Stray Cat: What Precautions to Take Before Bringing Them Home - The Trupanion Blog
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Stray Cat: What Precautions to Take Before Bringing Them Home

Harley enjoying the hammock, shared by Catherine M.

Cats naturally tug at heartstrings with their big eyes, comforting purrs, and high-pitched meows. Furthermore, cats and kittens always seem to be desperate for homes. Because cat litters can come from multiple sires, it’s common for thousands of strays to be found in and around the same neighborhood. However, you should be aware of some precautions before welcoming a stray cat into your home.

Call the Vet
Because strays live outdoors, you don’t know what they’re bringing in. Most people think of fleas and ticks, but cats can also carry fatal diseases and parasites. Toxoplasmosis is one such offender, and can cause serious health complications or death. Have the cat thoroughly examined and spayed or neutered if this hasn’t already been done. Apprise the vet of your lifestyle and potential hazards in your home such as plants that could be poisonous to felines. Your veterinarian can help you adjust your lifestyle for your new friend.

Integrate Slowly
Stray cats are used to prowling. They may also be used to stealing food or eliminating wherever and whenever. Purchase vet-recommended food, a litter box, and other essentials and integrate your cat slowly. Do not punish a cat for accidents, and encourage him or her to eat often, particularly if malnourished. Despite what you’ve seen and heard, do not give a cat milk or dairy. Stick to lean meats and foods made with fruit and vegetable sources.

Approach With Caution
You can use food to lure the cat indoors, particularly in cat-accessible places like a porch. However, don’t start petting immediately. Strays may not trust humans and might try to scratch or bite. To build trust, make eye contact with the cat and blink slowly. This is cat-speak for “I am not a threat; I am friendly.” If you bring the cat indoors, let him or her explore without invading space. The cat will learn that you aren’t going to smother or frighten it. Once you’ve coaxed the cat close, let him or her do the “petting” first. Cats often bump humans, or rub against them with their heads to mark territory and show trust.

Make Sure He or She is a Stray
Many outdoor cats get mistaken for strays, as do feral cats. Make sure he or she truly is a stray. Look for collars, ID tags, or evidence of microchips, and make a good effort to find the owner if you suspect there is one. A feral cat will show fear of humans and may be aggressive, according to the Animal Care Center of Forest Park. It’s best to leave a feral alone in most circumstances. If you’re not sure, or if the cat is ill or has kittens, ask a local vet.

Cats can easily become beloved companions, but not every stray is right for every human. Before opening your home to a cat, take the necessary precautions and ensure you are ready to care for him or her. Once you do that, enjoy your new friend.

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