When coming across a wandering cat, remember that it may not be a stray. Most cats have a sense of adventure and are inclined to roam the area surrounding their home. Even owned cats can beg for food and appear lost! The cat you've encountered could be stray, feral or even an owned cat.
If the cat is injured, you can call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 or take it to your nearest veterinary practice immediately. Vets provide emergency treatment and care to sick or injured animals at no cost to the finder.
If the cat is healthy, it is important to try and establish whether the cat you've found is truly stray or feral, or whether it is an owned cat. If they appear well-groomed and are a healthy weight, they may have an owner nearby.
Owned cats are likely to be:
- very friendly and affectionate, and may be vocal
- enjoys human interaction and fuss
- microchipped or wearing a collar - if they are a missing pet, they may have a microchip
- in good condition and well fed
- have only recently appeared, looking lost and disorientated
- more likely to be neutered
- may appear with another cat
- do not appear to have a shelter or routine. They may stay in one garden for extended periods of time and seem like they don't know where to go
- be very familiar with a home environment and may be trying to get indoors
Truly stray cats are domestic cats that are used to humans, but they don't have an owner. Stray cats are likely to be:
- friendly - if they're a little shy they will often approach cautiously with some time and encouragement
- found alone
- they are less likely to be neutered
- may have a lean or rugged appearance
- without an ear tip - won't have their ear 'tipped', even if they have been neutered
- appear near houses - either in people's gardens or near homes
- may have sought themselves a regular shelter near homes/in gardens
- have a routine - they may visit the same gardens at the same time most days and display predictable behaviours
- seem used to coping with living outdoors
Feral cats behave like wild animals and won't come close to people, even with encouragement. They are extremely wary and cannot be handled or touched. If cornered or trapped, they will display fearful and/or aggressive behaviour such as hissing, spitting, growling and lashing out.
Feral cats are likely to be:
If you believe that the cat you have found is feral, please call us on 01386 833 343 for further advice.
- not friendly - unsocialised to humans, feral cats find people threatening and can be hard to spot. They won't come close, even with encouragement
- living alone or with others - sometimes, they might live in a colony with other feral cats
- ear tip - they may have their left ear 'tipped' to show they have been neutered and returned
- away from houses - they'll avoid human contact and often have a hiding spot away from populated areas
- not microchipped or wearing a collar - most feral cats don't have a microchip
- permanent - they are more likely to have set up a permanent home or shelter and have a permanent territory
So what should you do if you've found a cat?
For stray or potentially owned cats, it's important to try and locate an owner before the cat is rehomed or brought into a rescue centre. Before we take a stray cat into our care, we will ask you to follow these steps first:
- If the cat is friendly and allows you to approach them, check for a collar and/or ID tags.
- If there is no obvious identification, take the cat to your nearest vet to be scanned for a microchip. This will not cost you anything, and the vet can then contact the owners to arrange a happy reunion.
- Ask your neighbours if they recognise the cat.
- Post the cat on Facebook groups for lost and found pets, and check previous posts about missing cats on these groups
- Put up posters in your local area. You can download a template here: found cat poster
- Register the cat on www.animalsearchuk.com. This website is FREE.
- Check out local newspapers
Print out a paper collar and put it on the cat:
- Print out the paper collar template here
- Write your contact telephone number in the space provided and cut out one collar
- Use sellotape to secure the collar around the cat's neck
- Ensure the fitted collar allows for two fingers to be placed between the collar and the cat's neck, to make sure the cat isn't harmed
If no owner has come forward after you have followed these steps, you can call us on 01386 833 343. We will add the cat to our waiting list to be brought into our care.
A lost cat might be nervous, particularly if it is sick or injured. Approach with caution and carefully cover the cat in a blanket before picking them up and putting them in a cat basket - this keeps them safe as well as protecting you from claws!
For further advice on what to do, download our checklistHow to make a stray cat shelter
What to do if you find a pregnant cat or kittens
If you’ve found a pregnant cat or a cat with kittens, call us on 01386 833 343 for further advice.
If the kitten you've found appears unwell or is in an unsafe location, gently and carefully pick it up and put in a secure carrier or cardboard box and call us on 01386 833 343 or take to your nearest vet.
If you find a kitten that doesn't appear to have a mother, have a look around the area for signs of more kittens. Check under bushes and shrubs, and listen out for their cries.
If the kitten you've found is in good health and in a safe location, leave it where it is and wait quietly, hidden at a distance for 20 - 30 minutes to see if the mother cat returns. If she doesn't, call us on 01386 833 343 for further advice.