How to Find & Adopt Stray Pets in The Sims 3

Sims 3 How to Adopt Strays

Strays returned in The Sims 3: Pets expansion. Just like in the previous games, you can adopt strays by building up a relationship with them. In this guide, we’ll cover all aspects of how to find and adopt strays in The Sims 3.

In addition to dogs and cats, you can also adopt stray horses. The Sims 3 is the only game in the franchise to include horses (at the time of this writing). Players can use the pet adoption interaction on the phone, or befriend and adopt wild horses.

How to Fix No Strays Appearing on Lots

The EA default settings make it very difficult to ever see stray cats and dogs in the game. There are two mods that fix this problem (when used together). Here’s exactly what I did to finally get strays showing up in my game.

First, install these two mods if you don’t have them already:

  • GoHere – Fixes a bug that prevents strays from spawning.
  • Retuner – Allows you to adjust the amount of time between stray visits and other relevant settings.

Now load your game, click on City Hall and choose: Nraas > Retuner > Settings > General > By Tunable XML > Sims3.Gameplay.PetSystems > StrayPets

Sims 3 Lack of Strays Fix
The Retuner menu that allows you to fix the lack of strays.

Make the following changes:

  • kActiveHouseholdMaxTimeBetweenVisits = 24 (The maximum number of sim-hours that pass before a stray is forced to visit. Set it lower if you want strays to show up more often.)
  • kActiveHosueholdVisitBaseChance = 0.25 (The base chance a stray will visit the active household when the stray pet alarm fires. Value is far too low by default.)
  • kRandomLotVisitChance = 0.25 (The chance a stray will visit another lot beside the active household. It’s far too low by default and strays almost never show up on random lots.)
  • kVisitLengthHighLTRMax = 1440 (Changes the maximum time the stray stays on your lot to 24 hours if you have a high relationship.)
  • kVisitLengthHighLTRMin = 720 (Changes the minimum time the stray stays on your lot to 12 hours if you have a high relationship.)
  • kVisitLengthMax = 600 (Changes the maximum time the stray will stay at your home to 10 hours if you have a low relationship.)
  • kVisitLengthMin = 360 (Changes the minimum time the stray will stay at your home to 6 hours if you have a low relationship.)

As soon as I made these changes, a stray dog appeared at my lot the very first night! The only way to get strays showing up in my world was to use these mods. I tried to play the vanilla game but no stray cats or dogs ever appeared.

Tip: If you’re seeing too many or too few strays, adjust the numbers until you reach a level you’re happy with. Same goes for the minimum and maximum visit lengths.

How to Find Strays

There are no premade strays in TS3. Instead, several stray dogs, cats, and horses are generated randomly. When I started a new game in Appaloosa Plains, the game immediately created five stray dogs, five stray cats, and four wild horses.

If you hover over an animal and it has a name, it is owned by another household in the world.

Sims 3 Stray Dog
A stray dog on my Sim’s porch at night.

Strays appear on both residential and community lots (if you use the method above to fix lack of strays). Unlike in previous games, strays do not have specific names. They’re simply named “stray dog,” “stray cat,” or “wild horse.”

Each stray species is more likely to appear at their respective lot assignment. Here are the best places to find them on community lots:

  • Stray cats at the “Cat Jungle” lot
  • Stray dogs at the “Dog Park” lot
  • Stray horses at the “Horse Ranch” lot

Stray horses always seem to be the easiest to find out in the world and they seem to travel in groups. If you’re looking for a dog or cat, it may take longer to find one.

Sims 3 Group of Wild Horses
A group of wild horses gather around the watering trough.
Tip: Stray Horses are attracted to the watering troughs placed around town in Appaloosa Plains. If you’re looking for a horse to tame, hang out around these and they’ll show up soon. They’re also attracted to fishing spots and beaches.

How to Attract Strays

If you want to increase the chances of a stray showing up on your lot, there are ways you can attract them:

  • Place a pet food bowl somewhere on your lot and fill it with food. Strays are attracted to full food bowls.
  • Place a pet house somewhere on your lot. Strays are also attracted to a warm place to sleep.
  • Place a stray gnome on your lot. Find the stray gnomes in the buy mode catalog under Pets > Misc. Choose a canine, feline, or wildlife stray gnome. (The wildlife gnome attracts horses, deer, and raccoons.)

Make sure to use the method at the top of this post for fixing the lack of strays or these methods won’t really help.

Sims 3 Feline Stray Gnome
The Feline Stray Gnome increases the chance of stray cats appearing on your lot.

Strays usually appear at night, although they can appear at any time. They’ll come onto your Sim’s porch to sleep and interact with any objects you’ve placed out.

Here’s a guide to how long strays stay on your lot once they appear:

  • Minimum 60 Sim-minutes (max 120 minutes) if the stray has a lifetime relationship of 25 or below with every Sim on the lot
  • Minimum 90 Sim-minutes (max 180 minutes) if the stray has a lifetime relationship of 25 or above with any one Sim on the lot

In my opinion, these times are way too short. I use retuner to increase both the minimum and maximum time strays stay on my Sim’s lot (see fixing no strays on lots above).

How to Adopt Stray Cats & Dogs

Here are my suggestions for how to adopt a stray dog or cat in the least amount of time possible without cheating:

  1. Wait for a stray to appear on your home lot.
  2. Perform an “Affection” interaction on the stray such as feed treat or smoochie. I start with feed treat to make the animal like me a bit first.
  3. Invite the stray inside and furnish your home with toys, scratching post and litter box for a cat, and food bowl.
  4. Continue performing interactions – affection, play, etc – until the stray leaves your lot or your relationship is high enough to adopt. This can take a while, perhaps even multiple visits.

My Sim’s relationship was quite high before she could adopt – past the point of being best friends.

Sims 3 Relationship Adopt Stray
Relationship bar with stray when my Sim was able to adopt.

Click the “Adopt Stray” interaction and your Sim will reach down to give him a pet. You’ll get a pop-up box asking if you’re sure you want to adopt. Say yes. Then you’ll be prompted to name your new pet.

He’ll be added to your household and you can start caring for him as your own. Make sure you have all the necessary pet supplies to keep him happy and healthy!

How to Adopt Stray (Wild) Horses

Your Sim must have a level 8 riding skill to adopt a wild horse. Either learn the skill the old-fashioned way or use a mod like Nraas Master Controller to cheat.

Luckily, horses are easy to find. They’re often found in groups by bodies of water. Just scan your world map and you’ll find them soon enough.

Once you’ve found a wild horse, let it sniff your Sim’s hand or feed it a treat to start the relationship. Wild horses are…wild. So it might take a bit of coaxing to get them to interact with your Sim.

Sims 3 Wild Horse Feeding Treat
Honey Darnell feeds a treat to a wild horse.

After the horse accepts your offer of friendship, continue interacting with him until your relationship is high enough to adopt. This can take some time. You may have to find the horse out in the world multiple times.

My Sim had the option to adopt soon after becoming friends with the horse. The “Adopt Wild Horse” interaction is found under the “Friendly” menu.

Sims 3 Adopt Wild Horse
Choose “Adopt Wild Horse” in the Friendly menu.

Your Sim will walk up to the horse and pet him. Colored sparkles will surround your Sim and the horse. Then, you’ll be asked if you’re sure you want to adopt. Say yes. And finally, you’ll be prompted to name your new pet.

Tip: You may have to try a few times until the interaction works. My wild horse kept trying to run away while I was attempting to adopt him. The horse will always accept the adoption once you’ve successfully completed the interaction.

How to Adopt Strays with Cheats

Adopting strays the normal way takes a lot of time and effort. Speed up the process by using a cheat.

  1. Hold Ctrl + Shift + C to open the cheat console.
  2. Type in “testingcheatsenabled true” without the quotes and press enter.
  3. Hold down Shift and right-click on the stray.
  4. Select “Add to Active Family.”

The stray is now part of your household just as if you adopted him – but without the need to build up a relationship first. Make sure you have all the supplies you need to care for your new pet!

Another strategy is to enable testing cheats, then find the stray in your relationship panel. Drag the relationship bar all the way up with your mouse. Now, the option to adopt will be available when you click on the stray.

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