What to Do with a Stray Cat

Last Updated on April 13, 2020

Most people have encountered a stray cat at least 3 times in their life. It has been estimated that up to 70 million cats roam the streets in the US without a proper home or shelter. Over 70% of these homeless cats are feral and not fit for human companionship. Because feral cats are aggressively scared of humans, it makes it very difficult to turn them into house cats. So what are some things you can do if you notice a stray cat living outside your home?

The first thing you want to do is determine if the cat is feral, homeless, or lost. This will allow you to determine the best course of action to take for your little furry friend

Feral Cats

If the cat is feral it will still be intact if it is a male or still be looking to mate if it is a female. The cat will likely be shy, scared, or aggressive toward you if you corner them. Feral cats don’t like to be touched, cornered, or approached by people, period. They will likely appear dirty or even injured with wounds from fights. In this case, you will want to contact a local shelter or vet and see if you can have a trap cage set up. They will do a catch and release of the feral cat so it will become fixed and no longer able to reproduce. This will not only lengthen the cat’s life but prevent furthering the feral population.

Homeless Cats

As for homeless cats, these were typically left behind in a move, their owner passed away, or they were simply dropped off in the middle of nowhere. These cats may appear shy or scared but will warm up to you in no time when food is offered. They may or may not be fixed depending on the age they became homeless. If they are not fixed even if they do not intend on becoming someone’s forever friend, they should still be taken to a vet to get fixed. These cats make great pets and should be put in a no-kill shelter if one has the room to take them in. If this is not an option, you may choose to care for it outside of your own home. 

Caring For an Outdoor Cat

If you decide to care for a homeless cat without bringing it into your home, be sure it has a shelter, clean water, and food. This small act of help will ensure they are not only protected from severe weather but other animals.

For states that experience cold winters, you can supply shelter for the little one to keep warm. Using a large plastic storage bin, simply put a cardboard box or foam cooler inside. Cut out a small opening on one side to allow the cat to have access inside. Put hay or straw on the bottom for a nice place to lay. Use an old blanket to cover the outside to keep any strong drafts or winds from sneaking in and face it at your house to prevent snow from getting inside. The best place to keep this is on a covered porch or in a garage that can be accessed by the cat. Be sure to leave fresh water and food out every day. Avoid feeding at night to prevent raccoons and other night-time critters from stealing it.

Lost Cats

In many cases, lost cats will approach just about anyone when they haven’t had food for a few days. They will be the ones most likely to be friendly with you. They will also appear cleaner and healthier as well. Check for tags on a collar or any sign of a microchip scar. If nothing can be found, you can check local missing ads and even place a few of your own as “Found Cat”. Most cats that go missing never find their original home and it is sad to say this. I would advise finding them a new one if no one turns up for it. You may even decide to keep it yourself. These cats won’t do well being left outside as some may have health issues, no front or back claws, or even sight or hearing issues. Any cat found outside without front claws or no claws should be taken into a shelter, be it your home or an actual shelter ASAP as they are defenseless outside.

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2 thoughts on “What to Do with a Stray Cat”

  1. The cat situation has become an epidemic. In my neighborhood alone, there are approximately 20-25 strays. They’ve been left behind by people moving away. (It’s a trailer park.) I have 7 cats of my own, and have cared for them from 1 to 13 years, I’ve only been in this neighborhood for 5 years. Mine are spayed and neutered, different ages, of course. Two of my cats are outside cats who come in at night. My others have a rickety pen in my back yard. On any given morning, I feed approximately 10 strays who’ve come to my porch where there is a sliding glass door. They see me in my kitchen feeding my own. I feed them on the porch/deck. It seems every day that there is another 2 or 3 show up, looking like they’re ready to die, starving, cold and in winter snow-covered, wormy. Desperate. Of course, my family says I shouldn’t have fed them the first time. These cats have gone back to their place and found their family gone. They are abandoned. People say animals cannot be sorrowful. Yes, they can be sorrowful. I’ve had cats — usually not 7, however — all my life. I know that cats feel betrayed when they are abandoned. They see through the door when my cats are being fed, when they play with toys, in a warm, safe environment. Mine get medical care, and will always be taken care of properly.
    There re no facilities here in this small country town. And in this neighborhood, no one cares what happens to these unhappy, starving, sickly pets. I am 71 years old, living on a small SS check. I don’t know how much longer I can do this.
    I just want people to know. I just want people to understand what kind of burden they place on others. Nobody ever asks to be the “crazy cat lady.” No pet asks to be abandoned.

    • Thanks for your comment Linda Green. That is a horrible thing the people in your area are doing. I don’t know how people can ignore homeless pets so easily. I understand the stress of it all as well. I grew up across the street from a public park and people would drop kittens and cats there all the time. Since there is no one locally that can help, have you considered contacting a bigger organization online? There may be one close enough to where you live who will come and rescue these cats. Here is a listing of cat rescues around the US. Find one closest to your location and see if they can help: http://cat.rescueshelter.com/USA I know how difficult it can be to see animals suffering and not being able to help. I wish I could do more for you.


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