Have you ever been driving along or walking outside when you come across a cat? Were you uncertain what to do, how to help, or even if your help was needed? Unsure how to tell if the cat might be feral or someone’s outdoor pet versus a lost or abandoned cat? Well, keep reading! Below we’ll help break down what to do in different situations and just how you can aid cats in your neighborhood.
So, you found a cat. First things first: let’s try to determine whether this cat is feral or a lost/abandoned pet. Feral cats were born and raised outdoors, in the wild—in other words, they’ve had very little, if any, human contact. These cats are sometimes called community cats and often form colonies. Due to their lack of human contact, they tend to be skittish and afraid of people–and will typically do their best to avoid humans entirely. If you bring out food, they may allow some form of contact, but even in such cases the majority of feral cats will wait for you to leave before going near said food. Most feral cats won’t accept being handled and are, sadly, too often euthanized or refused at shelters. Overall, the situation for cats at shelters is dire: 60% of cats admitted are euthanized. Yet when it comes to feral cats, that number drastically increases to a nearly 100% euthanasia rate. Their circumstances are in no way their fault and they deserve far better. TNR (trap neuter and return) is the only viable option to save the lives of feral cats. TNR organizations will often tip an ear to tell you that this cat has already been spayed/neutered; many of these organizations also help to feed feral cat colonies, but if you find a colony, it’s best to contact a local rescue organization (such as TLCR) to find out whether they are being cared for. As well, humane traps are available from most rescue organizations and shelters. If you believe you have found a feral cat that is not being cared for, get in touch with a local TNR group for assistance.
A lost or abandoned cat, however, is familiar with humans and often reliant on them for care. They have more difficulty adapting to and coping with life outdoors. If you happen upon such a cat, they may be comfortable enough around you to meow, demand attention, rub against you, or purr. Of course, not all domesticated cats are at ease around strangers, but as a whole they are much more willing than a feral cat would be. Remember, too, that some cats are allowed outdoors by their owners and therefore not stray. In such a case, they really should be wearing tags to identify this, but collars can come off and some cats simply refuse to wear them.
If the cat you’ve found doesn’t seem feral, approach them slowly. Try not to make sudden movements or loud noises, and until you know more about said cat’s behavior and personality, be wary of being scratched or bitten if you push beyond his or her comfort zone. Try luring the cat into a carrier (or even a cardboard box) using strong-smelling food like tuna, sardines, or wet cat food. If you are unable to confine or catch the cat, call a local rescue service for help. Ten Lives Cat Rescue can educate and help with trapping!
Once you have the cat in your care, bring them to a shelter or veterinarian to scan for a microchip. Microchips can be great for helping reunite lost cats with their owners. If they do not have one, it’s time to reach out to all local shelters to see if anyone has been searching for their missing cat. Social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, can be amazing resources for reuniting missing pets as well. Pet Finder is a terrific site, too! If the cat was found in a neighborhood, try asking around or putting up found cat posters throughout the area.
If you are able, give the cat shelter until their family is found. Cats can easily be contained in a spare bedroom, office, or bathroom. Just be sure the cat has plenty of fresh water, food, a litter box (disposable ones are great for temporary care) and proper shelter from the elements. If no one comes forward, you’ll need to decide whether you are interesting in adopting the cat yourself! If you are, get into contact with a local shelter and ask them how your state handles adopting strays, as this can vary by area. Bring the cat to a vet to get a full examination and learn more about their gender, age, and health. If you are unable to adopt the found cat, bring them to a no-kill shelter or rescue organization such as Ten Lives! We provide cats foster homes, where they will be safe and cared for until they find their forever family.
Perhaps most importantly, if the cat you’ve found appears in any way injured, sick, or generally unhealthy—even if they are feral—please reach out to a rescue (or veterinarian, if you are able to trap the kitty) for urgent help. No one deserves to suffer such a fate, and you may very well be saving a life! Ten Lives Cat Rescue will do everything in our power to help you in this endeavor. We truly believe that action saves lives.