June 20, 2024

What To Do if You Find a Cat Outdoors

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 Cats
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 Cats
Community cats 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 its ear to see if it has been tipped, meaning it has been spayed/neutered by a veterinarian and returned to its colony.

What to look out for

An ear-tipped cat is an outdoor cat! He’s mostly likely being cared for by a colony manager and has a “home.” Unless he looks ill or injured, please leave him be.

Pay attention to what the cat is telling you. Does his fur look clean and nice? Is he at a healthy weight? Is he walking, talking, and acting normal? If he looks healthy, he probably is! There’s a good chance he has a home and someone looking after him. If he doesn’t look healthy- skinny, unkempt fur, injured- or if he’s in a dangerous location- near a highway or unsafe environment- please bring him to us for help!

Most outdoor cats are so friendly because they have different households they visit and are cared for and valued by. They are comfortable on their home turf, and removing them can be very stressful for them.

How to help

Many cats we think are strays almost certainly have a home already. If you’ve only been seeing this cat for a few hours, give him a chance to go home. Unfortunately, owners are not looking for their lost cats at the shelter. Our return-to-owner rate for cats at HSPPR is about 6-8% and for dogs, it’s 50-60%. Cats don’t travel very far on their own, so if they have a home, it’s probably not very far. Give the kitty a chance to go home on his own before bringing him to us.

Why is this important?

The truth is many cats struggle in the shelter.

It’s true many feline friends don’t acclimate to the shelter environment. It’s stressful for them, and many physically shut down- not eating, drinking, socializing, or going to the bathroom. It’s not great for their mental health and could really cause more harm than help. Before bringing a stray cat to the shelter try these things first!

Keeping them out of the shelter is sometimes the best thing we can do for them.