How Do I Bring Stray Cat Inside?

CatChannel expert Jeanne Adlon, professional cat sitter, discusses steps in adopting a stray.

By Jeanne Adlon | Posted: December 4, 2009, 3 a.m. EST

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Q: I have been feeding a stray cat. She is friendly and I want to bring her inside. How can I do that safely?

A: I think it is wonderful that you want to adopt your stray. Unfortunately many strays are actually abandoned cats. If you are able to get close enough to feed or touch her without her running away, she probably belonged to someone and was either abandoned or lost because she had no ID tag.

Once while I was walking my dog in the early morning I spotted a white cat huddled in a grassy area near my building. Next to him was an open can of tuna. It was a very sad sight — someone had obviously left him. I did not want to attempt to pick him up without a cat carrier so I raced home, dropped off my dog and got a carrier, praying he would still be there when I returned. Thankfully, no one had frightened him away and I quietly got down beside him. Once I realized he was willing to be petted, I picked him up and put him inside the carrier — with a heavy pair of gloves on just in case.

I put him in my bathroom, away from my other cats, and made sure he had food, water and litter. Then I called my vet. It very clear he wasn’t neutered because when I returned to the bathroom, it smelled of pungent male urine. This might have been why he was abandoned. I will say to all readers, cats do not have to be abandoned. Kittens are adorable but as they grow up, sometimes people don’t want to spend the money for neutering. Please know that there are low-cost spay and neuter clinics and rescue groups can help you find good homes. Meanwhile, my white rescue, now named Snowball, checked out fine, was neutered and ended up in a good home.

The first thing you must do when adopting a stray is make an appointment with your vet. She must be checked for diseases, parasites and other illnesses. If you have other cats, keep your new cat separate until she is checked out and she feels safe to be around them (and vice versa). Set up a “safe” room with food, water, litter and toys until you know her personality well enough to give her the run of the house unsupervised. With love and patience, you will earn her trust and know you did a wonderful thing. As always, I welcome your stories and comments.

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Reader Comments

linda    phila, PA

6/10/2014 7:29:40 AM

We have 5 cats,all had been abandoned. All are neytered and disease free. Onesie is #6,we were feeding him,and forgotten cats trapped him,neutered him,shots etc and returned him a month ago. Hes become increasingly attention seeking,and today marched onto the back porch. We showed him the litter food and a bed.we gave him flea med. This guy is so happy. He wants to come in the house,but im keeping him on the porch. His buddy is the last cat we brought in. Both were pretty beaten up and are healing well. Onesie lost mist of one ear. We didnt want #6,but he deserves a chance,,no one else is gonna take him. Im so tired of transient renters leaving pets behind or just putting them pn the street in my neighborhood. We cant take anymore cats in,its,a big house but we're pushing it with 6. Hopefully he'll use the litter and then meet up with his old buddy. Btw #5 is a Hemingway anda great pet.

CatChannel Editor    Irvine, CA

11/29/2012 10:51:35 AM

Tracy -- That's kind of you to take in a stray and to provide him with all the medical necessities such as neutering and vaccinations. Anecdotal evidence exists to say that declawing cats can adversely affect their behavior. LINK

Continue to practice the welcoming tips that pet experts recommend to acclimate your cat to your home — LINK LINK — and with time your little one might become more adjusted to his new environs. Good luck!

Tracy    Cleveland, OH

11/28/2012 4:07:25 PM

Hello. We have been caring for a very friendly stray all summer and have just had him vaccinated, neutered, declawed, etc so we could bring him indoors. He alway tried to come in but now that he is in he sits by the door and cries to go out. Did we make a mistake getting him declawed and bringing him in? Winters in Cleveland are so cold but now I am afraid he'd rather be outside. Has anyone gone through this? Will he eventually give up on wanting to go outdoors? I'm worried sick we made the wrong decision.

gina    cleveland, OH

11/30/2011 8:52:26 AM

i rescued a big orange male tabby from off my street the owner moved and abandoned him outside i have three cats of my own in doors well, i brought this stray in and he loves my other cats very friendly and everything no fleas and neutered.

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