How to get a Stray Cat to Adopt to a Domestic Life - Silly Legacy®

How to get a Stray Cat to Adopt to a Domestic Life

June 16, 2020 6 min read

How to get a Stray Cat to Adopt to a Domestic Life

We’ve all seen a stray cat at some point in our lives and have felt a certain instinct to provide them shelter or, at the very least, make sure they’re well-fed for one night. The hesitation comes from the fact that we’re afraid the cat might be completely feral and could get aggressive if brought indoors. Some hold the belief that a stray cat cannot be domesticated at all and bringing one into the home could be dangerous. Rest assured that the facts are quite different from the stories.

stray cats on couch


You can domesticate a stray cat and the process, while lengthy, is quite simple. This article will talk on the different stages of the process and what you need to do to ensure a seamless transition for the cat and a happy relationship between owners and, hopefully, pet. With a little bit of love, patience, and maybe somewaterproof sheets for pets, you’ll have a new pet cat.


While the process is simple in what you need to do, there is difficulty in the amount of time it could take for your stray cat to even come inside your house the first time, let alone be completely domesticated. You’ll have to be patient throughout and ensure that your presence around the cat is a calming one. Your stray cat is already going to be weary after having lived on the streets for so long and if you’re impatient or assertive, the cat will DEFINITELY run away.


The easiest way to gain the trust of a stray cat is to feed it. If you see a stray cat outside your house, leave a bowl of cat food in your garden. Make sure it’s distant enough from your house that the cat can still see the premises and everyone around it, but not so far that it might attract other animals in the area. Once the stray cat eats from the bowl, you’ve basically got it hooked.

Repeat the process for a few days until the time you see the stray cat wandering around your garden as if it’s waiting for the food. That’s when you know you’ve completed the first step in adopting a stray cat.


Again, the difficulty is in the amount of time you need to put in this. While it might not take a lot of time for the stray cat to come around your garden and start hanging out, it will take time until they’re comfortable with you and other members of your household. Your bowl should be at the same exact spot every day until such time the cat is comfortable with you approaching nearby and actually waits by the bowl each time. Continue this for a few days so that the cat becomes more and more familiar with you and your family.

Then you start to move the bowl ever so slowly towards the main structure of your house. A safe way to play it is to move the bowl 12 inches towards the house every 2 to 3 days. Once you’re at the very edge of the main structure of your house, you keep the bowl there until the cat starts to venture inside the house itself. Do not try to trap the cat inside the house at any point as this might spook the cat and it could end up acting aggressive.

cat in kitchen


Stray cats know nothing about litter boxes and they have never lived with restrictions when it comes to scratching. For both these things, you’ll need to start the cat off while it’s still outside. Your scratching post can be placed right next to the bowl, but make sure the litter tray is a bit far away. We all know the basics of litter trays and how to get cats to start using them. With stray cats, it’s basically just leaving the litter box outside. It’ll be able to tell the difference between grass (which they cannot use to properly dispose of their excrement) and a “mound of sand” in a box which is exactly what they’re looking for.


Once your cat starts to venture inside the house more, try feeding it indoors. Give the cat a healthy and hearty meal as it’s going to help the next step greatly. Keep the bowl of food right beside the entry point of your garden and also place a small cushion or bed for the cat right beside it. Spray a little bit of catnip on the cushion as well to get your cat interested in it. Make sure it’s only a little bit of catnip though so the cat doesn’t forget about the food completely in its euphoria. The idea is to attract your stray cat to the food and then the bed or in some combination of the two. 

If your cat takes to the cushion or bed to rest even, you’ve accomplished a great feat. Now in the cat’s mind, if it’s indoors, then it gets to enjoy the cushion and rest more comfortably. You can also slowly add some toys and other treats into the mix to give the cat the impression that staying indoors is actually safe and comfortable. The objective is to entice your cat to indoor life and toys, treats, and pampering is the best way when it comes to cats. 

In this entire process, you’ll know automatically when the cat wants you to touch it (Hint: it’ll rub against your leg). Affection shouldn’t be excessive at first and you should keep it simple with just a scratch behind the ears or a rub against the back. However, this is something that you’ll have to deal with more during the outdoor stages. By the time your cat is inside your house, it should be comfortable with affection and within a few days might even sleep beside you. 

Make sure that you don’t trap your cat inside at any point though. Your cat was an outdoor cat at some point and it will have an affinity to sit your garden, at the very least. So let the cat venture outdoors still. At this stage, it will not go far as it knows that all its food and pampering are waiting back at the house.


One of the most common images we see of cats is them sleeping beside their owner tucked snugly into the crook of their owner’s arm. Stray cats, once they’re comfortable enough with you, will also do the same and will probably be sharing your bed with you every night. However, what you need to remember (and be prepared for) is that stray cats have been in the outdoors for a long time and, as such, they are prone to get spooked easily and don’t have as disciplined a command on their bodily functions as you might see with domesticated cats. Your cat could be asleep and get startled by something as simple as an SMS and end up losing control of its bladder.

However, this problem will not persist for very long. Until it does, it might be wise to invest in somewaterproof bed sheets for pets. Usually, you would find such bedsheets to be crinkly, hot, and uncomfortable, but nowadays you can easily find ones that are well-woven and comfortable enough to easily sleep on. They won’t be replacing any of your blankets though. What you’re looking at is basically a protective cover for pets which is strikingly similar, in look and feel, to a regular bed sheet.


cat on bed


Try to get more than one and spread them on your bed, the cat’s bed, and also in places where your cat tends to sit and rest a lot. They are somewhere in the neighborhood of $50, but the size is really big, so you might end up using one sheet for multiple places. For washing, pay close attention to the manufacturer’s instructions. Whatever you do, do not use any scented detergent or fabric softener. Cats do not like these smells and a stray cat will definitely not be sleeping on such a bedsheet.


Talking to a vet could go a long way in helping you with domesticating a stray cat. Your local vet is best to ask regarding the timing of the necessary shots and it might do well to speak to them right at the beginning while your cat is still getting used to your garden. Depending on the circumstances, you might be asked to bring the cat in as soon as you’ve got her used to indoor life or it might be right at the beginning stages.

Regardless, it is vital that you speak to a vet, not only to ensure the health of the cat but also to ensure that everyone, including you and your family, is safe in the process.

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