What Does it Mean When a Stray Cat Comes to Your House?

Are you wondering why a stray cat pops up at your front door as soon as you get home from work? Or perhaps it is propped up against the door with a look of “where the heck have you been, human? I’ve been waiting for you for hours!” Your first thought might be to shoo it away, so it doesn’t get too familiar, or give it a treat and send it on its way. But have ever asked yourself what exactly does it mean when a stray cat comes to your house?

A short while back, we had a friendly feline visitor that stopped in at the H&R headquarters every few days. It got us all thinking about this very thing, which is why we decided to look into it. And naturally, we wanted to share our findings with you.

Why a Stray Cat Might Come to Your House?

There are an estimated nine million stray cats in the UK and approximately one and a half million feral cats. This means there is a very good chance you will have a close encounter with the feline kind if you haven’t already.

If you find a stray cat hanging around your house, or trying to gain access inside, it is more than likely looking for a safe haven with food, water, and a little bit of TLC.

Identifying a Stray Cat

Before you do anything, it is crucial to establish whether the cat is, in fact, a stray. It could also be somebody’s pet that has lost its way home or a feral cat.  Knowing how to tell the difference will help you decide what plan of action to take.

1.Abandoned cats

An abandoned cat is usually tame and has gotten used to life on the streets. It was, at some time, somebody’s pet, but after being abandoned or lost, it has been living on its own.

2.Feral cats

Unlike an abandoned cat, feral cats are not used to being around people. They tend to avoid contact and prefer to stay out of sight. If you can get close enough, you might notice one of its ears is clipped, which means it has been trapped, neutered and returned to the street.

3.Stray cats

A stray cat is usually in fairly good condition. It could be a neighbour’s cat that has just popped in to say hello or a pet that has lost its way home.

Download this guide to help you identify whether it is a lost,  abandoned or feral cat.

What to do When a Stray Cat Comes to your house

As mentioned before, a stray cat may come to your house because it needs shelter, food or water. To keep yourself, and your pets safe, there are a few things you should do when a stray arrives at your front door.

Give it food and water

If the cat looks friendly, approach it slowly and talk in a soft voice. Put down some cat food and a bowl of water. A feral cat will keep its distance, in which case you should too. You don’t want to be bitten or scratched by a terrified cat. Keep in mind, feeding a stray will encourage it to come back for more, so be prepared to place food in a safe spot outside where the cat can access it.

Provide it with a warm, safe place

Let the cat in your house, especially if it is cold or raining. Give them a warm blanket or dry towel to lie on, and put it in a safe spot away from your other pets, and children. If the cat is wet and is tame enough for you to get close,  use a towel to dry it. If the cat is scared or aggressive, avoid touching it until it settles in and feels calmer.

Check for identification

If the cat happily walks into your house, the first thing you should do is check if it is wearing a tag with its owner’s contact details. If so, get in touch with them immediately. Heaven knows, they will be stressed out about their missing kitty. Remember to keep the cat away from your pets in the meantime. This is in case it has fleas, mange, worms or other diseases that can be passed onto your animals.

Place a paper collar around the cat’s neck

While some stray cats tend to stick around for a few days at a time, others might come and go. It’s worth putting a paper collar around the cat’s neck to see if you can locate its owner.

All you need to do is:

  • Print  out the collar
  • Put your contact number in the allocated space
  • Place the collar around the cat’s neck. Make sure there is at least two fingers space between the neck and the collar
  • If after a few days you haven’t heard anything, it is safe to assume the cat is a stray or lost

Take the cat to the vet

Even if the cat isn’t wearing a collar, it could still be microchipped. Our suggestion is to take it to the vet or local rescue centre where they will be able to scan for a microchip. If it is, you will be able to get in touch with the owners and be a part of a happy family reunion. However, if there is no microchip, ask the vet to do a complete health check so you can keep the cat with you until the owner is found.

How to Locate the Cat’s Owners

Create a flyer

Create a flyer yourself or use one of the free services.  Make sure you use a clear photo of the cat as well as a detailed description. If there are any noticeable features, include them on the poster. Remember to also put your contact details on the flyer.

Take a few to your vet and local shelters, and let the staff know the cat is in your care. Place the flyers in the area where the cat was found, as well as in places where there is a lot of traffic. High streets, schools, gyms, post offices and stores are also good spots to post flyers.

Use social media and websites

Another good idea is to post the cat’s details on Facebook. Find your local area’s page, and also check if there are pet-focused community groups. Post the same information on your personal page and ask friends to share it.

There are also loads of websites, including Catlost and Animal Search that help reunite lost pets with their owners. For app users, PawBoost is a great tool to locate missing animals.

What To Do When You Can’t Find the Owner

If you can’t find the owner, there are a couple of options available.

Adopt the cat

If you’ve bonded with the cat and can’t bear the thought of it not being around, you can adopt it. You will need to take it to the vet to get its shots and have it neutered or spayed. Keep in mind; however, adopting a cat is a huge responsibility. Not only will you need to spend time with it, but you will also have to spend money on food, toys and medical care.

Ask friends or family

If adopting the cat yourself isn’t an option, check with friends and family members. Perhaps they can provide it with a loving home.

Speak to your local shelter

If long-term adoption is out of the question for you, but you can foster it until a home is found, speak to your local rescue centre or shelter. They will help find a forever home while the cat stays with you. If you are worried about the cat being euthanised, you can ask the shelter to put a limited hold on the cat. This means that if the cat isn’t claimed by the owner after some time, you have the option to adopt it.

Private rescue groups can also help

Private rescue groups have no time limit on how long cats can stay with them, but they depend on foster homes and may only be able to take the cat if they have an open spot.

What to Do When a Feral Cat Comes to Your House

Feral cats, unlike strays, can’t be rehomed, but you can help in other ways. Many organisations have a Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programme in place. As the name suggests, feral cats are trapped, neutered and then returned to a colony. To help identify cats that have been through this programme, the tip of one ear is clipped.

Place some food and water outside

Keep in mind feral cats are not used to people, and will avoid any contact with you. Rather than forcing it into your home, place some cat food and water outside in a safe place. You can also put a makeshift shelter outside so that the cat has somewhere to go when it is raining. To keep larger animals out, make sure that the space is small enough for the cat to gain access.  

Trap-Neuter-Return

A lot of rescue organisations can assist with TNR, or, if you are comfortable with animals,  you can try to do it yourself.  Just remember that handling a feral cat requires a lot more skill and patience on your part. We’ve included 7 easy to follow steps that will help the operation run smoothly. Or if you prefer, scroll on down to watch the video tutorial.

1. Learn as much as you can about TNR

You must know as much as possible about TNR. There are plenty of guides online, as well as video tutorials. If you prefer, you can do a course to safely trap, neuter and release feral cats back into the community.

2. Speak to neighbours and the community

More often than not, families in your neighbourhood will have also ‘adopted’ the colony of feral cats, feeding them and making sure they are healthy. It is essential that you discuss the TNR programme with them, and make them aware of the benefits. In some instances, you may need to ask neighbours for access into their properties. Depending on how big the colony is, you might need to recruit people to help with feeding and trapping the cats. 

3. Set up shelters and feeding stations

The first step is to set up feeding stations and shelters. It is also essential to establish a feeding schedule. By putting food out every day in the same place and at the same time, cats will very quickly learn to arrive on time for their meal, They’ll also arrive on time when you are ready to trap them.

4. Find a safe spot to hold the cats

The entire TNR process will take about a week. This includes two to three days for trapping the cats, a day for the neutering or spaying and up to the three days for post-surgery recovery. It is a good idea to find somewhere to hold the cats during this time. Ideally, it should be warm, secure and sheltered. Sheds, barns, basements, spare rooms or empty offices are good options.

5. Make all the necessary arrangements

It’s important to arrange everything before trapping the feral cat or cats. Some organisations offer a free service when neutering or spaying feral cats. And they also loan out humane traps weekly. Don’t forget to arrange transportation to and from the clinic, and to collect and drop off the traps.

6. Trapping time

Make sure all food is withheld the day before you plan on trapping the cats. Remember to coordinate this with everyone involved, so no one accidentally leaves food out. Plan on leaving the traps out for a day or two if you are trapping one cat, and three to four days if you are trapping more. Some cats may be harder to trap than others, but after some trial and error, and a lot of patience, you will have managed to capture all of them.

7. Looking after the cats post-TNR

Once you have returned the cats back into the community, your job will be to feed them and provide them with shelter during the colder months. You must keep an eye out for any new arrivals that might need to be neutered or spayed.

Set aside a few minutes to watch this tutorial on how to trap, neuter and release feral cats back into the community.

Although it seems like a lot of work taking on a stray cat, or getting involved in a community project to trap them, have them neutered and released, trust us, it is well worth the effort. Not only will you be providing a cat with a loving home, but you will also be helping the ever-increasing problem of the overpopulation of feral cats.

Have you had any experience with any stray or feral cats? We always love to hear first-hand accounts from our readers. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

And if you would like to read more about the fantastic world of felines have a browse through our cat library here.

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