How to Rescue an Outdoor Cat


We have all seen a stray cat roaming on a street or a back alley or neighborhood. It’s not always easy to access if the cat is lost, abandoned, or feral.

If a stray cat however, comes around your yard, you may want to help it out and rescue it. First off I must put a disclaimer note in here. I do not recommend cat rescue for everyone. It can be a tricky and somewhat dangerous endeavor. I am seasoned at it, so I feel comfortable catching a cat and bringing it into my care for a short (or long) period of time.

Cats that are from the out-of-doors can be feral. This means that they have never been socialized with humans and were born of a litter that is wild. They can, however, become tame and domesticated, with time, patience and love. Some cats will adjust easily enough, once they get a taste of the good life!

Supplies You Will Need

  • Plastic open dish/container
  • Live Critter Trap
  • Tarp
  • Blankets
  • Animal Cage 20×20
  • Litter Box
  • Cat Litter
  • Cat Food- dry
  • Water bowl
  • Shallow cat bed box
  • Patience

Catching a Stray Cat

My system of catching a cat that shows up in my yard, is to coax it with food. I use crunchy type food in a plastic container that was otherwise headed for recycling. The container should be shallow enough and about 6 inches in diameter.

Initially the critter cage trap should be set-up and the food dish should be placed out in front of it or nearby, so the cat gets used to seeing the trap and not being frightened by it. Make sure to also cover the trap with a blanket or tarp, depending on weather conditions. Of course leave the opening to the trap exposed.

After a few days of feeding, place the food contained in the trap to the very back of the covered trap. This will lead the animal in, and the trap should trigger and close.

The Next Step

After catching an outdoor cat you must already have a decided place in your home or property to place the cat. Keep the animal sequestered from your other pets. If you have a basement or garage that can fit a large cage or carrier, this is ideal. I would not recommend letting the animal free roaming in a garage or basement, as they can hide, damage property and defecate at will. Having control of the cat, is key.

In most cases the cat whether young, or older, will be afraid of you and the situation. They most likely will be crouching in the back of the cage. There are however cats that may be very friendly and wanting to be petted as they could have been lost from a human family.

Place the food bowl filled, and water container that doesn’t easily tip or spill, near the front of the cage. Place the litter box on the opposite side of the food and water to the front of the cage as well. This layout is not ideal, as cats do not like to have their waste near their food, but it is a small space and as a cat caretaker you need to have the ability to refill and clean up these items.

What Do You Do With The Cat?

Now that you have rescued the cat into your home or garage, you have to assess some things about the feline.

  • Does it appear to be healthy in general?
  • Is it male or female?
  • Does it have a collar?
  • Is it calm and friendly?
  • Is it eating and pooping OK?

As cats can get lost and be out in the elements for awhile, it may be necessary to take a photo of the animal an post is on a lost animal website. You can also contact your local animal shelters or Humane Society of the United States, as they do have records of pet owners looking for their lost pets.

If no one has reported the cat missing, then it is up to you to keep it and give a home or surrender it to your local animal shelter. Please be aware that once you surrender an animal it is up to the shelter to decide its fate. Not all shelters are “no-kill”. You want to find one that is a “no-kill” shelter, so that your rescue cat will be guaranteed a future home with a human family.

Keeping the Cat

Choosing to keep your rescued cat is also an option. You have already done some hard work to save the cat’s life. It is now in your care and environment. There are many considerations however, that should be thought out carefully, as homing a cat is a life-long commitment. Are you able to commit to the care of the cat for its life?

Some initial veterinary costs right away include:

  • Vaccinations – rabies, distemper, feline leukemia – are the main ones
  • De-worming (all stray cats need this),
  • ear mite treatments
  • Micro-chipping ( I highly recommend to protect your cat if it gets lost – again)
  • Spay or Neutering

Also be aware that there could be behavioral issues, such as spraying or, aggression. A cat needs at least a month to adjust to its new environment and given lots of love and reassurance. After all, it has experienced a great trauma either being abandoned, lost, or feral.

Cat Fur-Ever Home?

So many cats need homes as 3.4 million are living in shelters. Euthanized cats number up to 1.4 million per year. (Statistics taken from )

Share Your Story

Do you have a cat-rescue story to tell? Share it in the comments section!