What to do if you find a stray cat


Cats have a sixth sense about the kind of owners they need and, if they choose us, we should feel privileged — even if they do cause us a great deal of trouble and expense!

Check if the cat has an owner. Ask neighbours in your street and adjoining streets. Ring the local vet and animal charities to see if somebody has reported losing their cat. Put up a notice in a local shop.

After a time, it should be clear if this is a strayed pet cat or a wild one which will never be tame. If it is wild, it is essential to neuter or spay it, to protect it from endless fights or kitten bearing. While it is at the vet’s being neutered, ask him to check for FIV or Feline leukaemia. If it tests positive, this cat may spread disease to all neighbouring cats so euthanasia should be considered. Also get it defleaed, earmited etc. while at the vet. Consider vaccination too. If the cat is healthy (ie not FIV positive), and you return it to the original site, make sure it has a dry place to sleep.


If it is a stray cat, it will start becoming tame and you can take it into your house. But get it to a vet as soon as possible for neutering/spaying, flea, worm and mite treatment, and (if you already have cats) think about checking for FIV or Feline Leukaemia.

Check if it has been microchipped , a sign of an original loving home. If so, you may be able to restore it to its original owners.

When introducing a rescue cat to a new home keep the cat in the one room, with the door closed with litter and bedding until it seems to feel secure there. Only then leave the door open.

If you decide to keep the stray cat the secret is never to approach them but let them come to you. I would start by feeding at set times and remaining in the room while they eat, at a safe distance for them. Over the weeks, move very slightly nearer to the food bowls, until you are putting out the bowls near you and they feel confident enough to approach you in order to eat.

Get some good cat treats and while you are watching TV put the treat at a distance safe enough for the cats and over the weeks slowly shorten the distance. Eventually the cats will come to you looking for the treats.

Patience is essential because if you go too fast and they get frightened, taming them may be set back for several weeks. Rehabilitating truly terrified cats is hard work, but it is wonderfully rewarding.

Various readers have reminded me that a continuous flow of gentle talk, while taming a cat is helpful in accustoming it to human company. Gentle play, with something like a long piece of string, will also help with a young adult or kitten.

7. If you decide to hand over a stray cat to a rescue shelter, do check what will happen to it. Euthanasia policies differ. You cannot assume that all rescue shelters will keep an elderly or sick cat. You can always hand over the cat, then offer to take it back if it is not, say, claimed after two months.



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