Tommy was a mostly outside cat, but he'd come in every morning and evening to eat. At night, when he went back out after dinner, I'd go with him and the two of us would walk around the block together. I'd watch him pounce on shadows and chase bugs. And when we got back to my doorway, I'd kiss him goodnight and tell him to stay safe. Then he'd sit on the sidewalk and watch me go up the steps to our condo.
But not all the stray cats I've met have moved in with me, and that's the way it should be because not all strays are in need of homes. Some are indoor/outdoor cats who are just stopping by for a visit and some are lost and want nothing more than to be reunited with their families.
As good Samaritans, we're sometimes too quick to "rescue."
Clyde was another cat I loved. He'd show up at my door promptly at nine every night. He never wanted to come in, but he did want to eat. I'd give him a can of Fancy Feast, which he enjoyed. Then he'd be on his way.
As winter approached, I began to worry about him, so I put a collar on him with a note: "Does this cat need a home?" The next day, I got a call from his "mom," who'd been wondering where her boy went every night at nine. We became friends and loved talking about our cats' adventures.
So what should you do if you meet a stray cat? First, assume he's someone's cat and, like Clyde, is just visiting. Don't rush to bring him in. He can't go home if he's inside your house! Another assumption, that is almost always correct, is that the cat is lost and someone is looking for him.
Losing a cat is heartbreaking. When you meet a stray, the kindest thing you can do for the cat and the people who love him is make every effort to reunite him with his family. After all, if your cat got lost, you'd want someone to do that for you. My article on stray cats includes tips on reuniting lost cats with their families.