Did you know there are roughly 70 million stray cats in the United States alone? If you live in an urban or suburban area, you have likely seen one or two wandering the neighborhood. Even rural areas often see their fair share of strays. If you are considering adopting a stray cat as your pet, there are a few things you should know to make the transition as easy and relaxing as possible for your feline friend.
1. Earn their trust.
Stray cats are often feral, meaning they aren’t used to humans or human interaction. They may be aggressive if you try to pick them up, or they may even run away before you can get near. For this reason alone, you will need to proceed slowly and with caution. Never try to pick up a stray cat without appraising their behavior first. If the cat seems hostile (hair raised, hissing, tail straight in the air), back away slowly and try again later. You can often start domesticating a stray by simply providing food and speaking in a low, soothing voice. Try this approach for several days. Eventually, you should be able to approach the cat. Once you’re able to pick them up, you can bring the cat inside.
2. Go slowly.
At this point, the cat may be scared of their new surroundings. Though your home is probably much more comfortable than the great outdoors, it’s still new and intimidating to a cat who is used to fending for themselves. Give your cat time to adjust. They may hide and avoid your company for a few days or even weeks before they warm to the new situation. Whatever you do, don’t force the cat to meet family members or other pets. Provide food and water, and let them decide when it’s time to come out and play.
3. Schedule a vet visit.
Because stray cats may have any number of health problems, it’s essential that you schedule a vet checkup ASAP. There are many common health conditions that are easy to resolve with medication and proper care. Common cat problems include eye infections, fleas and other parasites, and skin conditions. Your vet may prescribe a medication like Terramycin for cats for their eyes, or a flea prevention to remove parasites. The treatment options vary depending on which condition is plaguing your pet.
4. Supervise pets and children.
Until your pet adjusts to your home and you can gauge their overall personality, it’s best to supervise any interactions between the cat and your children or other pets. A scared cat may act out aggressively, so it’s important that you keep an eye on the situation for everyone’s safety. You should also instruct your children to pet the new cat gently, taking care to be gentle and kind.
5. Spay or neuter your cat.
Finally, it’s important to spay or neuter your cat. Otherwise, they may produce kittens, which only exacerbates the stray problem we have in the U.S. Your vet can help determine when it’s time to spay or neuter, and they can provide additional care instructions, as well.
Though adopting a stray cat can bring a great deal of responsibility, it can also be a joy. Many pet owners find that strays eventually become the most loving, sociable members of their household. With a little care, time, and attention, the neighborhood stray may soon become your new best friend.