Cats – A Stray or Not a Stray? – That Is the Question

 In Pets
Cats - A Stray or Not a Stray Cat?

As we all know, cats can be independent creatures, not to mention adventurers.  They are not always content to stay within the confines of their yards. Cats don’t care about property lines or staying within them.  So when you are out walking and come across an unfamiliar feline on your route, you might assume she is a stray or lost.  The Good Samaritan in you might want to scoop her up and rescue her.  There’s nothing wrong with those instincts, to help what you perceive to be an animal in need.  However, is she truly in need of your assistance?  Maybe she is a neighbor’s indoor cat who has gotten out or maybe she is a new cat to the neighborhood.  Before you intercede and rescue, do some detective work.

Continued below…

Panhandle Animal Shelter
  • Ask neighbors if they know anything about the cat. Did she just arrive or has he been seen around for some time.
  • Does she come and go? If yes, then she likely belongs to someone and will find her way home.
  • Is anyone feeding her? If so, stop the feeding.  If she leaves straight away, she probably has another source of food and a home.
  • Check to see if she has a collar and tags.
  • Look for “lost cat” signs and look online at area websites or Facebook pages that post lost pets.

Okay, so you followed through with the suggestions above and you believe that the cat is lost. Then  it’s best to do the following:

  • Take the cat (assuming it is friendly and not feral) to a veterinarian clinic or shelter, like PAS, to be scanned for a microchip.
  • Put up flyers in your neighborhood and at veterinarian clinics.
  • Post on Facebook, like Panhandle Animal Shelter’s page, and other local online pet message boards.

Often at PAS we see instances of lost cats that have come home on their own.  Their owners had posted information about their missing cats on our Facebook page and/or on our website’s lost and found directory and then later on they let us know that cats came back all by themselves.  Take Lola for example.  She was missing for six days this summer before she showed up back at home.  Her owners had searched and gotten the word out about their missing feline.  They’d done all the right things.  As will often happen, the cat found her own way home.

Recent studies show that cats are 13 times more likely to return home by non-shelter means.  Also, 60% of healthy, likely owned cats will find their way home on their own, while 30% will be found by their owners in a neighborhood search.  Each year stray cats come into Panhandle Animal Shelter (PAS).  Many of the cats we receive are healthy, friendly, and likely owned cats.  National statistics show only 2% will be claimed by their owners.  So we encourage people to not be too hasty in bringing in cats unfamiliar to them without doing some checking first.

If no one claims the cat after you’ve gotten the word out and you determine that the cat is most likely a stray that has been abandoned, then call your local animal shelter.  If there is a waiting list for entry into the shelter, consider fostering the cat in the meantime, or try to rehome on PAS’s rehoming site, www.  Who knows you may discover that a feline friend is for you and decide to keep her.  Many a loving relationship has begun that way, even for people who thought they didn’t like cats!  Turns out they had been mistaken.  They just hadn’t met the right cat.

Okay let’s say you come across a cat that is extremely unfriendly and fearfulMost likely she is feral.  A feral cat has had little to no contact with people during its life. Feral cats are generally fearful of people and are unlikely to ever become pet cats.  On the other hand, a stray cat has been socialized to people at some point, but may no longer have much human contact or dependence.  It all depends on how long the stray cat has been living independently as to how approachable she will be; temperament can play a role in this, too.  Strays can be friendly or aloof.  Typically, they can become pets again.

You may think that you can only help lost or stray cats but not the feral ones.  Not so.  Panhandle Animal Shelter has a Trap-Neuter-Return program (TNR) for Bonner and Boundary counties.  Cats are humanely trapped, brought into our shelter for spay/neuter surgeries, and later returned to their outdoor homes. TNR is a proven method in controlling community (feral) cat population growth. Healthy, natural lives can be led by community cats, and the returned cats will have improved lives. For instance, behaviors and stresses associated with pregnancy and mating, such as fighting will stop.  Through a $25,000 grant from PetSmart Charities, PAS will “fix” 800 community or feral cats this year.

So the next time an unfamiliar cat crosses your path, you might look at her differently now that you’ve read this article.  The cat you once might have assumed to be lost or a stray might look differently to you.  Instead of looking homeless or lost, she might look intriguing and worthy of donning your sleuth cap, for observation and inquires.

by Dr. Rajeev Rajendra, Medical Director

Dr. Rajeev Rajendra, “Dr. Raj” to his patients, joined the Camas Clinic in March 2016. Dr. Raj believes that medical practice is a lifelong commitment, treating patients with the compassion we would expect for ourselves and our family members.

Dr. Raj earned a Master’s in Pharmacology and Toxicology at Rutgers University. He then trained in Internal Medicine at Indiana University Health, Ball Memorial Hospital and completed a Hematology Oncology Fellowship at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington.

Dr. Raj holds board certifications from the American Board of Internal Medicine in Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology, and is board eligible in Hematology. His affiliations include: American Society of Hematology, American Society of Clinical Oncology, and American College of Physicians. He has to his credit several medical abstracts and manuscripts as well as awards for his medical research.

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