Choosing a Cat – Handling Stray Cats

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 13,115
    What to do when you find a new furry friend hanging around outside.

    Gary Powell: Hi! I am Gary Powell from the Cat Fanciers' Association. Today, I am talking about what to do if you find a stray cat in your neighborhood.

    All cats are domestic cats, and pet, stray and feral are adjectives that describe their relationships with people.

    A feral cat is not socialized to people and is therefore unadoptable. Their healthy living outdoors and thrive in every landscape from the most rural to the most urban. It is estimated that there are millions of free roaming cats nationwide.

    Some were owned but abandoned, others became lost, others are feral and not socialized to people. They may also be loosely owned neighborhood cats. If a cat appears near your home, observation is the first step. What is the physical appearance and social character?

    If the cat has a collaring tag, this is an owned cat. If the cat is thin and dirty, or appears unaccustomed to living on the street, she may be feral.

    For feral cats, the most humane solution is to contact a local Trap-Neuter-Return or TNR group or call animal services to locate organizations that will lend a trap and provide health.

    They can also provide a referral for a spay/neuter clinic or private veterinarian, willing to vaccinate and sterilize the cat at a discount.

    Alley Cat Allies; the national resource for feral cats has local references and TNR instructions.

    Once the cat is altered, you can be the caregiver. When a free roaming cat appears to be a lost stray, you should foster the cat and try to locate the owner.

    Tell your local shelter, you have a lost cat. This is often the first place the owner will look. If the cat can be handled, put her in a carrier and take her to a veterinarian to scan for a microchip identification and a health check.

    Place a found-cat advertisement in the newspaper, and monitor the lost pet websites. You can post a flier in veterinary clinics, community centers, pet stores, nearby schools and other places.

    Anyone who claims ownership should give a full description, perhaps a photo and a veterinary reference.

    Finding a litter of kittens is a situation that needs special care depending on whether the mother is feral or a friendly stray. If the kittens are feral, you need to remove them from the mother as soon as they will eat solid food and no later than eight weeks. This is the very critical period for human socialization.

    Trap, spay and return the feral female. If the mother is a friendly stray, you can find her in the kittens. At eight weeks they can be examined by a veterinarian and receive vaccinations.

    Transfer to new homes is best after 12 weeks. Spay and place the friendly female or adopt her as your pet. So that is how you handle a stray cat in your area.