Most stray cats come visiting in search of food, shelter, a female cat, or out of curiosity. But if you subscribe to superstition, a feline visitor could also mean anything from fertility to death.
We put together a quick guide to help you to understand what it means when a stray cat comes to your house. We cover topics including:
- Identifying a stray cat
- Reasons a stray cat might come to your home
- What to do when a stray cat comes to your home
Identifying a Stray Cat
If a cat comes to your home, do not assume it is a stray, it could also be a lost, an abandoned, or feral cat. The type of cat you are dealing with determines what your next step should be.
If a cat shows up at your home, it may be a lost cat.
A cat is most likely a lost cat and not a stray if:
- They have a collar on.
- They look well taken care of (shiny coat, trimmed claws, healthy weight, etc.)
There are a couple of reasons why a lost cat may show up at your home:
- If you recently moved in, the cat may have lived with the family who owned your house previously.
- A lost cat may have been away from home for a while and come to your home because it was close.
- If you leave food outside for your cat or have a heavy population of chipmunks, etc. a lost cat may choose your home for the food supply!
A cat that shows up at your home might also be abandoned – something common if you live in a rural area.
A cat is most likely an abandoned cat if:
- You find a crate, blanket, toy, etc. nearby. Sometimes people abandon their animals with “comforts from home” because they think it will make them feel more comfortable when left alone.
- The cat isn’t afraid to approach you and seeks affection from you.
- You have seen the cat living with neighbors, but the neighbors have now moved, and you still see the cat around. They may still be waiting at their previous home and waiting for their family to come home.
- Neighbors may tell you that the cat is abandoned.
Reasons why an abandoned cat may show up at your home include:
- They were abandoned beside your property.
- They are used to being cared for and now have no one to meet their needs, but they are hungry/cold/hot/afraid, etc.
- You have a cat, and that makes them feel comfortable enough to approach.
A cat that appears at your home might also be feral.
A cat is most likely feral if:
- They are exceptionally skittish and will not let you approach them.
- The cat does not purr or meow.
- The cat appears with a group of other cats that always seem to be together.
- The cat keeps a schedule and shows up at the same time every day.
Reasons why a feral cat may show up at your home include:
- There is a food source. For example, you may have been leaving food on the deck for your cat.
- You live close to an area that feral cats frequent, and they have strayed onto your property.
A cat that shows up at your home could also be a stray.
A stray cat may be lost, abandoned, or have been born homeless. The difference between a stray and feral cat is that a feral cat is “wild.”
A stray cat may approach you, or they might be slightly skittish, but not as much as a feral cat.
Reasons a Stray Cat Might Come to Your House
What causes a stray cat to just show up at your house? It likely has something to do with food, shelter, curiosity, or the presence of your cat. There are some, however, who believe that it is a superstitious sign.
Perhaps the most obvious reason for a stray cat to show up at your home is that they are hungry. It may be that you have been leaving food out for your cat, and it lured in the stray, or you may be a convenient stop for a starving cat.
Signs that a stray cat may be hungry include:
- A high-pitched cry.
- Rooting through garbage.
- Stealing from your cat’s food outside.
- Vigorously rub against your legs.
- Constantly following you around while crying.
If a stray cat comes to your house and seems hungry, observe them for a few moments to assess whether it is safe to go near them. Look for any signs of illness or disease.
Feeding a Cat That Shows Up At Your Home
If you do feed a cat that shows up at your door, only give them a small amount of food. Starving animals that eat too much at once can become very ill and succumb to refeeding syndrome.
When an animal is starved to the point of emaciation, its body’s metabolism shifts as it attempts to survive. The body doesn’t process nutrients as it once did – now using fat and protein for fuel rather than carbohydrates.
Offering food to a starved or emaciated animal reintroduces carbohydrates to a body that is no longer optimized for carbohydrate breakdown.
Offering large amounts of food overwhelms the system and causes the body to release large amounts of insulin, and the cells pick up large amounts of phosphorus. This process depletes levels of phosphorus and causes hypophosphatemia which can eventually lead to death.
If an emaciated cat shows up at your home, it is always best to ask a veterinarian for guidance.
A stray cat may also show up at your home looking for shelter if they have an injury or if the weather is hazardous.
A Cat With Injury Seeking Shelter
If you notice a stray cat around your yard and it looks injured, try to assess the injury from afar.
- Does it appear to be a “normal” cat with a physical injury?
- Is the cat acting usually or aggressively?
- Is the injury serious?
If there is no risk to you and you can lure the cat closer by gaining their trust, carefully pick them up in a large towel and swaddle them (not too tightly.) Swaddling will keep you safe and the cat’s injury covered while you take them to the vet right away.
If the cat poses a possible risk or you cannot get them to come closer, set up a catch and release trap. If you trap the cat, you can safely take them to the vet or rescue organization that can help to treat their wounds.
A Cat Seeking Shelter in Inclement Weather
If the cat does not appear to have an injury, but there are severe weather conditions outdoors, they may just be looking for somewhere safe to curl up and ride out the bad weather.
A stray cat may seek shelter because
- It is too hot outdoors!
- It has been raining, and the streets are getting flooded.
- There is a hurricane, tornado, or similar extreme weather event.
- It is too cold outdoors!
In any of these circumstances, there are three ways to approach the situation.
- Firstly, you might set up a cooled or heated cat house in your yard where the cat can seek relief.
- Secondly, if you can get close enough to the cat to pick them up safely or if they will come into your home, allow them to come in and stay safe from the weather outdoors.
Note: It is best to let the cat into a warm spot in the garage or a bathroom where you can separate them from other pets or young children until you can have them seen by a vet.
- Thirdly, if you have no idea what you can do to help, call someone who does. Try local cat rescue groups first, as they are less likely to wind up euthanizing the cat!
Your Unspayed Female Cat
One reason for male cats coming to your house is that you have a female cat that is not spayed. Males can sense the pheromones of a female cat in the heat for up to one mile!
While your female is in heat, the chances are that you are not just going to have one stray male cat mewling at your door. In fact, your backyard may become a favorite spot of many strays or “outdoor” cats in search of love. Unfortunately, this can also lead to catfights between toms.
If you do have a female cat that is not yet spayed, consider having her spayed. At the very least, keep her indoors while in estrus so that you don’t wind up adding to pet overpopulation!
A stray cat may also show up at your property out of curiosity.
If a cat is born homeless, it may be curious about you, your family, your home, or your pets.
There are also many superstitions about cats showing up at your home.
In Asian culture:
- A polydactyl cat showing up at your door brings good fortune.
According to Buddhist belief:
- The soul of a spiritual person finds its resting place in the body of a cat to live out the remainder of its natural life. Buddhists believe that this allows the person access to Paradise.
According to Chinese superstition:
- A black cat is a sign of poverty and hunger.
- In Czechoslovakia, they believe that cats are a fertility symbol.
- In Iceland, Jolakotturinn, the Christmas cat, prowls throughout the countryside and eats those who did not prepare for the cold winter weather with new winter clothes.
- Hindus believe that cats symbolize childbirth and fertility.
According to Indian superstition:
- Grey cats are a sign of luck.
- If a cat follows you as you are leaving your home, your family will experience a windfall.
- If a cat wipes its ear more than twice, you should expect guests.
- It is lucky to see three black cats grouped.
- Seeing a single black cat when entering a home, village, or city is a bad omen.
- Indonesians believe that a wet cat causes rain.
- According to Irish superstition, if a black cat crosses your path in moonlight, it is a precursor of death in an epidemic.
- According to Japanese superstition, tortoise-shell and white cats are good luck – especially males.
- Black cats ward off evil and keep it from coming into your home.
- A strange black cat on your porch is a harbinger of prosperity.
- If you see a white cat at night, it’s unlucky.
What To Do When a Stray Cat Comes to Your House
So, what should you do if a stray cat comes to your home?
Look For Their Owners
The first thing you need to do when a cat shows up at your home is to make sure that it is a stray and not someone’s cat. Look for a collar and ID tag, but if there is no tag, go to the vet or local shelter to scan for a microchip.
If there is no microchip, keep an eye out in your neighborhood for “lost cat” flyers and post a “found pet” ad on local lost and found websites including:
- Local Facebook groups
- County Animal Control Websites
Shelters traditionally wait five to seven days before putting a cat up for adoption. If you find a cat, you should wait a little longer for someone to come forward to claim ownership – approximately three weeks.
After waiting to see if an owner steps forward, you can consider adopting the cat yourself.
Consider Talking to a Rescue
If you cannot adopt the cat yourself, reach out to local cat rescues to see if you can find a place for them.
If a rescue cannot take the cat in, look for a no-kill animal shelter that can help.
If a stray cat shows up at your home, it could be looking for food and shelter, be interested in your cat, or simply be curious. If you are superstitious, you might even see something more in a stray cat’s visit!
Whatever the reason behind the visitation, welcome your new feline friend and take the opportunity to find them somewhere warm to lay their head!