What should I do if I find a Stray?
Determining whether the cat has a home
There are several types of cats you may find outside:
1. Owned cats that are allowed outdoors
2. Cats that have been abandoned, have run away, or are lost
3. Feral cats who never had homes
4. Small kittens born outside to stray, feral, or owned mothers
Thinking that a cat has a home is one reason why many people don't rescue the cats they see outside. This presumption makes sense if the cat is wearing a collar and/or looks well fed.
If the cat is wearing a collar but is in distress (is very skinny, injured, or the situation outside is very bad) do take the cat inside and attempt to contact the owner. If the cat is wearing a tag hopefully the owner's phone number will be on it. If you are unable to get in touch with the owner, you should make arrangements for the cat either in your own home or with a rescue group. Veterinary care should be provided as needed, but the important thing is to remove the cat from a dangerous situation. Please take the cat to your vet or a shelter to be scanned for a microchip!
If the cat is not wearing a collar but appears to be in good shape and the situation outside is okay, it is a good idea to try and contact the owner through the use of a paper collar. You can request one from FRA or ask for one at your vet. These disposable collars are pretty safe and stick together. They are not recommended for long term use. Write something on the collar with a permanent marker such as 'If this is your cat, call ###-###-####.' After a few days without a call, it is safe to assume that the cat does not have an owner or is lost or abandoned.
If you find a tiny kitten, chances are it is not owned. Truly abandoned kittens should be immediately rescued as they are not able to care for themselves but do not take kittens and leave their mother behind! If the kitten is walking around efficiently on its own, you can bring it inside and feed it regular kitten food. If the kitten is small and wobbly or has its eyes closed, make sure you get information on how to properly care for kittens. This is a good place to look for instructions. If you come across a litter of neonatal kittens and are not sure whether they've been abandoned, try and see if the kittens appear healthy and well-fed. If they're sleeping peacefully, their mother is probably still tending to them. They should be kept with their mother as long as reasonably possible, as that gives them the best chance for survival. If they look sick or are crying, they should be rescued and given proper care immediately.
If the cat is unapproachable it is probably feral (wild). A feral cat will not allow you to pet it and will probably keep its distance from you. If you are concerned about a feral cat or a colony of feral cats, contact a feral-friendly group for help! Learn more about feral cats here.
Reporting a Found Cat
It is advisable to report friendly cats as found. This way, if someone is missing the cat they have a chance to reclaim it. Contact your local animal control to file a found cat report. Also report the cat as found to any large shelters in your area.
Additionally, please post 'Found Cat' flyers around where you found the cat, including veterinary hospitals. Include a general description of the cat as well as your contact info. It is not necessary to post a picture of the cat. In fact, I feel it is advisable not to do so, as you can then ask anyone who claims to be the owner to describe identifying features. This is important because there are people out there (called 'bunchers') who round up cats and dogs to sell to research facilities (see StolenPets.Org). If you need help creating a found cat flyer, please contact us.
There are other online venues where you can post found cat descriptions such as Craigslist (under 'Lost and Found'). Also make sure to check the Lost ads there to see if you've found a kitty someone is missing!
Can't Keep the Cat?