Why you should adopt a stray cat this International Homeless Animals’ Day
On August 15th, many clinics, adoption centers, and pet care stores offer adopt-a-thons, spay and neuter drives, as well as candlelight vigils to honor the animal lives lost to human negligence.
What is International Homeless Animals’ Day?
The International Society for Animal Rights created the International Homeless Animals’ Day in 1992 to advocate on behalf of reducing the “pet overpopulation epidemic.”
What is the pet overpopulation epidemic?
Every year, nearly 8 million domestic companion animals (cats and dogs) arrive in shelters across the United States. Approximately 4 million are dogs and a little less than 3.5 million are cats.
Of this number, nearly 3 million animals are euthanized.
Less than 3 million are adopted.
Many of the animals who are brought into shelters are strays. They are homeless, feral, or lost animals without proper identification.
While there is no way to know how many stray animals there are in the U.S., for cats alone, some figures suggest that there is anywhere from 35 million to 75 million stray cats nationwide.
One reason for this is because unspayed cats can produce one or two litters a year. Each litter can consist of anywhere from four to six kittens.
It’s important to report stray cats to the local animal shelter or animal control so that the cats can be spayed or treated for illness and disease to help slow the growth of pet overpopulation in the U.S.
Why you should a stray cat this International Homeless Animals Day
If you’re looking for a pet, before consulting breeders, you should browse your local animal shelters to see if there is an animal who would be a good fit for your home.
Be it a cat or a dog, always adopt before you buy!
If you’re looking for a new member to add to the family and you feel like you don’t have adequate yard space, time, or living accommodations for a dog, I would recommend adopting a cat!
While cats are still high maintenance and require the same level of care as dogs, such as vet appointments, quality food, exercise, socialization, training, etc., they are a bit more manageable for many people.
If you’re looking at adopting cats, please don’t shy away from adopting cats who came into the shelter as strays!
Strays are less likely to be adopted because they haven’t been socialized to appreciate human attention and affection. This makes them more likely to be euthanized since they have prolonged stays in shelters.
In 2018, I adopted a stray cat who was captured and brought into the Dumb Friends League, a non-profit humane society in Denver. They spayed her, gave her medication for sores she had in her mouth, and helped her warm up a little to humans before putting her up for adoption.
Here is my story for adopting Samhain, the stray cat from Colorado
We visited the Dumb Friends League sometime in the fall of 2018 because we wanted to get another cat. We already had two brother cats and we had recently moved so our living space was large enough to accommodate a third cat.
We met with a few different cats at the shelter, but wanted to adopt Samhain because she seemed outgoing enough with her shelter mates and her card said she was a cuddly companion. While she wouldn’t let us touch her at the initial meeting, I wasn’t too worried about it because hey, if I was a cat, I wouldn’t wanna be touched by strange people either.
I also have a soft spot in my heart for animals with anxieties because I’m chock full of them too, so, you know, I get it 😉
Anyway, Samhain came home and we let her out in an unoccupied spare room that had bunk beds set up which acted as cat lounges and perches. The first night, she curled up on one of my sweatshirts I left on one of the beds and she was so exhausted from the day’s events that she allowed us to pet her for a few minutes.
Let the record show that this was the first and last time she let us pet her.
After we fed her, left, then came back, she had enough energy to hide under the bed and from then on, wouldn’t allow us to touch her.
She seemed lonely so we slowly started introducing the other cats to her. At first they hissed and cowered away from this new, small, squeaky cat that enamored by them and would incessantly follow them around.
But within a few weeks, they established a new dynamic and Samhain was accepted as part of the cat crew.
And she absolutely fell in love with Maxwell, one of the cat brothers. I’d walk into the spare room and find Samhain curled up with Maxwell, giving him lots of licks and kisses on the face.
Wherever Maxwell went, Samhain followed.
If Maxwell was eating, Samhain was eating. If Maxwell was sitting on the couch, Samhain was sitting on the couch.
She still follows him everywhere to this day.
So while she doesn’t appreciate people, she does love the other cats so I know that she’s happy living with us and we were a good fit for her.
Advice on adopting and caring for a stray cat
If you’re looking to adopt a stray cat, just know you’ll probably have a different experience and relationship with your pet than if you adopted a cat that was relinquished by its owner.
Different doesn’t mean worse, though.
Here are some of my tips for caring for a stray cat based on my own experiences.
Don’t rush the touch stuff
Samhain doesn’t like to be touched because she never developed a familiarity with it when she was younger.
Most domestic cats are constantly handled, pet, and loved on since the day they are born, but for strays like Samhain, they never had that positive human interaction growing up.
It’s for that reason that Samhain doesn’t crave physical affection from humans. While the other two cats will slither under your arm or curl up on your chest for cuddles and pets, Samhain doesn’t do that.
She doesn’t understand the point.
So don’t expect your stray cat to want to be touched or pet. Don’t get frustrated if they shy away, back up, and look at you like you’re insane when you offer them your hand.
Offer them your hand slowly every once in a while, but accept that it takes a very long time to gain their trust. The worst thing you could do is rush things, scare them, and either scar them or hurt them.
Take it slow and relish the small successes (like them brushing up against you.)
Don’t free feed
This is something that I didn’t really think about when I first adopted Samhain.
Samhain lived on the streets for her entire life and didn’t have regular access to proper nutrition. She had to hunt, scrounge, and scavenge for all of her meals.
As you can imagine, this behavior doesn’t translate well into a free-feeding environment.
The domestic brother cats we have never really had to worry about when they’re going to be fed next. They meow, paw, or have some indicatory behavior that alerts us that they want to be fed. They don’t have that strong instinct to eat as much as they can whenever food is available because they’ve never really lived in a food insecure environment.
This is why many domestic cats are okay with free feeding and won’t gorge themselves beyond comfort. Most domestic cats are fine with eating until they’re full and returning to their food when they’re hungry.
This is different for stray cats.
Samhain ate as much as she could the first few months that we had her. She was thin when we brought her home from the shelter, but before long, she was quite… rotund.
She gained a lot of weight because that survival instinct to eat as much food as possible when it was available was still running strong in her mind.
It’s taken her these two years to finally get the hang of eating only until she’s full and thankfully she’s lost a lot of that weight. Along with that, I’ve also made adjustments to when and how I feed the cats to help her along.
So this is something to keep in mind when you adopt a stray cat. This may even impact how you feed and nourish the animals that you already have.
Try to have other cats so your new pet is not alone
Samhain was very outgoing when we saw her with other cats at the shelter. She didn’t interact with humans as much but she did just fine with other cats.
When we brought her home, all she wanted to do was hang out with the brother cats.
If you’re thinking of adopting a stray, try to have another cat or two so it has someone of the same species that it can befriend. I honestly don’t think Samhain would have been a good fit for our house if we didn’t have other cats.
I think she would have been too scared to open up in the ways that she has and would have had a very hard time acclimating to the moves we’ve since made since we got her.
While this is definitely a case-by-case basis, remember that strays probably only safely interacted with other cats throughout their lives.
Everything and everyone else was a source of fear.
This can carry into the home as well, so think of having another cat to help integrate the new addition into the family and show your new cat how to be a pet.
Prepare for your stray cat to bring home some street behaviors
Samhain lived on the streets and so did what she could to get comfortable.
She didn’t have fluffy beds, pillows, or cat towers to lounge on, and instead had to settle for more natural means. Think dirt, grass, twigs, and the like.
One of her favorite spots to lay in the house is in the potted plants near the window. She likes to lay there and watch the birds out in the front yard.
There was also a stretch of time when she would use the bathroom in the potted plants, but that was only for a brief stretch before she realized how comfortable they were to lay in.
While your potted plants may be important to you, realize that your new pet is keen to explore their new space. Your home becomes their entire world.
They may chew on, scratch, or lay in your plants. If that’s not something you accept, add chopsticks in the soil to deter them from messing around in the soil.
Also, keep in mind what plants are poisonous for cats.
Appreciate the quirks and the personality of your new pet, even if it’s not what you’re expecting
While stray cats probably won’t be the cuddly, sit on your chest, paw at your face to wake you up type of cat that you desire, they still have endearing personalities that make them fantastic and interesting pets.
Samhain doesn’t like to be touched, but she loves to observe.
When I’m standing in the bathroom doing my morning routine, there will be times where she jumps on the counter or sits on the floor to watch me. If I leave the bathroom door open when I’m using the bathroom, she’ll sit and watch me.
When I move into the kitchen, she’ll jump on the cabinets and look down at me while I wash dishes or cook.
She’s inquisitive, curious, and explorative.
She’s impervious to cat nip, laser toys, and Temptations cat treats, but loves hair ties more than anything else.
Samhain has a personality all her own which makes me happy that she has a house where she’s comfortable being herself.
As your new cat gets more comfortable with you, they’ll reveal more and more of themselves to you. Appreciate and love the little things, even if it’s not what you originally wanted.
Make sure your cat is tagged and collared
This is probably one of the most important (though obvious) pieces of advice that I can give to anyone who adopts a stray cat, or any stray animal for that matter.
If your cat gets out of your home somehow, it is highly unlikely that you’ll ever see them again.
They know where to hide, where to run, and how to survive in the outdoors. There has been a time or two when one of the brothers has slipped out, but has always returned within the day because he’s hungry or scared.
I can’t say with confidence that Samhain would ever return if she got out.
This is why it’s very important that your stray cat is properly collared and tagged with readable and recent contact information.
Etsy has a fantastic selection of personalized tags that you can order straight to your door. Also, review this guide for how to choose the proper collar for your cat.
With all that being said, adopting Samhain has been one of the most interesting pet experiences I’ve ever had. It has its challenges, but it also has its rewards.
There’s a trust, a bond, and an understanding between Samhain and myself which is rich and ever growing. Even though I can’t show her love how I show the other cats, I know she appreciates the home she has and I’m fortunate enough to be able to give her that home.
If you’re looking for a new pet, please consider adopting a stray cat from your local animal shelter!