How to Care for a Stray, Feral or Abandoned Cat

Abandoned Cat
My cat, Scrappy, that some previous neighbors abandoned, before I rescued her in the winter of 2014.

April 5, 2019

Author: Melissa Sitzman

There are so many cats that are feral, stray or that have been abandoned by irresponsible owners, that I felt this was important information to share. However, before taking any action to help a cat, please find out the laws pertaining to stray and feral cats, in your area. There are places that prohibit feeding them and in some instances, by feeding a cat, you become it’s lawful owner. That’s why it’s important to know the laws, before you act so that you can decide what’s best.

It’s also equally important to make sure you’re dealing with a cat that really is a stray, feral or that was abandoned. In order to find out, it’s a good idea to ask people in the area if they know anything about the cat. You can even take pictures and distribute flyers so that any potential owner might see them. There are also groups on social media sites that publish pictures of lost pets, for most areas. I highly recommend looking there and on classified websites to try to find any owners. If you’re able to, you could even put a collar on the cat with a tag that reads; “If this is your cat, please call (your phone number).” If you do so, make sure it is the kind of collar that breaks off, if the cat gets caught on something. They’re called “break away collars.”

While waiting to hear from any potential owners, providing food, water and shelter could save the cats life! You can leave these things, in the area where you’ve repeatedly seen the cat. A mixture of dry and wet cat food is best because it could have problems eating dry food, if it has untreated dental issues. A shelter can be made very inexpensively. There are many options for doing so. A good shelter could be made out of a large, old cooler. Just cut a hole, big enough for a cat to get through, in one end. Another option is to use two plastic storage containers with some foam insulation, in between the two containers.

Example of home made feral cat shelter.
Here’s one that I made for my cat, Scrappy, when she was still outside.

The Alley Cat Advocates website has really good instructions on how to make your own cat shelter. Just click on the word “instructions” above and then click on the icon that reads: “Download Pdf.” Once you’ve made a shelter, place it in the same area where you’ve been feeding the cat. You do want to leave, at least, a little space in between the food and the shelter, as the food can draw the attention of other animals.

If you haven’t heard from someone claiming the cat, within a week or two, you need to decide what to do with the cat. If it’s truly feral, meaning it doesn’t want human interaction, at all. Then, it should be trapped and taken to a shelter that has a trap, neuter and release program. If you can’t find a shelter that participates, in your area, you can approach the shelters near you, about starting a program. The Alley Cat Allies website goes into much more detail about how to do so, here.

If the cat is trapped and taken to a shelter they will evaluate whether the cat is adoptable or not. If it is adoptable, they will put the cat up for adoption. After it has been sterilized, received shots and any needed veterinary care. If the cat isn’t adoptable, the shelter will get in touch with you after the cat has recovered from surgery, to take the cat back where you trapped it, for release. Doing this helps cut down the feral cat population.

If the cat is friendly and, like I did, you decide you want to try to integrate the cat into your household, it’s important that the cat receive veterinary care before you bring it indoors. Not only for the health of any other pets but, also for the health of yourself and your family. Cats can be carriers of parasites that can be transferred to humans. It’s also important that the cat be tested for Feline Leukemia (FeLv) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) before being around any other cats. There are no cures for either disease and they are contagious to other cats. A cat with FeLv should not be with other cats under any circumstances.

However, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is only spread when cats wound each other during a fight. So, if you do have other cats, you can decide whether you want to take that risk or not. If you decide to take the risk, please introduce the cats to each other, using extreme caution. You can read how to do so in my blog post titled, “How to Successfully Introduce New Cats or Kittens to Older Cats.”

My cat, Scrappy is FIV positive. My husband and I, integrated her into our home, with two other cats, without any issues. It took quite a while to do so but, I’m really glad that we did. She’s a good cat!

My cat Scrappy.
Scrappy, today.


I am not a veterinarian nor am I affiliated with or receiving compensation from any of the other websites that are linked to, in this blog post. Please always consult a qualified veterinarian for advice when dealing with cats.

What Every Cat Owner Should Know About Feline Diabetes

Princess Overweight in 2006
Top cat is Gonzo. Bottom cat is Princess, who was very overweight, at that time. Taken in 2006.

March 22, 2019

Author: Melissa Sitzman

I look back and can’t believe how overweight my cat, Princess, was in 2006! At the time, I didn’t even realize how big she was. I went through a few tough years and in those years, my cats missed a few annual checkups. I highly recommend that you take your pets to the vet, at least once a year. Senior cats should be seen every six months. That’s how diseases are spotted and treated, before they become a serious issue.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t how it happened for Princess, and I still beat myself up for it, to this day. In the summer of 2009, Princess started losing a lot of weight, and fast. Her hind legs began sliding out from underneath her, as well. I suddenly couldn’t keep up with the litter box, no matter how often I scooped it! She was also drinking so excessively, that, she would lay next to the water dish, to drink. She was diagnosed with feline diabetes and neuropathy in June of 2009. Neuropathy was the result of having high blood glucose levels, for an extended period of time. It’s, basically, nerve damage that’s caused by uncontrolled diabetes.

Here’s a list of possible Feline Diabetes Symptoms;

  • Excessive and frequent urination
  • Breath that smells sweet
  • Excessive drinking of water
  • Excessive hunger or a change in appetite
  • Being overweight and/or weight loss (This is not always the case, some cats are diagnosed while at a healthy weight.)
  • Walking on hind hocks (not up on their toes, like they should be)
  • Feet that slide out from under their body and/or weak legs.
  • Dull looking and oily coat
  • Lethargy
  • Hiding
  • Irritability
  • Drooling
  • Unusual litter box odor
  • Urinating or defecating outside of the litter box and/or on soft objects

Not all cats will have all symptoms and overweight cats are at a much higher risk. Cats are treated with insulin injections and Princess received them twice a day. She was on them for four years! The veterinarian also had me put her on a dry cat food with lower carbohydrate and higher protein percentages. However, her condition didn’t improve and she also developed Inflammatory Bowel Disease!

That’s when I made the decision to switch her food! I, actually, wrote about this, in another blog post titled Raw Pet Food, The FDA and My Sick Cat. Instead of re-typing all the details, I’m going to continue by quoting myself, from that post;

“In 2012, I took a leap of faith and decided, against our veterinarian’s wishes, to start feeding both of my cats, a raw pet food. Rad Cat was just about the only raw cat food on the market, at that time, that could be purchased locally. So, that’s what I switched my cats to. At first, my cats didn’t want to eat it. It wasn’t until I mixed it with canned food, that they devoured it! I started weaning them off of kibble and slowly replaced it with more raw and canned food.

Then, one day, Princess didn’t seem to be doing well, at all. I rushed her to a vet hospital, where I learned that her blood glucose levels were dangerously low! Because I had changed her food, and because her regular veterinarian had kept her on the same amount of insulin (despite me telling him about the diet change), she nearly died! Her blood glucose had dropped to dangerously low levels. After the vet stabilized her, I decided it was time to switch veterinarians. The new vet taught me how to test blood glucose levels at home, and how to know when, and if, Princess needed insulin. She hasn’t had an insulin injection, since!

Feeding raw food, not only seemed to send Princesses diabetes into remission, it seemed to cure her digestive issues, as well. I had never seen my cats so healthy and happy!”

Princess after eating raw cat food.
Princess at a healthy weight in 2016, after feeding raw cat food!

On April 1, 2019, Princess will be turning 19 years old! If you want your cats to live a long, healthy lives, feed them a species appropriate diet! Dry food is not a good choice for cats, as it does not provide enough moisture and the percentage of carbohydrates in them, is far too high! (There’s a reason feline diabetes and kidney disease are becoming so common in cats!) Think about what a cat would eat in the wild.

Cats should be fed, either, a low carb, high protein canned/ wet food or a raw cat food. I, actually, mix the two. I was having issues with Princess, recently, after the company that made her raw food, went out of business. However, I found an alternative and she’s doing really well, again! If you would like to know what I feed her, leave a comment.

I highly recommend doing a little research, yourself, to try to find the right food for you and your cat. There’s a really good comparison chart on the website that’s written by Lisa A. Pierson D.V.M. that shows carbohydrate and protein percentages for a large variety of different brands and kinds of canned and raw cat foods. I’ll leave a link to that chart, below.

I hope you find this information helpful and that it keeps someone else from ending up with a diabetic cat!


I am not affiliated with nor am I receiving compensation from the website, it’s author or any of the food companies listed on the website or cat food chart that I am linking to below. You should always consult with a veterinarian when switching your pets food. I’m not a vet, I’m simply sharing what worked for me and my cat.

Here’s the link to the food chart mentioned above:

Cat Food Comparison Chart on by Lisa A. Pierson

Litter Box Challenges and Possible Solutions

March 6, 2019

Author: Melissa Sitzman

Cats are very peculiar about where they “do their business,” and there are many reasons your cat may end up going outside of the litter box. First and foremost, please understand that your cat doesn’t have it out for you! They aren’t doing it because you didn’t feed them their favorite food last night.

Most of the time it’s either a health problem or stress that causes a cat to eliminate outside of their designated area. That’s why the number one thing you should do (after you find a “present,” where it shouldn’t be), is take your cat to be seen by a veterinarian! Diabetes, arthritis, kidney disease, thyroid problems, poor eye sight, pain from being declawed, etc.. are just a hand full of the many ailments that could cause a cat to avoid their box.

Other things that should be considered are;

  • The location of the box – Is it in a location that offers privacy?
  • Other pets – Are they following the cat and disturbing them while in the box? Do they get along with each other?
  • Number of litter boxes – Do you know there should always be one more litter box, than there are cats?
  • Type of litter – Did you recently switch brands?
  • Changes in the household – What recent changes could have stressed your cat out? New baby? Having house guests? Did someone move in with you?
  • Changes in your life – Have you been spending less time at home? Did your work hours change? Have you been stressed out?

All of these things could lead a cat to urinate or defecate outside of the litter box. If your veterinarian doesn’t find anything wrong, health wise, then consider the list above and try to figure out what is causing it. You may even need to hire a behaviorist. Please don’t ever punish your pet for an accident outside of the box! This will only make the situation worse. Most of the time, if you can pinpoint the reason, you will be able to find a good solution that will put an end to it.

Here are some adjustments that I’ve had to make in my own house to help an aging cat and also because I have two cats that don’t get along. First, always protect the floor underneath and around litter boxes. If they are in carpeted areas, you may want to buy some of that clear plastic stuff that’s used over high traffic areas, to protect the carpet. Sorry, I’m not sure what its called! You could also use one of those clear mats that go under office chairs. I actually resorted to using clear plastic cupboard liner (not the adhesive kind).

After doing this, I realized that cats don’t really like walking on plastic! So, on top of that, I have indoor/outdoor carpet tiles (the kind with the thick rubber backing). These work really well! If someone misses the box, they can easily be cleaned or replaced. It’s much better than having to haul out the steam cleaner to steam the carpet in that room.

I have three litter boxes, for two cats. Two in a designated “cat room” and another at the opposite end of the house. There’s two in the cat room, just in case both cats end up in there, trying to do their dirty work, at the same time. The one at the other end of the house was put there because I realized that sometimes, one cat will try to “guard” the cat room. When this happens, the other cat has another option.

If you have a cat that consistently goes in one spot, away from the litter boxes, try putting a litter box there. Also, the best way to get rid of urine smell is by cleaning it up, with white vinegar! (Color test before using it, though.) If that doesn’t put a stop to the issue, try putting puppy pads there. Puppy pads are marvelous! They’re quick and easy to clean up and they protect the surface underneath them.

Now, last but not least, are the litter boxes, themselves, the issue? Some cats prefer covered boxes, others won’t go in them. Make sure the boxes you have are big enough and that they are kept clean. You should scoop them everyday and clean them out, entirely, every week. When you do so, don’t just dump all the litter. You should also be cleaning the box. Dish soap and a scrub sponge work well. This can be done in a bath tub, laundry room sink or even outside with a hose. Make sure to rinse well and dry before putting fresh litter in.

If you have an older cat, it’s a good idea to offer at least one box that has a lower side. That will make it easier for your cat to get in and out of the litter box. This was the issue in my house and it took me awhile to figure it out. Once I cut one of the sides of a litter box down, there were no more issues with going outside of the box. After that, I went and bought under the bed storage containers, removed the lids, cut down one of the longest sides on each of them and I now use those as litter pans!

I hope this information helps anyone who may be dealing with litter box issues. It may take some time to figure out what will work for you and your cat but, there’s always a solution and it shouldn’t be giving your cat up to a shelter!

Disclaimer: I’m not associated with or receiving compensation from any company who’s products I have mentioned in this post. I’m simply sharing what has worked for me and other cat parents that I know.