Many of us have come across a stray cat and have wanted to take it home. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that there are 30 to 40 million community cats (their generic term for stray and feral cats) across the country.
“The temptation to rescue a stray cat can be strong,” according to Dr. Jose Arce, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association. “Chances are you know someone who took in a stray cat and went on to share a wonderfully rewarding life with it.”
Below, Arce and other cat behavior experts outline what you should do if you encounter a potential stray dog ”to ensure the best possible outcome for both of you.”
How to make a stray cat come to you
Be careful when approaching an unfamiliar cat, Arce advised. It can be fearful and attempts to capture it could result in injury to you or the animal.
Some stray dogs may be friendly and come up to you asking for food or attention, while others may be too scared to let you come near, the Humane Society said. “But they will usually eat right away if you put food on them.”
What to do with a stray cat
Find an owner
Arce said: “If an unknown cat without a collar finds its way into your heart and home, it’s important to remember that someone else could be missing that cat.”
You need to check if the animal is “really a stray or just a neighborhood resident doing the rounds.”
Check if the cat has an ear point (when the top of an ear is flat instead of pointed). This is “the badge of a community cat,” according to the Humane Society, indicating that it has been spayed or neutered through a local community program and has an outdoor home.
A cat without a collar isn’t necessarily a stray, Arce said. “Many owned cats don’t wear collars and should be left alone. They usually don’t get lost and will find their way home.”
If you have reason to believe a cat is a stray or have concerns about the animal’s health or well-being, Arce recommends following these steps:
- Post a message about the cat on your neighborhood social media platform, like Nextdoor
- Visit any website that reunites lost pets with their owners, such as lost.petcolove.org
- Have the cat scanned for a microchip containing the owner’s information. You can do this at a local veterinary clinic, animal care and control office, or shelter.
It helps if you can provide shelter for the cat while you search for a potential owner.
take them inside
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals believes that stray cats should not simply be left with food without capturing them to ensure their safety. Getting animals off the street is essential, according to the advocacy group.
Catie Cryar, a PETA spokeswoman, said news week: “As cats struggling to survive on the streets face freezing winters, scorching summers, speeding cars, contagious diseases, and attacks from stray dogs and cruel humans, PETA encourages anyone who encounters cats or kittens without home to take them inside.
Food should only be used as a means of catching the stray cat safely, according to PETA. “Otherwise, feeding only serves to help homeless cat populations proliferate.”
You can lure the cat into a humane food trap by feeding it at the same time and place every day to establish a routine, the Humane Society said.
PETA’s website provides detailed advice on how to catch a stray cat. Cryar also offered these three tips to help you capture shy, scared, or unsocialized cats:
- Add a soft liner to a humane or box trap
- Use a strong-smelling food as bait
- Stay in sight of the trap at all times.
watch out for kittens
Before stepping in to care for potentially stray kittens, Arce recommends that you contact your local animal care and control office or shelter for advice.
Stray kitties can be “especially tempting to bring home,” he said. However, “this may not always be in the kitten’s best interest,” as they may still be nursing and their mother may be nearby but hiding or looking for food.
If someone tries to move the kittens, the mother may reject or even kill her offspring, the UK-based Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has warned.
You should take action only if you don’t see the mother within a few hours or if the kittens appear to be in distress or in an unsafe location, according to the Humane Society.
What to feed a stray cat
Dry cat food is the best option, according to the Feline Foundation, a group that rehabilitates stray cats in the Indian city of Mumbai. Kibble is convenient in that it can be easily stored and distributed, and is less expensive than cans or bags of wet food.
Your leftovers, or even the meals you prepare for the stray cat, may not meet the cat’s nutritional requirements, the foundation said. Commercial cat food will do.
Where to take a stray cat
Take the stray dog to a local vet. Cats that have been outdoors can have parasitic, fungal, viral or bacterial diseases, some of which also affect people. Stray cats can also be malnourished or injured, Arce said.
The vet will thoroughly examine the cat for parasitic diseases, such as ear mite or flea infestation and tapeworm infection, and can recommend appropriate treatments.
Additional tests, vaccinations, or parasite prevention products may be needed, depending on the cat’s approximate age, health, and needs.
How to adopt a stray cat
If you checked the cat for a microchip and couldn’t locate an owner, you can decide to keep the cat, the RSPCA said.
“Adopting any cat is a huge responsibility,” Cryar said. “Potential adopters must first ensure they have the time, space and resources to provide a cat with lifelong affection, food and veterinary care.”
You should also consider how well the cat will fit in with your family, including other pets, as well as what care it will need to enjoy a healthy and happy life, Arce said.
“If a suitable home cannot be found, the cats should be taken to an open-admission shelter, where they will have the best chance of finding a loving indoor home,” Cryar said.
You can also contact your local cat charities, as many have strays available for rehoming.