Yesterday I had dinner with my parents. On my way out the door after the meal, I encountered a handsome ginger tomcat, who immediately made himself at home in my car. When he heard a rustle in the grass, he jumped back out and disappeared, but my parents report that he was back in their yard tonight. He’s unaltered and has no collar, so I’m guessing that he’s a very friendly stray. I’m one of those people who feels that if a stray chooses me, I’m responsible for making sure it’s safe. So, come next week if Ginger Tom is still around, I’ll be taking the following steps to capture him and make sure he’s placed in a safe situation. You should do the same if you find a stray cat and have the ability and desire to help it.
1. Catch the Cat
If you find a stray like Ginger Tom, you might discover that catching it is as simple as putting a can of tuna in a cat carrier and setting it down near the kitty. However, some strays are more wary of humans. If you’re having trouble capturing a stray with food and attention, consider borrowing or renting a cat trap from your local animal shelter. These traps are baited with food and can be left out overnight to tempt the stray. Have a pair of thick gloves on hand and consider practicing opening the trap from a distance with a stick of some sort– sometimes raccoons are captured instead of cats!
2. Check for a Microchip
Any veterinarian or animal shelter should be able to scan the stray you’ve found for a microchip. If you take it to a shelter and there’s no microchip, you can always simply leave the cat there. I recommend looking for a cageless rescue specializing only in cats, if there is one in your area. If there’s a microchip, the owner will have to be contacted. The owner may want the cat back, or might elect to surrender the cat. In the case of either no microchip or an owner who doesn’t want the cat back, you may not want to simply leave the cat at a shelter or rescue. If that’s the case, read on…
3. Handle the Medical Stuff First
Even if you’re not keeping the cat, it’s a good idea to have it neutered or spayed before looking for a home for it. You likely can make use of a low-cost program in your area. Vaccinations are also a good idea for a cat that has been outdoors; in case it gets out again, it’ll be protected. In addition, wounds and abscesses from fighting may need treatment. A test for FIV/Feline Leukemia is also recommended in most areas. You can always request a small adoption fee later if you adopt the cat out privately, to cover the veterinary expenses.
4. Find a Home
The final step, of course, is finding a home for the cat– if you’re not already so attached you want to keep it yourself! Consider contacting a cat rescue and asking them to take ownership of the cat with you as its foster parent. It’s smart to allow an experienced group to “vet” potential adopters; after a while, shelter and rescue volunteers develop a sixth sense about adoption applications.
Good luck, and a big round of applause for anyone who’s taken in a stray!