Sometimes we choose our pets and sometimes they seem to choose us. One day you happen to see a cat nearby and it seems to be hungry. You put out a small dish of food and for the next few nights, the cat returns to gobble up the food and runs away as soon as it is finished. You watch the cat from your window and think to yourself “Maybe that could be MY cat?” If you are thinking about adopting the cat into your home, there are a few things to know first.
WHAT IS A FERAL CAT?
Feral cats are considered to be “wild”. They will scatter and hide when spotted. Living outside, often in groups with other feral cats, these cats have not had the human interaction that allows them to be considered as pets. Newborn kittens of feral cats might be o.k. to adopt, but even as young as 8 weeks old they are already much too independent to live indoors as pets.
WHAT IS AN OUTDOOR CAT?
Outdoor cats are basically cats that have an owner at home to return to for regular feedings, grooming, and veterinary care. Outdoor cats can be friendly, can ask to be pet and are generally a normal weight due to the regular feedings it gets at home. It can be difficult to determine if a cat is simply an outdoor cat or a true stray. Ask your neighbors or post the question on neighborhood social media groups to see if anyone recognizes the cat and can help solve the mystery.
WHAT IS A STRAY CAT?
A stray cat may show that it is curious about you, but usually from a distance. A stray cat is often more thin than normal since it doesn’t have regular access to food. You can put routinely food outside and it will return to eat. Eventually, you may notice that the cat seems to be less afraid of you and moves closer when it sees you. Then it lets you pet it. These are behaviors of a stray cat. At one time, the cat probably had an owner and traveled too far out of its normal roaming circle and got lost. Or was sadly abandoned. The good news is a stray cat can be a great pet again. It may take some patience and effort on your part, but don’t all pets require that?
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO ADOPT A STRAY?
Deciding to adopt a stray that you have built trust with is exciting, but first, you will want to take the cat to your veterinarian for a check-up and to see if the animal has a pet recovery microchip implanted. If there is a microchip scanned and found to be registered, you will have played a huge part in reuniting the cat with its’ owner. Good job! If no microchip is located or it is not registered, then you can feel good about continuing the adoption process. After visiting the veterinarian, you will probably have learned more about your potential pet like its’ health condition, approximate age, and gender. Next is the “getting to know you even better” phase.
THE STRAY CAN STAY
You’ll want to have a designated space for your new pet that is quiet and acts as a safe place for them to go when startled. Also, a clean litter box, several fun toys, fresh water and the type of food you’ve already been feeding are important to have on hand. If there are already pets in the home, you’ll want to introduce them to each other slowly and calmly for short periods of time. Then work up to more time together gradually. This keeps both sides from feeling as territorial as they might if just thrown together. Just as with humans, cats are unique and have likes and dislikes. The next few months will be a journey to get to know each other and create the bond that comes with having a pet in your home. Oh and hopefully a few snuggles and purrs are in your future as well.