Sunday, December 15, 2013

What Should I do About Neighborhood Stray Cats?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital
Tucson, AZ

You may have noticed a single or a dozen cats roaming around your neighborhood.  You can ignore the cat(s) and hope that they have a home and can adequately take care of themselves.  Or, you can take an active role in their life to help find their owner, and possibly provide food, water, shelter, veterinary care, and a new home if needed. 

Note Al's left ear tip is missing.

You should try to determine if the cat is a lost or abandoned (stray) cat, an owned indoor/outdoor cat, or a feral cat.  A stray or indoor/outdoor cat is more likely to be friendly and approach you in a quiet environment.  A feral cat is not socialized to human contact and tends to be more elusive, avoiding close proximity and human touch.  Feral cats, or stray cats that have been previously trapped, may be missing the tip of one of their ears, indicated that they have been spayed or neutered.  There are stray or owned cats that may be shy and seem feral when you first encounter them, but they should bond easier than feral cats with enticing foods. If the cat has a collar, try to look for an ID tag with an owner's contact information. 

It is very important to be safe when approaching and handling a cat that you do not know, since they may try to bite or scratch depending on their personality and history. If the cat is very friendly, you can get them into a pet carrier and take them for a microchip scan at your local veterinarian or humane society.  If no microchip or owner is located, you may decide to keep the cat or try to find it a new home.  Please follow your local laws on how long you should keep the cat, notify local animal shelters, and post "Found" signs and online alerts.  In the meantime, you should keep the cat segregated from other pets that you may have until your new cat is determined to be disease free and acclimated to your home.

If the cat is shy or unfriendly, you can lease or buy a humane cat trap to capture the cat.  Your local animal shelter may be able to assist you.  Once you capture the cat, you need to decide on where to take the cat.  You can take the cat to your veterinarian for evaluation of a possible microchip, health, and spay/neuter status.  You can also surrender the cat to your local humane society or no kill shelter for them to find the owner or prepare for adoption. 


Truly feral cats are not viewed as adoptable by most animal shelters and may be euthanized.  An alternative for feral cats is to have them vaccinated and spayed/neutered and then release them back into the neighborhood, also called TNR for trap/neuter/release.  In Tucson, PAWSitively CATS can help assist you with TNR.

Al, Larry, Chrissy, and Blizzard are available for adoption though PAWSitively CATS

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