Why Adopt a Stray Cat?
A stray or abandoned cat is in danger from predators, cars, stray dogs and unfortunately, people. Food can be hard to come by and in winter, fresh water is frozen over. A warm place to sleep might be under someone’s car. Adopting a stray is a gift for both the human and the cat. A stray cat is different than a feral cat. Feral cats won’t come near or let you touch them where a stray cat is more willing to be around humans. An abandoned cat who had a family, will look for another.
If you feel a stray cat is in danger and don’t want to wait to make friends before bringing him indoors, ask a shelter or your vet about renting a safe trap to capture him. Food is placed near the rear of the trap and when the cat enters, the door closes. Some traps have a way for you to put food and water in while closing off the cat to save your hands from claw or bite marks until he’s used to you.
The next step is to visit the vet for a checkup. He’ll need a rabies shot, required by law in most areas, feline distemper and others as advised by your vet. If a male cat, has he been neutered? It’s harder to tell if a female has been spayed—sometimes it’s a wait and see proposition. Look for a low cost spay/neuter clinic to help defray the cost. A stray will probably need to be dewormed. One blood test should tell you if the cat has feline leukemia, feline AIDS or heartworms.
Be prepared for a stray cat to act as if he’s starving at all times. It takes a while for a cat to realize meals will arrive in his bowl on a regular basis instead of being hit and miss depending on trash pick-up day. A good quality food will help counteract the bad diet he had while on his own and be filling as well. Water in a bowl might prove fascinating to a cat who’s only seen water in puddles.
“One benefit of a stray over a shelter cat is that he won’t have an upper respiratory infection,” says Dr. Cathy Alinovi, who has a rural practice in Pine Village, Indiana. “One ill cat can infect the whole shelter. There are lots of animals in a small space. Respiratory diseases can become resistant to antibiotics over time.”
What happened in the first eight weeks of life, often impacts the health of a cat. With a stray, you know nothing of his medical history. Ask your vet what to watch out for, based on his exam.
It may take a while for a stray to warm up to you. He’ll eat but hide, play but not with you, sleep under the bed instead of on it. Have patience—a home after being homeless, safety after living under constant threat, enough to eat after endless scrounging for food is and overwhelming. All change is stressful, even the good kind. Add in a new human to train, and it’s no wonder kitty needs some space. With a little time and patience, he’ll come around and soon be a furry lap warmer.
“To take in a stray cat is to do a great thing,” says Dr. Alinovi. “You’re in for a ride, long or short. Make it a good one for both of you.”