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Are You Sure That’s A Stray? A Handy Guide For Not Accidentally Scooping Up And Surrendering Someone’s Indoor/Outdoor Cat

A sure sign of spring here at the Animal Protection Center is the uptick in people bringing us stray cats and kittens that have been hanging around their yard, street, or neighborhood. These animals have been hunkering down all winter so when they start to emerge with the warm weather and make babies, good citizens from all over Southeastern Massachusetts bring them to us for socialization, care, and adoption into loving homes. 90% of the time this is an awesome thing and we are profoundly grateful for people who care enough about those animals to get them to safety here in the shelter. Sometimes though a sad thing happens: a good Samaritan brings us an animal and we say hmmmmm, we don’t think that’s a stray. We think that might be someone’s indoor/outdoor cat.

First of all let me be clear: here at the APCSM we are big advocates of keeping your pet cats inside. Indoor cats are protected from disease, encounters with coyotes, eating poisonous plants or other found items, and all sorts of other troubles. Indoor cats live longer, safer lives overall than their indoor/outdoor counterparts. That being said we’re not naive, we know that there are a lot of people who let their cats out to roam. We’re not going to judge those people here but we will encourage them to let their neighbors know that they do this so that those neighbors don’t bring their cat to the shelter thinking it’s a friendly stray or abandoned pet.

If you do have a cat visiting your yard or neighborhood though and you think you should bring it to the shelter please do this first:

1. Ask around to see if anyone recognizes the cat or knows where it lives. Take a photo of the cat and share it on your Facebook/Twitter feed to see if anyone comments, “Hey! That’s Fluffy, my indoor/outdoor cat!  If this cat is super friendly try putting a break-away collar on her with a note saying, “Do I belong to someone?” This has worked several times and we can even provide you with a collar if you stop by.

2. Look the cat over. Is it dirty? Injured? Coughing? Does it appear to have fleas or mites that would indicate it’s been living rough?  Does it seem wary or scared around people? If any of these are present please do not attempt to catch the cat yourself! Call your local animal control. They will catch the cat safely.  We work closely with several animal control offices so there’s a good chance it will end up here anyway.  However, a cat that lives somewhere will often have a clean, glossy coat, be very friendly, or have clipped claws.

3. Does it visit at a specific time every day?  Some people let their cats out when they go to work in the morning and then back in in the evening.  Some people let their cats out every afternoon when they get home.  If the cat is visiting you at a specific time every day it might be on a schedule because it lives somewhere.  Also, just because it’s begging for food doesn’t mean it’s hungry, she may just be playing you for extra food.  Cats are like that.  Note: we know she’s cute but if you feed her the cat will just keep coming back.

4. Is it pregnant? If an owned cat turns up pregnant the owner will almost always stop letting it out.  If you think a  pregnant cat is hanging around your yard give us a call. If she’s already had her babies the most important thing is to keep the nursing momma and the babies together.  DO NOT separate the kittens from the momma, they could die.  Again, call with questions on this one!

Please always err on the side of caution when dealing with a cat who’s medical history you don’t know.  If you feel unsafe or like you might be scratched or bitten DO NOT try to handle the cat.  Call your local animal control and ask for help.

If you’ve read this far and you’re still not sure what to do call us or try our helpful resources page.

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