A stray cat wandering around your neighborhood is one thing. A stray that has seemingly adopted you as its new owner is an entirely different matter. This kind of cat can drive you crazy with constant meowing, following closely as you walk from the door to the car, and generally being a nuisance. So what do you do?
Unfortunately, stray cats are a growing problem, both in Europe and the US. Between people abandoning their cats because they can no longer take care of them and legitimate strays who wander away from home and then cannot get back, cities of all sizes are dealing with more strays than they can manage. And once a stray reproduces, there are feral cats to deal with as well.
Below is a list of five suggestions for what you can do with a stray cat that will not leave. You will have to approach each suggestion based on your tolerance level. Be prepared that there may be no other solution to your problem other than one that makes you extremely uncomfortable.
1. Take the Cat into Your Home
The first rule of thumb for any animal that hangs around humans is this: animals go wherever the food is. A stray cat that has been hanging out in your neighborhood for an extended amount of time has stayed because it is being fed. Whether you are the primary feeder or someone else is doing it, food is being provided.
This should lead you to ask whether it is appropriate to take this cat into your home. If you own your own home, you don’t have to worry about landlord permission. You do have to worry about who owns the cat, though. Taking the cat into your home will pretty much seal the deal as you being its new owner. Are you okay with not reuniting the animal with its original owner?
You also have to consider how taking the cat in will affect everyone else living in your home. You may have children with allergies or a spouse who absolutely abhors cats, or indeed, animals. Then there are frequent visitors to worry about, too. Maybe your primary babysitter is deathly afraid of cats. You never know.
2. Take the Cat to a Shelter
Another option is to take the cat to a local shelter. This may be a lot more difficult than it sounds. Why? Because animal shelters in most major metropolitan areas constantly run at capacity. You may call a local shelter only to find that they have no room. They might be willing to take the cat for a day or two, but then they might put the animal down if no one claims or adopts it.
The upside of taking the cat to a shelter is the very real possibility that it will be adopted. As long as your shelter is not at capacity, they might be willing to care for the animal for 30, 60, or even 90 days. An adoption would guarantee that the cat finds a new home without you having to supply it.
Before you consider taking the cat to a shelter, you might want to think about the following statistics from the ASPCA:
- Approximately 3.2 million cats are received by animal shelters every year
- Some 860,000 cats are euthanized rather than claimed or adopted
- Approximately 1.6 million cats are successfully adopted each year
- About 90,000 stray cats annually are eventually returned to their original owners.
When you combine the adoption and return numbers together, it is obvious that the number of cats surviving temporary shelter care is less than half the total number the shelters take in. In other words, if you take a stray cat to a local shelter, there is more than a 50-50 chance the animal will either be euthanized or spend the rest of its life at the shelter.
3. Make a Point of Ignoring the Cat
You may be in a position of being unable to take a stray cat into your home, yet you still don’t want to see the animal taken to a shelter. A third option is to make a point of simply ignoring it. As strange as this sounds, this might be your best option.
Earlier we discussed the fact that stray cats hanging around neighborhoods for extended periods of time are likely being fed. You may be one of the people feeding the animal. If so, stop. A stray will not continually bother you if there is no benefit to doing so. The animal will focus its energies on those who are feeding it.
This strategy may be beneficial to the cat inasmuch as it encourages the animal to go elsewhere. The cat may find another family in the neighborhood willing to take it in. You win when the cat finally decides to leave you alone; the cat wins by finding another family willing to provide for its needs.
Note that ignoring a stray cat goes above and beyond just not feeding it. You should also not provide shelter, pay attention to it by picking it up and petting it, or do anything else that gives the animal the impression that you are source of comfort. Animals are driven by instinct. If their instincts tell them you will not make provision for their needs, they will go elsewhere.
4. Adopt the Cat as an Outdoor Cat
There is a way to adopt a stray cat without bringing into your home. You adopt the animal as an outdoor cat. What does this mean? It means you can still provide food, shelter, and medical care but keep everything outdoors. This isn’t as hard as it seems.
You can build the cat a nice little shelter that you place on your patio or out in the yard. There are plenty of instructions online for doing so. With a shelter in place, you can also feed the cat at regular intervals throughout the day. Just take food and water out and place it near or in the shelter. It won’t take long for the cat to figure out your feeding schedule.
Whenever you are out and about, make a point of looking for the cat. Spend a few minutes showing some affection. And if you notice the animal has any medical issues, take it to your vet right away. You are basically doing everything you would do if the cat were an indoor pet; you’re just doing it outdoors.
5. Try to Find the Cat’s Owner
In addition to any one of the previously described options, we would heartily suggest you attempt to find the cat’s owner. This is assuming the cat is really a stray and not a feral cat. There is a significant difference between the two.
A stray cat is a cat that, despite being a pet, has managed to wander away from home. This is a cat that is used to human companionship; it is used to being fed by humans. It is not used to fending for itself out in your neighborhood.
A feral cat is a cat that was born outside of human care. It has always lived apart from humans and it knows how to fend for itself. Feral cats rarely make good pets because of their antisocial disposition. Many of them will not hang around for extended lengths of time because they just don’t like humans.
With that way, here are some suggestions for locating the cat’s owner:
- Call local shelters to see if anyone has reported a missing cat.
- Call the non-emergency number of your local police department. They might also have information on lost cats.
- Put an ad in your local newspaper describing when and where you found the cat.
- Post ads on classified sites, like Craigslist for example.
- Create some signs and post them on telephone poles, sign poles, and in the windows of local stores.
In all your efforts to locate the cat’s owner, also be on the lookout for signs that the owner is looking for you. The owner may create and post his/her own signs. He/she may put his/her own ad in the paper or go door-to-door looking for the animal. The more the two of you look for one another, the greater the chances you will find one another.
Things You Should Not Do
Let’s close out this guide by talking about a few things you should not do. All the things listed below are about your safety and the safety of the cat. If you have a stray cat that will not leave, DO NOT:
- Take the animal in until you have it checked. You should never take a stray cat into your home before having it checked out by a veterinarian. While it is rare, cats do carry certain diseases that can make both you and your family very sick. You can never be too careful.
- Adopt the cat and then change your mind. One of the worst things you can do for the cat is to take it into your home and then change your mind a few weeks later. The cat has already been through enough. Getting used to your home and then being sent away soon thereafter only makes a bad situation worse.
- Capture the cat to give it to someone else. You may be totally enamored by the stray cat hanging around in your garden; your family members and friends may not be. Do yourself and the animal a big favor by avoiding the temptation to capture the cat and give it to someone else. And unwanted cat is not much of a pet.
- Use violence to chase the cat away. There is never an excuse to use violence against an animal that won’t go away. Doing so is cruel, unethical, and illegal. If the cat is so bothersome that it’s causing problems, call animal control. They can come out and remove it.
Just about every major city in the world deals with a stray cat problem. If you now have a stray cat that will not leave, know that you’re not alone. Also note that there are plenty of resources out there to help you figure out what to do. A good place to start is your local animal shelter. You can also check with the ASPCA (or similar in your country – the RSPCA in the UK, for example), local veterinarians, and even pet stores. Somebody will have the information you need to figure out your best option.