About a week ago, a black and white cat (probably less than 1 year) showed up in our yard. He was skinny and dirty, but super sweet, so I told the girls to give him a little catfood (we have 2 indoor cats). He's been back every single day! He will not come in the house (we actually left the screendoor open to see if he would). We live pretty much out in the country with lots of woods and fields. My question is, should I take him to get neutered, or just let him live his happy, boy-cat life outside while we continue to feed him and love on him?
We've been "adopted" by a stray cat
My family was adopted by a cat when I was a kid. We caught him, and took him to the vet - and then he started coming in and just never really left. He was all black, and he was the sweetest thing. He died when I was in college, and I wasn't home. I was devastated when I found out.
I would take the cat in to get checked out, and then get him neutered. Might as well keep him.
My sister used to bring home strays when she was little (like 6 or 7 years old)! We had our cat and then 3 or 4 adopted strays for varying lengths of time growing up. I agree with PPs, take the little guy for a check up and do get him neutered (so he doesn't wander as much, and also to hopefully help prevent more strays!). Sounds like a sweety!
Look around and see if there is a group that neuters ferals in the area. At the very least you'll be doing something good to combat strays. If you want to let him in, and make him a pet then take him to the vet, get him scanned for a chip, get him fixed, de-wormed, and any vaxes you see fit to do. It'll probably cost you over a hundred dollars, but it's the healthy thing to do for both him and your family.
There are very few zoonotic diseases that you can get from a cat. The bigger risk is to the other cats. I would have him checked for Feleuk/FIV and have him neutered (unless you want more kittens on your doorstep)
I'd be more concerned about disease/parasites that your family (kids and animals) could catch from him, if he lets anyone get that close to him. If you can even catch him to take him, I'd take him to the vet and have him tested/checked for anything communicable to keep your family safe.
I don't know how old he is, but toms have an annoying tendency to spray regardless of whether they eventually get neutered or not. Even females will spray (I have witnessed this!) So, don't expect miracles if you neuter him to prevent spraying, but you might be able to dial down the smell of the urine. No, neuter instead so that his body will spend less energy towards reproduction and more on putting on fat and fur. I think that's especially important if he is to remain an outdoor cat. Worming is also really important, and something to do regularly. Combating the fleas will be difficult if you can't bathe him (he needs to dry indoors when the weather isn't warm) and fleas are the source of tapeworms. If he is several years old, he probably has pretty good natural immunity to kitty diseases, but a rabies shot would be a good idea. Some people don't immunize their indoor cats, but if you have contact with this cat it would be wise to immunize your indoor kitties.
We are dealing with neighborhood strays, and they have lice and worms and fleas and earmites and ringworm. The lice doesn't seem to be migrating to my cat (indoor/ outdoor) but he gets earmites, fleas and worms from these cats, and we have had to treat ringworm patches on out entire family! We no longer immunize our cat (16yo).
I'm so glad you opened your heart to this little gentleman!
We have a Tom that showed up randomly. Sweet boy he did spray once on our kid while she slept. Then he layed next to her and fell asleep. New mattress later and he's not done it since. We've had him a year. Very calm and sweet. Loves his girls who respect him by not pestering him and loves the dogs especially the old guys since he's the warmest and moves less at night. I"m not a cat person at all but this cat knew exactly how to get to my heart.