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Found a stray cat and not sure what to do? Here's what to do with a found cat

Five things to do with a found cat

  1. Avoid feeding it unless it is particularly underweight - this will only encourage the cat to come back, even if they have an owner!
  2. Call your local animal shelter or organisation - find your local Cats Protection
  3. List the cat on your local community Facebook page or put up posters
  4. Report abandoned pets to the RSPCA
  5. If the cat doesn't have an owner, contact your local Cats Protection and we'll find the cat a home

What do I do if I've found a cat?

Most cats are, by nature, inclined to roam the area surrounding their home. You're likely to come across a stray cat on your travels, although it might be tricky to find out whether it is a stray cat, a feral or is in fact an owned cat with a sense of adventure. So what should you do if you've found a cat?

How do I know if the cat is feral, stray or an owned cat?

Before you do anything, it is important to think about whether the cat you've found is a stray, a feral or an owned cat. If they appear well-groomed and is a healthy weight, they may have an owner nearby.

Ferals behave like wild animals and won't come close, even with encouragement. Stray cats might look lost and disorientated, but may be friendly if given time. Check out our visual guide for more tips on how to identify the cat you have found.

Download the stray and feral cats guide

Stray cat?

Stray cats are socialised domestic cats who don't appear to have an owner. Be wary; even if they 'stray' they might be a neighbourhood cat who's worked out that if they look hungry they can bag themselves another meal!

Stray cats are likely to be:

  • more friendly - if they're a little shy they will often approach cautiously with some time and encouragement
  • found alone
  • 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
  • microchipped - if they are a missing pet, they may have a microchip
  • recent in their appearance, looking lost and disorientated

Feral cat

Feral cats are the same species of cat as our pet cats, but are not socialised to humans or the domestic environment. This means they behave like wild animals.

Feral cats are likely to be:

  • 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 - most feral cats don't have a microchip
  • permanent - they are more likely to have set up a permanent home or shelter

What to do if you find a pregnant cat

Think you’ve found a pregnant cat or a cat with kittens and wondering what to do next? Follow our step-by-step guide.

  • Check the cat’s tummy, carefully and without startling them (or touching their tummy) – if the mammary glands appear more prominent, the cat may be still nursing her young
  • Take the cat to the vet by safely wrapping them in a blanket or putting them in a cardboard box. The vet will be able to scan for a microchip, which is vital in locating an owner and may also lead to finding the location of any kittens
  • If safe to do so, go back to the area where the cat was found and have a look around the area for any signs of kittens. Check under bushes and shrubs, and listen out for their cries
  • If you’re unsuccessful in locating an owner and kittens, you might want to put up posters locally and post on social media letting people know that there may be a litter of kittens somewhere. In the post, remind people to check their gardens and any outbuildings, as well as asking the owner to get in contact

Keeping the cat safe

If the found cat is friendly, you might be able to check for an identification tag - if it belongs to someone, give them a call and let them know. You can take the cat to your nearest vet to scan for a microchip, or call your local Cats Protection branch for help.

It is also a good idea to advertise the cat you've found using flyers or social media sites, or use our paper collars. If you have no luck in finding the owner, contact Cats Protection's National Information Line on 03000 12 12 12 for more advice.

Every year, we reunite many lost cats with their loving families. Would you like to help us continue to do this? Would you consider sponsoring a cat or making a donation

Printable paper collars for cats

If you've found a cat and you're unsure as to whether it has an owner, use our handy paper collars. Here's what to do:

  • Print out the template here
  • Write your contact telephone number in the space provided and cut out one collar
  • Ensure the fitted collar allows for two fingers to be placed between the collar and cat's neck, to make sure the cat isn't harmed
  • If you get no response from the owner, call your local Cats Protection branch. You can find your local branch by typing in your postcode in our Find us page

For more advice on what to do, download our checklist.

Should I feed a stray or lost cat?

It can be really tempting to feed an unfamiliar cat if you think they are lost or a stray, but it’s best not to. Some cats might be on a special diet or have a medical condition that needs a particular type of food. Feeding them something different might seriously upset their tummy or stop them getting all the important nutrients they need.

Feeding an unfamiliar cat can also keep them coming back to you. If they are owned, this will upset their owner as it means the cat won’t be leaving in a hurry to return home! If you already have a cat, it will be unsettling for them too and might cause them to become stressed. You can find out more about stress in cats on our advice page.

Instead of feeding an unfamiliar cat, follow our checklist below to help them.

Found a cat? Follow our checklist

  • Feral cat, stray cat or owned cat with a sense of adventure? Find out before you act
  • Ask your neighbours if they recognise the cat - there might be someone in the local area frantically searching for their lost pet
  • Is the cat sick or injured? If you're concerned, call the RSPCA, USPCA or SSPCA
  • Has the cat got a collar or tag? If there are no visible signs of ownership, take the cat to your local veterinary clinic to be scanned for a microchip
  • Check local newspapers and listings in case the cat has been listed as missing
  • Post a photo and brief description on your Facebook page and any local community Facebook groups
  • Tweet a description and photo of the cat on Twitter and ask your followers to retweet - you'll reach a larger number of people this way
  • Contact Cats Protection's National Information Line for details of your nearest branch's lost and found register
Download our checklist

Related topics

Lost a cat? - Topic

Stray cats - Topic

Find a Cat
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