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6 Reasons to Bring a Stray Cat to the Veterinarian

The stray you take in could have a host of problems in need of treatment.

That stray cat who hangs around in your backyard may be affectionate, but do yourself a favor: Get him to a vet. By: Orias1978
That stray cat in your backyard may be affectionate, but do yourself a favor: Get him to a vet. By: Orias1978

A great rescue group brought in a young cat for veterinary care the other day. Found in a tree with a wound of unknown origin, he seemed healthy, people oriented and sweet. Obviously, we all fell in love with him instantly.

Clearly not feral, Mr. No Home probably had a home at one point, by the looks of it. But while we were trying to find his family, it became obvious that he could be nicknamed Mr. No Veterinary Care because of the many problems we found while treating this poor cat.

If you bring a stray kitten or cat into your home, don’t think he is fine, even if he looks OK. In our case, this “healthy” young cat had at least 6 problems that could have worsened if we hadn’t looked for them.

1. Trauma

This kitty had a bad wound on his foot, most likely the result of a violent cat fight. At minimum, he needed wound care, an X-ray, pain meds and antibiotics.

And because this is what we call a “wound of unknown origin,” he is also under a rabies quarantine — a serious measure. Here in Massachusetts, he must be kept indoors under supervision for 6 months.

2. Intact

“Intact” means this kitten was not neutered — he still has his testicles. If he had a family, they didn’t neuter him before other cats started picking on him.

I figured he was at least 9 months old. Even if he is not the aggressor, an intact male cat is more susceptible to cat fights, which can put him at risk for trauma and contagious diseases such as FIV (“feline AIDS”).

3. Ear Mites

Adding to his problems were severe ear mites. Gazillions of them were crawling deep into his ear canals. Both ears were blocked with gunk and creepy crawlies.

But you know what? He wasn’t scratching his ears. Cats can be very tolerant of pain or discomfort. If you had brought this rescue kitty home and not taken him to the veterinarian, you might not have known for weeks or months that he suffered from ear mites.

Here’s Mr. No Home. He had intestinal parasites and ear mites, both of which were treated. By: Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD/Petful

4. Parasites

Mr. No Home was loaded with roundworms. But he showed no signs and had no diarrhea. In fact, he was eating well and looking good.

Again, without veterinary care, nobody would have detected this problem until parasites took over the cat and caused him major GI upset.

5. Infectious Diseases

A stray kitty you bring home could have anything — from an obvious upper respiratory infection to a viral disease (such as feline herpes), or an unknown problem (like feline leukemia) to FIV or other diseases.

To get the new cat the best care and to protect your other animals at home, get Mr. No-Home some veterinary care as soon as possible.

6. Fleas and Other Creepy Crawlies

So many folks don’t know how to look for flea “dirt,” find tiny ticks, or check out a stray cat’s skin and coat. Again, get this checked out so you don’t bring an unknown flea problem into your home or expose your other pets to pests.

Here are some helpful tips on what to do when you find a stray or feral cat:

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If you’ve heard those stories about “barn cats” who never had any veterinary care and just lived out their lives “on the farm,” don’t believe it. Barn cats often live a short and unhappy life, dying from too many litters, easily treatable diseases or parasites.

These days, our little stray cat is doing well. His foot is healing. His ear mites, fleas and intestinal parasites are being treated.

We have not found his family yet. And, truth be told, my technicians are actually hoping they don’t show up because this cat is a happy camper in the staff room.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS, and was last updated Oct. 13, 2018.