What Do You Do If A Stray Cat Comes To Your Home?

When a stray cat shows up at your front door, your first instinct might be to shoo it away so it doesn't get too comfortable or to give it a treat and send it on its way. But have you ever wondered what it means when a stray cat comes to your house?
a close up of a stray cat with green eyes | kittynook

When a stray cat shows up at your front door, your first instinct might be to shoo it away so it doesn't get too comfortable or to give it a treat and send it on its way. But have you ever wondered what it means when a stray cat comes to your house?

Why Will a Stray Cat Come to Your House?

two cats laying on the ground next to a wall | kittynook

Approximately 60 million stray cats are without a home throughout the US. This indicates that it is highly probable that you may come into contact with a stray cat if you haven't already. If you come across a stray cat lingering near your home or trying to enter, it may be seeking shelter, food, water, and some care. Here is what you should do.

Identifying a Stray Cat

a cat sitting on the ground looking up | kittynook

First, it's essential to determine if the cat is truly a stray. It may also belong to someone as a lost pet or a feral cat. Understanding how to distinguish between them will assist you in deciding the appropriate course of action.

1. Abandoned cats

An abandoned cat is often gentle and has become accustomed to living with humans. It was once someone's house pet, but it has been fending for itself after being deserted or missing

2. Feral cats

Feral cats, unlike abandoned cats, are wild animals and are not accustomed to human presence. They often prefer to avoid contact and choose to remain hidden. If you manage to approach one, you might observe that one of its ears is clipped, indicating that it has been captured, spayed or neutered and then released back into the streets.

3. Stray cats

A stray cat is generally in decent condition. It might belong to a neighbor as a house cat and simply wandered over to visit, or it could be a pet that has gotten lost.

Signs of a Fearful Cat

  • Hissing, growling, or spitting
  • Dilated eyes
  • Howling
  • Fur standing on end, cocked head, ears back

If a cat becomes more relaxed and friendly with you over time, it means you can help find her a home.

What to Do When a Stray Cat comes to Your Home?

two cats laying next to each other in front of a stone wall | kittynook

As previously stated, a stray feline might visit your residence seeking shelter, nourishment, or hydration. In order to ensure the safety of both you and your pets, there are several steps to take when an unidentified cat shows up at your doorstep.

Give it food and water.

If you see a friendly-looking cat, slowly approach it and speak in a gentle tone. Place some cat food and a dish of water on the ground. A feral cat will stay away, in which case you should also keep your distance. You should avoid being bitten or scratched by a scared cat. Remember that feeding a stray cat will make it want to return for more, so be ready to place food in a secure location outside where the cat can reach it.

Provide it with a warm, safe place.

It's important to allow a cat into your home, especially if the weather is cold or rainy. Provide them with a warm blanket or dry towel to rest on, and place it in a secure location away from your other pets and children. If the cat is wet and is friendly enough for you to approach, use a towel to dry it off. If the cat is frightened or behaving aggressively, refrain from touching it until it has settled in and feels more relaxed.

Check for identification

If a joyous cat enters your home, start by verifying whether it has a tag containing the owner's contact information. If it does, reach out to the owner right away. They are likely worried about their lost cat. Meanwhile, make sure to keep the cat separate from your pets. This precaution is important in case the cat has fleas, mange, worms, or any other illnesses that could be transmitted to your pets.

Place a paper collar around the cat's neck.

While some stray felines tend to hang around for several days, others may come and go. It's a good idea to fasten a paper collar around the cat's neck in order to try and locate its owner. Print out the collar, insert your contact number in the provided space, and place the collar around the cat's neck. Ensure there is at least a two-finger space between the neck and the collar. If you haven't received any information after a few days, it's safe to assume the cat is either a stray or lost.

Take the cat to the vet.

Even if the cat is not wearing a collar, it still might have a microchip. We recommend taking it to the vet or a local rescue center, where they can scan for one. If a microchip is found, you can contact the owners and help reunite the cat with its family. However, if there is no microchip, ask the vet to conduct a thorough health check so you can care for the cat until contact the owners and help reunite the cat with its family. However, if there is no microchip, ask the vet to conduct a thorough health check so you can care for it until such a time that the owner is located.

How to Locate the Cat's Owners

Design a flyer. Ensure that a high-quality picture of the cat and a comprehensive description are included. If there are any distinctive characteristics, make sure to feature them on the flyer. Don't forget to include your contact information on the poster.

Take the cat to your vet and local animal shelters, informing the staff that the cat is in your care. Post flyers where the cat was found and in high-traffic areas like high streets, schools, gyms, post offices, and stores.

Use social media and websites.

Consider posting the information about the cat on Facebook. Look for the Facebook page of your local area and see if there are any community groups focused on pets. Share the same details on your personal Facebook page and ask your mutuals to help spread the word.

What To Do When You Can't Find the Owner

a tabby cat sitting on the edge of a building | kittynook

If the owner is not found, there are a few choices you can consider.

Adopt the cat

If you have formed a strong connection with the cat and cannot imagine it not being with you, you have the option to adopt it. You will be required to bring it to the veterinarian for its vaccinations and to have it spayed or neutered. It is important to remember that adopting a cat is a huge commitment. Not only will you need to dedicate time to the cat, but you will also need to allocate funds for food, toys, and medical expenses.

Ask friends or family.

If you are unable to adopt the cat yourself, consider asking friends and family members for help. They might be able to offer the cat a caring home.

Speak to your local shelter.

If you cannot commit to long-term adoption but can provide temporary care until a permanent home is found, reach out to your local animal rescue organization or shelter. They will assist in finding a forever home for the cat while it remains in your care. If you are concerned about the possibility of the cat being euthanized, you can request the shelter to place a time-limited hold on the cat. This means that if the cat is not reclaimed by its owner after a certain period, you will have the opportunity to adopt it.

Private animal rescue organizations can also help.

Private animal rescue organizations do not impose a time limit on the duration for which cats can remain with them. However, their ability to take in a cat depends on the availability of open spots in foster homes.

What to Do When a Feral Cat Comes to Your House

a stray cat is standing behind a chain link fence | kittynook

Feral cats are not able to be rehomed, but there are other ways to provide assistance. Several organizations implement a program called Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR), where feral cats are captured, neutered, and then released back to their colony. A distinguishing feature of cats that have undergone this process is a clipped tip on one of their ears.

Place some food and water outside.

Remember, feral cats are unaccustomed to humans and will steer clear of any interaction. Instead of trying to bring them indoors, provide food and water outside in a secure location. You can also set up a temporary shelter outdoors to give the cat a place to go during rainy weather. To prevent larger animals from entering, ensure that the space is small enough for the cat to enter.


Several animal rescue organizations can provide assistance with TNR, or if you feel comfortable with animals, you can attempt to do it independently. Just bear in mind that dealing with a feral cat necessitates a higher level of skill and patience. Here are seven simple steps to facilitate the smooth operation.

Learn as much as you can about TNR.

It's important to learn as many details as you can about TNR. There are numerous resources available on the internet, including instructional videos. If you like, you can enroll in a program that teaches how to safely trap, neuter, and release feral cat colonies into their natural habitat.

Speak to neighbors and the community.

It's common for families in your area to have also taken in a group of wild cats, providing them with food and ensuring that they are in good health. You need to have a conversation with them about the TNR program and inform them about its advantages. Sometimes, you might have to request permission from your neighbors to enter their properties. Depending on the size of the group of cats, you may need to enlist the help of others to assist with feeding and capturing the cats.

Set up shelters and feeding stations.

Setting up feeding stations and shelters is the initial step. Establishing a feeding schedule is also crucial. Cats will soon learn to arrive in time for their meal by consistently placing food in the same location and at the same time every day. They will also be punctual when you are prepared to trap them.

Find a safe spot to hold the cats.

The complete TNR process will require approximately one week. This involves trapping the cats for two to three days, performing the neutering or spaying on one day, and allowing for up to three days of post-surgery recovery. It's advisable to secure a place to house the cats during this period. Ideally, the location should be warm, secure, and sheltered. Suitable options could include sheds, barns, basements, spare rooms, or vacant offices.

Make all the necessary arrangements.

Remember to get everything in order before capturing the feral cat or cats. Some groups provide a no-cost service for spaying or neutering feral cats and also lend out humane traps on a weekly basis. Remember to make arrangements for transportation to and from the clinic, as well as for picking up and returning the traps.

Trapping time.

Ensure that no food is given to the cats the day before you intend to set the traps. Make sure to communicate this with everyone involved to avoid anyone accidentally leaving out food. Plan on keeping the traps out for one or two days if you are trying to trap a single cat and for three to four days if you are trying to trap multiple cats. Some cats may be more challenging to trap than others, but with some trial and error and a great deal of patience, you will successfully catch all of them.

Looking after the cats post-TNR.

After you have released the cats back into the community, your responsibility as a colony caretaker will be to ensure they are fed and given shelter during the colder months. You should also watch out for any new cats that may need to be spayed or neutered.

Taking on a stray cat or getting involved in a community project to trap them and have them neutered and released may seem like a lot of effort, but it's worth it. By doing so, you provide a loving home for a cat and help address the growing issue of feral cat overpopulation.

Have you encountered any stray or feral cats before? We always appreciate hearing real-life stories from our audience. Share your experiences in the comments!

If you're a pet parent interested in exploring more about the wonderful universe of cats, feel free to peruse our collection of cat-related articles here.

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