It used to be thought that only stray cats could live long lives in rural areas but this perception has changed as more and more people in suburbia and the cities continue to feed, water, and provide shelter for cats. You can drive through your neighborhood and see how many people have a bowel of food or water out on their front porch and how many people have their garage doors open just enough for a cat to crawl in but not a larger animal. There are many stray cats that live long lives living on the streets in both cities and the country. While most of these stray cats need to be vaccinated and either spayed or neutered it is not a necessity for their long term survival. However, the one necessity for their survival is wound observation and wound care.
If you are providing shelter, food, and water for a stray cat, their wound care is crucial. If you are not able to handle your stray cat, you can still observe their wounds. Outdoor and stray cats get in fights all the time resulting in scratches and bite wounds. You will be able to observe this because your cat will more than likely have licked all the fur off around the wound site, which will give you visible access to the wound. Some minor abrasions and superficial scratches will heal on their own. However, you need to watch for pus, and abscess, and malaise. If you see puss, this is a sign of infection and infections usually require antibiotics to heal. An abscess is an accumulation of subcutaneous pus surrounding the wound. An abscess will not heal on its own and often requires not only antibiotics but to be irrigated and drained. Sometimes a temporary drain has to be inserted as the draining occurs over a couple of days. If your stray cat does appear lethargic and/or has stopped eating or drinking, then they need to be immediately taken to a veterinarian. In all actuality, once you see pus, the stray cat probably needs to be taken to a veterinarian at least to get antibiotics.
If your stray cat is only friendly with you and you are concerned that it might be hard to handle by your veterinarian, do not fear, as most cats that need extensive irrigation and drain placement will have to be sedated. Sedation is a very safe and smooth process that allows the veterinarian to perform everything that needs to be done without providing additional stress on the cat. In addition, if needed, your veterinarian can also easily draw blood. If your stray cat does not need a drain or once the drain has been removed, the veterinarian will use either skin glue or dissolvable stitches to close the wound.
Stray cats need shelter, food, and water to survive but they also occasionally need wound care. With a little observation and veterinarian care, wounds can easily be identified and quickly resolved. It would be rare for a stray cat to only experience superficial cuts and scratches and thus wound care is a necessity for their long-term survival.