How to Bring a Stray Cat Indoors

Cats that spend time with humans but then get released into the wild become strays. These abandoned animals will rely on their base instincts for a while but can adapt to life with a new owner again. Even after spending time outdoors, stray cats can become indoor cats, and many will probably appreciate the safety and comfort that a new home can bring.

There are a lot of things that you will need to take into consideration when rescuing a stray and making them an indoor cat. If you have never owned a cat before it is easy to get overwhelmed with all of the decisions you will need to make. We’ve summarized what we think are the absolute necessities when transitioning a stray cat into an indoor cat and linked out to more detailed articles you should investigate after you have made your new cat comfy.

How to bring a stray cat indoors

If you have found a stray cat outdoors, there are a couple of things to check before bringing them back into the comfort of your home.

Any serious injuries that are life threatening need to be treated by a veterinarian as quickly as possible. Problems like strong bleeding, broken bones, extreme malnourishment, or heat stroke are all problems that can only be treated by a professional. Call local vet clinics and explain the situation to see if they can offer any free treatments. Cat rescue shelters may also be able to provide services or contacts for immediate treatment.

If the stray is healthy enough to take home, coax them to come to you with food or treats. A cat carrier or cardboard box with some holes in it will make for a good way to transport your rescued stray to your home.

How do I prepare for bringing a stray cat home?

When you arrive home, quickly bring them in to a small and safe room where they can get used to their new home. A bathroom is normally ideal, but a spare bedroom or office will also work. At minimum, your rescued stray will need a litter box, large food and water bowls, and something soft to sleep on.

There can be an overwhelming choice of cat foods to pick from. Higher quality wet food is generally the best option for indoor cats but a rescued stray will probably appreciate eating anything that they can get their paws on. There are lots of resources for choosing what food is right for your cat. If you already have a rescued cat at home, we recommend just picking any cat food up so they have something to eat right away.

The next step is to get your stray a check-up at the vets. Strays have the chance to pick up all sorts of medical problems while they don’t have owners. Drinking from dirty water or catching parasite-carrying prey can give them a wide range of parasites that will need treatment. Its also easy for them to get injuries while fighting other animals or exploring the area. Call up a local vet and explain your situation. Although many vets can be overbooked, they may make an exception to give a stray some immediate care.

Being stuck outside without their needs being provided for by an owner can be distressing for a cat. They will commonly hide signs of injuries or discomfort during this time out of instinct to be less of a target from natural predators. Please don’t assume that your rescued cat is okay just because the are behaving normally. Its always best to get a professional’s expertise.

How can I tell if a cat is a stray?

Its really important to check if a cat is actually a stray before deciding to keep it forever. If you find a cat looking worse for ware and missing a collar, it may just be lost from its home. Cats that don’t seem to be particularly dirty or hungry may just be outdoor cats roaming their local territory. The best way to check if a cat is a stray is to take them somewhere where they can be checked for a microchip. Your vet will be happy to do this and its an easy process. Microchips will have the cat’s owners contact details on it so they can be alerted to their missing cat.

Making a stray cat an indoor cat

Stray cats can transition to living indoors permanently, but it will take time for them to adjust to their new surroundings and schedule. Getting a stray used to life indoors is a long-term commitment. It will be up to you to make their life worth living by interacting with them through play and making the house interesting for them to live in.

Stray cats will have been used to living with humans at one point but there is no knowing what their previous life was like. They may be used to particular aspects of their lifestyle like where they to the litter box, the amount of space they have to claim as territory, and even how much they interact with their humans. Cats don’t like change but in this case they are just going to have to deal with it as you probably won’t be able to match their exact life from before.

The transition from being a stray to becoming a house may be difficult for some cats but it will really depend on the stray’s history and personality. The quickest way for a stray cat to become used to being a house cat is for them to feel safe and cared for by you. Having set feeding times throughout the day is a quick way to get a cat to see you as their carer. You can also be seen positively by your new rescue by providing entertainment through play and giving them treats. Cats that have been used to exploring the outdoors more may need more play, mental stimulation, and interaction with their owners to stay happy.

You can build up trust with a stray cat by making your own routine and giving them space until they become comfortable with you. One of the most important things that a lot of people make mistakes with is showing affection to a new cat. It can be very tempting to pet a rescued cat but, they may not be receptive of this right away. The trust may not be there for them to be comfortable with it or they may just not like being pet in general. When showing your cat affection, be patient and wait for them to come to you.

How long will it take for a stray to become comfortable?

Stray cats will eventually become comfortable living in their rescuer’s home. It will normally take several weeks for humans to earn the trust of a stray cat. However, this number really varies with strays as they could have had wildly different experiences when living apart from humans. Your cat may need months before they are happy indoors, even if you are taking the steps to make them comfortable.

Stay cats will have had a human family provide for them at some point in their life. This means that they are less likely to be aggressive towards humans like a feral cat would be. They should also understand human social cues and be receptive to interacting with humans through play and petting.

However, being a stray can be rough on some cats. Bad experiences with humans during this time may lead to them developing various behavioral problems. This will make acclimatizing a stray to their new home more difficult, but it’s certainly still achievable. You may need to protect your furniture, appliances, and plants from destruction if this is the case.

The idea of living with an unfriendly cat for months without any certainty of them becoming more friendly can be off putting to many people. This is very understandable, even reasonable for most people. Getting an indoor cat is a big commitment and if that cat is a stray there are more problems being added in to the mix.  If you are not ready for this kind of commitment, you can still help your stray get a good home by either re-homing them or giving them to a trusted local cat sanctuary.