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.
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
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 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: