This is another question on the Quora.com website, which I’d like to answer here. The article is targeted at unexperienced cat owners or potential cat owners. Millions of people adopt stray cats from the street and the relationship works out very well. There is a mutual benefit to the process but make sure the cat is unowned as you don’t want to be involved in theft. And some strays are feral in which case the cat will be unsocialised and unsuited in that state for adoption but you can socialise feral cats, even adult ones.
A lot of people adopt cats informally by which I mean neither from an animal shelter nor from a breeder. Cats just walk in off the street sometimes. I have adopted cats from the street and quite quickly the relationship developed into a very close bond. A colleague of mine who owns and manages the messybeast.com website, Sarah Hartwell, has to the best of my knowledge always adopted cats from the street. The cats have just come into her life in an informal way. I have met these cats and they’ve integrated nicely into her home.
Uncomfortable at first
There will be an initial period of uncertainty by a stray cat who has been adopted into a home. However, all being well, the lifestyle of stray cat is greatly improved as soon as she’s been adopted, fed and cared for in a nice home. This pleasant experience rapidly overcomes the uncertainty of being in a new place.
I can remember well living in Notting Hill Gate, London, with my former wife. We had two cats at the time. They were siblings. Both had been born to a mother owned by neighbour. The owner had let the mother breed informally which was neglectful. We adopted two of the cats.
One day, not long after, I noticed a frightened black-and-white cat in the basement front garden of a neighbouring property. It occurred to me quite quickly that the female house owner where the cat lived had left the district and left her cat behind.
This female cat had become a stray and was sitting patiently in the basement not knowing what to do and no doubt starving and fearful. I took her up to my home and that night before I went to bed I left a note on the front porch for my then wife who was late home. The note read that there were now three cats in the home! My new cat adoption quickly joined the other two to feed and eat supper. All three got on well and my new cat settled in very rapidly.
She spent the first three hours on the dining room table which gave her a feeling of protection from the height but soon thereafter came down and joined in. It was as simple as that and I feel lucky. In due course, and not long thereafter, I took her to the veterinarian for a checkup and the usual jabs. She lived with me for the rest of her life and died at 18. She was a sweet and gentle lady cat.
Introducing a contagious disease
There is a possibility (and this may be more so in the USA than the UK) that an incoming stray cat is carrying a disease which can be transmitted to the resident cats. This is something which must be taken seriously as it’s quite easy to hurt resident cats by the introduction of a stray cat of which little is known in terms of health. It is probably wise to have a stray cat checked out by a veterinarian before taking her or him into your home as a new cat, if you have resident cats.
Note: this possibility should not be a barrier to adopting a stray. Just take precautions.
Mine is one example of how you could answer the question in the title. The bottom line is that you can adopt stray cats from the street and they will nearly always settle in but there is no absolute guarantee because each cat has their own character. It is important to ensure that a good match is made between the cats in a multi-cat household. A slow intro is recommended.
I have answered the second part of the question but to confirm: a stray cat adopted into a home will feel uneasy at first. The length of acclimatisation varies between cats. It may take some time or it may be quite quick. But it’s worthwhile for the cat in being off the street and into a nice warm home where he or she is fed and loved.