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
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?
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.