feral” interchangeably when describing a cat without a home. However, they’re two different things, and it’s important to know the difference if you find one in your neighborhood. 

A stray cat is simply a feline who doesn’t have a problem interacting with humans but doesn’t have a home. On the other hand, a feral cat isn’t socialized with humans. They tend to avoid human contact and are more likely to run away from you if you try to get close. 

There’s a common misconception that feral cats are “mean” or dangerous. While it’s always best to use caution when approaching an animal, this stereotype isn’t always true. Friendly cats can still be skittish or cautious until they learn to trust you. 

Whether you come across a stray or feral cat around your house or in your neighborhood, it’s essential to take the right steps to get them the help they deserve. 


Try to Find the Owner


While some stray or feral cats are born without a home, it’s not uncommon for some cats to be lost. Maybe they’re an indoor/outdoor pet that wandered too far from home, or maybe they accidentally “escaped” and can’t find their way back. That can be especially common when you live in a pet-friendly city. There are usually fewer strays in these areas because of lower poverty levels and better animal control. So, if seeing a stray in your neighborhood is rare, there’s a good chance it could already have an owner. 

Thankfully, if the cat you find has an owner, it might be easier to track them down than you think. Try things like

  • Checking for a microchip 
  • Creating “found” papers to post around town
  • Asking around to see if anyone knows who the cat belongs to
  • Posting on social media

The best thing for a lost cat is to be reunited with its owner who knows the right kind of care and attention it needs. 


Keeping the Cat


If you can’t find the cat’s previous owner or you’re convinced they don’t have one, you might want to consider keeping them. If that’s the case, there are a few important steps to take for the health and safety of the cat and yourself/your family. 

The first thing you should do after trapping a feral cat or getting a stray to come to you is to take it to a vet. It’s not uncommon for cats that have been outside to carry fleas. If you have other animals in your home, it’s easy for those fleas to jump around and impact all of them. If the cat has already been in your home, make sure you vacuum and clean your carpets and rugs thoroughly and check other pets for any signs of the critters. Other things a vet will likely check for in a stray cat include

  • Rabies
  • Feline leukemia
  • Wounds
  • Ticks

The vet will be able to give the cat the vaccinations it needs to live a healthy life and protect your other pets from certain diseases. It’s also a good idea to get the cat spayed or neutered. Even if you plan on keeping it inside, getting your cat “fixed” can extend its lifespan and reduce its risk for certain diseases


Getting a Stray Used to Your Home


If you end up trapping a feral cat, it can take some work to get them used to people and living in a new place. However, it’s not impossible. The easiest way to get a feral cat to trust you is to offer them some food. 

Feed them and provide them with water. That might even be how you “catch” them at first. Once they know you’re a consistent source of nourishment, they’re more likely to return. Once you’ve brought them into your home, keep providing for them, and don’t try to grab them or startle them. 

It can take around two weeks to “tame” a feral cat, but in most cases, you’ll eventually earn their trust. 

If you’re taking in a stray, prepare yourself and your home by making sure you have the right supplies for them. That includes things like

  • A litter box
  • Food and treats
  • Toys
  • A bed

Having a designated room for your cat to spend its time during its first few weeks in your home will make a better experience for everyone. It will give the cat time to get used to its surroundings, as well as the sights, sounds, and smells of your home, without feeling overwhelmed. 

If your new feline friend is used to being outside, you might even consider creating an outdoor space for them once they get used to living with you. Invest in a cat leash to keep them safe while outside, or build a “catio” that allows your furry companion to go outside without running away. 

Whether you decide to adopt a stray or feral cat or rehome them somewhere else, know that you’re doing something good by getting them off the street. However, make sure you take precautions, protect yourself (and your other pets!), and proceed with caution whenever you decide to interact with an unfamiliar animal.