I've bonded with a stray cat in the neighborhood. I have no idea if he can successfully become a house cat. How do I figure out – and do – what’s best for him?
We call this little guy
Bonus Cat. We've seen him hanging around the neighborhood since we moved here, and I see him at least every couple of days. I feed him every now and then. He follows me around, and will curl up on my lap and purr. I've talked to a couple people in the neighborhood, and no one knows where he came from.
I'm fairly certain he's a stray. He's very thin and goes absolutely nuts when I give him food; he's easily spooked and jumps at sudden movements and loud noises; we've seen him with some pretty bad scrapes and skin troubles that would easily warrant a vet visit. (We've attempted to get him to a vet in the past, but he's thwarted our efforts, and he's made quite impressive recoveries from the injuries we've seen.) He's not neutered, which I'd like to get fixed regardless.
On the other hand, he's definitely used to people: it didn't take him long at all to warm up to me, and he will curl himself around the legs of other pedestrians in the neighborhood. He's very gentle and friendly by any cat standards; I think he may have been a pet at one time, and was abandoned.
I'm trying to earn his trust little by little, getting him used to being a people cat. Occasionally I pick him up, carry him a few feet, and let him back down, so he can get used to being held without associating it with anything negative. I've been trying to get him to come inside the house, too, and sometimes he'll come in, but he won't venture past the entryway. He seems afraid of the indoors.
Generally speaking, it seems like it'd be better for a cat to have people and live indoors, but I'm not sure if Bonus Cat agrees. I'm not sure how well he'd adjust to being taken from his home turf (even if he became my cat, I'm going to move eventually), and I'm not sure if he'd have behavioral issues that would prevent him from being adoptable. I'm sure he sprays, I don't know if he'd use a litter box, and I generally have no idea how he'd react to living indoors even part-time.
What's best for this guy? Should I attempt to housecat-ify him, or continue to let him hang out in the neighborhood and just give him food and ear-scritches when I can? And if I do go the house cat route, how exactly can I best do this and how long will it take?