7 Things To Do If You Find A Stray Cat

If you find a stray cat or kitten and don’t know what to do, this article outlines 7 steps to take.

Sadly, stray cats abound but there are things you can do to help if you find a stray cat.

Catch The Cat

The first step to take is to catch the cat. Sometimes catching a cat or kitten is easier said than done though.

There are a number of no kill traps. A SAFE live trap is one possible option to consider – not all are equally safe. There are several of factors to consider with regard to trapping a cat. Here are a few important ones:

1) Safety For The Animal Is The First Consideration

Generally, a trap that uses gravity instead of high tension springs is safer since the door falls closed instead of crushing closed. Sometimes cat can get their tails caught in the door, and a door that falls closed is less likely to break the tail tip than one that closes with crushing spring power. If a cat tail is broken it will need to be inspected by a veterinarian to see if amputation is required to prevent the rest of the tail dying, rotting and decaying traveling up the spine.

Once you’ve chosen a trap, always put the bait as far into the trap as possible so the cat walks as far into the trap as possible. This can possibly reduce the chance the tail will be crushed in the trap door when it is actuated.

2) Cage Dimensions Are Another Factor

Make sure it’s long enough for the cat you are trying to catch today, and are likely to catch later on in the future. Considering getting a trap large enough for an adult cat is a good idea in most cases. That way it will likely be long enough for future full grown adult cats, as well as smaller kittens.

3) Use Tuna, Sardines, Or Another Smelly Bait That Attracts Cats

Place the bait on a small dish that will not harm them if they try to rip it apart due to frantic desperation to escape or fear. If unsure what to use, call your local vet to check. If the cat accidentally eats part of a dish that it rips apart in fear it could turn into a health emergency. Place the dish as far back in the cage as possible so the cat’s tail is at minimal risk for getting closed in the door. It’s a good idea to leave a trail of tuna or sardine liquid or gravy from the can the package or can to lead the animal into the cage.

Sometimes putting towels, rugs or old clothes over the trap can help to camoflage it. Some cats are very smart and know to avoid a trap if they see one. Especially if they’ve been caught before.

Again, place the dish as deep into the cage as possible to help the cat’s tail clear the door when it closes.

As mentioned, a SAFE live trap is just one possible option to consider.


After you’ve set the trap make sure to check trap every 30 minutes max in cold or hot weather or the cat could die from freezing or overheating. Even if it doesn’t seem like extreme heat or cold the cat may be at risk, so even if it is an inconvenience please check often.

It’s incredibly easy to completely forget that the trap is set and to check it every half hour. It’s good to set a countdown timer alarm on your phone, alarm clock, kitchen range, or another timer to go off each 30 minutes while the trap is set. Another thought is to set the alarm for the next 30 minutes before you leave to check the trap so you don’t forget to set the alarm when you return.

It just can’t be under stated how easy it is to forget about the cat trap. Setting an alarm is critical so the cat doesn’t overheat, freeze, starve, or die of thirst because of forgetting the trap is set.

If you have to leave, always un-set / release the trap so it can’t accidentally catch any animals while unattended. It’s a good idea to remove the bait before closing it too so it doesn’t attract animals.

Make Sure Kitty Isn’t Pregnant

It’s difficult to believe the sheer number of homeless pregnant cats that are out there. Commonly they are desperate and malnourished. Many are not much older than kittens themselves. If you catch a female cat and are unsure if she’s pregnant or the recent mother of a litter consult with a veteranarian quickly. If she has kittens their lives depend on her milk. If this is the case, release her, and recatch her again after she is done nursing.

In desperate situations her young kittens may be bottle fed milk, but there’s no substitute for nursing from their natural mother whenever possible.

Neuter Or Spay The Mother Cat & Kittens

The cat population is out of control due to:
1) People not spaying or neutering their cats
2) The frequency for which cats can reproduce
3) The large number of kittens that can be born in a litter

With that said, please neuter or spay the mother cat and all of the kittens once they are old enough or weigh enough. Simply make a quick call your local veterinary clinic to learn the specific number of weeks, or weights they suggest. If all stray and pet cats could be neutered or spayed the cat over population problems would vanish very quickly. It would save countless cat lives of misery, suffering, and starvation for the surplus of cats that don’t have loving homes.

Give The Cat Food & Water

Please provide food and clean water to stray cats.

Stray cats are often malnourished, or starving. This is especially likely in metro areas where there are less small rodents and other animals that are easier to find in rural areas.

Mother cats especially need food and water as their kittens develop inside of them. Some stray cats eat like they haven’t had food in days, which may be true at times. Similarly, please replace dirty water daily with clean water. It may be the only clean water the cat has access to in the area.

Even if it’s a few dollars and a few minutes of time each day, this small act can literally save the cat’s life when the situation is desperate.

Check The Cat For Tags

Outdoor cats especially need taged, and to be chipped for emergency situations or if lost. There are so many reasons why outdoor cats have a very short lifespan compared to indoor cats. Not being tagged or chipped adds greatly to the cat’s risk if it goes outside.

Always check to see if the cat is wearing a collar, and if the guardian’s name and phone number are on it if so.

Take The Cat To A Vet To Check For Chip

If there is no collar, there is still a chance the cat may be chipped with contact information for the cat’s guardian.

Simply take the cat to a local veteranarian and ask them to check if the kitty is chipped, and for the guardian’s contact information if so.

Adopting Or Surrendering The Cat

If the kitty doesn’t have a collar and hasn’t been chipped there are a few possible options to choose from:

Choice 1 – Adopt The Stray Kitty

If you are able to provide good care for the cat and can adopt it there are a few medical conditions that require attention:
-Veteranarian general physical to get an idea of overall health, weight, and age of animal
-Spay / neutering to help prevent further over population of cats without loving homes
-Stool sample to check for parasites
-Urine sample to check for Urinary Tract Infection
-FIV & Leukemia testing to check for these easily spreadable diseases if you have other animals
-Flea treatment
-Rabies, Distemper, and Leukemia shots to protect against these terrible diseases cats can catch
-Flea medicine prescribed by your veterinarian in the correct dosage amount for the cat’s weight

It may seem like a lot, but it’s important to know the health of the animal. Many cats that have had lives struggling outdoors are barely getting by. It’s good to get a checkup since it could be in pain or suffering from something detectable without you knowing. Cats often try to hide their pain as a means of survival by not showing weakness in the wild.

Choice 2 – Allow It To Live On Your Property If Safe And Climate Is Not Severe

Adopting the cat and bringing it to live indoors only is the best option whenever possible.

Indoor cats have extremly longer average lifespans compared to outdoor cats. Regardless, if the cat can not become an indoor cat at your home, and there is nobody to adopt the cat as an indoor pet, it may be an option to let it live on yor property. It’s not recommended if the property you live at is unsafe, or the weather is severe.

Some safety hazards to cats include:

-Dangeorus climates from extreme weather, heat or cold at any point during the year
-Dangerous, abusive or questionable people
-Dangerous predators or dogs
-Dangerous high traffic, or high speed traffic streets
-Dangeorus pestisides or other chemicals that would get on the food the cat eats, or the water they drink
-Dangeorus animal traps used by hunters, neighbors or other people

In areas where there is extreme weather or temperature if the cat has access to a well heated garage in the cold, or a cool garage in the heat that may be sufficient. Ensure the kitty has food and water that is not frozen as well. Consult with your local vet or ASPCA for tips on how to best offer shelter and care for an outdoor cat.

Choice 3 – Give Cat To A Good Rescue That Will Find It A Loving Home

Many ‘no-kill’ shelters sadly let cats waste away in small crates where they can barely move as they slowly deteriorate.

It may be better for the cat to be euthanized than to loose functionality of legs due to deteriorated muscles from living an extended time in solitary confinement in a small cage. It’s a sad form of cruelty and neglect that usually is not intended, but results in a slow life of suffering, deterioration, and neglect before finally dying.

Before surrendering a cat to a rescue or shelter ask to see the other animals under their watch. This way you can see what kind of conditions you can expect for the cat you are surrendering. If it’s not up to par don’t release the cat to them. A good idea is to call the rescue and request a visit to check the rescue out first. If you feel very confident that it is safe and the cat will be treated well you can bring the cat back.

If you bring the cat with you in a cage don’t let the rescue owner know you brought the cat until you have checked the rescue out first and feel very confident that the cat is in good hands. If you do this make sure the temperature is not too hot to overheat the cat, and if it’s in the cold Winter don’t leave the car so long that the cat freezes.

Concluding Thoughs

Cat’s are truly loving creatures, and sadly many are homeless and depend on your help. Many cat’s desperately want a loving home to live in, and may not survive outdoors for long.

Whenever possible adopt stray cats that you come across or ensure they are going to good homes or rescues in your area.

Checking for collars and chips can help return pets to their existing homes.

Finally, a little bit of medical care can go a long way in preserving the cat’s life and health.

I hope this post has offered a few helpful ideas on how to help stray cats that you may find.

May God bless You & your pets! 🙂

-Randy / Animal Weekly