Find information on how to deal with a stray or feral cat you have seen in your local area.
We collect sick or injured stray cats but identifying genuine strays is a challenge and due to lack of resources we do not normally collect healthy stray cats.
We receive many calls from people who, instead of making enquiries in their neighbourhood, are quick to assume a cat is stray. In the past we have been criticised for removing a 'stray' cat that is later found to have been owned and just roaming.
With limited resources, we need the help of other organisations if possible. In the case of strays, we may refer callers to Cats Protection to see if they can help. We also recommend you visit Pets Located, an online resource that reunites owners with their missing pets.
Is it a stray or a feral cat?
Most cats roam over a wide area, so it may be a good idea to ask around the neighbourhood to see if anyone knows who the cat you have seen belongs to.
If the stray cat is approachable, friendly or tame it may belong to someone. So long as it is healthy the best thing to do is try and find its owner.
If the stray cat is not friendly, it may be feral or semi-feral and these cats are able to look after themselves. So long as a feral cat is healthy, leaving it alone may be the best option.
Finding the owner of a stray cat
If a stray cat is not feral (ie appears tame) the best thing to do is try and find its owner. If the cat is approachable and you can safely transport it to a vet, you could have it scanned for a microchip and they will then be able to access Petlog’s 24-hour lost and found service. This is often the quickest and easiest way to locate an owner - find a vet.
If it is not possible to take the cat to a vet but you can get close enough to put a collar on it, then download our simple Paper cat collars [PDF 36.5KB]. The second collar is a spare for future use, if necessary. Write your telephone number on one of the collars before putting it on the cat.
Please take precautions when approaching the cat and fixing the collar. Do not in any circumstances risk being bitten or scratched. If the stray cat is approachable and seems friendly, fitting the collar should be a fairly simple exercise, but you may want to strengthen the collar before putting it on. We know the collars are stronger and more waterproof if they are covered with sticky tape.
You can also download and print a Found poster [PDF 10.7KB] and Lost and found contact list [PDF 20KB]. You may need to protect the posters from bad weather if you choose to use them externally. Display the posters only where you have permission to do so such as vets, shops, post offices, etc. We do not advise putting up posters elsewhere unless you receive permission from your local council first as it may be a fineable offence.
Rehoming a stray cat
If you have taken all of the above steps and are unable to find the stray cat’s owner within a reasonable period of time, ie 10 days, so long as you can show that all the above steps have been taken, you can then go about finding a loving new home for the cat.
If you are unable to keep the cat, please contact your local RSPCA animal centre to see if they can help you rehome it. You can find your nearest RSPCA by using our search facility.
If your local RSPCA animal centre is full, you may need to contact other reputable organisations. Some of these organisations are listed on our Lost and found contact list [PDF 20KB].
Taking on a stray cat
If you decide to keep a stray cat, please do ensure that you carefully consider the commitment required. You must be able to provide proper care, accommodation, food and veterinary care for the rest of the cat's life. We would also recommend taking out pet insurance to cover any future expensive vet bills.
Find out more about the needs of cats.