A stray cat is an animal that has been domesticated or socialized and has likely spent much of its life in a household with humans. Many people confuse stray cats with feral cats, which have never had contact with humans. Learning to tell stray cats from feral cats is essential so you know what to do when you pass a kitten on the street. Differentiation is not always easy, but it is possible to analyze the cat's behavior to find out if it is lost or not. You can also look for signs that the pet has an owner and strive to find it.
Method 1 of 3: Analyzing Animal Behavior
Step 1. Watch if the cat approaches you
The way the animal behaves around humans can be an indicator that it is lost. Most stray cats have already been socialized. Soon, they are used to spending time with people and, for the most part, they have had a home. This means they are not as skittish as feral cats. Get close to the cat and see if it approaches you on its own. If he doesn't look suspicious, chances are he's just lost.
- Squat down to get closer to the cat's height. That way, he will feel less intimidated.
- Also note if the cat approaches houses and cars on its own. This behavior is common in stray cats.
Step 2. Approach the cat
Try to go to the pet if it doesn't approach you on its own. It's possible he's already been socialized, but he's scared. Slowly approach the cat and speak to him in a calm voice. If he lets you come over and pet him after a few tries, he's probably lost.
Step 3. See if the cat is alone
Stray cats tend to walk alone, whereas ferals are usually part of a pack. See if the kitten is accompanied by other felines. If not, it's likely that he's lost.
Step 4. Observe the animal's body language
A cat's body language can provide clues to the animal's origin. Stray cats have body language similar to that of domestic cats. Look out for the following signs:
- Watch the cat walk. If the pet walks with its tail up, showing itself to be friendly, it is likely that it has or has had a home. If the animal crawls or stays flat on the ground, with its tail down to protect itself, it is probably feral and has never had a home.
- A stray cat can make eye contact with humans, something a feral cat would never do.
Step 5. Listen for the meows
The cat's type of vocalization can also provide clues to its origins. A stray kitten will meow, or "respond" when you talk to him. Depending on how long the animal has been outside or without its owner, it may even purr when you approach. Feral cats, on the other hand, do not usually emit any sound.
Method 2 of 3: Looking for Signs of an Owner
Step 1. See if the cat has a collar
Many domestic cats have a collar with the pet's name and contact number in case it gets lost. If you suspect you've found someone's kitten, see if he's wearing a collar.
The absence of a collar does not mean that the cat has no owner. It's possible that he lost his collar somewhere or that the owner never bought one
Step 2. Assess the animal's health
Another way to find out if a cat is lost is to take a look at the animal's health status. Is he thin and malnourished? Are you hurt? Does it seem to be suffering? These signs can indicate that the kitten is lost and does not have the ability to find food and help on its own.
- These factors, however, are not always easy to ascertain. It is possible that the cat appears well nourished, that it is a good weight and has no ribs, and at the same time it is starving. Maybe he hasn't been lost for a long time, but he's hungry because he's not used to hunting his own food.
- On the other hand, it is also possible for the cat to be skinny but not appear to be hungry. Perhaps it is feral, meaning it has always lived on the streets, and therefore knows how to hunt its own food, but it is not as well fed as a house cat. Take into account both the animal's appearance and behavior.
Step 3. Assess the hair condition
A stray kitten is much more likely to be dirty and disheveled. As he lived in a house, under the care of an owner, it is likely that he does not know how to take care of his own hygiene on his own. Feral cats tend to have clean, well-groomed fur, even though they live on the streets.
Step 4. See if the cat has the tip of the ear cut off
In Brazil, neutered feral cats have the tip of one ear removed, indicating that the procedure has already been performed. Thus, employees of the zoonoses department do not need to approach an aloof animal to know that it has already been neutered, and the kitten also does not need to go through the trauma of another unnecessary surgery. Cropped ears, however, are not common among domestic cats.
Method 3 of 3: Found a Kitten Owner
Step 1. Talk to your neighbors
The only way to be sure a cat is lost is to find its owner. It's quite possible that he didn't get very far from home, so start your search by talking to your neighbors. Ask if their pet has run away or if they know someone who has lost a cat.
- Take a picture of the cat with you.
- Posting a picture of the cat and where it was found on social media can also help you find the owner of the pet. Through the internet, you will reach a much larger audience, and in much less time, than by going door to door.
- You can also make a “animal found” poster with a picture of the cat and a phone number for the owner to contact.
Step 2. See if the cat has a microchip
If you can safely catch the cat, take it to the vet to see if it has been microchipped. Microchips implanted in cats contain information about the owner and how to contact him.
Step 3. Put a paper collar on the pussy
It's also possible that the cat isn't lost, just wandering around without the owner's knowledge. In that case, it might be a good idea to put a paper collar on the animal, with a message like: “This cat has been visiting me frequently. Please get in touch if it is yours”. Don't forget to include your phone number or email address. If the cat is going for a walk during the day and returning home at night, your ticket will inform the owner of the animal's adventures.
Do not leave the paper collar attached to the cat for too long. He might get annoyed. If you don't get a call after a few days, try removing the collar
Step 4. Contact local shelters
Contact your hometown shelters and ask if anyone called looking for a lost kitten recently. You might be able to get the pet's owner's phone number, or maybe the shelter staff themselves will contact him to arrange the reunion.
Leave a description of the cat, where it was found, and your contact information at shelters so staff can get in touch with you if someone calls looking for a pet similar to yours
Step 5. Contact lost animal websites and profiles
In addition to making an outreach on your own, make an ad on a site like PetVale, which gathers information about lost and found animals. Also, look for pages on social media that aggregate ads like this to reach more people. Maybe you can't find an ad from the pussy owner himself?