We recently came across a group of stray cats near our office and in case you're ever in a similar position, here's the lowdown on what to do if you find a stray or feral cat yourself. First things first, what type of cat have you found and is it a stray or feral cat.
The difference between stray and feral cats
The terms are often used interchangeably and on the face of it they are in the same predicament, without a home living on their own, it's easy to understand why. However there are key differences that set them apart and a stray kitty is more likely to be able to be live with humans.
A feral cat has always lived life wildly and apart from humans, whilst a stray cat previously had a home with a human but due to unfortunate circumstances no longer does and is most likely living outside by itself nearby to where humans can be found. It could be that they've gotten lost or sadly abandoned by their previous owner. An easy way to tell is to see how sociable the cat is. A stray cat will be friendlier and may even let you touch them, although be patient as if they've had bad experiences with humans or spent a long time apart they'll naturally be apprehensive at first. Take your time to build their confidence and trust. Depending on how long a stray cat has been left to fend for itself, it could become feral.
What to do if you have found a stray cat
The cat's slave may well be looking for them so it's important to do everything to help reunite them. Hopefully the cat has a microchip to help. Once you've built up a bond and able to safely trap the kitty, you can take him or her to a local vet to scan for a microchip. Microchipping isn't compulsory for cats, so if this proves unsuccessful it doesn't rule out that they have a worried owner looking for them. You can still help them by advertising on websites like Pets Reunited and social media.
If after doing these things, no one reaches out, you should contact local shelters and rescue centres to care for the cat. You can also choose to adopt the kitty yourself if you'd like to.
What to do if you have found a feral cat
Unfortunately past a certain age, feral cats will unlikely be able to live with humans. Rest assured they are capable of looking after themselves but they still need your help. Here's what to do!
1. TNR (Trap, Neuter and Return)
To avoid cat populations getting out of hand, it's important to prevent continual breeding and ensure feral cats are neutered. You can work out if this has already happened if their ears are "tipped" i.e. have a V shaped clip at the top. But if the ears fully intact, contact a local cat shelter or rescue centre like our friends at The Cat Welfare Group or the Cats Protection to get their support. If resources don't allow them to help, you can look to safely trap the feral cat or cats yourself to take them to the vet and get them neutered. Rest assured ear tipping doesn't cause any harm to the cats and is performed under anaesthetic.
2. Spotted an injured or sick feral cat?
The RSPCA will support or alternatively if you're able to take the cat directly to a local vet do so, and they'll ensure the cat gets the medical attention they need.
3. Help keep them healthy
Feral cats are competent beings but it's still worth keeping an eye on them to ensure they have enough food and water available, particularly during heatwaves and the winter when food is more scarce.
4. Bringing a feral cat home
Unfortunately some cats simply cannot be rehomed but if they are in an unsafe area, you can work with a rescue centre to relocate them to a safer area. It's not as simple as moving them to a new place. Cats are notoriously territorial and will try to find their way back "home" and could die in the process. To avoid this be patient. Set up a new home in a closed room with a fully enclosed pen or crate where the cats have access to fresh water, food and a litter tray. After a period of time, 2-3 weeks you can open the cage door and after another 2-3 weeks the kitty should be comfortable in their new home. For younger feral cats typically below the age of 10, they can successfully be rehomed with humans.
Above all else, don't despair!
If you've decided to take on a feral kitten and rehome them, it will take a lot of time and patience but you'll get there.
You can follow our own adventure with our feral cats on our instagram.