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Found a lost cat? Now what?

So, you found a cat or kitten outside. Lucky you, depending on how you look at it. First, you’ll need to know a few things. There are two kinds of kitties: friendly ones and not-so-friendly ones. The friendlier they are, the more likely that they are a strays, lost or dumped cats that have been around humans at some point in their lives (most likely as kittens). Some strays, called “hard strays” in the cat rescue world, might require some coaxing because they are scared. That doesn’t necessarily give you an indication of their temperament. The not-so-friendly ones are probably feral. Feral does not equal “bad.” Feral means they do not feel comfortable with humans, as they probably have not lived with humans and their mother probably didn’t live with humans, either. They are essentially wild animals. If you find kittens that were born outside early enough and work with them, you can make them forget their feral past and become sweet lap cats.

If you find a friendly cat
Put up flyers to see if this is someone’s cat that has been lost. Keep the cat inside your home (isolated from other pets) until you have either found the owner or realize that there isn’t an owner. Place ads in the paper (they are usually free), post on Craigslist and other sites. Ask neighbors if they know to whom the cat belongs. Call animal control, local shelters and vet offices and ask if someone has claimed to lose an animal with a similar description. This could be a beloved pet that happened to sneak out. Don’t assume that the owner is not loving and responsible. If someone does call, ask him or her to tell you details about the cat.

If no owner comes forward then proceed with the next steps: Isolate the cat or kitten from other pets you may have. This is very important, as they may have an illness or disease that can be spread to your own pets. Take them to the vet as soon as you can, while keeping them isolated until they have a clean bill of health. Don’t forget to get it fixed! We have too many cats already – many being killed in shelters due to overcrowding. Spaying is for girl kitties and neutering is for boy kitties.

You can keep the cat yourself, bring it to a no kill shelter, offer to foster it through a no kill shelter (the cat lives at your house while waiting for someone to adopt him – some shelters pay for all supplies and vet bills if you agree to foster the cat), or adopt it to a friend or neighbor after carefully considering their ability to take care of the cat.

If you find a feral cat
Be prepared for a commitment. Helping a feral cat can be overwhelming at times but it is definitely has it’s rewards. Knowing I have saved kittens from being born outside and suffering is enough for me to keep getting my feral cats fixed. First, you need to trap the cat using a humane live trap (available at most animal clinics for a nominal rental fee). Use really stinky food like tuna in the trap. After capture, take the cat to your own vet or a low cost spay neuter clinic to get fixed. Contact local vets to ask if they offer discounts on their services for feral or stray cats. In order to qualify for the lower cost of fixing feral cats, you have to agree to have their ear tipped. Ear tipping means the top part of the ear is cut off so it is easier to identify who has been fixed and who hasn’t. Friendly stray cats are ear tipped as well if the caretaker is releasing them outside. Have a crate ready for the cat to recover in at your home. You can put them anywhere that is relatively warm. Cats, especially after surgery, have a hard time regulating their body temperature. So be sure to provide them a warm place to recover. Male cats can be released after a day or two, but females need an extra day of recovery. The spaying procedure in much more invasive and requires more time to rest. Release the cats and continue feeding them. Don’t be concerned if you don’t see them for a few days. They will come back. By trapping the cat, you are agreeing to feed and provide shelter for the cat and arrange for a replacement caretaker in the event that you move or are unable to continue. If you do not want to go through the work of trapping them and getting them fixed and vaccinated – stop feeding them. Seriously.

Tips for low-cost feral feeding 
Contact grocery stores, pet stores, etc and ask if they have any food they are going to throw away. Some stores choose to dispose of food in dented cans or ripped bags instead of selling them. This food just goes into the trash! Call them and see if you can get it for your feral cats.

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