How to Win the Trust of a Stray Cat

Updated on July 31, 2019
LCDWriter profile image

L.C. has experience working with stray cats and managing their health and overall wellness.

Feeding a stray cat is the best way to start gaining its trust.
Feeding a stray cat is the best way to start gaining its trust. | Source

If there is a stray cat hanging around your home or work, you may want to know what you can do to help.

It is important to help the cat—contrary to popular belief, cats can not live well on their own outside.

They are domesticated animals. If left on their own, they will likely succumb to an early death from disease, starvation, or injury.

You can gain a stray cat’s trust, but by following these four steps and practicing patience, you too can help save a life.

Step 1. Feed The Cat

Your first priority should be giving the cat access to food and water in as safe of an environment as possible. The best way to gain a cat’s trust is to give them food.

The old adage, “if you feed a stray cat it will stay around,” is only true in the sense that the reason it stays around is that it is hungry and you are finally giving it what it needs.

Cats depend on humans for care, and even stray cats need food, water, and shelter. Here's how you should feed a stray cat:

  • Start with a bowl of dry food.
  • Leave it out and step far away. Wait quietly.
  • If the cat is hungry, he or she will tentatively come forward and eat.

When you are feeding the cat for the first time, don’t try to move in closer. Letting the cat know that it has access to food or water without threat is the first step to having it trust you.

If time is not important (if the cat is not in an area of major danger), then continue to offer food to the cat every day.

Cats are very wary and have a strong sense of danger in new situations.
Cats are very wary and have a strong sense of danger in new situations. | Source

Step 2. Move Closer and Talk to the Cat

While you may feel silly doing it, talking to the cat, without approaching it, is important. Talk to the animal quietly and calmly.

You may want to do this while sitting at a distance from the cat or while he or she is eating.

As the cat realizes that you are not a threat, it will get more comfortable with you being nearer to it—so try to step back fewer steps with each feeding.

Step 3. Establish Trust

Finally, you need to allow the cat to approach you. If the cat has been timid, don’t try to reach out and pet it. Allow the cat to come to you.

Eventually, the cat may allow you to pet or even pick it up. But it is important, again, not to move too quickly. When gaining a stray cat’s trust and affection, it is sometimes two steps forward, two steps back.

A cat working to trust you may eventually come and rub your legs or sit near you, but just out of reach. Don’t try to force the relationship. It will develop over time.

Any stray cat needs to receive vet care as soon as possible.
Any stray cat needs to receive vet care as soon as possible. | Source

Step 4. Get the Cat Vet Care

Whether the cat is going to live outdoors or you plan to take it inside (preferable), the cat needs to get to a vet for examination, vaccinations, and spaying or neutering. It can also be checked for a microchip to see if it is someone's lost pet.

If the cat has been outdoors, he or she may have been exposed to a host of diseases. The vet can test for communicable diseases such as FLVS and FIV. The cat also needs to get vaccinations such as rabies and distemper.

Whether the cat is going to live indoors or out, he or she needs to be spayed or neutered. Countless numbers of cats are euthanized each year simply because there are more cats that need homes than people willing to take them in.

Spaying or neutering will also cut down on the cat’s tendency to roam and fight, ultimately keeping it safe. Even an indoor cat can slip outside and reproduce.

Dos and Don'ts of Gaining a Stray Cat's Trust

Talk quietly to the cat
Try to approach a cat that is hissing or angry
Offer canned food
Leave food out overnight
Immediately take to vet if captured
Leave outdoor cats to fend for themselves

What to Do If You Need to Capture the Cat Sooner

Sometimes you may need to capture a stray cat sooner than it is ready. If the cat is in a dangerous situation, here are two ways to capture them:

  • If it is very hungry, you may be able to get a large cat carrier and place food in the back of the carrier. This method works very well for younger cats, especially. Once the cat goes in the carrier, you can quickly shut and lock the door.
  • If the cat is still wary, your best bet is to rent or purchase a humane trap. Many animal shelter and rescue groups will rent the traps to you. Sometimes vets have them as well. The trap is easy to use. Place food at the far end of the trap. When the cat steps in far enough, a trigger plate will cause the door to close.

Note: Once the cat has been caught, he or she needs to be transported to the vet as soon as possible.

If the cat is young, he or she will probably be easier to capture.
If the cat is young, he or she will probably be easier to capture. | Source

What to Do Next

Once you have captured a stray cat, there are a few things you can do, depending on the cat and the situation at hand.

Domesticate a Semi-Feral Cat

Sometimes, even semi-feral cats can be domesticated. If possible, the best place for the cat is indoors. You can place the cat in a secluded room and give it several weeks to months to get used to being indoors and to the house.

If the cat has trouble with the litter box, a simple solution is to put a layer of dirt on the top of the litter. A cat outdoors is used to going in the dirt. This will help to teach it how to use the litter box. After a few days, you can return to straight litter.

Release a Feral Cat into a Colony

If outside is the only option, there are sometimes established feral cat colonies where spayed or neutered cats live and volunteers feed and take care of them. Although the situation is not always ideal and can be controversial, there are valid reasons for these colonies.

Well-maintained colonies pose very little problem for the area. It has also been shown that removing feral cats from an area doesn’t actually fix the problem. Often another group will just move in. So maintaining a healthy community actually can be better for the environment and the cats.

Cats that live in feral cat colonies often have an ear that is notched or cut by a vet.  This lets caretakers know that the cat has been vaccinated and spayed or neutered.
Cats that live in feral cat colonies often have an ear that is notched or cut by a vet. This lets caretakers know that the cat has been vaccinated and spayed or neutered. | Source

Take Care of an Outdoor Cat in Your Own Backyard

You can also take care of the outdoor cat yourself. Remember that the cat does need to be spayed or neutered and receive its vaccinations. But if the outdoors is the only option, you can still make sure the cat has food and water and place to shelter during bad weather.

Remember to take up any extra food in the evening to prevent scavengers such as raccoons or possums to move in and eat the food (and possibly harm the cat).

Remember to Be Patient

Stray cats take time to adjust to those trying to help them. They aren't used to people, and any defensive behavior stems from fear. With patience, you can gain the cat’s trust and even affection.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • profile image

        Amy Smith 

        7 months ago

        I have recently adopted a feral cat and i feed it every day and leave it water and take care of it.

      • profile image


        12 months ago

        So there's this stray cat who comes into my garden, I've fed her and shell come right close to you but won't let you touch her. We think she has been mistreated in the past so wants love but is also too scared. How can I get her to trust me and feel safe and loved?

      • profile image 

        19 months ago

        Hi, I have a stray kitten on the street of my neighborhood she came up to me yesterday and meowed and me softly she rubbed against me too you I fed her and gave her water but she won't drink what should I do?

      • profile image

        Patricia Anne O'brien 

        19 months ago

        Thank you for your response and information on my ???'s

      • LCDWriter profile imageAUTHOR

        L C David 

        6 years ago from Florida

        You may want to call a rescue group and borrow a trap to try to get the kitten inside before the storm hits. Best of luck.

      • profile image

        winter savior 

        6 years ago

        There is a kitten in danger of a winter storm. I hope this information works to save him from hypothermia.

      • LCDWriter profile imageAUTHOR

        L C David 

        7 years ago from Florida

        iguidenetwork--she has obviously picked you guys as her family! Sounds like she is friendly. Do you plan to keep her or will you try to find a home for her with someone else? If she is that friendly she will probably make a great pet for someone. Cats need people! Glad you are feeding her. Good luck.

      • iguidenetwork profile image


        7 years ago from Austin, TX

        Now there's a cat in our garage that is staying all day long. She's not apprehensive whenever we go out of the house, she's always meowing. We give her food sometimes. She feels as if she's our pet. There are some cats like that when they've gotten used to staying in one place.

      • LCDWriter profile imageAUTHOR

        L C David 

        7 years ago from Florida

        Thanks moonlake. It's so nice to know how many good people there are out there caring for cats and other animals in their time of need.

      • moonlake profile image


        7 years ago from America

        We have two strays living in our house. Here we also had to make sure they were warm before they would come in our house. Thank goodness we had a barn they could go in. Voted up.

      • LCDWriter profile imageAUTHOR

        L C David 

        7 years ago from Florida

        Thanks for stopping by Cresentmoon!

      • Cresentmoon2007 profile image


        7 years ago from Caledonia, MI

        Very useful information here. I loved it. Thanks for sharing.

      • LCDWriter profile imageAUTHOR

        L C David 

        7 years ago from Florida

        Lucky Cats: Thanks so much for this. I care so much about these babies and currently have five strays that I've taken in---my oldest is 15 and coincidentally, Lady Guinevere is named Merlin. The last one I caught using the methods described in this hub. Thanks to both of you also for caring about those innocents who didn't deserve the fate they got.

      • Lady Guinevere profile image

        Debra Allen 

        7 years ago from West By God

        I have a cat that I have been feedimng for about a year now and still as soon as we look at each other he takes off. I call him Merlin because I know not where he comes or where he goes. He just seems to appear for nowhere. I do with that I could at least get a picture of him to send you but not yet. I talk to him but he is so far way when I do. He does actually run away now he kind of mosies.

        Great tips here in this hub and I will share it.

      • Lucky Cats profile image


        7 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

        Liked on FB, Too. Thank you.

      • Lucky Cats profile image


        7 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

        Wonderful instructional hub about helping the feral and dumped, abandoned cat population. I love that you've taken the time to teach us how to properly introduce, handle and care for cat(s) who show up. You've written a loving and comprehensive hub, LCDWriter, and I thank you for it. This is very important information....I wish everyone would take the time to help the lost kitties who need our help. This is a life mission for my friend Al and, seeing this hub warms my heart and gives me hope. Thank you. UP Useful Awesome Interesting and Beautiful because you care!!


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)