What to Do if You Find a Stray Cat
Cats are adventurous creatures. Even when they have a cozy home with unlimited food and water supply, they still can’t help but go on a bit of quest by themselves. So coming across a cat on one of your travels is not unusual. But if you can’t stop worrying about the cat, then there are some steps you can take to help her.
Is the Cat Feral, Stray, or Owned?
To know what the best next step to take is, first, identify whether the cat is a stray, feral, or if he could have an owner nearby.
A cat is most likely someone’s pet if he has a collar, appears to be well-groomed, and healthy. Stray cats look disoriented and lost, but they can still be friendly when encouraged. Feral cats are not socialized to humans or the domestic environment, so they act more like wild animals and will not come close no matter your effort.
What to Do with a Found Cat?
Now that you know the cat’s status, you can move forward with helping her.
1. If the cat is feral, don’t attempt to touch her.
Feral cats may result in violence when threatened by human presence. Leave her alone or report her to your local cat protection agency. Organizations like Alley Cat Allies can help with “Trap-Neuter-Return” programs, which reduce the feral cat population and thus reduce the number of cats ending up in shelters. If you notice the cat is ear-tipped, meaning a portion of their ear is missing, you can leave her alone. Ear-tipping is the universal sign she is vaccinated, spayed, and doesn’t need the help of a “Trap-Neuter-Return” program.
2. If the cat is friendly, check for identification tags.
Tamed cats may let you pet them, so use the chance to look for tags with the owner’s contact number and inform them of their cat’s whereabouts. Some cats may have an identification chip embedded in their skin. Even if the cat doesn’t have a collar, she may still have a home. You can take her to your local vet or animal shelter, where they can check for a microchip.
3. Don’t feed the cat unless it seems weak and underweight.
Even if the cat has an owner, it might keep returning to you once you feed it. Unless the cat seems to need nutrition, fight back the urge to give her a treat. If you begin putting out food and water for a stray or feral cat, then expect that cat to eventually come back on a regular schedule expecting to be fed. Unless you want to commit this daily chore, this is not recommended — it is hard to stop once you start. Also, if you start, other cats may begin to come around, and soon you will be on the hook for many neighborhood cats.
4. Contact your local animal shelter.
If the cat looks abandoned or if you can’t find the owner’s contact number, call your local animal shelter and let them know of the situation. They will safely keep the cat until the owner comes or put it up for adoption.
It’s hard to shake off the instinct to pet a stray cat as soon as you see one, but for your safety, remember these tips and do the right thing for both you and the cat.
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