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I see strays ALL the time at work,stalking the arena grounds,outside.Wedensday night,there was a big windstorm,and I saw a kitty struggling against it, walking by the doors.I opened the door and said 'come on in' (the acting supe knows I love cats). Instead he/she took off! Verbal invitations only seem to scare 'em away,same with tongue clicks. Last week I saw this grey-and-white fellow eating a carton of noodles in the street. I said 'no,no' and put the noodles on the far side of the sidewalk. He bolted and didn't come back. Although NOW he seems to have found/returned to a home. N.E.WAY. I just want to help strays in dangerous sitches or at LEAST get them out of the cold! how can I win their trust?
 

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If you provide them food regularly, over time they'll begin to trust you more. I'm not sure there's any way to do it quickly, but I don't have a ton of experience on the subject either.
 

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Make yourself as non-threatening as possible. To a cat, that means, make yourself small by crouching or sitting on the ground, don't look them in the eye, don't make noises or sudden movements, and don't try to call attention to yourself or the area you're trying to convince them is a safe space. Basically, act like you're deathly allergic to cats and don't want anything to do with them. They actually find this to be polite manners and will be more likely to respond favorably.

And like Angel and minikin says, food definitely helps. You can't go wrong with food.
 

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Yes, food is the way to go. There are a couple of strays I feed that was initially very unfriendly and frightened, ET was one of them. I won't go very near, but will leave food at a distance and within their sight, so they know there's food, then leave. You just need a few days before they know they will get constant food source at the same spot. To gain trust, it will depend on the cat itself, some slower, some faster. I'm still feeding a black cat that will still stay a distance from me, though she is getting closer and closer to me now and its been more than 2mths. It took ET just 1 day to know he is getting food at a specific place. Fed him once, he waited at the same spot the following day and the days after. He will usually wait at a distance for me to leave food there and waited till I leave before he came forward to eat. It took him some 2 or 3mths before he came forward to brush me.

If you know there are cats hanging at a specific location, you can always leave food nearby everyday. When cats know there are food all the time at the same spot, they will come.
 

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Just to add, you just leave food there and go, don't look back and stare at kitty. Most cats will wait till you are out of sight before coming forward to eat. If you wanna check if kitty eats, just get out of kitty's sight and steal a peek or check the plate hours later or the following day, you will know if the food is eaten.
 

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I'm working with two stray cats right now that were really not used to human contact at all. For one, food worked really well. I used to sit down and toss the food at her (over an hour or so). She would get closer and closer, until being scared off when she realized how close she got ;) eventually she started eating within inches of me (out of the bowl) and a few days later she started running right at me looking for food (and now love, I think :D)

However, this didn't work with the other cat, who is still deathly afraid of humans. So it depends on the cat ! The other cat certainly has gotten better though.
 
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