Found a Stray?

Stray Cat Tips

Helping An Outdoor Cat

If you see a new cat outdoors, you may think he’s lost. But with many feral cats living as wildlife, and many pet cats allowed outside (without collars), proceed cautiously. Rescuing may not be necessary or even the best decision. Unless the cat is in danger, observe him for a few days to ensure he really needs help. First you want to determine if this is a pet that goes out, a feral cat, or a lost cat:

Outdoor Pet Cat Characteristics. Friendly, well-groomed cats are probably pets that go outdoors. They’re comfortable with people and may try to come inside. Females and neutered males are usually neighborhood cats — they seldom roam — but intact male cats do — so they may live far away.

Feral and Lost Cat Characteristics. It’s hard to tell a feral cat from a lost cat because pets revert to feral behaviors when they’re lost and scared. Both come out at night and hide during the day. When approached, they can both show signs of aggression (hiss, growl, bared teeth, arched back) and will run if you make eye contact. The differences are subtle.

A feral cat may be better groomed, than a recently-lost pet who hasn’t adjusted to living outdoors. If you start feeding them, eventually both will trust you — but the pet will begin acting like a companion while the feral cat will stay skittish — especially around others.

Companion Cat Tips

Locating A Lost Companion Cat’s Guardian

  • If the cat looks lost, try to find his guardian — that’s what you would want if you lost your pet. Don’t assume the cat is lost because the guardian was “uncaring or abandoned him” — anyone can lose their cat. If the cat’s hungry or dirty, that probably happened after he got lost — street life takes a quick toll on house cats. Here how to find the guardian:
  • To make sure that the apparently-lost cat isn’t really an outdoor pet, put a collar on with a note — if someone is caring for him, they’ll call.
  • Alert neighbors. A lost indoor-only cat is very frightened and will hide even from the guardian. Also alert neighborhood children — they know the local pets.
  • Have the cat scanned for a microchip ID tag.
  • Notify shelters. If you can, foster the cat rather than turning it in. Shelters hold strays for only a few days and may euthanise them after that. If you foster, make sure your pets and children are kept away until the cat is seen by a vet.
  • Put photo posters in pet stores and vet clinics — and use the poster to also solicit a new guardian if the original one isn’t found.
  • Check classifieds for lost pets. Run an ad including a brief description and location but holding back an identifying detail for safety.
  • If your attempts to find the cat’s home fail, continue caring for the cat as an outdoor pet until a new home is found — or if not possible, try the Humane Society, No-kill shelter or a rescue organization in your area.