For a few lucky people, finding a stray cat in their garden or in the street is how they come to own a cat! For others, it’s at least a chance to do some good, care for a cat, and even reunite it with its owner. For any of this to happen, you need to know what to do when you find a stray – so that’s what we’re looking at today!
Is It Really a Stray?
This is the first question you need to ask yourself. If you try to ‘take in’ a cat that’s actually healthy and happy at home you could be causing significant problems – for you, for the cat’s owners and for the cat itself! You don’t know what medical issues it might have, what diet it might be on and at the very least you might find yourself having to deal with unnecessary cat vomit and diarrhea – at most you could endanger its life! Many cats that might seem to be strays have perfectly happy homes and like to wander and explore, so check these signs.
A cat that is defensive and doesn’t want to be approached may not be stray but feral – with no owner and self-sufficiently living in the wild.
First of all, look for a collar. This isn’t a definitive sign of a stray – many people who keep cats don’t put collars on them, and even a cat with a home and a collar can wander too far and get lost, but it’s a good first sign to check.
Check for signs of distress. If the cat you’re worried about is very thin – with its ribs showing, visibly ill or injured, it might need help.
It’s also worth thinking about if the cat is unfamiliar – if it’s a new sight around your street and doesn’t appear to be associated with a particular house it may be lost.
If the cat is in your home – if it’s walked in, followed you or is amenable to being picked up , you can try to feed it. It may be too anxious to eat in unfamiliar surroundings, and you may have no pet food to hand – boiled chicken and white rice is easily digestible, and the scent may tempt the cat’s appetite.
Most importantly, provide somewhere safe for it to sleep – blankets in a box will be warm, make the cat feel secure, and you’ll know where to find it.
If the cat is nervous, sick or injured it may resist being picked up – don’t force the issue! You could do much more harm than good. Simply note the location the cat seems to staying in, and if necessary bring some food there.
Finding the Owner
The most important thing you can do is try to reunite the cat with its owner. If you’re not sure whether the cat is a stray, a popular tactic is to put a paper collar on the cat with a message and your phone number – if it is going home the owners can get in touch.
You can also look for missing pet signs in the area – both physically and on local social media groups. You could consider making some ‘pet found’ signs of your own.
Finally, if you’re able to get the stray cat to a vet they will be able to check for a microchip – this is the most reliable way of reuniting a lost cat with its owner. They can also check for any immediately threatening health issues you need to know about.