How to Handle Strays

Finding a stray cat or dog roaming about the streets is more common than you might think. People have found animals in all sorts of unusual places. But what should you do when it happens to you? If you see an animal running loose that seems like it might be in danger from passing traffic or neglect, there are certain ways that you can handle the situation. We’ve got five different actions you can take in order to get an animal to safety.


Is it a Stray?


It can be difficult to tell if an animal is a stray at all, particularly when it comes to cats. If you see a dog roaming about on its own, with no sign of an owner, it is usually either lost or a stray. With cats, however, it’s a different story. Cats can wander quite far during the day, and then still return to a warm bed by the fire at night. There are a few tell-tale signs that might give it away, however. Stray cats, unlike truly feral ones, are more used to humans and may approach you. If it has a collar, it may live nearby. Even with a collar, if you still think that they are in danger, it’s best to take action. If it seems thin or its coat is in bad condition, this is a sign that the cat has been outside for a long time.


Catching a Stray


Catching a stray is a bit difficult. Not just because it might be hard to get a nervous animal under control, but also because it’s hard to tell when an animal is friendly or approachable. Whether it’s wild, a stray, or just lost a little way from home, animals under stress may lash out and bite or scratch those that they’re unfamiliar with. If you find the animal approachable and safe, you might want to contain them in your yard or, if you have pets already, a spare pet carrier. Of course it’s not a bad idea to call your local shelter, vet, wildlife expert, or animal handlers to help return any lost animals to their homes.


Safety First


Only approach an animal if you think it is safe to do so. Never put yourself in danger in order to capture an animal. If the dog or cat seems aggressive, or you are unsure, call the authorities instead of trying to get closer. Some animals will also be very afraid of humans and will run away if you get close. Ring your local animal control or the police and give them detailed information on where you saw the animal.


Check for ID


If the animal is wearing a collar, you might be able to contact the owner yourself and return it to them. If you have the facilities, you could also take the animal home with you while you try and get in contact. You should also send in a ‘found’ report to your local animal shelter. If it isn’t wearing a tag, get the animal scanned for a microchip as soon as you are able. The best thing to do is to take it to a local animal shelter. Even if the animal looks like it has been a stray for a while, its owners may have been looking for it for a long time.


Try and Track the Owners


Most shelters will allow you to care for the pet if you want while they try and track the owners. This will happen even if it has no type of ID or microchip. You can’t just take the animal home to keep, a ‘found’ report will have to be put out by the shelter and every attempt possible made to locate the owners. You can help with this by posting fliers around the area you found the cat or dog. You could also post pictures on social media.



There you have it, five things that you can do if you see a potential stray. Of course, it may be tempting for you to adopt the stray if the owners don’t come forward, and this is entirely possible. Check out the best ways to adopt a stray here.

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