As a cat lover, what would you do if a stray cat started visiting your garden? We share the steps you can take to try to reunite a stray cat with their owner.
Is it Really a Stray Cat?
If you’ve found someone’s lost pet, your aim should be to try to reunite them with their owner as soon as possible.
Is your new visitor friendly and approachable? If so, it’s likely that the cat was owned at least at some point in time and is a stray or lost pet rather than a feral cat. If the cat is male, is he neutered? If he is, again he’s more likely to be someone’s missing pet. It’s not as easy to determine whether a female cat has been spayed just from looking unfortunately.
If your stray is wearing ID tags and a collar, call the number on the back to get in touch with the owner, although bear in mind that not all pet cats wear collars. Cats that live indoors and have escaped through an open door or window may not be wearing a collar and other cats who are allowed to freely roam outdoors are regular ‘Houdinis’ when it comes to escaping out of their collars.
How well fed and groomed is your stray cat? The appearance of your stray cat may depend on how long they’ve been on their own. The stress of ‘being on the street’ and having to source their own food can result in a usually well-groomed house cat appearing dirty and disheveled. Similarly, elderly cats or cats with health issues might look ‘scrawny’ or undernourished when in fact, they’re actually okay and have started wandering away from home as a result of dementia for example.
How to Find Out if a Cat is Owned
1. Make a paper collar.
Make a paper collar that has your phone number on and ask for the cat’s owner to call you. Attach it around the cat’s neck with tape at the join (not covering the entire collar as it may be dangerous for the cat). In an ideal world, you’ll get a phone call, but if no such call eventuates then you can probably assume she’s a stray or lost.
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2. Ask around your neighbourhood.
If she’s local to the area, one of your neighbours may know who she belongs to. Make sure to ask everyone, particularly people who’ve moved in recently, as that could be why you’ve only just started seeing her. Keep in mind that some cats will roam over large areas so she may live further away than the surrounding streets.
3. Scan for a microchip.
If you take her to your local vet they’ll be able to scan her for a microchip and contact the owners if she is chipped, but be prepared for the microchip details to be out of date. Sadly, many people move house and forget to update their pet’s microchip details in the database.
4. Contact local rescues and shelters.
When pets go missing, their owners often contact local rescue organisations and shelters in case their cat gets brought in, so always check with them first in case they know of a missing cat of that description. Local Facebook groups and lost animal websites who work to reunite missing pets with their owners are other places to check. Even if no one recognises the cat’s description, make sure to leave your details in case the owners do check in after you’ve leff a message.
5. Advertise with flyers and posters.
If you haven’t had any luck tracing the owners so far, start advertising. Print flyers and posters to go around the area and post on social media – on your own accounts and appropriate cat related groups if possible.
What to do if Someone Claims the Cat
If someone comes forward claiming your stray as their lost pet, you should make sure they’re telling the truth before handing her over. You should ask for proof of ownership, including photos. Some people might have fallen in love with the picture and want her for their own, others may have more nefarious plans.