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What To Do When a Stray Cat Adopts You

Cute Black cat with green eyes and patches of white fur outside looking at the camera

Stray cats, often called "community cats," are resilient survivors of the streets, but sometimes they’ll stick around a home that gives them food and a place to sleep. If you have a cat that keeps coming back to say hi, that might mean they feel safe enough to accept you as their new family! When one of these feline wanderers decides to adopt you, it's a unique and heartwarming experience. In this article, we'll explore what it means to be adopted by a stray cat, and the benefits and challenges that come with this newfound companionship.

Table of Contents

  • What It Means to Be Adopted by a Stray Cat
  • How to Know if a Stray Cat Has Adopted You
  • What to Do if a Stray Cat Has Adopted You
  • Common Challenges and Solutions in Adopting a Stray Cat
  • Conclusion
  • What It Means to Be Adopted by a Stray Cat

    Being adopted by a stray cat means that a homeless and often wary feline has chosen to trust you and make your home their own. This is a remarkable display of trust and can lead to a deep and rewarding bond between you and your new feline friend. Adopting a stray cat can be an incredibly fulfilling experience. It not only provides a loving home to a cat in need but also offers numerous benefits to you and your family, including companionship, affection, and a sense of purpose.

    While the rewards of adopting a stray cat are substantial, it's important to acknowledge the challenges that may arise. Stray cats often come with their own set of issues, including potential health problems and socialization difficulties.

    How to Know if a Stray Cat Has Adopted You

    Having a stray cat adopt you is a heartwarming experience, but it's essential to differentiate between a stray cat's trust and a true family relationship. Here are some signs that indicate a stray cat has chosen to adopt you:

    Frequent Visits: The cat regularly shows up at your doorstep, in your yard, or outside your windows. These visits are a strong sign of their attachment to your home.

    Seeking Attention: The cat approaches you and may rub against your legs, purr, or meow for your attention. They tend to follow you around, especially when you're outside.

    Kneading: Cats often knead their paws on soft surfaces when they're content. If a stray cat kneads on your lap or nearby blankets (also called ‘making biscuits’), it's a sign of trust.

    Sleeping on Your Property: Stray cats may choose to nap near your home, whether it's on your porch, in your yard, or even in your garage. This indicates they feel safe in your presence.

    Bringing "Gifts": The cat may bring you "gifts" such as prey they've caught, or they may leave small trinkets like leaves or toys as tokens of their affection.

    Friendly Behavior: A good sign that you have earned their affection is friendly and non-threatening body language. This looks like the cat approaching with a relaxed tail, open eyes, and no signs of aggression or fear.

    Acceptance of Touch: Another significant indicator is if the cat allows you to pet and scratch them. This shows they trust you and feel comfortable with your touch.

    Purring: Cats often purr when content, and a stray cat's purring in your presence is a sign of their love and affection.

    Nuzzling and Head-Butting: Nuzzling your hand or gently head-butting you is a clear sign of a cat's fondness for you.

    Tail Position: A stray cat that holds their tail upright when they see you often demonstrates friendliness and a feeling of safety.

    Vocalizing: Stray cats, especially young adults or kittens, may vocalize to communicate with you, whether it's a soft meow, chirping, or chattering. These are all ways they express their feelings towards you.

    Desire for Indoor Access: If the cat tries to enter your home or lingers by the door, it may indicate that they want to be a part of your indoor life.

    Sitting on Your Lap: A stray cat that sits on your lap shows a strong level of trust and a desire for close companionship.

    Following You Inside: Some stray cats may take the initiative to follow you inside when you open the door, indicating their comfort in your home.

    Return Visits: A cat that keeps coming back to you, even if you're not actively providing food, is likely adopting you as a source of care and companionship. It's important to approach these signs with kindness and responsibility. If you think that a stray cat has adopted you, consider providing them with the necessary care, including food, water, shelter, and a visit to the veterinarian.

    What to Do if a Stray Cat Has Adopted You

    Building a strong bond with your newly adopted feline friend can be a deeply rewarding experience for both you and the cat. If a stray cat has adopted you, here are steps to ensure their well-being and strengthen the bond between you:

    Assess the Situation

    Determine whether the cat appears to be truly homeless or if they have an owner. Look for signs of malnourishment, injury, or a lack of identification. If the cat is truly a stray and in need, consider providing shelter, even temporarily, and especially during extreme weather conditions. Anything to keep them out of the cold, rain or snow will be much appreciated.

    Safe Space for the Cat

    Offer a quiet, safe space where the cat can retreat if they feel overwhelmed. A cozy blanket or box can work as a makeshift shelter. You should provide them with food, water, a litter box, and a bed. Offering these essentials ensures the cat's basic needs are met. You can gradually transition them to a proper feeding schedule, but start slow if they seem to be malnourished: cats that haven’t had food in a while may eat too much at first and get sick.

    Plus, make sure you check on them after giving them certain foods, just in case they have any allergies. Building trust with a stray cat takes time. Allow the cat to approach you and initiate contact. Avoid forcing physical affection.

    Health & Diet

    Proper nutrition and playtime are essential for the cat's overall well-being. Interactive toys and play sessions can help them stay active and reduce any stress or anxiety. You should also make sure that the cat is free from diseases and is treated for parasites and other illnesses. If you notice visible issues like mange, limping, or respiratory problems, consider giving them supplements to help, and take them to the vet to ensure they have no hidden illnesses.

    Give Your Cat Lots of Love and Attention

    Stray cats often appreciate and respond well to love and affection. Spend quality time with your new cat, providing attention and comfort. Additionally, brushing the cat not only helps maintain their coat but also strengthens the bond between you and your furry companion.

    Common Challenges and Solutions in Adopting a Stray Cat

    Adopting a stray cat can be a rewarding experience, but it also comes with its unique challenges. Here are some of the difficulties you may encounter in adopting a stray cat.

    Feral Behavior

    Some stray cats exhibit feral behavior, which can make them skittish, unsocialized, and fearful of humans. Stray cats are accustomed to outdoor living, so transitioning them to indoor life can be difficult. Introduce your stray cat gradually to your existing pet cats. Gradual socialization and positive interactions can help a feral cat become more comfortable with people over time. Patience is key with feral cats. You must create a safe space for the cat, such as a quiet room, and allow them to acclimate at their own pace. Provide a stimulating indoor environment with toys, scratching posts, and climbing structures. You should make the indoor environment as comfortable and enriching as possible to make the transition easier for your new cat.

    Territorial Behavior

    Stray cats may also exhibit territorial behavior when introduced to a new home with resident animals. Gradual introductions, scent swapping, and creating separate spaces can help minimize territorial conflicts. Peaceful Paws can also assist in reducing aggression and territorial behavior in cats, and can be given to both your new addition and your current pets.

    Fear and Anxiety

    Stray cats may carry emotional trauma or anxiety from their past experiences. To help them in overcoming fear, you should provide a safe and predictable environment. Offer hiding spots, quiet areas, and comforting blankets. If the cat is extremely anxious or fearful, consult a veterinarian or animal behaviorist for guidance on anxiety management and behavioral techniques. In the meantime, you can try a calming remedy that may help them come out of their shell.

    Health Problems

    Stray cats are at higher risk of health issues, including parasites, infections, and injuries. A proper deworming regimen, as well as ongoing preventative care, can help maintain the cat's health. You should also consider scheduling a thorough veterinary examination for the cat. This will help identify and address any health concerns, and may even give you some clues about their past, such as how old they are or what kind of life they had before coming into your home.

    Litter Box Training

    Some stray cats may not be familiar with litter boxes. Consider using a large, uncovered litter box with unscented, clumping litter. Show the location of the box and be patient if they make mistakes; don’t yell at them even if you find puddles on the ground, as this can break their trust in you. Instead, positive reinforcement is best for teaching litter box habits to stray cats.

    Adjustment Period

    Stray cats need time to adjust to their new home and build trust with their new caregivers. Allow the cat to come to you at their own pace. Spend time sitting quietly near them and offering treats or toys to create positive associations. Be consistent and patient, and gradually build a strong bond. Some stray cats may be quite vocal, especially if they are in heat or seeking attention. Address their needs and offer playtime and companionship to reduce yowling or other excessive vocalizations.

    Bad Grooming and Hygiene

    Stray cats may have unkempt coats and poor grooming habits. You should brush the cat regularly to help improve their coat condition and stimulate bonding. Some stray cats may eventually learn proper grooming habits when they feel safe and comfortable in their new home, especially if you have other cats who can teach them how to do it.


    Being adopted by a stray cat is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that symbolizes a deep level of trust and the potential for a profound human-animal bond. While there are challenges, the rewards of providing a stray cat with love and care are immeasurable. The key to a successful adoption is kindness, understanding, and a willingness to address the individual needs and behaviors of the cat. With enough patience and the proper care, you can create a safe and loving home for your newly adopted feline friend.

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