We receive lots of calls from kind hearted individuals who come across seemingly “lost” cats in their neighborhoods, but what if we told you, that cat is actually right at home? While we advocate that cats are safest when indoors, we realize that there are some cats whose lives are saved thanks to having access to outdoors, such as cats who are high arousal or have poor litterbox habits. We aren’t here to debate whether allowing your cat outdoors is right or wrong, we’re here to talk about the fact that many owned cats are allowed outdoors and they only become lost when you remove them from their neighborhood.
This year we’ve decided to stop helping cats get lost! We have begun shifting our methodology when it comes to “stray” cats, after our staff read an interesting article by Katie Lisnik of HSUS called Reunited and It Feels So Good. The article points out that cats are 13 times more likely to be reunited with their families if left in the neighborhood they were found, versus being brought into the shelter. A similar study by the ASPCA found that less than 2% of “stray cats” brought to the shelter are reunited with their families, but Fifty-nine percent of cat guardians found their cat because it returned home on its own; 30 percent found their cat by searching the neighborhood.
But again, this isn’t about whether cats should be indoors or not – it is about the fact that many owned cats are not indoors. Does this mean we just leave the cats out, without knowing whether a family is searching for them? NO! We have a plan in place to try to figure out whether a “stray” is truly lost or just out for a stroll-and here’s how we are doing it!
When we receive a call from a concerned resident, we first find out the basics
- How long has the cat been hanging around?
- Is the cat healthy and clean -healthy weight and coat? Any apparent injuries or illness?
- Do you know where his food source is?
- Have you checked with all of your neighbors?
- Including the house behind the woods behind your neighbor’s house? Cats travel and don’t follow the same pathways as we do. Posting signs is a much better way of reaching multiple neighbors that you don’t generally see or talk to on a daily basis.
- Is the cat friendly, confident and social or skittish/hiding?
If the animal seems ill or injured, underweight or filthy, or is hiding/avoiding capture, we will take them into the shelter, with guidance and provide resources to trap the pet if needed. However, if the animal is not injured and appears healthy, confident and social, he is probably right at home and out for his daily constitutional. At this point, we will provide instructions on how to make a paper collar that says “Am I yours”, with either the finder OR the shelter’s phone number on it. If the cat is still hanging around a week later with the collar on and no phone calls to claim him come through, we will then take in the cat, ask the finder to hang some fliers in the neighborhood saying the cat is with us and post the flier to social media as one last effort to find their home (in addition to scanning for a microchip of course!)
We hear lots of comments that people who let their cat’s outdoors are bad owners or don’t love their pets, but we know that’s just not true. While we do recommend that most cats be kept indoors for their own safety. If you feel that giving your cat access to the outdoors is most beneficial for him, here are some tips on how to keep him safe!
- Make sure your cat has I.D.! A breakaway collar with a tag that has your phone number and “I’m allowed outside” on it and a MICROCHIP in case the collar falls off
- Be sure your pet is up to date on vaccinations and flea/tick preventative
- Consider building a “Catio”, a safe enclosed space for your cat to enjoy outdoors
- Install a cat door, to allow your cat access to indoors even when you aren’t there to let him in
- Allow your cat outdoors only during the day, as night time brings more predators and danger
What should you do if your pet gets lost?
If your pet goes missing, contact us right away to file a lost report. Check with your neighbors, hang fliers in the neighborhood and contact your microchip company to report him missing. You should also contact your animal control officer, local veterinarians and all local TNR (Trap Neuter Request) groups and any shelter and rescue groups in our area.