What to Do When You Find a Homeless Cat
While some free roaming cats are abandoned by their human families, many are lost. A little detective work will help determine whether the cat you've found has been abandoned or is lost and what your next steps should be. In the meantime, the cat should be kept separated from your other pets.
IS THE CAT LOST?
Unfortunately, most pet owners do not provide their cats with collars and identification tags or microchips. If the cat you find does have tags, the owner can be notified from this information. The issuer of the rabies or city license tag can also provide the owner’s name, address and phone number. The issuer’s phone number should be on the rabies tag.
IF THE CAT DOESN'T HAVE ANY IDENTIFICATION:
- Call your local animal shelter and humane societies – most have a computerized lost and found service (check our Area Shelters web page).
- Take the cat to the local animal shelter or veterinarian to have it scanned for a microchip. Then you can call the microchip company and obtain the name, address and phone number of the owner.
- Make “FOUND CAT” flyers with a picture and/or description of the cat, approximate age and where it was found and a phone number.
- Watch for “LOST CAT” signs in your neighborhood.
- Check the newspaper daily for “lost cat” ads that may describe the cat.
- Place a “Found” ad in your newspaper – most papers will run these ads for free.
- Check websites such as craigslist.org, FoundandLostPets.com, Home Again and Petfinder.com
- Check with children in your neighborhood – they are great resources.
If you have no responses from these steps in a week, you can safely assume the cat is truly
homeless. WHAT NEXT?
SHOULD YOU KEEP THE CAT?
Should you decide to provide a home for the cat yourself, your first step is to take her to a veterinarian for a complete examination. The veterinarian can tell you the cat’s approximate age, physical condition and sex. He can also tell you whether the cat has been spayed or neutered, what vaccinations it needs and what kind of diet to provide. It’s a good idea to take a fresh stool sample to have it tested for internal parasites.
Call Cat Care Society or check our web site for more information on caring for your new cat
and how to introduce it to your other pets
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU CANNOT KEEP THE CAT?
If you are unable to keep the cat, you have a couple of options. You can try to find a home for it yourself or take the cat to your local animal shelter.
To find the best possible home for the cat, you will need to give yourself plenty of time because finding a responsible home for the cat cannot be done overnight. Have the cat vaccinated and spayed or neutered.
The best home would be with friends or family members you trust. If their homes are already full, expand your search to your place of work, school or church. Ask if anyone knows of someone who is looking for a cat, post notices on bulletin boards near lunchrooms, in veterinary clinics, in pet supply stores and grocery/convenience stores. Your notices should be neat, specific, eye-catching and uncluttered. A photo of the cat along with a catchy phrase like “This Cat Wants You” will attract attention. Provide the cat’s name, color, age, sex, neuter status and lovable characteristics. Include information on how you can be contacted (name, phone number and hours best to call). Do not put your address on the notice, your phone number allows you to screen callers before scheduling appointments.
Newspaper ads, shopping guides, neighborhood weeklies and some on-line listings can be effective. Do not use “Free Kitten” or “Free Cat” or “Free to a Good Home” ads as they can attract irresponsible or undesirable pet owners. You want the new owner to be able to provide routine veterinary care for the cat and not someone who will sell the cat to a research facility or use the cat to train dogs for fighting. A fee of $50 or more will help discourage those types of inquirers. Your offer to provide basic initial vaccinations and the spay or neuter may cost you a few dollars but the investment is well worth the peace of mind.
The potential adopter's response to the following questions over the phone will help determine if you wish to set up an appointment for the family to meet the cat:
- Do you currently have a cat? If yes, why do you want another cat?
- If no, have you ever had a cat before? If yes, what happened to her?
- What other pets do you have?
- When were your present pets last vaccinated?
- When were your present pets neutered?
- Did you know it could take 2 to 4 weeks for this cat/all pets to adjust to the new home/to each other?
- What do the other members of your family think about getting a/another cat?
- Do you rent or own? Does your apartment/condo complex allow pets?
- Do you have children? If yes, what ages and have they ever been around cats?
If you feel comfortable with the answers to these questions, make an appointment (set a specific day and time) for the prospective owner(s) to meet the cat. At that time, observe how all family members interact with the cat, especially children. Do they demonstrate respect toward the cat by making a gentle self-introduction and allowing the cat to take the initiative for touching? How is the cat reacting to the family? Trust your intuition – remember not to feel obligated to adopt the cat to the first family or person you interview.
The prospective adopter will want to know all about the cat. Tell them everything you have learned about the cat in your short time together. Clearly state any conditions you may require of potential adopters ( neutering, indoor only, no declawing, returning to you if it doesn’t work out, etc.).
A written agreement is common at most animal shelters and it may also work for you. Include all conditions you want the adopter to meet in this agreement, a description of the cat, age, date of neuter/vaccinations, the date, amount paid for the cat and the signature of the adopter and yourself. Let the potential adopters know you value the cat and if the situation doesn’t work out after a period of time (suggest a 3 to 6 week adjustment period), let them know that the cat can be returned to you. You may want to check their ID for current address and take their home and work phone numbers. If there are other pets in the home, provide the adopter with Cat Care Society’s flyer on pet
Maintain contact with the new adopters to assure yourself that you have found the best possible home for the cat. After the entire process is completed, you will be better prepared for the next homeless cat that finds you.