So you think you have found a cat…
If you’ve noticed a new cat in your area, in your garden or outside of your home please make sure this is genuinely a stray cat before taking him/her out of the area to a shelter for rehoming.
Please do not pick up an unfamiliar cat without establishing that he/she is definitely a stray. Some shelters do not have a no-kill policy and many animals are being euthanised if the owner can not be located on time, in many cases within 7 days.
Please remember that often cats seem to be stray or lost but actually have a home. Cats like to roam, especially if the weather is nice, sunny and warm. Many don’t wear collars or simply lose them often but hopefully, they are chipped.
A cat that is hanging around looking for food, or trying to get into your house may have a home not far away, so you need to be sure they are genuinely homeless before assuming they are stray or lost and either taking them to a re-homing centre or adopting yourself. Cats are curious and gluttonous so will not refuse a snack if offered. Some cats might be on a special diet and might find your cat’s diet more interesting but it doesn’t mean they are hungry, neglected or stray.
Please don’t hand over the cat you found to someone claiming they will take the cat to the vet and find him a home if needed without checking who they are and asking for proof of their rescue work. Unfortunately, not everyone is microchipping their pets and there may well be someone searching frantically for their much loved lost pet living a few doorways or streets away.
Un-neutered cats have large roaming territories, especially in the summer. Although neutering is extremely important and we advocate neutering of cats as young as 5 months old, some people still own intact cats and in some case although un-neutered cats can be chipped and have owners. In such case, we would advise speaking to the owner about neutering or hand over a leaflet from your local vet or a charity about neutering.
If the cat is looking hungry and thirsty but not injured, you can feed him/her and offer shelter but please start looking for the owners asap. As a priority take the cat to the nearest vet to scan for the chip. It’s free of charge and the owners will be notified instantly. The cat might be lost and in need of urgent treatment so the vet will be able to take appropriate steps with the owner’s permission. It’s possible that the owners went for holidays, left the cat with a cat-sitter and the cat escaped. Some cats will try to find their way back to the previous address if not settled down properly in their new home. They will be hungry, thirsty, dirty, looking tired or unwell. In some very sad cases, cats are abandoned or left unattended after their owner’s death therefore it’s important to establish the ownership. Please make sure to use a secure cat basket to transport the cat to the vet. If you don’t have one, ask friends or neighbours who have cats themselves whether you can borrow one. Cats are known to escape from cat carriers if not secured properly.
If you have found an injured cat please take him to the closest vet who will be able to provide emergency care. If the cat is chipped, the owner will be contacted immediately. If the cat is not chipped and you don’t know the owners, please put up as many posters as possible providing the contact details of the vet where the cat is being treated. Please make sure to use a secure cat basket to transport the cat to the vet. If you don’t have one please ask your neighbours or friends if they have one you could borrow.
If the cat looks well, clean, and is confident, the chances are that he/she lives nearby and is just visiting. However, if the same cat keeps visiting regularly and starts spending some time in your house please make sure he/she is not lost or abandoned. The easiest way to do so is to scan the cat for a microchip at your local vet. It’s free of charge and the owners will be notified instantly. Please make sure to use a secure cat basket. If you don’t have one, ask friends and neighbours who have cats themselves whether you can borrow one. Cats are known to escape from cat carriers if not locked properly. They are also known to jump into cars and vans and accidentally travel many miles away from home, so a microchip can be the only way of tracking down an owner.
If the cat is not chipped but looks well and clean, please put a paper collar on him/her. Write a message and your telephone number asking the owner to call you if the cat is theirs. You can download and print out paper collar here. Please ask your neighbours if this is their cat or of they recognise him/her. Someone could have adopted a new cat and just started to let him/her out. If your immediate neighbours don’t recognise him/her, please put posters up and flyers through the letterboxes.
Your local neighbourhood online forums, community groups or even WhatsApp neighbour group are good platforms to post information* about found cats. Also list a found cat on animalsearchuk.co.uk, cataware.co.uk, petslocated.com. Post about your missing cat on Twitter and Instagram too.
Please be extra careful when you receive a message from someone claiming the ownership of the cat you found. Unfortunately, some cats are picked up by untoward people and are used as baits for dog fights, illegal breeding if not neutered, sale, or even live prey for exotic animals.
Look out for “lost cat notice” in your area.
Vets and rescue centres also keep lost and found lists, so make sure you check with those local to you too.
Some owners do not start searching for their pets immediately so please allow some time before taking further actions.
Older people will not have access to the internet or could have difficulties going out so please make sure there are no elderly people in your neighbourhood whose cat escaped before taking further actions.
*When looking for the owners of the cat you found please don’t disclose too many details about the cat and the exact location and please don’t include pictures of the cat in his full glory. Leave someplace for the questions which the genuine owner won’t hesitate to answer, for example: does your cat have white socks? how many white socks does your cat have? does your cat have any particular markings? Genuine cat owners will not only confidentially answer all your questions but will also have photos of their cat on their phone and will be able to describe the circumstances when and where their cat is missing from. Never invite anyone to your house to see the cat without being 100% sure they are the owners. Ask the questions first. If you have any doubts ask your local vet, Cats Protection or the RSPCA for help/advice. If your cat was found by someone, you would be grateful to that person for the detective work of the ownership so your cat doesn’t end up in wrong hands.
If you have made a really good attempt to find the cat’s owner you might wish to keep him as your own pet. Please arrange for a veterinary check, micro-chipping and neutering, if this hasn’t been done. Neutering will stop cats from roaming large territories in search of a mating partner and will also stop cats from fighting for territory. Neutering reduces fighting and limits infection of FIV virus which is mainly transmitted through bites. If you are not in a position to adopt the cat you found please approach appropriate animal charities for rehoming. Please make sure the charities or rescues offering to help have strictly a no-kill policy and always execute home checks prior to rehoming. Never arrange for rehoming on your own, through social media and sale sites. This will only expose the cat in danger and you might need to deal with people who don’t have the cat’s best interest at heart.
HAVE YOU FOUND A KITTEN OR LITTER OF KITTENS?
If you find one or more newborn kittens, first check to see if their mother is about. If the mum is there, the kittens don’t need to be moved immediately but they must be safe, ideally indoors with their mother. It’s important the mum and the kittens stay safe and warm and have shelter from the wind and rain and that the other animals (cats, dogs, foxes) don’t have access to them. You can give them a box with a blanket or a towel. The mother most probably will move the kittens to the box to keep them warm. Contact a local charity and follow their guidelines. In the meantime provide food and water for the mum. Nursing females eat a lot as they are feeding newborn kittens and there is no risk to overfeed them. Don’t try to touch the kittens if the mum is there. She won’t like it. She could attack you or abandon the kittens.
If you can’t see the mum please step back and observe from a distance. It’s possible that she is nearby and watching but is waiting for you to leave before coming back to the kittens. This would indicate that the mum is stray or semi-feral/feral. If you spot the mum please call your local animal charity asap and follow their guidelines.
If you don’t see the mum returning for about 2 hrs, check if the kittens are breathing, are warm and don’t have any discharge from their eyes and nose. Call your nearest vet or a local animal charity and explain the situation. Most probably you will be asked to transport the kittens to the vet as they won’t be able to fend for themselves without their mum. If you don’t feel confident please speak to the vet and ask for advice. They might be able to direct you to a rescue group. It’s very important to take all the kittens and don’t leave anyone behind. It will be vital to locate the mum, reunite her with the kittens and spay so she can’t get pregnant again.
Depending on the age of the kittens it might be necessary to wear gloves when collecting them and putting in a secure carrier. Older kittens, if not socialised, may be displaying signs of nervousness: crouching, growling, hissing and may bite or scratch if frightened. If not handled correctly they may escape and hide which will put them in danger and will make their rescue more complicated.
If the found kittens are already in a safe place, for example in a garden shed, and the mum is taking care of them, there is some time to make arrangements for them to be taken to an animal charity/rescue. The mum will usually take good care of the newborn kittens but please pay attention and keep checking if all kittens are feeding and none of them is left behind. In some cases, the mum will reject the weakest kitten. Also, keep checking if all the kittens keep moving and don’t have any discharge from their eyes/mouth. Make sure that the shed is properly secured so other animals can not access the shed and potentially injure or kill the kittens and the mum. If you feel confident and the mum is not feral, you may try to move the cat family indoors and keep them in your room or bathroom while the rescue/charity is arranging for their transfer.
If you found an older kitten please take him/her to the nearest vet to scan for the chip. If you would like to keep the kitten you found please discuss with your vet necessary vet check, and care including vaccines, neutering, microchipping, flea and worming treatment as well as suitable diet. Kittens are growing very fast and can become pregnant at 5 months old therefore is crucial to get your kitten neutered.
An indication of kittens age up to the first month:
Less than 10 days old: the eyes are shut or start opening, not be able to walk yet
Two to three weeks: the eyes should be open and blue in colour, slow and wobbly walk
Four weeks: the eyes change from blue to the permanent colour, kittens start to play
Be careful if you leave a notice that you found kittens. There are many people who will contact you as potential owners just to sell the kittens without given them proper care, breed from them (kittens can get pregnant at 5 months old) or even use them as live prey for exotic animals. Looking after newborn kittens is complicated and requires serious commitment. They need feeding every 2 hrs if the mum is not present and need stimulation to poo and wee. Otherwise, they won’t survive. It’s crucial to take all appropriate steps to guarantee their safety and a happy & healthy life.