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Found a lost, stray or feral cat and not sure what to do? Read our advice guide to find out more.

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?

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

How to check if a cat has a microchip?

Microchips are the best way to determine the specific details about a cat. Many vets and animal welfare organisations scan lost cats for microchips. If you found a cat you think may be stray or lost, contact your local vet or Cats Protection branch to ask if they can scan them for a microchip.

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.

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

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: Stray and feral cats guide

Stray or feral - what's the difference?

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

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. These are good to attach to a cat to contact a possible owner, if there is one. Here's what to do:

  • Print out the template
  • 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 from the cat paper collar, call your local Cats Protection branch. You can find your local branch by typing in your postcode on our Find us page

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.

  • If a cat allows, check their tummy, carefully and without startling them – 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

Related topics

Lost a cat? 

Stray cats

Feral cats

Find a Cat
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