I’ve Found a Cat. What Should I do – Advice by Anita Kelsey

Article by Anita Kelsey – feline behaviour practitioner

After reading the story of a recent kitten who was found by a family who then wanted to keep the kitten, despite it being microchipped and belonging to another family, I thought it was be good to give everyone a few tips. Especially after speaking to Andy Collins BBC Radio Counties about the issue (around 2.22.00).

So… What should you do if you find a cat?

Cats can stay close to home but also some can wander far and wide, especially if checking out a new territory. Males roam further than females, the latter which tend to stay closer to their home range. Some cats, for whatever reason, may find themselves lost. When you find a cat that looks dirty, a bit thin or disorientated, who may be in your garden, in your garage, by the bins or outside of your home crying in a distressed way, you should offer this cat some warmth and food. (Caution: some cats are thin because they are old or have hyperthyroidism). This doesn’t mean you should be feeding every cat that visits your home! We will get into that later, but I think we can safely say that a lost cat tends to have that look of being lost (can’t quite put my finger on it!!) and will appear thin, gaunt or dirty. A lost cat may also vocalise more and in a distressed way. Bringing a cat into the home doesn’t mean that’s the end of it and the cat is now yours. Theirs always a story behind a lost cat and 9 times out of 10 theirs a heartbroken human desperate to find out what has happened to their pet. Here’s some steps you can following having found a cat you feel is lost:

  • Ask neighbours if they know of anyone with a cat of that description or have they seen the cat around the area before?
  • Call the local vets in the area to see if the description fits one of their clients cats, who may have reported the cat missing to them and take the cat into the nearest vet to see if it has a microchip that can be scanned.
  • Use social media to post a photo of the cat for people to share. Many local groups set up on Facebook to share information local to that area.
  • Post up a photo of the cat plus details of where it was found on websites such as Animal Search  or The National Pet Register.
  • Post up flyers with a photo of the cat giving your details. Ask for vet information or proof of ownership of the cat before handing it over.

Feeding local cats in general

What should I do if I find a cat by Anita Kelsey

Cats are curious by nature and confident friendly cats will visit lots of local homes to have a nose if a window is left open or they know they will get some attention and some treats. People assume a crying cat by their window, without a collar, is starving and lost. Don’t be fooled. Your home is probably the 5th home the cat has visited using the same old trick!! Many cats become obese this way because everyone locally gives it a treat. The main differences between a local cat that loves visiting other homes and a lost cat is that usually the former has a healthy looking clean coat, looks healthy in weight, goes away if doesn’t get attention, has a collar but many times not, has a street wise relaxed look about it. Things to consider when a local cat keeps visiting the home:

  • Cat could be on medication or a special diet which doesn’t include titbits and treats from neighbours
  • Cat could stay away longer from home upsetting the original owners
  • Cat could become obese
  • Encourages food begging
  • Isn’t nice for any resident cats if another cat is encouraged to visit the premises

The above isn’t saying you shouldn’t give your neighbours cat a stroke. It is merely pointing out that a neighbours cat shouldn’t be given treats and encouraged to stay in the home unless of course you have checked with the owner that it is ok for their cat to enter your home to hang out and that it is ok to give the occasional treat.

Cats and the law – who owns the cat once found?

What should I do if I find a cat by Anita Kelsey

The original owners who have documentation via a microchip, vet visits, photographs, email proof own the cat. Anyone who finds a lost cat must do all they can to find the original owners before deciding whether to offer the cat a new home. If you feel suspicious about the original owners or the background the cat has come from then contact the RSPCA or your local rescue. However, most lost cats have simply wandered a bit too far after possibly getting a fright or another unforeseen circumstance and have become disorientated. After everything has been tried to find where a missing cat is missing from, then steps can be taken to keep the cat. This could include getting the cat microchipped with your own details. You can read more about cats and the law in my  Cats and the law blogging post.


Anita Kelsey holds a first class honours degree in Feline Behaviour and Psychology (work based BA Hons) and runs a vet referral service dedicated strictly to the diagnosis and treatment of behaviour problems in cats. She is also a qualified cat groomer and specialises in grooming aggressive or phobic cats. Anita writes for Your Cat Magazine and is on their experts panel answering readers questions on cat grooming. She also advises on feline behaviour for the CFBA (Canine and Feline Behaviour) magazine as well as being a full member. Anita, a strong advocate of a vegan lifestyle, is based in Notting Hill, London but consults all over the UK as well as international requests. She lives with her husband, a music producer, and two Norwegian Forest cats, Kiki and Zaza.

Her debut booked, pictured left, is published by John Blake and is called Claws, Confessions Of A Cat Groomer.

Available from Amazon and all good book shops. Click here for an Etsy author signed copy with your message.

Don't miss out!
Subscribe To Newsletter

Receive top cat news, competitions, tips and more!

Invalid email address
Give it a try. You can unsubscribe at any time.

25 thoughts on “I’ve Found a Cat. What Should I do – Advice by Anita Kelsey

  1. franhunne4u says:

    If you let a cat not belonging to you enter your home, you should be aware that the cat then thinks it is ok to do so, and might slip in when you are unaware of it and maybe even prepare for a longer trip, loading your car, leaving your door open … You would not want a cat dying in your home while you are on holiday …

      • franhunne4u says:

        And I am the first to encourage a feline. But same goes for giving them treats – you never know if they have dietarien restrictions. All I do these days is talking sweetly to them.

        • Marc-André says:

          We tend to give our neighbour cats cuddles as they seem to be deprived of cuddles. One of them will chirp and roll over and won’t let us enter our flat until she got belly tickles. I’ve never posted her on tummy rub Tuesday only because it’s not our cat and we don’t talk to those “neighbours” (down the road) so can’t ask for permission to post her online!

          • franhunne4u says:

            Why don’t you talk to them? Are they homophobic? Or do they have a problem with you being a “bloody furriner” … (Brexit England at its best?)

          • Marc-André says:

            It’s more the general London issue… if you talk to strangers people classify you as crazy and will walk away at best! We even had funny looks from new neighbours living next door to us until they realised that we are ok. ?

            Sadly this is part of why we are moving out of London to my partners hometown… we already know the future neighbour there better just from visiting the house we are moving in to if all goes well than most people in our current block. LOL

          • Marc-André says:

            Might apply to some cities but my partners hometown is full of friendly people. 🙂

            As for Brexit… luckily I’ve been here for more than 10 years and my partner is British so will be fine whatever happens with it. I’ll also take the weird British mentality over the homophobic security and border control at Hannover airport and sadly even some of the hotels in Hannover (they got close to forcing us to take two rooms as they weren’t happy for us to share a double bed!) any day. ?

            Not to mention the Karstadt staff that didn’t want to serve my husband because he is “ein Inselaffe” years before Brexit was even on the radar…

          • Marc-André says:

            Tried on all of those occasions. Sadly no one seemed to ever care. ?

            The last time we had problems at border control I was even told I should count myself lucky that they are not going to destroy my passport for being a traitor to Germany. That complaint is still ongoing as the border control office is claiming they can’t find the video from that incident I’ve now escalated that to their central office in Berlin as it didn’t make me feel welcome as a German person in my own home country. ?

  2. Rachel Woodisse says:

    Always such an emotive subject and we as cat lovers are very caring and most cats use this to their advantage as they are such opportunists…… but you are right in saying sometimes you just know a cat is in distress or lost….. great advice and tips thank your

  3. iamthesunking says:

    Not sure about the food. Louis Catorze is living proof that it’s possible for a cat to look a complete mess yet still have a home. I wouldn’t blame anyone for mistaking him for a stray but I wouldn’t want them feeding him.

  4. zodiacimmortal says:

    Before asking your neighbors about the cat you found, I’d take it to the vet to see if it has a chip. This way no one can try claiming it otherwise, (and yes there are people that would do that) after that then you can post to citizen or nextdoor site/apps as well as facebook and other groups for your city and neighborhood.
    I more or less know that cats in my ‘hood. some I know their names others I don’t and even if they have a home, sometimes they still will pay no attention to you if you know their owner. Also just because it has a home doesn’t mean it doesn’t carry rabies or something else. So its not always smart to pet a cat (mom is always tell me this since I was little, but I’ve always seemed to be a cat magnet. (like there’s a cat 2 doors down Named Stripes with a collar and I know is owners. Stripes I call bi-polar because sometimes he’s cool and will come and say hi and want to get a pet, other times he acts like it and then has a cow about giving his head a pet. (The ONLY place I pet an cat or dog if its not mine or a relatives pet)

Why not meow a comment to fellow readers?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.