What to Know Before Adopting a Stray Cat
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We often see stray cats when we least expect it. It breaks our heart so much that we want to help them and even welcome them into our home. However, is that safe? How can we adopt a stray cat? Although you must be careful of certain things, it is completely possible and safe when done right.
In this AnimalWised article, we're going to talk about what to know before adopting a stray cat. We will give you the best advice so you can have a safe and successful experience when adopting a stray cat.
Stray vs. Feral cats
First, we must establish the difference between a feral and a stray cat. Feral cats, stray cats and pet cats are all domestic cats. They differ in their interaction with humans. Where pet cats have a lot of experience around humans, feral cats and stray cats do not. However, feral and stray cats also differ from each other. These are their differences:
- These cats have been socialised with humans but have lost their home and were forced to survive on their own in the streets.
- If a stray cat has been left to live in the streets for many years, they can become feral cats as their experience and interaction with humans diminish.
- Under the right circumstances, stray cats can become pet cats once again.
- These cats have had some or no contact with humans.
- They are fearful of humans and can live outdoors independently.
- These cats will have a harder time adapting to becoming a domestic house cat.
- Kittens born from feral cats can be socialised to be a house cat, whereas adult feral cats are nearly impossible to adopt.
How do you know if a cat is a stray cat or a feral cat?
It's all about their body language. Stray cats may approach you or simply not run away in your presence. Whereas a feral cat will be very fearful and run away or hide. Feral cats are usually awake at night, as cats are naturally nocturnal animals. However, you will be able to spot a stray cat during the day time. While feral cats probably live in a colony of feral cats, stray cats will often live alone and may even look malnourished as they are not used to living in the outdoors independently.
Therefore, if this cat approaches you or allows you to come near you, they are probably a stray cat. As we've previously mentioned, stray cats are much easier to adopt as they used to live with humans. Although they will need time to get used to you and your home, stray cats will be on their way to recovery and becoming a safe, happy and healthy house cat once again.
Common questions about adopting a stray cat
What are stray cats like?
Stray cats are shy, fearful and somewhat paranoid. Nevertheless, with patience and gentleness, they will approach you or allow you to approach them. Once you bring them to your home, they will be very scared and curious. They will mostly likely hide and begin sniffing and exploring their new environment.
Thankfully, with time they will understand that they are safe in this new place. They will also begin to adapt to their new home and their new caregiver. As stray cats are simply house cats that have lost their home for a while, they will be able to fully adapt and once again be happy house cats.
Is it safe to adopt a stray cat?
Yes, when done right. Once you get the stray cat to enter a cat cage or transporter, you will need to get them cleaned and brought to the veterinarian. This way we make sure they do not have any serious diseases. If they do have a health issue, your veterinarian will be able to select the correct treatment for their recovery. You will also need to spay or neuter them.
Will they escape?
Probably not. Stray cats will only escape if they feel threatened in their new home. If we give them the necessary space and time for them to adapt and feel safe in their new home, they will not feel the need to escape.
How to safely get the stray cat
Stray cats are usually dirty and malnourished. This is why you will need to first get them safely out of the streets and to your home or straight to the veterinarian. To do this without exposing yourself to possible diseases, you will need to lure the fearful cat into a cat cage or transporter.
A great way to achieve this is by placing the carrier near them with food inside. Take a step away and allow them to go into the carrier by themselves. This will take some time as they will first need to feel safe. Let them begin eating, then slowly move closer to the carrier without any sudden movements. Finally, close the door and let them finish eating.
That's when you can safely grab the carrier and bring them to the veterinarian. The stray cat will be very scared and may begin meowing for help. Although it may break your heart to hear them cry out, remind yourself that this is best for their health and wellbeing.
Take them to the veterinarian
Now that you have safely captured the stray cat, it's time to take them to the veterinarian. The stray cat will need to be cleaned with shampoo for cats and water. They will also need to be examined by the veterinarian to make sure they don't have any diseases transmissible to humans or other health issues. This way, they can detect them as early as possible and choose the correct treatment to help the stray cat recover.
Your veterinarian will also need to spay or neuter your cat. And, of course, begin their deworming and vaccination schedule. Although this seems like a lot, your veterinarian will take care of all of this. You must simply bring them in for a check-up and speak to the veterinarian about how to help this stray cat recover.
Prepare your home for them
Once your cat is clean and we know their health condition, it's time to bring them to their new home. For this, you will need to prepare your home for them. They are the following:
Firstly, you will need to cat-proof your house. In other words, make sure there are no dangerous objects that can harm your cat or that your cat can break. An easy way to do this is by establishing a room where you will first keep them. This room will have their litter box, bed, toys and water.
By offering them a room you can help them feel safe and give them an area they can call home. Once they are more friendly towards you and seem more relaxed, you can leave the door open so they can explore the rest of the house.
Next, you'll need to provide your cat with some hiding spots as they will be scared when first arriving in your home. This hiding spot can be the carrier with a comfortable cat bed inside or even a cardboard box. This will serve as a haven for your cat to go to when they feel frightened.
When adopting a cat, you will also need to provide your cat with certain products so they can live more comfortably in their new home. These are some basic products you should get before adopting a cat:
- Cat bed: read our article about getting your cat to sleep in their own bed.
- Cat food: learn more in our article about the best diet for cats.
- Toys: read our article about DIY cat toys.
- Litter box: learn how to litter train your cat with this article.
Introducing them to other pets
If you have another pet in your home you will need to be extra careful when introducing them. We recommend you first establish an area for your stray cat. Cats are territorial animals so it's a good idea to first give them an area in which they can feel safe. This is especially true when it comes to stray cats as they are more fearful than domestic cats.
After your stray cat feels more comfortable in their new home and with you, you can place a toy with your other pet's scent into their room. This way, they are able to sniff the toy and understand that there is another animal nearby. You should do the same with your other pet. This is a great way for them to get used to each other's scent before meeting in person.
Once you have done that you can take it a step farther and allow them to meet each other in person under common ground. If your cat or other pet decides to leave, you must allow them to do so. They should not feel forced to interact with each other as this could lead them to negatively associating the other pet.
If your other pet is another cat, we encourage you to read our article about how to introduce a cat to another cat.
Gaining their trust
When it comes to adopting a stray cat, you will need lots of patience to gain their trust as they are quite fearful. To gain a cat's trust you need to speak gently to them, avoid any sudden movements, provide them with their needs, give them affection when they accept it and play with them everyday using their toys. To learn more about gaining a cat's trust, you can watch our video below! Before you know it, your stray cat will be a happy and healthy house cat.
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