What to do if you find stray cat

Have you spotted a cat roaming around your neighbourhood and become concerned that it might be a stray?

“Stray” refers to the activity of cats, not their ownership status. Cats often appear to be unowned strays even when they have a loving family at home. Outdoor cats may wander to households that are not their own to get an extra dinner, or they may simply enjoy the attention they get from people around the neighbourhood. There are a number of ways to identify if a cat is an unowned stray or a family pet who has gone for a stroll.

How can I tell if a cat is an unowned stray?

Owned cats that are allowed to go outside can travel surprisingly far distances. It’s quite common for a cat to travel into neighbouring properties or even down the street – this can make it difficult to determine whether or not a cat is owned.

Thankfully there are a number of ways to identify an unknown stray from an owned pet. One of the biggest clues involves the cat’s appearance and behaviour. A cat is most likely owned if they:

  • are wearing a collar
  • have clean and healthy fur
  • are seen wandering around confidently in the middle of the day
  • don’t appear to be searching for food
  • have desexing and microchip tattoos located inside their left and right ears respectively

If the cat has none of these identifying features or personality traits you should check with your neighbours – ask around, put up posters, or check lost and found online sites such as Lost Pets of South Australia.

The cat didn’t meet any of the criteria of being an owned pet. What should I do next?

If you are confident that the cat is in fact an unowned stray, your next step is to ensure the cat is healthy. If you deem the animal to be approachable, try to get close enough to ensure there are no visible injuries. If the cat appears to be injured or unwell and you are able to approach the animal safely, try getting them into a cat carrier or some other ventilated, well secured container and then transport them to your local vet clinic or shelter.

If the cat is unwilling to be handled, you should call your local council or RSPCA SA for assistance.

Why do I need to go to a vet?

If the cat is not owned and you would like to take them in, you should ensure they are vaccinated, desexed, and microchipped before adding them to your family.

A vet can also scan the cat to see if it is microchipped. Microchipping your pet is required by law in South Australia. Microchips not only help to identify you as their legal owner, they are also helpful in reuniting you with your pet if they wander off your property. If you need help with changing your details in the Dogs and Cats Online (DACO) registry, check out this article for assistance.

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