By Marisa Valent-Altland
Many times, when a cat is found outdoors, a person’s first reaction is to jump into action immediately because they want to help. While this is a wonderful sentiment, you should always evaluate the situation before taking action. If a cat is feral, it lives outside and should not be removed from its colony except to be spayed/neutered or to receive veterinary care. If the cat is lost or friendly, different actions should be taken. This step-by-step questionnaire will help you to evaluate what you should do when you find a cat outdoors.
Question One: Is the cat a kitten? If you find a kitten outdoors, there is a very different process to go to. Our next post will be on what to do if you find a kitten outside.
Question Two: Is the cat injured or ill? Does it have visible wounds? Is it walking strangely, limping, or otherwise not thriving? If so, contact a vet immediately. A veterinarian can advise if you should bring the cat in. Use a humane trap and avoid handling the cat yourself, as injured cats can become defensive.
Question Three: Is the cat ear-tipped? Ear tipping is a universal sign that a feral cat has already been trapped, spayed/neutered and vaccinated, and released. If the cat has an ear tip and they are living peacefully in a feral colony and should they be left outside.
Question Four: Is the cat friendly? If not, this may be a feral cat without an ear tip that should be put into a trap, neuter, release (TNR) program. Contact your local organization (like The Feline Connection!) to get this cat the care it needs so it can continue to thrive outdoors in its colony. If the cat is friendly, approaching you, rubbing against you, and letting you touch it, the cat is socialized and is either lost or abandoned. Contact your local rescue so the cat can be scanned for a microchip.
Check out this great flowchart from Ally Cat Allies for a quick look at what to do when you find a cat outdoors!
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