If You Feed a Stray Cat Will It Stay?

If You Feed a Stray Cat Will It Stay

If you feed a stray cat will it stay with you or keep returning for more food?

It probably will not hang around much longer than it takes to eat the food you’ve put out – at least not until you’ve earned their trust.

But there is a very good chance it will return for more food.

Can you blame them? A nice meal for free doesn’t come easy when you’re a stray wandering around in the wild (ok that’s a bit dramatic), but you get the point.

Strays are always grateful for food, warmth, and shelter. The basic needs of any cat.

If you have a stray in your neighborhood and you’re wondering what the best thing you can do for it is, here’s my suggestion:

Start Feeding Them on a Regular Basis

If you want to help a stray cat, the first thing to do is to start putting out a little food and water for them. 

Don’t get strays and feral cats confused. Stray cats are cats that have strayed from their homes for some reason. They used to be owned and are domesticated, while feral cats have been wild their whole lives.

There is little to no chance you can befriend a feral cat, and it may not be safe to do so. But stray cats, on the other hand, have found themselves on hard times and need a helping hand in most cases.

They are not adept at hunting, neither are they used to eating prey like feral cats. So, providing formulated cat food is the best thing for them.

When you first start feeding them don’t try to get close or even show yourself while they’re eating. Cats do not like to feel threatened while eating, it’s their time to concentrate on their food.

Try and put food out every day at the same time. Cats are creatures of habit and will their internal body clock should send them back at roughly the same time once they’re used to the routine.

Slowly Earn Their Trust, But Don’t Rush It

Start earning the trust of a stray cat

While feeding the cat, your goal should be to earn their trust. This way, you’ll eventually be able to get closer to check they’re in good health. Plus, it’s nice to put them at ease and become friends with them.

The way to do this is to slowly make it known that you’re there in the distance while they’re eating, but don’t pose any threat. Start by gently talking to them so they become familiar with your voice. Give them a name so you have something to call them that they’ll get to know.

If you’re short on name ideas I’ve listed thousands by the way. Why not check out some Harry Potter or Lord of The Rings Inspired Cat Names, Nerdy Cat Names, Greek Cat Names…. more than enough suggestions to get you started there!

Back on topic, keep moving a little closer as they become more comfortable and less likely to take off. Eventually, their curiosity will get the better of them and they’ll have a sniff of your extended hand or rub their scent on you.

Those are pretty sure signs in cat language that you’re officially friends!

There’s no telling what the timeline will be as all cats are different. Just hang in there and take it day by day.

Try and Find out If They Have a Home

Once you’ve been feeding a stray for a while and gained their trust, you need to put in some effort to find out if they have a family desperately missing them. Cats go missing all the time for a wide range of reasons, sometimes they just need to be reunited.

If they don’t have a collar and an ID tag on, start by taking a good picture of them. Show it around your neighbors and post it online in some local groups. If someone has been looking for their kitty word should be out on the street.

Get Them Checked out by a Vet

Having a stray cat checked out by a vet

If you can’t find an owner, it’s on you to get them checked out by a vet as you’re not their adopted friend. There’s a chance they have a microchip too, which is another reason why this is a good idea.

Microchipping is still rare in cats unless they are a rare or expensive breed though, and those are unlikely to be wandering around as strays. But you never know, fingers crossed!

Related ContentCan you feel a microchip in a cat?

A stray will need a health checkup. You don’t know why or how long they’ve been living outdoors. They will almost certainly have picked up parasites of some kind.

But don’t worry, most parasites are easy to treat. A vet can get them up to date with vaccinations and protect them going forward.

Find a TNR Program in Your Area If Necessary

With a stray cat under your care, the responsible thing to do is to get them neutered or spayed.

There are a lot of organizations offering what they call a TNR program. This stands for Trap-Neuter-Return and refers to picking up strays and feral cats off the streets, neutering them and returning them.

It’s an incentive aimed at reducing the population of homeless cats. It also reduces the number of cats that are euthanized due to the overwhelming number of stray and feral cats in some areas.

If you contact either the ASPCA or the  Humane Society, they should be able to advise you of the nearest place to you offer the TNR program. I mention this because it’s free in most cases, or there is a much smaller charge than having a vet carry out the procedure.

Consider Adopting or Helping Rehome Them

If it looks like there is no chance of finding the original owners for your new feline friend, you can consider adopting them. You pretty much already have if you’ve been feeding them for some time and have had them seen by a vet. But it’s not what everyone wants.

If you can’t take them in but are concerned for their wellbeing, talk to catteries and cat shelters to see if they have a rehoming program.

This is something you’ll need to think over carefully. I know I’ve befriended local strays in the past and it broke my heart to see them taken in by a shelter. I just didn’t have the room and the means to take them in myself at the time.

In Summary – If You Feed a Stray Cat Will It Stay?

If you start feeding a stray cat, the steps I outlined in this article is the path you’ll end up going down. The more you feed a stray cat, the more likely it is they will keep coming back and become dependant on your food supply.

Have you found yourself in this situation before? How did the story end for you when you fed a stray? Hopefully, it had a happily ever after ending. Either way, feel free to share your stories below with the rest of the community.

Did you enjoy this article and find it informative and helpful? If so, you might find this article interesting too – Will a Stray Cat Starve If I Stop Feeding It?


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