Stray Cats in the Neighborhood

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Is it OK to assume ownership of neighborhood stray cat?

I've always liked cats but, growing up, my parents wouldn't get one (wouldn't you know my sister got one after I married and moved away)? Then I marry someone who is allergic to them and so is my son. Nevertheless, they both have shown an interesting capacity to adapt if exposed gradually. So anyhow, about a month ago this male Tabby shows up on our porch, real friendly and very clean/healthy (to the untrained eye, at least). Bottom line is I like him, he likes us (incl. my 4 yr old son whom Tiger tolerates VERY well), my son has taken to him, he runs in our house at every opportunity, and even my wife now says Tiger is at the door and lets him in. Tiger has no ID tags on him, I've watched him and he just wanders the neighborhood looking for a place to hang out if we won't let him in. None of my surrounding neighbors claim or recognize him, in fact they've come to me asking Is this your cat? He sure is friendly, just came right in my house . . . There are no telephone pole signs saying cat missing, blah blah blah. So, we'd like to keep him or at least feed him and give him a place to sleep at night (since he comes to us every day/night). What would you cat-owners out there advise or suggest re: the rightfulness of keeping or just caring for the cat (he just seems too healthy to be a stray), having him checked by a vet, training as to the rules of living here, feeding, etc.? Thanks. Jonathan

I'd say if the cat has no tags, no one in the neighborhood knows him, and your family is happy to adopt him, then that is what you should do. He may have simply been abandoned by someone who could no longer care for him for whatever reason. We had a similar situation about a month ago where a 4-month old kitten started sleeping on our doorstep and wanted to come in. We gave him some food, and never found anyone who knew him. So after a week we took him in, took him to the vet to check him out, get shots, neutered, all that, and now he's part of the family!  Michael

Here is some input from an owner of 4 cats, 2 of which showed up in our lives, much like Tiger did. As to the rightfulness of keeping or just caring for the cat, I feel that if you have been looking around for signs and haven't found any, and the cat had no collar with ID, then you are fine to keep/care for the cat. You can always check at some nearby vet's offices for postings, and even put one up yourself. If after several weeks there are no responses or signs, then consider him yours, in my opinion.

DEFINITELY have him checked by a vet, because there are certain diseases you may not feel comfortable dealing with (Feline leukemia comes to mind), and you want to be sure there is nothing else going on with him. I'm not really sure what you mean by the rules of living there....I would suggest that you not keep him as an outdoor cat. My cats are indoor/outdoor, and frankly I wish they were indoor at this point. It is safer. But I do feel strongly about outdoor cats; they just aren't meant to live outdoors 100% of the time. Cats train pretty easily, especially when it comes to litter boxes. Also I have been pretty successful at training them not to scratch furniture by providing them an alternative post. My cats all adapted very well to my rules, and respond well to no. They may not be as trainable as dogs, but don't let their aloofness fool you! Good luck. I'm obviously a cat lover and find them to be great family pets. Hilary

Considering the cat does not have tags and neighbors don't seem to own it, I think it's legitimate for you to get involved for the sake of the cat. Its chances of surviving will greatly improve if you take it to the vet and offer it food and possibly shelter. There is a good chance the cat was dumped by someone or is permanently separated from its people family. Sometimes cats just decide to move out -- for reasons known only to the cat -- and there's not much its owners can do to convince it to move back home. While you are at the vet, I would suggest you ask him/her for suggestions on dealing with the allergy issue. Even if you're not sure how committed you are to this cat, a trip to the vet would be a great gesture, provided it isn't a financial hardship. --Betty (long-time cat person)

I was in a similar situation once concerning a neighborhood cat who I thought was homeless. What I did was make a collar out of a 3/4 wide peice of white elastic (relatively cheap and found at any fabric or craft store). You can sew or pin the ends together. With indelible ink (a sharpie) I wrote on the elastic owner call ______ my phone number. Well, wouln't you know it, the skinny little guy did have an owner so I saved myself the emotional attachment as well as vet bills for checkups. If this one doesn't work out for you the right one will come along. Sounds like you're about to finally get yourself one, though. Congratulations. Betty

Put the cat on the Advantage flea program right away.  Dorothy

I say feed it, love it, take it to the vet for neutering (or to see if it is already neutered) and for vaccinations. The cat wouldn't be making your home his if he had another one. There are so many homeless animals, it's wonderful for someone to take one in. Sometimes people move, and the cats run away and return to the old neighborhood. Cats are very territorial. You'll probably never find out the story behind this cat showing up. If it belongs to someone else, which is unlikely given the facts you describe, the owners will appreciate your interim care. Of course, you will have grown attached to the cat, but perhaps you can maintain a relationship with it--and the owners. We've had several cats who make the rounds of the neighborhood and seem to belong to no one. Some are too feral to adopt. Others fit right into the family. In some cases, my next-door nghbr and I have shared ownership and costs by feeding and neutering strays and giving them as much access to our houses as our existing cats will tolerate. A cat on the streets doesn't have much of a life expectancy, so I applaud whatever you do to care for this one. Linda

If someone is allergic to cats in the household I would highly recommend not having one in your home. At first it my seem that they can tolerate the cat very well, but repeated exposure to a know allergen may cause a flare up of the allergy. The flare up may include eczema and for some children it is considered a trigger for asthma. You may want to discuss the introduction with an allergist.  C