How to Attract a Stray Cat to Your Home

It’s happened: a horribly skinny kitten has showed up in your backyard, meowing for food. Or a pregnant stray appears on your front lawn. Whatever the reason, you need to attract a stray cat to your home. Here’s how.

photo by the author

The first thing you must do is check your local ordinances. In some areas, it is illegal to feed any outdoor cats unless you are a registered feral cat colony caretaker. As a colony caretaker, you must partake in T-N-R, a way to help reduce the population of feral, stray and unowned cats. Dedicated people attract cats, trap them, bring them to a vet to be neutered/spayed, then return them back where the cat was trapped. If animal control simply caught the cats, many of them would simply be put down, as feral cats are basically wild animals that are unadoptable and incapable of living with humans. With T-N-R, the cats get to live, leaving space for adoptable pets in shelters, but less kittens are born each year. If it is illegal to feed stray cats and your ambition was to attract a lot of cats, there is nothing you can do short of becoming a T-N-R colony caretaker or risk being appropriately punished. Remember to look closely at your ordinances to make absolutely sure exactly what is prohibited. However, if a cat wanders close to your home, close to people, during the daytime, the cat may be a lost pet, even without a collar. If you provide food only to this animal, there shouldn’t be a problem.

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If everything works out, you can begin. Place a bowl of food and a bowl of clean water in a place on your property near where you have seen the cat. Make sure it is not too close to a busy area where people constantly appear. Also provide some shelter and keep both the food and the water fresh each day. You may want to remove the food before dusk or you will end up feeding racoons and other night creatures instead. However, some shy strays or feral cats only come out to eat during the night. You may choose to purchase wet cat food if you wish to keep food out 24/7. Once you discover the cat is coming to your food, watch the time of day it comes to eat, and remove the food after the cat finishes eating. Then, gradually begin to move the food and water bowls closer to your home, about every other day, until you are feeding that cat right by your door. Remember, this is a very gradual process to be done over many, many days. You may wish to stand nearby and watch each day for the cat to become accustomed to your presence. Sometimes a cat may willingly come right up to you. In this case, you won’t need to feed him over several days to gain his trust. Simply feed him then and there and stay nearby.

photo by the author

Once the cat knows you provide food and is reliably coming each day to eat (or even lives on your property) you have two choices. One is to use a human trap to capture the cat. The other is to prop open your door and place the bowls inside your home, right by the door. Stand inside but a little farther off. Leave the door open whenever the cat is nearby, and he will eventually come inside especially if you feed him there. To borrow a humane trap, contact your local SPCA, animal control or organization that deals with feral cats. Be sure to put up ‘Found Cat’ posters and post about the cat on sites like Craigslist, as well as advertise in local newspapers, pet stores, groomers, and vet offices.

photo by the author

If you follow these steps, you most likely will attract at least one local stray- sometimes even a whole colony of ferals! You may wish to become part of T-N-R even if your local ordinances do not mandate it. It helps save the lives of thousands of kittens and cats in your community.


photo by the author

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User Comments
  1. PSingh1990

    On September 10, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Nice Share.


  2. LCM Linda

    On September 12, 2010 at 2:18 am

    I don’t like the idea of using trap, it’s better to let the cat chooses by herself to come in or not. Interesting post. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Val Mills

    On September 13, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Here in New Zealand neighborhood cats wander freely outside. Once we found out a nearby neighbor was feeding our cat as she thought it was a stray. I enjoyed your article.

  4. Kinga

    On September 13, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    LCM Linda- I agree that letting the cat come in on its own is better, but in some circumstances (for example TNR) a humane trap is the best option. Thanks for the comments!

  5. babyishinilej

    On September 18, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Nice post.very informative.

  6. Goodselfme

    On September 27, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    You composed this well and gave much detail.thank you. I feed ferel cats. I have 2 of my own and 4 strays I feed.

  7. Cannon21

    On October 20, 2010 at 4:51 pm


  8. cat hater

    On February 15, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    I hate cats!!!!! :(

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