Last updated: 21 Dec, 2023
Published on: 4 Mar, 2016
Help! I've found a stray cat. What do I do?
Think twice before taking a cat you find to a shelter
When encountering a friendly cat, think twice about picking it up and taking it to a shelter. Research shows that lost pet cats are far more likely to find their way back home themselves, with only 3% of 'rescued' cats reunited with their owners via a shelter.
Leave pet cats where they are or, if laws permit, take them to a local vet to be scanned for a microchip. A staggering one-third of cats entering the council system are killed. So, we don’t want the cat ending up in a shelter if it is lost. Statistically, cats are much more likely to return home on their own than survive being impounded.
Could the cat be a lost pet?
If the cat is friendly, you can try making a paper collar and attaching it with a couple of pieces of tape. On the paper collar, put a note saying, ‘Please call this number if this is your cat… (enter your contact number)’. Or, put a note to let the owners know their cat is wandering, Quite often, the owners won't even be aware.
If the cat seems friendly, fitting a paper collar shouldn’t be too much of a problem. If the cat is nervous, please don't risk being bitten or scratched.
If the cat is injured, looks sick, or is very skinny, this may indicate that they are a lost pet cat rather than an urban stray cat, so it will be beneficial to seek out a microchip scan.
Lost pet cats are generally never too far from home, so it’s also recommended that you take a photo of the cat to post on local community Facebook groups and lost and found pet groups for lost cats in your area.
Not all cats you see are lost
It’s also worth noting that not all cats are lost. In every urban community, semi-owned or ‘community cats' live happily amongst us. Urban stray cats can access food and water and survive happily in our communities. If they are healthy cats in good condition, don’t attempt to trap them and take them to a shelter. There are better ways of managing and reducing cat numbers. Find out about the Community Cat Program and how it's helping cats. You can also check out Alley Cat Allies for further information and advice.
You can visit the National Desexing Network for more information about discounted desexing.
You can also find some helpful information on how to care for kittens and stray cat families here.
Rescue groups may also be able to provide additional support or assistance with desexing and rehoming of friendly cats. You can use our Rescue Directory to find groups in your area.
The sad truth is that council systems are generally not safe places for kittens and cats, with thousands killed each year. PetRescue is trying to change this, and we’d love your help.
Image credits: Cats Coming via Pexels.