April 19, 2023

What To Do if You Find a Cat Outdoors

Fluffy likes people but doesn’t want to live in your house.

For a little over a month, Fluffy was frequenting the same neighborhood and being cared for by not one but three different houses. They feed him, care for him, and make sure he is safe. Fluffy spends time at each home, but he always leaves.

Because of his dashing good looks, one of Fluffy’s friends thought that maybe he was a lost kitty looking for his family, so they humanely trapped Fluffy and brought him to HSPPR. It was a kind gesture, but to be honest with you, Fluffy hated it.

He was extremely stressed in the shelter, and it was apparent to us that this was no ordinary house kitty. Based on his history of being outside and thriving, we knew Fluffy was a street cat and needed to be back outside where he belonged.

Since Fluffy already had a home base, we reached out to his original caregiver to see if they were still interested in caring for Fluffy as an outdoor cat. They obviously had so much love already for him and were happy to welcome Fluffy back to the neighborhood.

Even though cats can be found by themselves outside, it doesn’t always mean that they need help from a human. First, it’s important to figure out if that meandering cat is lost or if it is part of a community.­

Stray vs Community Cat

  • Stray: Stray cats are animals who are socialized with humans and don’t, or possibly don’t, have an owner. They are typically found alone and will warm up to human contact with time and encouragement. A cat is likely to be stray if you’ve noticed that they recently appeared in the area and are seen roaming around houses. There is a chance they could be microchipped if they are missing from their family.
  • Community Cat: Community Cats are cats that prefer to live in outdoor colonies in our neighborhoods with one or more colony managers who feed them. These cats may be feral and unsocialized to humans or the domestic environment, avoiding human contact. An easy way to identify a community cat is by checking their ear to see if it has been tipped, meaning they have been spayed/neutered by a veterinarian and returned to their colony.

What to look out for

The best way to figure out if that wandering feline needs your help is to observe its physical state, behavior, and habits.

  • Temperament:
    • A cat that is being cared for is likely to look happy and be outside napping, exploring, and possibly being social. On the other hand, a cat that may need some help could appear nervous, stressed, or ill.
  • Location:
    • A cat that is already someone’s pet will typically spend their time around a particular home while a homeless cat is more likely to appear in different places around the neighborhood and hide from human contact.
  • Appearance:
    • Cats that have a warm, dry home are more likely to be clean and well groomed. Dirty and matted fur, gunk in their eyes and nose, and marks on their face are all signs of a cat that has had a hard life and may need help.

How to help

  • Ask the community.
    • Ask the neighbors in the neighborhood for more information on the cat(s) you have seen around. They may know which house the cat belongs to and are likely to share their knowledge if you’re trying to help the cat.
  • This cat needs my help. What now?
    • If you’ve determined that the cat needs help from a human, you can bring them into HSPPR if it is safe to do so. We provide them with a safe place to stay and daily care while our lost & found team works to reunite them with their family.
    • If the cat is injured or severely emaciated, take them to an emergency animal hospital immediately or you can call Animal Law Enforcement at 719-302-8798 if you do not feel comfortable transporting the cat.
  • What if the cat won’t let me help them?
    • First, it’s important to figure out if the cat is a stray or feral. Stray cats are likely to warm up to you if you’re patient and provide them with food and water.
    • Feral cats have no desire to engage with humans and the best way to help them is by having them spayed or neutered and returned to their location. Contact HSPPR’s customer service team at 719-473-1741 for more information on renting humane cat traps for a refundable deposit.
  • Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)
    • HSPPR’s Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) service is sanctioned in the City of Colorado Springs, as well as the City and County of Pueblo. HSPPR provides spay/neuter services to control overpopulation and vaccinations against rabies and other illnesses to ensure a healthy and happy colony.
    • This is all possible thanks to HSPPR’s colony managers! Colony managers serve as our on-the-ground contact, providing food and water for the cats, as well as monitoring their health and population size. Click HERE for more information on how to become a colony manager.