Determine if the Cat is Lost or a Stray
Appearance: Lost cats generally look clean and well-groomed, while strays might be dirty and disheveled.
Body language: Lost cats often act frightened, hiding or running away, whereas strays are more likely to be cautious but curious.
Collar: Lost cats may wear a collar or other identification, while strays typically don't.
Behavior: Lost cats might meow or cry loudly, seeking attention or help, while strays might not vocalize as much.
Weight: Lost cats may be a healthy weight, while strays could be underweight due to lack of consistent food sources.
Lost cats often appear clean and well-groomed, while strays may have unkempt fur and look more disheveled.
Building a Temporary Shelter for a Found Cat
A large, sturdy plastic storage container or cardboard box
A smaller container or box that fits inside the larger one
Insulation material, such as Styrofoam or reflective foil insulation
Blankets, towels, or straw for bedding
A utility knife or box cutter for cutting an entrance hole
Waterproof tape or duct tape for sealing the shelter
Using Social Media to Locate a Cat's Owner
Be prepared for inquiries from people claiming to be the cat's owner. To verify their ownership, ask for proof, such as photos or veterinary records. To prevent scams, read our essential guide and checklist for reporting a missing cat.
What to Do if You Find a Pregnant Cat Outside
Contacting Local Veterinarians for Assistance
Creating a Flyer for a Found Cat
A clear, color photo of the cat
Date and location where the cat was found
Descriptive details about the cat (breed, color, size, unique markings)
Your contact information (phone number, email)
A request for the owner to provide proof of ownership
Tips for Safely Transporting a Found Cat
Choose an appropriate carrier or container. A sturdy cat carrier with a secure door is ideal, but a well-ventilated cardboard box can work in a pinch.
Line the carrier with a soft blanket or towel for comfort.
Carefully and calmly place the cat inside, taking care not to force or frighten them.
Secure the carrier in your vehicle to prevent shifting during transportation.
Keep the environment as calm and quiet as possible to minimize stress.
Finding a Lost Cat at Night: Best Practices
Techniques for searching in the dark: Be methodical in your approach, moving slowly and listening for any signs of your cat. Call your cat's name softly, and use familiar sounds like shaking a treat bag to encourage them to come to you. Learn how to find a missing cat at night for more detailed guidance.
Remember to be patient during your search. Cats are often more active at night, and they may be more likely to respond to your calls. If you're dealing with a missing indoor cat, consider our tips on how to find a lost indoor cat.
Tools and equipment to aid in nighttime searches: Utilize the right tools to maximize your chances of finding your cat. Here's a list of essential tools and equipment for nighttime cat searches:
Flashlight: A reliable flashlight is crucial to help you navigate and spot your cat in the dark.
Reflective vest: Wearing a reflective vest increases your visibility to drivers, ensuring your safety while searching.
Cat treats: Bring your cat's favorite treats to entice them to come out of hiding.
A familiar item: A toy or blanket that smells like home can help soothe and lure your cat.
A portable phone charger: Keep your phone charged to maintain communication and use GPS if needed. Learn about the best time of day to look for a lost cat to improve your chances.
How to Handle an Aggressive or Scared Cat
Hissing or growling
What to Do if You Find a Cat with Kittens
Assess the situation and the cat family's needs: Before you take any action, observe the mother cat and her kittens from a safe distance. Are they in immediate danger, like near a busy road or in extreme weather conditions? If not, it's best to give the mother cat some space to care for her little ones.
Provide a safe environment for the mother cat and kittens: If they're in danger or the mother cat appears to trust you, create a safe space for the family. Use a large box or pet carrier lined with soft blankets. Make sure it's big enough for the whole family, but not too large that they'll feel exposed. For more tips on creating a secure environment, check out our guide on how to find kittens outside.
Contact local shelters or rescue organizations: Reach out to local shelters, rescue organizations, or animal control for advice and assistance. They can guide you through the process, and may even be able to take in the family and provide the necessary care. If you're unsure who to call, consult our list of essential hotlines and helplines.
Patience is key when dealing with a cat family. Give the mother cat space and time to trust you and adjust to her new environment.
Using a Humane Trap to Catch a Found Cat
Choose the right trap: Opt for a trap specifically designed for cats. It should be sturdy and have smooth edges to prevent injury. Traps come in various sizes, so pick one that's appropriate for the cat you're trying to catch.
Select a suitable location: Set the trap in a quiet, shaded area where the cat has been spotted or frequently visits. Make sure the trap is on stable ground and not in direct sunlight.
Prepare the trap: Line the bottom of the trap with a soft material like a towel or a piece of cardboard to make it more comfortable for the cat. This also helps to muffle any noise the cat might make, reducing the chance of scaring them away.
Bait the trap: Use strong-smelling food like canned tuna, sardines, or wet cat food to entice the cat. Place a small amount of food at the entrance of the trap and a larger portion inside, beyond the trigger plate. Learn about the best techniques to catch a lost cat for more tips on baiting and trapping.
Monitor the trap: Check the trap regularly, but do so discreetly from a distance to avoid scaring the cat. If you catch the cat, approach calmly and speak in a soothing tone to minimize stress.
Release the cat safely: Once the cat is secured in a carrier, release it in a safe, enclosed space to minimize the risk of escape. Be prepared with a blanket to cover the trap and calm the cat during the transfer.
Always prioritize the cat's wellbeing and treat them with care and compassion.
Legal Considerations When Finding a Cat Outside
Understand local laws: Laws regarding found pets can vary by location, so it's important to research your area's specific regulations. This might involve contacting your local animal control office or searching online for relevant information.
Report the found cat: It's often legally required to report a found cat to the appropriate authorities, such as local animal control, shelters, or the police. Reporting the cat will help ensure you're acting within the law and can also improve the chances of reuniting the cat with its owner.
Hold onto the cat temporarily: In some cases, you may be legally required to hold onto the cat for a specified period before turning it over to a shelter. This gives the owner a chance to claim their pet before it's put up for adoption. To know more about how long can a cat go missing and come back, check out our article on surprising insights.
Document your efforts: Keep a record of your efforts to find the cat's owner, including posting on social media, creating flyers, and contacting local authorities. This documentation can help protect you in case of any legal disputes. For more guidance on creating an effective lost cat poster, read our ultimate guide for cat owners.
Be cautious with personal property: If the cat appears to have been living on someone's property or if it's wearing a collar with an address, it's important to respect personal property laws and not trespass or remove the cat without permission.
Reporting a Found Cat to Local Authorities
Contacting local authorities not only helps you comply with legal requirements but also increases the likelihood of reuniting the cat with its owner.
Reuniting a Found Cat with Its Owner: A Success Story
How can I tell if a cat is lost or a stray?
Observe the cat's behavior and appearance. Lost cats are usually clean, well-fed, and may be anxious, while strays might have a rougher appearance and be more independent. Learn more about how to differentiate between lost and stray cats.
What should I do if the cat I found is injured?
Keep a safe distance and assess the situation. Prepare a basic first aid kit, but seek professional help from a vet or animal rescue organization for serious injuries. If you find an injured cat, read our guide on how to handle the situation.
How can I check if a found cat has a microchip?
A local vet or animal shelter can scan the cat for a microchip. This will help identify the owner and reunite the cat with its family. Learn more about how microchips work in reuniting lost cats and their owners.
What is the best way to approach a cat I found outside?
Move slowly, talk in a gentle voice, and offer treats or food. Avoid making sudden movements or loud noises, and let the cat come to you. If the cat appears to be a lost indoor cat, you can try our guide on how to attract a lost cat.
How long should I wait for the mother cat to return before taking action?
Observe the situation for a few hours. If the mother cat doesn't return or the kittens appear to be in danger, contact a local rescue organization for guidance. You can also check out our 8-step guide on how to get kittens out of hiding.
Should I feed a cat I found outside?
Yes, offer food and water, but avoid giving human food or milk. Stick to cat food or canned tuna if cat food isn't available. Be sure to also know how long a lost cat can go without food to better understand their situation.
How can I spread the word about a found cat in my area?
Use social media, create flyers, and contact local vets, shelters, and animal control. Share photos and detailed information about the cat's appearance and location. Our article on how to spread the word effectively about a missing cat after 10 days provides useful tips.
Can I keep a cat I found outside?
It's important to first make every effort to locate the owner. If unsuccessful, consult local laws and regulations before deciding to adopt the cat. You may also want to consider how to find your cat a new home if you cannot keep the cat yourself.
Taking the right steps when finding a cat outside is crucial to reuniting them with their family.