A Guide on How to Adopt a Stray Cat

Taking in a cat off the street is a very kind thing to do, but you also need to think about it beforehand, and make sure you can take on the responsibility involved.
A Guide on How to Adopt a Stray Cat
Francisco María García

Written and verified by the lawyer Francisco María García.

Last update: 22 December, 2022

According to the research, about 110,000 cats and dogs are abandoned in Spain every year. If you want to adopt a stray cat in order to do your part in helping this problem, you’ll have to follow a few steps.

Adopting a stray cat: not a spontaneous decision

Firstly, this needs to be a well-thought-out, responsible decision. A stray cat needs help, but it’s also going to be extremely mistrustful of humans. This is especially true if the cat has been abused, and may have also undergone trauma that has made them become aggressive.

If you want a cat but adoption seems like too much responsibility, you can always foster one while a shelter or organization finds a more permanent home and family for them.

stray cat

Use extreme caution if you’re going to try to take a stray cat home. It would almost be more surprising if they didn’t try to bite or scratch you. A soft tone of voice and tasty treat are both extremely helpful in this situation. It can also be good idea to ask a vet, shelter, or expert for help. You’ll also need some kind of carrier to bring the cat to your home safely. 


Your first moments at home with your rescue cat are extremely important. Open doors and give them a good amount of space so they can move around, at least at first. Let them walk through all the rooms. Doing this will help you gain their trust and make them feel safe.

It’s also important not to force the cat to come out of an unexpected hiding place. Whether under a chair or a piece of furniture, this is a common behavior in cats, and you should respect this behavior.

Speaking with them should also help calm them down and gain their trust. Every so often, spend time to get used to you — their new owner(s) — and your friends. For the first few days, leave some food and water out, and a litter box in whatever room the cat has chosen. Afterward, you can decide what part of the house you want them to occupy.

What if you have other cats?

If you already have other cats, things can get a bit more complicated. The most important thing here will be their own personalities. Unfortunately, most cats are naturally mistrustful to begin with, especially if the cat you chose to adopt is a stray.

A carrier is a huge help during the first encounter. Leave the stray cat inside the carrier and put it in a central room in the house, somewhere all other cats can enter. They’ll start by sniffing, “introducing” themselves, and get familiar with each other in their own ways. Plus, being in the carrier will help the stray feel safe and comfortable when meeting the other cats.

If the encounter goes well, you can let the stray cat out and let the cats inspect each other normally. Of course, you should still stick around to watch over them.

Other tips on how to adopt a stray cat

stray cat sitting down
  • Taking in a stray cat can be very difficult. It’s best to get help from an expert, vet, or shelter.
  • Although it might seem like they have no owner, it’s hard to be sure, so it’s always best to check. 
  • It could also have some kind of disease, like worms. Take the stray to the vet for a check-up as soon as possible to make sure they don’t have any conditions, fleas, etc…
  • If you have other cats at home, they could also end up transmitting something to them. Start by keeping them separated until you’re 100% sure it’s healthy.
  • Do everything you can to make this new pet feel completely at home. This will be a big help in getting them used to their new environment.

So, now that you know more about how to adopt a stray cat, you can make a thoughtful, responsible decision about whether to do it or not. Still interested? Adopt one!

The contents of My Animals are written for informational purposes. They can't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.