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7. Stray Cats

How you can tell a stray cat from a local pet...

Please do not freely feed meals to neighbourhood cats, if you are worried about them you can temporarily leave titbits just so that the animal lingers close by. It is then important to talk to neighbours etc, to find out if a cat is owned! Mobile phones have cameras, take a photo if you can for identification purposes. Auxiliary feeding can cause pets not to return home at mealtimes, gradually these animals become semi feral, putting them at great risk & causing distress to their families. 

Some strays will be obvious & will look to people for help. Others will shy away from strangers and behave elusively. If there is a cat in your area or even your own garden who looks in need of help, is behaving unusually - he/she may be loitering, scavenging or may just have turned up from nowhere - heres what you can do...

• Check (visually if you cannot get close) for a colar, any obvious injuries & or markings.

A cat with a collar does not automatically mean, that the cat has a home & has not lost its way! Giving a description of the collar may be very important for identification however!

If you suspect a serious injury try & lure the cat inside a room or an outbuilding, perhaps with tasty food. Secure the cat so that he/she does not disappear again. Immediately call a local rescue centre & or vets & ask for help. If the cat does not respond to you, call a rescue center/vet & ask for advice/help. Be cautious, a distressed or injured animal may lash out or even bite!

R.S.P.C.A. 24hr help & advice line :0300 1234 999

If the situation is not an emergency...

• Take note of the cats appearance (skinny, overweight), its behaviour towards you & how it appears in the environment around it. (is the cat nervous of you, movements, noises. Does the cat constantly look around with wide eyes & appear to be looking for something, or is it relaxed, moving thoughtfully, eyes open but fairly normal)

• Put some water down for the cat, hydration is vital for any mammal.

• The cat may seem to be desperate for food/water & come immediately over to see what you are offering, turning its nose up at water. Alternatively, you should back away & give the cat time & space to investigate your offering without your immediate presence.

Some cats are not food motivated & may be too concerned that they are lost to eat. Showing interest but not consuming food, does not always mean that they are not hungry or are being fussy. Your action will show them that there is some resource to be had where they are, & hopefully they will not stray further still. (of course if it is completely disinterested & calm, he/she may not be lost at all)

• If the cat persistently lingers & appears lost, you can make a temporary shelter (perhaps a box with a towel in under a garden table or securely covered to protect it from rain).

• Try to snap a photo of the cat (mobile phones have cameras & are usually to hand) then upload the image and a notice to local lost and found, facebook sites etc. show this to neighbours & ask if they know the cat. Raise a poster or two on the streets to try & locate an owner. Cats can become disorientated & become lost remarkably close to their homes, if survival instincts kick in they may keep a very low profile & their families can miss spotting them on their very own street. 

• If the cat is approachable & will allow you to, you can carefully attach a paper collar around its neck with a small tab of cellotape to hold it together. This is to get a message to the owners if the cat is just new in town and paying you social visits. Write a note on, or attach a note to the collar asking them to give you a call as you are worried about the cat.

It is important to use paper, an easily detachable material or a safety collar to prevent snagging or strangulation!

This does mean that the collar could come off of its own accord, or the cat could remove it itself, in which case you could try again if you have heard nothing. However, if the cat returns the following day still wearing the collar, it is a good indication that the cat has not been home to its owners who would have been alarmed by the collar, & should have investigated it & the note.

• If you cannot get close to the cat, make a poster asking if "photograph" is your cat - please call this number & attach it to one or two nearby tree/lamposts. This could help you to find the owner, & or give you more reason to rescue the cat.

If the cat still appears to be lost, you can tempt it to the shelter & the water you have left for it with small morsels of food. Dry cat biscuits are recommended as you can provide very small quantities at a time, & gradually increase the amount if you feel it is important. Also too much too soon for a cat that has not eaten for some time can make it sick.

Also be aware that leaving food out unattended can invite other scavengers. Try to set up a feeding routine so bowls are not left down constantly. (foxes competing for the food might scare off a lost cat at night)

At this point you should call the lost dogs and cats lines and your local veterinaries & rescue centres, explain the situation & provide a description. They can then advise you of the next course of action & explain what you should do next.

Lost/found pet databases...

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home Lost dogs & cats line  

Phone: 0901 477 8477

Animal search U.K. 

Phone: 01432 761 406


Phone: 0870 6066751

Celia Hammond Animal Trust  

Phone: 01892 783367

Starvin Marvin

Starvin Marvin

Morris, Monty & Matilda

Morris, Monty & Matilda

Monty caught on camera, asleep by the window

Monty caught on camera, asleep by the window

Grateful for food, but keeping a wary watch

Grateful for food, but keeping a wary watch

Cat carriers split into two halves, straw scattered inside (available as rabbit bedding in pet shops) makes great bedding. Ensure nests are sheltered from rain

Cat carriers split into two halves, straw scattered inside (available as rabbit bedding in pet shops) makes great bedding. Ensure nests are sheltered from rain

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