“A stray cat has adopted me, help!”

I’ve gotten many questions regarding stray cats and the proper way to adopt them.

adopting a stray cat is work cat in kitchen sink

My cat, Jericho, was a stray cat before I adopted him.

I’m constantly getting creative to keep him entertained in our apartment.

In this article, I’ll give you some examples of stray cat behavior so you can see if adopting a stray cat is for you.

Here’s what to do when a stray cat adopts you:

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1. Make sure the stray cat isn’t a pet

First, and most importantly, stray cats could be a lost pet.

adopting a stray cat is work

Post pictures of the cat around the neighborhood to see if he belongs to anyone. You can also post online.

Cats are curious creatures and often escape.

They are much more independent than dogs. Plus their instincts are ingrained in them.

Cats know how to hunt even if they’ve lived indoors their entire lives.

My friend’s cat escaped, and his family couldn’t find him. The cat showed up on their doorstep 6 months later. He was 24 years old at the time.

Living on that whole prey diet!

2. Take the stray cat to the vet for a wellness exam

Ask the vet to scan for a microchip on the cat. This will tell you if the stray cat is a pet or not.

Get a wellness exam while you’re there if you want to adopt the cat.

adopting a stray cat is work cat goes dumpster diving

You should get a full wellness exam before bringing the stray cat home.

  • Check for a microchip
  • Urine, fecal, and bloodwork
  • Check for fleas, ticks, and other parasites
  • Titer test

You may want to get a microchip if you’re bringing the stray cat home.

Your vet should try for urine, fecal, and bloodwork tests. This will help you create a wellness plan for your new pet.

Street cats are more likely to have fleas and other parasites. Check for these before bringing your new cat home.

A titer test is a blood examination to see if the cat is immunized against diseases and viruses. This is recommended rather than over-vaccinating.

3. Introduce the stray cat to your cats safely

Do you already have cats at home?

You’ll need to introduce your stray cat to your current cats safely.

cats on kitchen table

Cats are territorial creatures. But they can learn to love each other.

Introduce the new cats gradually.

  • Keep the stray cat in a closed room with all cat essentials
  • Play with and feed your cats at the closed door
  • Exchange scents between cats
  • Slowly introduce each cat to each other

Your newly adopted stray cat can benefit from a gradual introduction to his new home. Even if you don’t have other cats.

Cats are sensitive to change and get stressed easily.

Tip: Check out my step-by-step guide on how to introduce cats fast for more details.

4. Stray cat-proof your home

Stray cats can be destructive. They are used to having free reign over their territory outside.

stray cats destroy toilet paper

So you’ll have to cat-proof your home more precisely.

Cats are opportunistic hunters that may scavenge.

  • Never leave food out
  • Use safety locks on cabinets and doors
  • Put medications in closed bottles behind closed doors
  • Cover and organize loose wires

Tip: Check out my detailed cat-proof your home guide.

5. Entertain your stray cat indoors

Cats require exercise and mental stimulation. Stray cats get this from hunting.

Cat Amazing sliders keep Jericho entertained

Since indoor cats do not hunt, we have to provide exercise and stimulation.

Think about your mood when you are bored…

You probably feel irritable and blah. This is how our cats feel when they sleep all day.

It’s important to keep your cat entertained indoors.

Otherwise, he will look for trouble and entertain himself.

Tip: Check out my guide to fix “cat isn’t interested in playing“.

Give your cat a confident and comfortable life with the digital + printable Cat Care Binder so you can become best buds.

6. Train the stray cat for supervised outdoors time

Clients mention to me that their adopted stray cat whines and cries at the door.

The stray cat wants to return outside and come and go as he pleases.

cat outside on harness and leash

Your stray cat’s behavior may change if you keep him inside only.

However, letting your cat roam freely can be dangerous.

He could fall, get hit by a car, catch a virus from another cat, etc.

Here’s what to do instead:

  • Train your cat on a harness and leash
  • Go for outdoor walks together
  • Build a catio enclosure

Pretend that your newly adopted stray cat is a dog. Maybe you need to take him outside for long walks.

A catio enclosure can be fun if you have a backyard or balcony. Check out some DIY plans on Catio Spaces.

Tip: Check out my detailed tutorial for training and traveling with cats.

cat walking outside on harness and leash


Do stray cats want to be adopted?

I don’t think stray cats necessarily want to be adopted. It’s unnatural for animals to live indoors. However, cats are typically safer indoors and may live a longer life. You can help your cat stay happy indoors with lots of playtime, enrichment, and healthy food.

Is it safe to bring a stray cat inside?

Typically it is not safe to bring a stray cat inside. Stray cats are more likely to have fleas, ticks, and other parasites. The cat may not trust you yet and may scratch or bite you to defend himself. Bring the stray cat to the vet for a wellness exam before you bring the stray cat inside.

Taking in a stray cat when you already have cats

You must introduce your cats gradually when taking in a stray cat. Cats are territorial and wary of newcomers. Cats can also pass viruses and parasites to each other very easily. Always bring the stray cat to the vet for a wellness exam before introducing him to your other cats.

cat furniture for small apartments cat ladder

Final thoughts on adopting a stray cat

Adopting a stray cat can save his life. But only if the cat finds his forever home.

Always make sure the stray cat isn’t a lost pet, and bring the cat to the vet.

Introduce your stray cat to your other cats and his new home gradually.

Cats are sensitive to change and require patience.

Cat-proof your home for safety. And provide enrichment, stimulation, and playtime to keep your cat entertained.

You may also bring your cat outdoors safely to keep him happy.

All cats deserve the same amount of attention and affection.

When you bring a cat into your home, you are responsible for his health and well-being.

Need some help forming a strong bond with your newly adopted cat? Check out how to pet a cat (with pictures) next!