You usually see stray cats in the park, alley or abandoned buildings. These are domestic cats that have been left behind or strayed from their owners and became lost. But, what happens if a stray cat wanders to your yard, seeks your attention and hangs out near your front door? Will you or will you not welcome her to your home?
According to Megan Phillips, a co-founder of Train With Trust, there is a good chance that you have been adopted by a stray cat if she comes into your home to beg for food, seek attention and hang out or sneak in your front door.
A stray cat has adopted me: What to do?
Here’s what you can do if a stray cat has adopted you:
1. Check first if the stray cat is not a pet or owned by someone.
If a stray cat frequents your yard, has adopted you and you give it food, she will likely keep coming back. As she becomes a daily fixture you may get to know her better and decide to take her in. However, before you make it official, you must first make sure if she is indeed a stray or abandoned cat and not a lost pet.
A stray cat may have been chased away by dogs or other cats and was unable to find her way back home. What you can do is post a “found” ad along with a picture of the cat in your neighborhood and seek help online through social media sites and apps like Nextdoor, a social app that allows you to communicate with your neighbors.
You may also do the following:
- check if the cat is wearing a cat ID tag
- have her scanned for a microchip at a nearby animal hospital or pet rescue center
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or ASPCA, if the stray cat does not have a microchip you should contact your local police department or animal control agency. Leave a description of the pet in case the owner searches for the cat. US states have laws regarding the holding period for stray cats. Virginia and the District classify an animal as abandoned after five days, according to the Code of Virginia and Washington Humane Society. While in other states, the holding period depends on the county and if the stray cat or animal has a tag or microchip.
2. Bring the stray cat to the vet for a wellness exam and thorough check-up.
Once you have identified that the stray cat is not a lost pet, you should take it to the vet for a full wellness exam. The vet will check for a microchip and do laboratory tests for urine, fecal and bloodwork. He will also check the stray cat for fleas, ticks and other parasites. A titer test is an examination of the blood to determine if the cat has been immunized before against viruses and diseases.
3. Safely introduce the stray cat to your resident cats if you decide to bring her home.
If you already have cats at your home, bringing a stray cat may cause conflict so to avoid that, you have to introduce her to your resident cats safely and gradually. Since cats are territorial creatures they can learn to bond and love each other given the right introduction process and ample time and patience. Let the stray cat stay in a closed room along with essentials like food, water, litter box, bed and toys. Feed and play with the stray cat just as you would with your other cats and exchange scents between them.
Introduce the stray cat gradually to the resident cats. A proper introduction to her new home is essential for cats to avoid becoming stressed.
4. Take time to train your stray cat for some supervised outdoor time.
Stray cats have become used to being outdoors so there is a tendency that your newly-adopted stray cat may whine and cry at night by the door. This is understandable behavior but letting a cat roam outside could put her in danger.
To make sure that your stray cat can still enjoy the outdoors safely you may try these measures:
5. Keep your stray cat mentally and physically active while she is indoors.
As your stray cat starts to settle in at your home, she will need mental stimulation and physical exercise. This is because while she was in the outdoors she became used to hunting prey. Since she will be confined indoors now that you have brought her home, you can provide her with feeder toys and foraging mats. Spend time to play with her for at least 15 minutes twice daily. You may also hide treats around your home to mimic hunting. Install a cat perch and shelf where she can climb and jump from one area to another.
6. Secure your home.
Expect your stray cat to be destructive as she has become used to roam everywhere in the outdoors. Cats tend to scavenge since they are opportunistic hunters. Secure your doors and storage cabinets with safety locks and do not leave food on the table. Organize and cover loose wires and place medications in closed bottles.
How to care for an outdoor cat who adopted you?
Here are the things you can do to care for an outdoor cat who adopted you but does not necessarily mean that you have to take her in permanently in your home.
- put a heated water dish in the area where she hangs out during cold weather
- provide a cat box, heated cat bed or a stray cat house where she can stay comfortably
- install a cool and shaded area in your yard where the outdoor cat usually hangs out in the summer and spring and give her water and cooling pet pads
You may also check out our earlier article on why do stray cats rub against your legs for more information about stray cats.
It is not unusual to see a stray cat or two in your neighborhood but if one frequents your yard or front door and seeks your attention it may mean she has adopted you. If you intend to adopt her, make sure that she is not someone else’s lost pet. You should also bring her to the vet for a thorough exam and evaluation, allow her to adjust to being indoors by making sure that she is mentally and physically active, spending time with her and giving her the love and care that she deserves.
Image: istockphoto.com / papa42