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Adopting a Stray Cat

December 22, 2022

Have you decided to adopt a stray? Many of our patients are former strays that are now beloved family pets. However, going from living on the streets to being a lapcat can be a difficult transition for some kitties. You’ll need to ease Fluffy in to her new lifestyle. A Grundy, IL vet offers some tips on this below.

Keep Kitty Separate

At first, put Fluffy in a quiet area with all the kitty necessities. This will give her a safe place to adjust and settle in. A spare bedroom or bathroom is ideal. Don’t let her interact with other pets and/or young children until your vet has given the official all-clear.

Veterinary Care

Speaking of vets, one of the first things you’ll want to do is make an appointment. Even if your feline friend appears healthy, she’ll still need a thorough exam, as well as vaccinations and parasite control. We also recommend having Fluffy scanned for a microchip, in case there’s a family somewhere missing her. Spay/neuter surgery should also be on the agenda for intact kitties, though that doesn’t have to happen at the first appointment.

Stray Vs. Feral

While strays often settle in very well, feral cats are a different story. Stray and feral cats are the same physically, but are worlds apart mentally and emotionally. Strays have been socialized, and are often quite friendly. Some are former pets themselves. Ferals, however, are wild. They can make wonderful barn cats, but don’t usually make good house pets: they may feel uncomfortable indoors, and may not use the litterbox. Ultimately, it depends on the kitty. Be realistic, and ask your vet for advice. 


We recommend keeping all kitties inside. This goes double for former strays, as they’re at high risk of running off. Offer Fluffy kitty luxuries, like cat towers, beds, catnip and toys, and play with her every day. It may not take your furball long to realize that being a pampered pet is much better than fending for herself!


Our feline buddies are all unique individuals. Some kitties will immediately hop into your lap, while others may hide for months. Don’t force things: just let Fluffy adjust on her own schedule. Be patient, and offer great care. You’ll have that motor going in no time!

Our Advice on Adopting a Stray Cat in 2024

What are the first steps to take after adopting a stray cat?

After adopting a stray cat, the first steps include providing a separate, quiet area with all necessities for the cat to adjust, such as food, water, a litter box, and a comfortable resting place. Next, schedule a veterinary appointment for a thorough examination, vaccinations, parasite control, and a microchip scan to ensure the cat hasn’t been reported missing. Also, discuss spay/neuter surgery if the cat is intact. These initial steps are crucial for the health and well-being of the cat and for a smooth transition to its new home.

What’s the difference between a stray and a feral cat?

The main difference between a stray and a feral cat lies in their level of socialization and comfort with humans. Stray cats have been socialized to humans at some point and often show friendliness toward people; they may have been pets at one time. Feral cats, on the other hand, have had little to no human contact and typically exhibit wild behavior, feeling uncomfortable and often fearful around humans. Strays are more likely to adapt to living indoors as pets, while feral cats usually do not.

How long should I keep the cat separate from other pets?

Keep the newly adopted cat separate from other pets until receiving veterinary approval, typically after a comprehensive health exam, vaccinations, and parasite control are completed. This period also allows the cat to adjust to its new environment without added stress. The separation time can vary but usually lasts a few days to a week, depending on health assessments and the cat’s comfort level. Gradual introductions should follow, monitored closely to ensure all pets adjust well to each other.

What are some signs a stray cat might be scared or stressed?

Signs a stray cat might be scared or stressed include hiding or attempting to escape, decreased appetite or refusal to eat, excessive grooming, vocalizations like hissing or growling, and a lack of interest in interaction. Physical signs can also include flattened ears, dilated pupils, and a puffed-up tail. It’s essential to give a stray cat space and time to adjust to their new environment, minimizing stressors and gradually building trust with gentle, patient interactions to help them feel safe and secure.

What kind of food should I feed a stray cat?

When feeding a stray cat, start with a high-quality commercial cat food, opting for wet food if possible, as it provides hydration along with nutrition. Initially, choose easily digestible foods to avoid upsetting the cat’s stomach, which may be sensitive from a varied diet while living outdoors. Ensure fresh water is always available. If the cat appears undernourished or has specific health concerns, consult a veterinarian for dietary recommendations that address its individual needs, ensuring a balanced diet that supports its recovery and overall health.

As your Grundy, IL animal clinic, we’re here to help! Contact us anytime!

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