What Awaits When You Take in a Stray Cat? The Vet Visit Revealed


Many people find stray cats in their neighborhoods or come across them while going about their daily lives. While some cats may have collar tags indicating they have an owner, many do not. When someone finds a stray cat without any identification, they may feel compelled to help the cat by taking it to the vet for a checkup and care. This is especially true if the cat seems injured, malnourished, or ill.

The goal of this article is to inform readers what they can expect when they take a stray cat to the vet. We will walk through the typical procedures and services the vet will provide, costs associated, and options for next steps like adoption or fostering. Understanding the process ahead of time can help both the person and the cat have the best experience possible.

Initial Appointment

When you find a stray cat, the first step is to call your local veterinary clinic to schedule an initial appointment. Let the clinic know that you have found a stray cat and would like to bring it in for an examination. Most clinics will be able to schedule a same day or next day appointment to assess the cat’s health and determine next steps.

To transport the stray cat safely, you will need an animal carrier or crate. Place a soft blanket or towel in the bottom of the carrier to make the cat feel more comfortable. Carefully place the cat inside the carrier, securing the door once the cat is fully inside. Try to minimize stress by keeping the carrier in a quiet area before the appointment.

Arrive at the vet clinic on time for your appointment. Bring the carrier inside and check in at the front desk. You will likely need to fill out paperwork about when and where you found the stray cat. The clinic staff will lead you to an exam room and will collect more details about the cat’s behavior and health since you have had it in your care.

Vet Exam

When you bring a stray cat to the vet, one of the first things the veterinarian will do is perform a full physical exam to assess the cat’s overall health and look for any signs of illness or injury. The vet will check the cat’s eyes, ears, mouth, skin, coat, temperature, weight, teeth, heart, lungs, abdomen, muscles, joints, reflexes, and more.

The vet will also scan for a microchip to see if the cat is already registered to an owner. Microchipping is a common way owners identify their pets, so checking for an existing microchip can help reunite a lost cat with its family.

To estimate the cat’s age, the vet will look at the teeth, eyes, muscles, joints, and coat condition. Knowing roughly how old the cat is helps determine appropriate care and vaccination schedules.

The vet will likely run lab tests to screen for major feline diseases like feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), which are contagious and affect the immune system. These tests help protect the health of the community cat colony if the stray will be returned after getting care.


When taking a stray cat to the vet, one of the most important steps is to get them properly vaccinated. There are both core and optional vaccines that vets recommend for cats:

Core Vaccines

These are the vital vaccines your cat needs:

  • Rabies – Protects against the rabies virus. This is required by law in most areas.
  • FVRCP – Protects against three common feline viruses: feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia.

Optional Vaccines

Depending on your cat’s lifestyle and risk factors, your vet may also recommend:

  • FeLV – Protects against feline leukemia virus, which is spread through bodily fluids.

Vaccine Schedule

For a new stray cat, vets typically recommend a series of vaccines spread out over time:

  • Initial FVRCP and rabies vaccine
  • Second FVRCP 2-4 weeks later
  • Rabies booster 1 year after initial dose

Getting a stray cat fully vaccinated provides them with important protection against dangerous illnesses. Your vet can advise you on the specific schedule and vaccines recommended for your cat’s situation.

Spay/Neuter Surgery

Getting stray cats spayed or neutered is crucial for controlling the stray cat population. Intact cats can start reproducing as young as 4 months old and have multiple litters per year. Spaying females prevents pregnancy while neutering males curbs mating behaviors and aggression.

Before surgery, bloodwork is done to check for issues like feline leukemia or FIV that could complicate anesthesia. General anesthesia is administered by injection and the cat is closely monitored throughout the procedure. For females, an incision is made near the belly button to access the uterus and ovaries which are completely removed. For males, an incision is made in front of the scrotum to access the testicles which are then removed.

The incisions are closed with dissolvable sutures and tissue glue. Most cats recover quickly after surgery with mild pain managed by medication. They may be groggy and have decreased appetite for a day or two. Limiting activity helps prevent complications while incisions heal over the next 7-10 days. Overall, the surgery prevents unwanted litters and has health benefits for cats.

Parasite Control

One of the first things a vet will do is test the stray cat for internal and external parasites like worms, fleas and ticks. Parasites can cause significant health issues in cats if left untreated. The vet will likely collect a stool sample to test for intestinal parasites like roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms or protozoa. Bloodwork may also be done to check for heartworm disease which is spread by mosquitos.

If any parasites are detected, the vet will prescribe appropriate deworming medication, topical flea/tick treatment, or other antiparasitic drugs. It’s crucial to eliminate all parasites before adoption so the cat doesn’t spread bugs to its new home. The vet will also advise on monthly heartworm, flea and tick preventatives to keep using after adoption.

Deworming and rigorous flea/tick control is essential for the cat’s health and comfort. Parasites can cause diarrhea, vomiting, skin irritation, anemia, weight loss and other problems. Controlling both internal and external parasites also prevents environmental contamination and spread to humans or other pets. Consulting a vet helps ensure proper parasite treatment and prevention.


One of the most important steps in caring for a stray cat is microchipping. The vet will check for an existing microchip by passing a scanner over the cat’s shoulder blades. If no microchip is found, the vet will implant a small microchip under the cat’s skin. This microchip contains a unique identification number that can be detected with a scanner.

Getting the cat microchipped provides major benefits if they ever get lost or separated from their owner. Animal shelters and vets nationwide scan strays for these microchips. If the cat ends up at a shelter, the staff can scan the chip to get the registered owner’s contact information and reunite the cat with its owner. Microchipping greatly increases the chances of a lost cat being returned home. For the best results, the microchip should be registered with current owner contact information in a national pet recovery database.

Additional Care

Once the initial vet exam, vaccinations, and spay/neuter surgery are complete, the stray cat may need some additional veterinary care before being cleared for adoption.

One common procedure is a dental cleaning. During the initial exam, the vet will check the cat’s oral health and determine if a dental cleaning is needed to treat tartar buildup, gum disease, or other issues. Dental cleanings require anesthesia but are important for the cat’s long-term health.

The vet will also treat any medical issues discovered during the initial exam or diagnostic testing. This could involve medications, special diets, or follow-up procedures. For example, if bloodwork shows kidney disease the cat may need intravenous fluids and a kidney-friendly diet.

In some cases, the vet may want to schedule follow-up rechecks and lab work after a few weeks to ensure any medical issues are responding well to treatment. It’s important to follow the vet’s recommendations closely.

Providing this additional care helps set the cat up for future health and wellbeing. And it helps make the cat a more adoptable pet for their forever home.

Adoption vs Fostering

When you bring a stray cat to the vet, you’ll need to decide whether you want to adopt the cat yourself or foster it temporarily until a permanent home can be found. Here are some things to consider for both options:

Adopting the Stray Yourself

If you decide to adopt the stray cat, you’ll be taking on full responsibility for its care and wellbeing. Adoption is a long-term commitment to provide food, shelter, veterinary care, affection, and enrichment. Before adopting, make sure you can afford these ongoing expenses and that your living situation allows pets. Adopting a stray cat can be very rewarding, letting you form a close bond and watch its personality blossom in a loving home.

Fostering Temporarily

Fostering provides temporary care while a permanent home is found. Many shelters and rescues rely on fosters to house cats until they can be adopted. As a foster, you provide basic care and socialization, allowing the cat to thrive in a home setting. Fostering terms vary, but may range from a few weeks to several months. While fostering can be very fulfilling, it involves some uncertainty and requires returning the cat once placement is found. It’s ideal for those wanting to help cats in need without a permanent commitment.

Coordinating with Shelters and Rescues

Whether you adopt or foster, the vet will likely scan for a microchip and check lost pet databases to see if the stray cat is reported missing. If no owner is found, they can refer you to local shelters and rescue groups that have adoption/foster programs. These organizations will ensure the cat is spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and behaviorally evaluated before matching with a suitable home. Working with rescues allows cats to find loving owners while reducing feral and community cat populations.


Taking a stray cat to the veterinarian is an important first step in providing care and finding them a loving home. At the initial vet appointment, the cat will receive a full exam, vaccinations, parasite control, and be spayed/neutered. The vet will also likely microchip the cat for identification. Follow-up care may involve treatment for any medical issues uncovered during the exam.

It is crucial for stray cats to receive veterinary care not only for their health, but also to stop cat overpopulation. Cats can produce multiple litters per year, so spaying/neutering is key. Proper medical treatment also makes cats more adoptable.

After the vet visit, there are a few options moving forward. The finder can choose to adopt the stray cat themselves, or look for someone else to adopt it. Fostering the cat temporarily is another option. Shelters and rescue organizations can also assist with the adoption process.

With some basic vet care and a lot of love, stray cats can transition into affectionate pets and lifelong companions. The initial vet visit is an important step in that process and provides a foundation for their health and future happiness.

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