I found a stray cat, what do I do with it?

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One of the most common phone calls we get at the cafe is instructions on what someone should do when there is a stray cat hanging around, usually followed by “Can we bring it there and let you take care of it.” Unfortunately, this is not something we can accommodate.
Hopefully this article will provide some clarity on what should be done if there’s a stray cat hanging around.
First and foremost, DO NOT KEEP THAT CAT. It’s against the criminal code to keep an animal that doesn’t belong to you. No matter how cute and nice that cat is, do not keep it. Bring it to Animal Care and Control, so they can follow the correct procedure in reuniting that cat with their owner.
As per Animal Care & Control, a cat will usually fit into 1 or more of the following categories.

  1. Owned Lost Cat: These cats will usually not be accustomed to the outdoors, not overly approachable, are more likely to be close to home, may have injuries like scratches, breaks or frostbite. These cats will start to lose weight over time, and may look unhealthy if they’ve been lost for awhile. These cats are 10 times more likely to find their way home if left i the neighbourhood, than if brought to a facility.
    How can you help? Monitor the cat’s situation, put up signs, talk to neighbours. If the cat begins to look distressed, then bring it to Animal Care and Control, or call 311 for instruction.
  2. Owned Outdoor Cat: Will appear to be familiar and comfortable with their surroundings, demonstate confident cat body posture, healthy body condition and may be approachable. May have large roaming areas and specific places they visit often. A confident cat with a collar may be a good indication that it’s owners know that it’s out.
    How can you help? These cats should only be brought to ACCC if it’s injured, unhealthy or a nuisance. Alternatively, a paper collar can be attached to the cat with your information on it, so the owners can contact you, and discuss the situation in which the cat was found.
  3. Community Cats: Once lived in a home, but were lost or abandoned (Hisss!) or otherwise forced to survive on their own. Their behavior and posture will land somewhere between owned outdoor cats (confident and friendly) and feral cats. They may be approachable still, but depending on how long they’ve been on their own, may be shy, skittish or no longer enjoy being handled. They may have adapted to outdoor living, and appear to be fairly healthy. They may still rely on neighbourhood humans to feed them, and provide shelter.
    How can you help? Monitor the cat’s situation, and bring them to ACCC if they appear to be injured, unhealthy or a nuisance on private property. Rehabilitation can be possible in some circumstances, but will need to be done through the proper process.
  4. Feral Cats: These cats are born wild, or have not had human interaction for a significant amount of time. Are completely self-sufficient, and rarely have injuries, frostbite or malnourishment issues. They will not allow themselves to be touched or handled, and will back away or run when approached. They remain fairly hidden, are usually nocturnal and will usually live in a colony in one territory with sufficient sources of food, shelter and water.
    How can you help: Leave these cats alone, as they cannot usually be rehabilitated into domestic cats, except with very specialized training. Feral kittens can be brought in to ACCC at approximately 3 months of age, when they are no long dependent on their mother’s milk.

When you have determined that a cat needs assistance, please consider the following steps:

  1. Put up posters on mailboxes, talk to your neighbours, use your local community boards and Facebook groups to see if someone in your area owns or knows the cat.
  2. Attach a paper collar to the cat before sending them back out, with your contact information to learn about the cat’s situation.
  3. Post pictures on Animal Care and Control’s Facebook Page, as well as Edmonton Lost Pets and Edmonton and Area Lost Pets Facebook pages, as well as Kijiji.
  4. Call 311 for instruction and guidance.
  5. During business hours, the cat can be brought to Animal Care and Control for safekeeping, after business hours, or if the cat is in distress, it can be taken to Guardian Vetrinary Centre, as they offer 24 hour emergency services, and receive lost pets on behalf of the city. This should be done in emergency situations only.
  6. Outside of business hours, if the found cat is healthy, secure it in a bathroom, garage or carrier until ACCC is open in the morning.

Together, we can work to keep our kitty friends safe and happy.

Nicole Niska,
Owner, Paws the Cat Cafe
Diploma in Feline Behaviour and Psychology


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