Cat Chat: What to do if you think you’ve found a stray cat

A missing pet causes huge heartache for their owner

A missing pet causes huge heartache for their owner - Credit: Archant

Cats can wander off for a variety of reasons, even if they have loving homes. Most find their way back, but that is not always the case.

A missing pet causes huge heartache for their owner. So what should you do if you see a new feline visitor to your garden, and you think it might be a stray?

If it looks like it might be injured, call the RSPCA who will give you a vet code to cover the cost of emergency care, then you can take it to a vet.

If the cat is uninjured, you might think the kindest thing is to feed it. But please don’t, at least at first.

A cat may look in poor condition but it could be they are old or have a long-term illness. They might look poorly, but in fact are being well looked after, under advice from a vet, perhaps with a special diet for health problems.

The best thing to do if you have concerns, is to give it a ‘paper collar’. Just snip out a thin strip of cardboard, for example from a cereal packet. Use a biro or waterproof ink to write ‘please call’ on the collar, with your phone number, then tape or staple it together to form a collar.

If the cat comes back the next day without it, try again, it could have just got wet or become dislodged.

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If it still has the collar after seven days, and you’ve not had a call, it looks like you might have a stray on your hands.

The next step is to contact a volunteer from Hector’s House or Feline Network, both cat rescue charities based in Torbay.

We have a network of volunteers across the area who can come out to assess the cat, and scan it for a microchip. You can contact us via our Facebook pages, or put a message in the Torbay Help Hub on Facebook.

If you suspect the cat is a stray, please offer it only cheap cat biscuits. A stray cat who is hungry will eat them.

Don’t go out and buy the most expensive tasty brands. Even a cat with a loving home, who is well looked after, won’t be able to resist the choicest cuts.

We want to cut down on the number of ‘Six Dinner Sids’ strolling around, filling up wherever they can.

Please remember, if you are providing a more attractive meal than the cat’s owner, you may be encouraging it to stay away. And that can mean worry and heartbreak for the owner, desperately wondering what has happened to their beloved pet.

We have noticed during lockdown, with the closure of restaurants and cafes, more stray cats have appeared in gardens, because their main food source of scavenging in restaurant and pub bins has come to a stop.

If the cat is nervous, or shy, and runs off when you approach, please get in touch. We have humane traps, that don’t hurt the cat, so we can catch them and check for a microchip.

A quick scan will give us the chip number, and that can then be matched against the database to find the contact details of the owner.

If you would like to get a pet micro-chipped, please contact the charities, and we can do this for a small fee to cover costs. Alternatively your vet can do it for you.

It is vital to keep your contact details up to date on the database of your pet’s microchip provider. People think the vet will do that, but actually it’s your responsibility.

Regularly, when we try to contact an owner, we find the chip details are out of date. That means we have to do some detective work to trace them, particularly if they have changed phone number, or moved house.

We will do everything we can to get a cat back to its rightful owner. If that is not possible straight away, then will be kept safe, warm and fed, until we can.

There are many kind and caring people in Torbay who support our rescue charities, and look out for our feline friends. If anyone has any concerns about a cat, please get in touch for advice.

We’ve managed to get many lost cats back home. There’s nothing that gives us more pleasure than seeing a cat safely back with its rightful owner.

We have reunited cats that have been missing for up to seven years!

Anyone wanting a cat scanned, please contact Hector’s House Cat Rescue on 07720 969525; Facebook: Hector’s House Residents or