Cats are curious things that love to wander so it’s not always easy to spot if a cat is a stray or not. However, if you’re becoming concerned about your new feline friend, it’s important to look out for a few things and to know what to do just in case they are lost and can’t find their way back home.
Is the cat is feral or owned?
Deciding whether the cat is owned or not will determine how you handle the situation. If the cat is friendly and approachable, it will more than likely belong to someone, so you can take the necessary steps to get the word out.
However, if it is not approachable but seems healthy then the RSPCA recommends leaving it alone. Feral cats are used to living outside and avoid human contact, so if there are no concerns about its weight and the condition that it’s in, then it may be best to simply leave it be.
Do I feed it?
It’s natural to want to feed an animal that seems uncared for but it’s best to avoid feeding them unless they are clearly underweight. The cat may well have an owner that’s feeding them and is worried about their whereabouts. Feeding the cat will encourage them to keep coming back to you rather than returning home. However, if the cat is obviously underweight then this rule doesn’t apply.
What to do with an underweight feral cat
If the feral cat is injured or malnourished then contact your local RSPCA or other reputable animal shelters in your area. In the meantime, try and create some kind of shelter and warmth for the cat – such as a blanket filled cardboard box – along with some food and clean water.
Stray owned cat
Unfortunately, many RSPCA’s don’t have the resources to take in healthy stray cats, so you may have better luck in trying a few extra steps first:
- Get the news out – ask your neighbours first, they may have an idea of who the cat belongs to.
- If nobody knows then providing the cat is friendly enough, attach an RSPCA paper collar that’s downloadable as a pdf and can be printed off. This ensures that if the cat is returning to their home, the owner is notified and has your number on the collar so they can let you know the cat is taken care of.
- RSPCA also have a printable found poster that you can pin up in the surrounding area to get the word out. This will also give you a chance to have a look for lost posters from the owner. Social media is great for spreading the search too.
- If you’re still having no luck, then it may be time to take it to your local vet to see if the cat has been microchipped. Only do this if the cat is friendly and you have appropriate means of transporting it – ie a pet carrier.
- If your vet isn’t open, ring round your local animal charities to see if they have a pet scanner. Social media groups are good for finding out this kind of information.
- Try the Lost and Found contact list or the online resource, Pets Located, that reunites owners with missing pets.
It’s always best to continue trying to locate the owner, however, if it has been a few weeks and nobody has been in contact then rehoming the cat is the next best option.
If you’re thinking of adopting the cat yourself, then check out our cat care guide to make sure you’re fully prepared. If you can’t house the cat, then try your local trusted animal shelters.
To get more advice and support, you can ring the Cats Protection’s National Information Line on 03000 12 12 12.
We hope this information has been useful in helping you decide what the next step is.