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At this time of year we seem to see an increase in the number of ‘stray’ cats brought into our practices. But we do find that often they are not strays at all! So how can you tell if your concern is for a cat truly in need?
Cats loosely fall into 3 groups; owned, stray and feral. Owned cats are those simply enjoying prowling their neighbourhood, strays are those who have unfortunately found themselves to be homeless, and feral cats are semi-wild and often found to be used as a pest-control aid by farmers!
So, how do you distinguish between the 3 types?
Your cheeky neighbour’s cat will generally be friendly, often brazen, and will come looking for tasty bits of extra food. Their appearance will be generally clean (although they may have slight dirty paws) and, with the exception of nervous pet cats, will approach freely on their quest for food scraps!
On the other hand, genuine stray cats will be very unkempt. They will be dirty all over, often filthy, as they will have stopped cleaning themselves through depression and lack of care 🙁 They may be carrying injuries and may well look poorly. These cats were at one time a family pet and for one reason or another have now found themselves facing a life on the streets…
If you see, or are approached by, a stray cat, please do help them. There are many local rescues who will be able to offer care and advice for such animals and you will be saving them from possible further pain and isolation.
Unlike strays, feral cats will generally keep their distance from humans, and you are unlikely to
see them during the day as a result. You will never be able to coax a feral cat to you and largely they should be left to get on with the life they are perfectly happy with! As they are well adapted to the life they live, they too will appear to be well fed and well groomed.
What do I do if I think I have seen a stray?
We suggest following this general advice:
• The first thing to do is put its details on as many lost and found sites as you can and contact all local rescues to let them know you have found a cat
• Put notices in your local shop, notice boards and go door to door asking residents in the area
• Lost cats are generally within ½ mile of their own home so do make sure as a minimum you have gone door to door at least 3 streets in any direction from your home
• Also, place a paper collar around the neck of the cat you have found if it will allow you to approach. A paper collar is a strip approx 2cm wide from a sheet of A4 paper which you secure firmly but loosely around the cats neck with cellotape. You should be able to get 2 fingers between the cats neck and the paper collar
• Write on the piece of paper – “ I believe this to be a lost cat, if your cat please call me on ######”
• If the cat already wears a collar an option is to create a paper tag in the same way and attach it to the existing collar with the same information. You should leave the paper collar on for at least 7- 10 days
• Continue to monitor and check lost and found websites and notify rescues if you find the owner
• If the cat you have found is injured and in need of veterinary care due to an open wound or very poor condition then do bring them in to see us as soon as possible
• If you are able to catch the cat and have a secure cat carrier you can bring them to easipetcare to be scanned for a microchip
• Importantly, DO NOT just pick up the cat, keep it indoors or take and leave with a rescue immediately without having attempted the steps above first
We always suggest trying the above approach for 2-3 weeks to ensure the cat truly is a stray and not just a brave, locally owned cat that likes to get out and about.
The exception to this is obviously if they are clearly sick, injured, or have a litter of kittens. In these instances it would be important to ensure all cats get the appropriate veterinary care, nutrition and medication that they need.
If you would like advice on any cat – whether a possible stray, or your own cat – please do get in touch for a chat with your local team <3
With very best wishes,
(Advice adapted from Sunny Harbour Cat Rescue).