Now, I’m no stranger to getting stray cats to befriend me, and every single one of the cats I’ve had has been a stray who ended up finding me and who I took into my home.
I’ve also adopted out the three strays I couldn’t keep to my brother, and so I’ve gotten to be a pet parent and a cat auntie to many-a-previously-stray-cat.
If you’re thinking of adopting the stray cat that’s following you, good on you! If not, there are so many explanations why that cat may be following you, and some of them have literally nothing to do with needing you for food or help or anything of the sort.
Although those are possibilities! I’m going to go through the possibilities as I see them here and then I’d love it if you could take a moment to let me know if you feel one of the reasons is a likely bet.
Or if there’s another reason I’ve left off my list that you think explains why the stray is following you.
Without further ado!
Reasons That Might Explain Why a Stray Cat Is Following You
1. The cat might be hungry and believe you may feed him or her.
This has to be said and out of the way at the very beginning.
It’s obvious, but what’s not so obvious is that cats don’t often believe humans will feed them out of the blue.
Usually they have some experience with humans in general and watching them eat, or more likely, having had a human in particular feed them before.
So if you’ve got a stray cat following you and you believe he or she is doing so because they want food, chances are higher that this cat is at least moderately socialized and okay with humans.
Because otherwise the cat would likely run and hide and not approach a human under any circumstance, not knowing that interacting with or following humans could potentially lead to getting fed.
2. The cat likely trusts you.
This again shouldn’t be overlooked.
If you don’t have much experience with cats you probably won’t know how human avoidant they are typically.
They very much are suspicious of humans they don’t know as a baseline and this is why they’re often seen as stand-offish.
If a human moves in a funny way, makes jerky, loud, or scary movements, chances are a cat may never trust that human completely, and a cat’s not going to follow you if he or she doesn’t trust you, so my guess is this cat trusts you even though you may or may not know him or her or had many interactions yet.
Again, this increases the odds that that cat has had human interaction before. But maybe not, he or she may just feel safe around you in particular besides you come across as safe to that cat.
Some people are just more attractive to cats because they give cats their own space, don’t go near them, and move in a way that doesn’t frighten cats, so it’s possible you give off this type of “I’m not a threat, we’re cool” vibe without even trying to this cat.
3. The cat could be bored and find you entertaining to watch
If you’ve got food, water, and shelter taken care of, there’s still a lot of hours to fit in a day.
What could be better than a little people watching?
After you’re done bird watching of course.
4. The cat may enjoy human company, and may not even be a stray.
On our way to the supermarket one time, my husband and I came across a cute little kitten on the sidewalk that would follow us for a short while and then run back away and hide.
This happened to us another time about a week later and she cuddled and played with us. It was adorable. We decided if we saw her once more we might want to adopt her.
Then the next time we came ’round and were followed by her, we started playing with her and someone came out of their house. She told us the cat was hers and really loved people.
We played with the kitten a while longer and realized no cat that friendly, for the most part, was likely to have never had any contact with humans.
So for the most part, if you’re finding a cat is mega socialized and affable and super nice to humans, know they probably have an owner, or are a neighbourhood cat that a bunch of people take care of.
Actually, one time a stupendously notorious outdoor cat who was known all around the neighbourhood as this-peron’s-cat-who-eats-everywhere-and-is-a-jolly-fellow. Let’s call him Leo. Cause that was his name…
Well he ended up being “accidentally stolen” by a few students new to the area who thought he was a stray who needed a home!
After a while of not being back to his home for multiple meals, his mom went around asking about him, and finally discovered he’d made himself a little too comfortable with some new family, so she kindly asked them if they’d let him go back home and of course they agreed.
All this to say, ask around with your neighbours to see if the cat might actually belong to someone before you decide to adopt a cat you think is a stray.
And you might also want to double check before you start feeding a cat, too, because sometimes cats have food allergies (two of mine do!) and you just wouldn’t know if you didn’t have a chat with their owner.
5. The cat might be injured or sick and in need of help.
You may be thinking, “How on earth would a cat know to come to me, or any human for that matter, if he or she is sick, injured, or in need of some sort of help?”
The thing is that the cat likely has no idea that you could necessarily help or fix them (how would they know?) but they may feel like being near you offers protection.
When cats are injured, weak, sick, unwell, or all of the above, it puts them at risk of being preyed on by other animals, and even pestered or bullied by other cats.
When one of my cats is sick with a hairball or even just coughs, let alone has a bad time in the litter box or something along those lines, another one of my cats will often shove him.
Now, my cats are great and get along very well together these days (they didn’t start out that way, but I did a lot to make my cats get along and it really worked!).
And still there’s this weird sort of friction/pushback that my cats will have toward the injured, sick, or unwell cat.
It never gets violent in my house, or really anything more than just a shove and maybe chasing them for a little bit, but this is in conditions where the cats really get along and aren’t threatened by one another, so what happens in nature where there’s competition for resources to boot?
I’m not at all sure of why this behaviour exists, but it seems to be a very common cat behaviour.
And so an injured cat hanging around a human outdoors would likely be done as a useful means of protection, as other cats likely wouldn’t be around a human, let alone start a fight near one.
This makes a lot of sense as a theory to me that would explain why injured and unwell cats come to humans without assuming they somehow know that we might be able to help.
If you want to assume they think we can help, you might also have to assume they have had positive interactions with humans before.
Your Thoughts on Why Stray Cats Follow Humans?
Why do you think stray cats sometimes follow humans?
Have you ever been followed by a stray cat? Why do you think he or she followed you? Did you end up feeding, playing, engaging with, or even adopting any stray cats?
Would love to hear any theories or stories you have in the comments down below!