Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Is That Cat a Stray? How to Tell if a Cat Needs Your Help

If a cat starts hanging around your house, how can you tell if it belongs to a neighbour, is lost or if it's a stray that needs a new home?

With cats, it's difficult to tell. So difficult in fact that an extraordinary number of cats are accidentally taken in by well-meaning animal lovers who assume the cat needs a family.  Or worse, they're packed off to a rescue group because they're assumed to be a stray.  Meanwhile their original family is left wondering where they went.

So, how can you tell if a cat needs your help?  Here are all the things you need to know:

Friendly Cats are Unlikely to be Strays

A true stray cat is unlikely to be friendly enough to lurk around your back door or pop into your kitchen for a bite to eat.  Any cat that is comfortable around humans will have come from a home.  Some may require a little bit of enticing, but in general if a cat doesn't flee in terror the minute it sees you, it will have spent time with humans.  In this case, it may be a neighbour's cat or it may be lost.

Pedigree Cats are Highly Unlikely to be Strays

Pampered pedigree cats do not just turn up on doorsteps looking for a new home.  If a pedigree cat starts visiting, it is very likely to be a neighbour's cat or a lost critter.

Being Untidy Doesn't Mean They're Unloved

Some cats look freshly manicured every day of the week.  Others look more rough around the edges - particularly if they're older or have long fur.  Looking a little unkept doesn't automatically mean a cat is a stray.  Again, this could be a much loved older cat or it could be a fur that has wandered from home and become lost.

Bribing You For Food Doesn't Mean They're Hungry

Some cats love visiting the neighbours - especially if they're offered tasty treats.  Popping in to snack from your cat's bowl or bribe you for a bowl of milk doesn't necessarily mean a cat has no home.  However, if they're very skinny and absolutely ravenous, this is a clue that the little guy needs your help.

Long-Term Visitors May Have a Home

A cat that has been visiting for several months or even over a year may still have a home.  If the cat is generally well kept, healthy and friendly it's likely it has a family somewhere.

So, How Do You Tell The Difference?

  1. If a cat repeatedly visits you, it's a good idea to make sure they don't need your help.  If the cat is obviously starving or unhealthy, act straight away.  Offer them something to eat, check them for a name tag and get them to a local vet to check for a microchip.  If this fails, visit www.inspectorspot.co.nz to send out a FOUND Pet Alert straight away.  A cat that is friendly but starving is likely to be either lost or abandoned so definitely needs your help.
  2. If the cat is in pretty good health and is a healthy weight, start by checking with your neighbours to see if someone recognises them.  Check for a name tag and a microchip which could lead you to their family.  This little guy could be new to the neighbourhood or may have simply taken a shine to your family!
  3. If this is unsuccessful, pop a note around their neck and see what happens.  A note you say?  We're not joking!  Print out our "STRAY CAT COLLAR" and pop it on your little visitor for a week.  If the cat is living happily with a family, they will see the note and can give you a ring.
  4. If after a week nobody responds to your note, visit www.inspectorspot.co.nz and try sending out a FOUND Pet Alert.  This alert will go to vets, breeders, pet stores, rescue groups and animal lovers in your area.  You will also receive FOUND Posters to help track down this little guy's family.  A cat that is friendly, hungry but otherwise in good condition is quite possibly lost and their family may be desperately hoping that they will return safely.
  5. If nobody responds to your FOUND Pet Alert, or if you are concerned for this little cat's welfare then contact us at spot@inspectorspot.co.nz.  We will put you in touch with a local rescue group that can help out with a foster family while we try to find this cat's family or help to find them a new home if they have been abandoned.
Remember, friendly cats are unlikely to be true strays.  If they're starving and clearly unhealthy, they need your help.  But quite often the help they need is different to what you'd expect - they often need a hand finding the family that is looking for them, rather than needing help finding a new home.  By helping them to locate their family first, you may be helping to reunite a much loved pet with a family that is desperately hoping that they will return home.

1 in 3 Pets go missing.  Inspector Spot helps to locate them.  If your pets are not registered with him visit www.inspectorspot.co.nz to get them signed up today.

Click HERE to print an A4 Copy of this Stray Cat Collar:

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