Spotting a stray or a lost cat and helping them find homes

Some cats like to walk. Sometimes as much as a few kilometers away from home. That’s a bit of a scary thought for even the bravest of pet owners who trust that each night their beloved kitty will come home – which I should add they often do.

Instead of talking about those kitties getting lost I want to talk about the other side. What happens if you happen to find a kitty or have a kitty visit you. What should you do?

Let’s start with some huge generalizations. If the kitty is in good condition it is someone’s pet because it is getting regular food and is generally being cared for. Another one, if the kitty isn’t in great condition but is friendly it is also someones pet – but in this case may be lost. Lastly if it’s not friendly ie will run away even at the sight of you (it doesn’t mean it doesn’t like you 🙂 ) and/or is aggressive it may mean it’s a stray.

If you want to be helpful what do you do? Understanding food! Cats became domesticated because humans could provide food. This is important because food can both help and be very detrimental.

If the kitty is in good condition do not feed it. It will keep coming back for more food. This is especially true of a frequent wondering cat. In essence you may be feeding a cat that is loved and already has a home – if they prefer your food they will keep coming back to the point where they may move in with you. This exact sequence of events happened to a friend of mine in 2020. Their neighbour a few blocks away fed their cat biltong. Biltong definitely beat kitty kibble so she went back again and again until eventually she never returned. This was traumatic for my friends because they lost their cat and couldn’t actually bring her home again because she knew better food was somewhere else so kept leaving. She occasionally visits but has essentially re-homed herself. Or said differently, she was encouraged to move.

If you think the kitty is lost. Don’t get attached to it. Remember it is someones pet who is probably devastated that their kitty is lost. I know first hand how devastating that can be. The first goal of trying to help is to understand the end result. There are two objectives. 1. Get a good quality picture of the kitty and share it in the neighbourhood. Perhaps someone will recognise it and help find the owner. 2. If that doesn’t work you want to catch it with the view of taking it to a vet to get scanned. Please do not take it to the SPCA – they do not have a good success rate. A vet doesn’t charge to scan the kitty.

There are many ways to catch a kitty. Many rescue organisations will have a kitty safe trap which uses bait and a cage to harmlessly catch the kitty. This works very well especially if you have a kitty who frequently visits a specific spot. The other effective method is food. Like in the above instance. Food means life and cats will keep coming back for more. Overtime the cat will feel more comfortable and eventually allow you to get very close. At this point please remember it’s not your cat. It may still belong to someone else. This was how my cat Jag was found in 2015. He was fed for two weeks. At this point take them to the vet to get scanned.

If the cat is not chipped please take some responsibility for it’s health. Don’t take it to the SPCA! If you are unable to re-home rather approach one of the many rescue organisations. Those rescue organisations have dedicated volunteers who can help.

Lastly strays. These cats aren’t lost. They fend for themselves. An adult typically doesn’t make a good pet – so don’t try. Some things to understand. Cats are territorial. If their is a food source in an area there will be stray cats in the area. If you get rid of those stray cats new ones will come because of food. And, I know what you’re thinking what about cutting the food supply. Lol try and catch every rat or pigeon :).

Territorial stray cats can be used to your advantage. They will stay in an area and keep other cats out but you need to keep them from reproducing. Stray catch, spay & neuter and release is the absolute best way to deal with stray cats. If you feed them they will keep coming back – some may even move into your home.

In summary please be mindful of what your actions might trigger when feeding or catching a wondering kitty. Remember there may be a small child devastated that their family cat hasn’t come home – help solve the problem.

We’re happy to help you with some advise if you need. Email us at and tell us about the situation.

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