This publication discloses how to tell if a cat is abandoned. Nonetheless, it is practically challenging to be sure if a cat is abandoned or feral.
Many cats are catnapped and taken to a shelter by folks who mean well. And in some cases, such cats are reunited with family or given a new family.
If a cat you sight is clean and social, they may have been taken in as a young cat in a TNVR (Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate and Return) program, ear-tipped, and adopted out when someone managing the trapping job believes they have the potential to be friendly.
How to tell if a cat is abandoned
You would have to focus on the physical state, behavior, and habits of a cat to know if it is abandoned. Also, it is generally challenging to tell a sick or starving cat, especially if it is shy, has long fur, or was overweight before ending up on the street.
Look for the following telltale signs to know if a cat is abandoned:
- Temperament. Pay attention to the cat, does it appear nervous, ill, or stressed, or is it content and happy to be napping, and exploring outside?
- Approach. Does the cat approach you? The behavior of the feline is a major catch to know if it is abandoned or feral. A cat that has socialized or has a home is typically not as skittish as a feral cat. Stand by and sit near the feline to see if it approaches you. Otherwise, it is probably not abandoned. Ensure to crouch down to the level of the cat to avoid intimidating it. You could try approaching the cat if it does not walk up to you. A socialized but frightened cat will not come up to you.
Location and appearance
The location and appearance of the feline can tell if it is abandoned or a feral.
- Location. Check if the cat is hanging around a particular home or going to different places around the neighborhood. If it hangs around a particular place, it could be its home. Some tenants allow their cats to wander around as a way of keeping them from the landlord in a no-pet apartment. If the cat seems to be hiding, it may be an abandoned cat lost and wandering in a strange environment.
- Appearance. An abandoned cat can be both dirty with matted fur or clean and well-groomed, depending on how long it has been abandoned. But in many cases, the eyes and nose of an abandoned cat are clear of gunk. It does not also have marks or scars on its nose or face and is more likely to be clean and well-groomed.
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Meanwhile, the marks on the face or its disheveled fur could be signs of a hard life.
A collar on the cat
A collar on the cat is a sign that it is an abandoned cat. Some cat owners or ailurophiles include their name and a phone number to call in the collar in case the cat is lost.
However, a cat not wearing a collar does not mean it is not an abandoned cat. A cat could be lost and had no collar at the time of its disappearance.
If the collar is old and tag-free, or too tight, try to free the cat. The collar becomes too small for a growing abandoned young cat and can embed in its skin, causing death.
Some cat owners tend to overlook adjusting the collar on their growing pet cat, or do not know that the collar should have two fingers of slack.
Health of the feline
The general health of the cat tells if it is a stray or an abandoned. If the cat does not look skinny and malnourished, it could be an abandoned cat.
But depending on how long an abandoned cat has wandered in a foreign neighborhood, it could be skinny and malnourished if it is unable to find food on its own.
Look for injuries, and check if the cat seems to be in distress.
Meowing and following
According to Alley Cat Rescue, a cat will meow:
- As a way of greeting you
- To demand attention
- To ask for food
- To be allowed inside or outside
- To find a mate
An elderly cat suffering from mental confusion like the cat version of Alzheimer’s Disease will also meow.
Speaking of following, if the cat anxiously follows you or other people around, it could be an abandoned cat. A feral cat would typically avoid human contact.
If you found the cat in your neighborhood, talk to your neighbors. If you cannot get any leads asking around, you could post a picture of the cat on your neighborhood’s community page on platforms like Facebook and Nextdoor.
Make a “found” poster with photographs of the cat, and include a contact number to call if anyone recognizes the cat.
Look for a microchip on the cat
If you can safely catch the cat, have a veterinarian scan it for a microchip. Catching the cat may require you to sneak up on it. A cat with a microchip implant will have information about the owner and how you can contact them. This means it is an abandoned pet cat.
What to do with an abandoned cat
Do the following if the cat welcomes you:
Contact the vet
After determining that the cat needs help, have it put in a carrier or box if you mean well. You can catnap it if necessary.
Contact your vet, local animal services, or humane society to have the cat scanned for a microchip. Do a little research to find animal rescue organizations in your area.
Have the cat tested
If you plan to take the cat to your home, have it tested, especially if you have other pets in your home. The cat can expose your pets to viruses such as the feline leukemia virus.
An injured or severely emaciated, abandoned cat should be taken to an emergency animal hospital immediately.
Ensure to book an appointment with the hospital. Animal hospitals will allow you to drop off a rescued animal. You can ask them about the treatment costs or who is responsible for it ahead of time through the phone.
Contact local animal shelters
Check your local animal shelters to find out if anyone recently called about a missing cat. If so, they may give you the person’s contact information to help them reunite with their cat.
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Ensure to leave a description of the cat, including where it was found. Add your contact information with each shelter to have them get in touch with you when someone calls looking for a cat with a matching description.
Report the abandoned cat online
Online resources such as PetsLocated help owners reunite with their lost pets. They use the lost and found database to continually cross-reference to match pets reported lost or found.
Contact a rescue organization
If a rescue organization will not welcome the cat, they may be able to advise you or direct you to someone who can help.
You can negotiate to foster the cat if they handle the initial testing and treatment. Fostering a cat is a commitment to care for it as if you are the owner while you and the care organization find it a permanent home.
An abandoned cat will not let me help
Depending on the cat’s relationship with humans, you need to be patient, gentle and provide food and water to get them to trust you.
However, felines that have been abused or lived on the streets for a while will take time and several attempts to win over. Overlook the abandoned cat’s skittishness, it may be having a terrible time surviving.
On the other hand, a feral cat grew in the wild and does not desire humans. You can hardly turn them into pets.
Get a humane trap if the cat is a skittish stray that needs help. Many humane societies or animal services keep borrowable humane traps you can get to nab the cat.
Look out for a notched ear. Although a notch could result from an injury, it could also be from a spay/neuter program. These programs notch the ear of a cat as a sign that it has already been trapped and fixed.