Thinking about bringing home a stray cat? Before you do, make sure you follow a few steps to keep everyone safe in your home! When a stray cat comes around a home, many people will feed him and try to make him comfortable. What starts out as a humanitarian effort often becomes a desire to adopt the wayward kitty. I recently came across a question about how to bring a stray cat into the home, so I thought it was the perfect topic to talk about today.
Bringing Home a Stray Cat
The first thing you want to remember is that bringing a stray cat into your home is NOTHING like adopting a cat from a shelter. For starters, you have no idea what the cat’s health history is, unlike cats at the shelter which have been checked out by a vet and vaccinated. This is extremely important to remember if you have other cats in your home. Many stray cats have FIV – basically cat AIDS – or Feline Leukemia, both of which are incredibly contagious.
Gain His Trust
Before you can even think about bringing in your homeless cat, you’ll have to gain his trust. You don’t want to move too quickly and frighten him. You also don’t want to get scratched or bitten. Cat bites and scratches are nothing to mess around with. They easily become infected. So you’ll need to begin by making the cat super comfortable with you.
In addition to the daily feeding or feedings you give him, put out some sort of a cat refuge. This can either be something as simple as a cardboard box lined with some blankets and laid on its side if its out of the rain, or something as involved as a lined storage bin with a hole cut out of the front. In either case, begin by putting out the food next to the cat refuge. Slowly work the food into the refuge over time.
As the cat becomes more and more comfortable with you, try staying nearby as he eats. Moving closer and closer over a sufficient period of time that he’s able to get comfortable. Do all of this while speaking to him in a soft, calm voice to get him used to your sound as well as your presence. Eventually, after the stray cat has become comfortable with your presence, you can try petting him while he eats or after he eats. Be very careful here. Don’t get bitten.
At this point, you may be tempted to jump the gun and try to bring the cat into your home. Resist the urge. Your adorable stray cat may tolerate some mild petting, but he may not be as comfortable with being picked up. Instead, continue to pet him during feeding time. You can also try doing things to increase interaction like sitting next to him when you pet him, allowing him the opportunity to cozy up with you. Maybe he’ll rub against you or hop into your lap. Whatever the case, you want the stray cat to be extremely comfortable with you before you attempt to pick him up.
Prepare Your Home
Before bringing in a stray cat, make sure you have your home prepared for it. You’ll want an area in your home designated specifically for your new family member. An area that is specifically for the cat allows him to slowly acclimate to his new home. It also keeps him away from any other cats you may own. This helps protect both the stray cat and any other cats you may have from fighting, as well as possible transmission of FIV or Feline Leukemia.
Bring in the Stray Cat
Now that you’ve gained the trust of your stray cat and you’ve prepared an area for him, it’s time to bring him in. Before picking him up, pet him. A lot. You want him to be prepared for the feeling of being picked up by being super happy with all the petting he’s been getting. When you do try picking him up, do it from behind with your hands under his front legs and your palms on his chest. This is a way of picking him up that doesn’t leave him feeling too trapped and limits the possibility of you being injured should things go sideways.
If Operation Pick Up goes well, immediately bring the stray cat to his designated area and be sure he does not come into contact with any other cats in the home until you can have him checked out by your vet.
Take Him to the Vet
You’ll want to bring your recent addition to the family as quickly as possible. Your previously stray cat will need a full check up including blood work to check for any illness including FIV and Feline Leukemia. It’s imperative that you find out exactly what’s going on with your new cat’s health.
Slowly Introduce Him to Your Other Cats
Now comes the last, and arguably, most challenging part of bringing in a stray cat. Introducing him to your other cats. You’ll want to do this by keeping him in his designated area, but making sure the both he and your other cats can see each other. They’ll need to get fully comfortable with seeing each other before anything else.
After that, it’s a matter of a slow introduction with limited time and maximum monitoring. Be sure you DO NOT put the cats together if they are showing any sort of aggression. Gradually increase the interaction time between your new cat and the other cats until finally, they are peacefully coexisting.
Bringing in a Stray Cat Takes Time and Patience
Don’t rush the process when you’re bringing in a stray cat. You want the transition to be as smooth and stress-free as possible so you can start things off on the right foot. Follow the steps above, and you should have a relatively easy, if relatively long, stray cat introduction.
Do you have experience bringing a stray cat home? Share your tips below!