What to Do if You Find a Lost Cat
If you find a cat outside, the first step is to figure out if they have an owner. Some cats are community cats and live outside. They can be friendly or unsocial, but they typically have an ear tip so rescuers can easily tell that they have been spayed or neutered. If the cat has an ear tip and appears to be content and well-fed, they are likely a community cat that doesn’t need assistance.
If the cat you find looks like someone’s pet, appears healthy and friendly, wears a collar, or runs right up to you for attention, they may be an indoor/outdoor cat or they may be an indoor only cat that has gotten lost outside.
If the cat is wearing a collar with an ID tag, you can easily contact the owner and reunite them with their cat or at least verify that the cat is allowed to be outside.
If there is no ID tag, try to get a good, clear photo of the cat. Ideally the cat would be looking at the camera so someone can easily recognize their face.
Talk to the neighbors and ask if they are missing a cat or if they recognize this cat. Maybe the cat is indoor/outdoor and is known to everyone on the street and was just saying hi to you.
If nobody recognizes the cat, post the cat on social media and Next Door letting everyone know where and when the cat was found, including the photo you took and any defining characteristics. Tag local shelters and rescuers and encourage your friends and family to share your post.
Create flyers and post them in the area you found the cat. Indoor cats who get out don’t usually venture far from their homes, especially if they have lived in the same home for at least six months, so post flyers within a one mile radius. Similarly, check the area for flyers the cat’s owner may have already posted about their lost cat!
If you can safely get the cat in a carrier and transport them, approach the cat slowly and talk to them calmly. They may be too afraid to come to you and if you head toward them quickly and excitedly the cat may feel threatened and run off. If the cat is hiding and you can’t easily reach them, use food to entice them - the stinkier the better! Think fish flavored wet food. Try to pick up the cat and put them in a cat carrier. If needed, you can cover the cat with a towel or blanket to keep them calm as you try to pick them up.
Take the cat to a vet or animal shelter to be scanned for a microchip. If they are microchipped and the chip is registered to someone, the owner can be contacted. Some microchip companies even have found pet alerts so you can also notify the microchip company that you found a cat and they can help spread the word.
If the cat isn’t microchipped or the chip isn’t registered, contact local shelters and rescues to let them know you found a cat and provide a description of the cat as well as the location where you found them. Most animal shelters have temporary holds on animals to give owners a few days to claim missing pets before the animals are put up for adoption. Even if the cat doesn’t have a microchip, the owner could be looking for them. If no owner comes forward, some shelters offer ‘first rights,’ giving the finder the first chance to adopt the animal.
It is very important even if you do want to keep the cat that you do your due diligence and try to find the rightful owner, should they have one. Someone may be doing everything they can to find their lost pet and there’s no need to rescue an animal who already has a home when there are so many great cats in shelters available for adoption!