What to Do If You Find a Stray Cat

Each day in the UK, animal charities receive a staggering 30,000 calls reporting stray cats. Cat’s go missing for many reasons. In general cats naturally roam the areas surrounding their home and are unlikely to get lost if they have lived in the area for a number of years. However, one of the riskiest times to lose a cat can be during or after a recent house move or with a change of ownership.

Sadly, there are other reasons why a cat may have found it’s way to you. Sometimes, cats are abandoned due to various reasons such as a lack of finances or moving to a property that does not allow pets. In addition, often in the summer season, some cats can be left to fend for themselves when the owner goes away on holiday.

What to do with a stray cat? Regardless of the reason, the process and steps remain the same. After all, you may never find out!

Stray vs Feral

You may ask yourself, what should I do if I find a stray cat? When actually the first step is to establish if the cat is actually a stray! It may be a feral cat or belong to a new neighbour. You may be able to get an idea by looking at the cat’s overall condition. If it is thin and its coat is in poor condition it’s more likely to be feral. However, it still could be a stray. If the cat looks healthy and well fed, it is possible that it has found its way to you from a neighbouring house. However, to be sure you will need to investigate further.

Check with Neighbours

To establish if the cat belongs to a neighbour, visit the houses surrounding your property. This includes any in other streets that back onto your garden, not just your immediate neighbours.


If you have no luck with neighbours claiming the cat, take it to your local vets. They will be able to scan it for a microchip. If there isn’t one, they can also check the cat’s description against their missing cat log which most veterinary practices have. Usually, when someone loses their cat, they will report it as missing to their local vets.

Contact Rescue Centres

It is also beneficial to contact your local cat rescue centres as they are often contacted when someone’s cat goes missing so may also have a missing pet log to check the description against.

Interim Solutions

Once you have reported the cat as a stray you may wish to keep it until it is claimed. Alternatively, most veterinary practices will take them in until the owner has been found or rehomed to a new family. The same applies to your local rescue centres.

Steps to Reunion

If a microchip is found, then contact will be made with the owners. However, in some cases, details can be incorrect so it may not be possible to reunite them. Rescue centres and veterinary practices will usually keep them for a week or so but will usually look to rehome them if there is little chance of finding the owners. This is why microchipping your cat is so important and of course keeping the contact information up to date.

Keeping Stray Cats

If the owner of the stray cat hasn’t been found, it may be possible to adopt the cat yourself. It is important to follow the previous steps and at least attempt to reunite them before you decide to keep the animal though. Some rescue centres may wish to do some checks before allowing you to adopt the stray cat, although rules vary across different animal adoption centres.


Rehoming is a relatively straightforward process and generally involves assessing the animal, you and the environment in which the cat will be living in. Are you a suitable match?! For example, if you have a dog that likes to chase cats, it’s probably not the best match for either of them! This process doesn’t take long and if you have a suitable home and living conditions, you may well be able to rehome the cat in a matter of weeks!