Is it Safe to Take in a Stray Cat? – Here are 10 Things You Should Know

A stray cat can be the most adorable creature you have ever laid your eyes on. What’s more, it’s easy to fall in love with a stray even though you know nothing about it. So what do you do? Do you ignore a stray cat, or do you try to take care of it? And what about providing a home; is it safe to take in a stray cat?

You can search the internet and find lots of information about stray cats. Most of what you will find is information about how to care for a stray. Unfortunately, very few people seem willing to answer the question of whether you should take a stray in. That is what this post does. The question is answered through a series of things you need to know about stray cats.

Before taking in a stray cat, consider the following 10 points beforehand:

The Negative

1. A stray cat might not actually be a stray

2. A stray cat may not have been spayed or neutered

3. A stray cat could be carrying a disease

4. A stray cat could be destructive

5. A stray cat could be carrying fleas

6. Cats cost money

7. Cats come with odors

8. Cats shed

The Positive

9. Cats help control rodents

10. Cats can make for very good companions

1. A Stray May Not Be a Stray

The first and most obvious concern is that a stray cat may not necessarily be a stray at all. There is an enormous difference between strays and feral cats. That difference could come back to haunt you should you take in a cat you really should not have.

A stray cat is, or used to be, someone’s pet. It may be a pet that escaped by running out the door and then failing to find its way home. It could be a cat that was abandoned by its owner for any number of reasons. The point is this: a stray cat is used to human contact. It is used to spending time in the care of humans.

A feral cat is one that was born outside of human ownership and has continued to live that way. Barn cats are a good example. They were born in the barn, they live in the barn, and they have no intention of living elsewhere.

Why does this matter? Because feral cats are not used to human companionship. They do not interact well with humans when under pressure, making them potentially dangerous. So while you may decide to take a stray in, do not even entertain the idea of taking in a feral cat.

photo of a cat with foliage as a backdrop

2. Stray Cats May Not be Spayed or Neutered

Sometimes people abandon their cats because they do not want to pay for spaying or neutering. This is not necessarily a reason in and of itself to not take in a stray, but you do have to be cognizant that your cat may need to be fixed. Taking in a stray might instantly translate into vet bills for spaying or neutering.

3. Stray Cats Sometimes Carry Diseases

The discussion of spaying and neutering leads us to the reality that some stray cats carry disease. Understand that the longer a stray cat has been without human companionship, the more likely it is the animal is carrying some sort of disease. There is also the possibility that the cat’s shots are not up-to-date.

For your information, here is a list of the diseases you should be most worried about:

  • Rabies – A stray cat can contract rabies by coming into contact with another animal that has it. You could contract rabies from the cat. This is a potentially fatal disease if not treated.
  • Cat Scratch Fever – This disease is actually a bacterial infection you can develop after being scratched or bitten by a cat. It is generally not serious for most people, but you could get seriously ill from it if you have a compromised immune system.
  • Tapeworm – Although it is rare for human beings to get tapeworm after coming in contact with a stray cat, it’s still possible. The best way to prevent tapeworm is to wash your hands after every interaction.

Most of the other diseases a stray cat could carry are a danger only to the cat or other animals you might have in the house. Should you decide to take in a stray, your first task is to get the animal to a veterinarian for a thorough check-up.

4. Stray Cats Can Be Destructive

The next thing to consider is that stray cats can be destructive to personal property. When they are, it’s not because they are evil or angry. Most animals lash out when they feel threatened. Cats are no different. If you should take in a stray cat that seems to be especially nervous, you may be taking in an animal that is very easily threatened. This could present problems.

Also consider that the cat could be destructive in your home just because it has spent too much time living outdoors. For example, cats like to scratch things. If the stray living in your yard has spent enough time outdoors to get used to scratching trees, it may come inside your home and start scratching your furniture. It’s something to think about.

5. Cats Can Carry Fleas

Strays that spend a fairly decent amount of time outdoors are good candidates for fleas. The good news is that the condition is very easy to treat. With a topical treatment and a good flea collar, you can get rid of fleas before bringing a stray cat into your home. As such, the risk of fleas is probably not sufficient enough to prevent you from taking in a stray. With a little bit of time and money, you can eliminate a flea problem completely. Just do it before you take the cat in.

6. Cats Control Rodents

Not everything about stray cats is negative. In fact, taking in a stray cat could be good for you and your family. For example, did you know that cats are very good at controlling rodents? They are.

Having a cat in your house could guarantee that you never see another mouse again. Cats are also pretty good at keeping away large insects. If you have any pest problems in your home, a cat might be the perfect solution. Of course, this only works if the cat doesn’t become the pest.

cat curled up on a bench

7. Cats Can Make Very Good Companions

Another wonderful benefit of taking in a stray cat is that of companionship. Cats can make very good companions for both humans and animals alike. Is there a need for additional companionship in your home?

A senior citizen living alone might find a stray cat a welcome addition to the house. Hopefully the cat warms up enough to be a dedicated companion to the senior. Otherwise, it might be necessary to get rid of the cat after making the effort to take it in.

Cats can be wonderful companions to young children, too. Studies have shown that kids who grow up with pets in the house are more psychologically well-adjusted. They also tend to have a greater appreciation for animals through adulthood.

One last thing to think about is the other pets in your home. For instance, you may have a small dog in need of companionship which you just don’t have the time to provide. That stray cat in your yard could be the answer. There are plenty of cases of stray cats providing much-needed companionship for other pets.

8. Cats Cost Money

Next on my list of things you should know is this: cats cost money. Even after you get past the vet bills and any medical treatments necessary to bring a stray back to health, you are going to have to pay for daily necessities like food and cat litter. Those are ongoing costs that will continue for as long as the cat lives.

Depending on where you live, you may have to license or register your cat. And of course, there will be annual check-ups at the vet – and that’s provided the animal does not get sick the rest of the year.

If all of that is not enough, you are probably going to need a couple of other things around the house. You may need a scratching post, a handful of cat toys, a brush, and a crate if you plan to travel with the cat at any point in the future.

9. Cats Come with Odors

Did you know that cats come with odors? They may be among the cleanest animals on the planet, but what they leave behind is not necessarily pleasant. There are two things to be concerned about, beginning with cat litter.

No matter how you slice it, cat litter stinks. And unfortunately, there is no way to have an indoor cat without also having cat litter in the house. So be prepared for the odors. You can buy certain kinds of cat litter that cut down on the smell, but you will never eliminate it completely.

The second thing to consider only matters if you do not have the cat spayed or neutered. Unfixed cats tend to mark their territory by urinating. Even indoor cats do this. So if you don’t want to get the cat fixed, you’re going to have to deal with territorial marking.

10. Cats Shed

Finally, you should be aware that all cats shed at least some hair. The only exception to this rule are Sphynx cats (because they have no hair). What does this mean to you? That depends on your tolerance for cat hair.

People who are allergic to cats simply cannot deal with the hair and dander. If someone in your home has allergies, taking in a stray cat might be out of the question. You could let that person spend time with the cat outdoors just to see if the allergies are triggered. If not, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be triggered in the future.

Allergies aside, you should be prepared to find cat hair all over the house should you decide to take that stray in. Long-haired cats leave the most hair behind, but short-haired cats still shed too. If the presence of cat hair bothers you, either do not take in the stray or be prepared to vacuum on a regular basis. Cat hair is just part of cat ownership.

In Conclusion

I have given you 10 things to consider before taking in a stray cat. How does this answer your question? By helping you weigh the realities of cat ownership against your desire to take in a stray. If you go through each of these things and are still able to see taking in that stray as a good thing, then by all means go for it. If you don’t think you can deal with the negatives listed here, taking in a stray is probably not the best idea for you.