We’ve all come across a stray dog or cat at one time or another. The animal might be wandering alongside the road or, worse, in the middle of traffic. Sometimes a hungry, abandoned dog or cat might even show up at our back door in search of food. While your first instinct may be to try to capture the animal and bring it to safety, do so with extreme caution in order to avoid injuring the animal or yourself.
What to Do About a Stray Cat
A wandering cat may be stray or feral. According to the ASPCA, a stray cat is usually someone’s pet that may have become lost or abandoned. This differs from a feral cat, which is an animal that was born and raised in the wild. Stray cats are more likely to be comfortable around humans than feral cats, so if the animal approaches you or ventures close to your home, chances are that it is a stray and not feral. If you come across a stray, your options can include taking a photo and showing it around your neighborhood to see if you can locate its owner, calling the local humane society or using a humane trap to capture it.
Capturing a Stray Cat
If you decide to try to capture a stray animal, live animal traps usually work best. Whenever I get a call about a feral cat, for instance, I make sure to bring along my Havahart® Feral Cat Trap Rescue Kit. The kit has everything you need to trap a cat effectively and humanely, including the trap, cage divider, cover and door hook. I just bait the trap with food or water and place it near where the cat was spotted. The cage divider makes it easy to feed the captured animal without endangering yourself, and the cover helps to calm the cat after trapping.
What to Do About a Stray Cat You Think Might Be Feral?
Many communities now have feral cat programs known as “trap-neuter-return (or release).” The captured animal is neutered and then returned to the area of capture, typically to a feral cat colony that is monitored by humans. The ASPCA views TNR as a humane way of controlling the feral cat population. Learn more about TNR here.
I Found a Stray Dog: What Do I Do?
What do you do when you find a stray dog? The same basic rules apply as when finding a stray cat. Determine the approachability of the animal, and if you capture it, check for signs of ID. Be aware that a seemingly friendly dog can suddenly turn vicious and bite if it feels frightened or threatened.
If you are unable to determine the owner of a stray dog, you should take it to your local chapter of the humane society. The humane society may be able to help find the owner and also arrange for veterinary care if necessary. You can also take it directly to a veterinarian if it appears to be sick or injured.
Knowing what to do when you find a stray dog or cat can increase its chances of living a long and happy life.