If you live in an area where there are a lot of cats kept as pets it can sometimes take a while before you realise that the one that keeps appearing in your garden does not have a home. Sometimes it is only when that cat appears injured and does not seem to have been given veterinary care that you realise that no-one is looking after it.
If you find a cat in your garden or nearby that appears to be unkempt and hungry and it does not have a collar, your first step could be to contact your local vet to ask for it to be scanned for a microchip (for free). Sometimes cats get lost or go missing but are much loved and much missed by their families – who would be very happy to have that cat returned to them.
If there is no microchip then your next steps rather depend on whether the cat has been injured or not. If you ever find an injured cat and do not know or cannot contact the owner, call the RSPCA and they will direct you to your nearest emergency vet. If possible, please take the cat in a safe container to the vet for treatment – the RSPCA will make arrangements with the vet for payment and to arrange to collect the cat to be taken to a shelter and try to find its owners or get it rehomed.
If it is not possible to take the cat yourself, perhaps because it is too badly injured to move safely or appears very scared at the prospect of being picked up by you, ask the RSPCA for advice – they may send one of their trained staff to assist.
If the cat is not injured and cannot be traced to its owner through a microchip, contact the RSPCA, local vets and cat protection charities to give a description of the cat so that it can be placed on lost and found registers or noticeboards. If possible, make a poster including the cat’s photo and brief description (leave something unstated, to ensure that if someone calls they are the cat’s real owner) and a way of contacting you – put copies of the poster up in your local post office and anywhere else that might be seen by the owners.
If no owners come forward, speak to the RSPCA again as well as cat protection charities to see if anyone can help to rehome the cat and care for it in a foster home or shelter in the meantime. If you think that you could care for the cat in the short term, speak to the RSPCA for advice on how best to care for the cat and what to do next in terms of finding a forever home. If you want to keep the cat and no-one has come forward in response to your attempts to find the owners, there is no reason why you should not care for the cat. If the owners later turn up, you will probably have to hand the cat over, but if you think that the cat would not be well cared for you should seek legal advice as to your position.
Photo by: Nick Perla