If you see a cat outdoors you need to determine its status.
Is it friendly?
If the cat is friendly, it is likely either a lost pet, a pet that has been put outside for some reason (abandoned), or a pet that is allowed to roam free.
Here is where to check to see if someone has reported their pet missing.
- Sign posts around the neighborhood
- Local municipal shelters
- Local rescues
- Social Media
Check for a microchip. Most veterinarians can check a found cat for a microchip at no cost. Rescues and shelters may help scan too.
Note: Typically only 2% of cats roaming around outside are actually being looked for by an owner. The majority are abandoned, lost or feral cats (unowned cats that call the outdoors their home).
It is more important to get the cat captured (humanely trapped if needed) and fixed rather than looking for its owner. In the time you spend trying to find the owner, it will be breeding and making more unowned cats to live outside.
Is the cat “wild” or fearful of humans?
If the cat is running from you, it is most likely either a cat born to a feral mother or a cat that was once owned and friendly but now has been outside so long that it has become fearful and presents as feral. If a cat is presenting as feral, the best thing you can do is begin to feed it, offer it shelter and get it fixed through a local TNR program. Contact local shelters and rescues to advise/help you on this.
Is it just seeming scared but not totally “wild”?
This is likely a house cat that was either lost or abandoned. Just like any other cat, you will want to ensure it is spayed or neutered.
Does the cat have an ear-tip?
A free-roaming, unowned cat fixed through a TNR/TNVR (trap-neuter-vaccinate-return) program is typically identified by its left ear being trimmed slightly during spay/neuter surgery. The left ear will be flat vs pointed. The cat will not have symmetrical ears. The tip will be surgical looking. Do not mistake it for frostbite or a fight wound.
Ear-Tipping: Ear tipping is a surgical procedure that a cat undergoes when it is spayed or neutered. It’s a quick cut that removes the tip of the ear, usually the left one. It is NOT painful or harmful to a cat because it is done while under sedation for spay/neuter surgery. The ear heals quickly and causes little discomfort to the cat.
Ear-Tipping Is A Universal Symbol: The procedure is done to the ear so that fixed outdoor cats are easily identifiable. This should be done to any outdoor cat to indicate that the cat has been spayed or neutered. It prevents a cat from being trapped a second time, and put under anesthesia unnecessarily. In short, if you see a cat with an ear tip, you can be assured that the cat is not breeding!
Always follow your local laws and ordinances. If you are not sure, do some research before spaying or neutering.
Information courtesy of Carol’s Ferals, Grand Rapids MI