Meow! Meow! Meow! Cat rescuers seem to have built in super-hearing when its a cat or kitten’s cries for help! I’ve been asleep and woken up by hearing a meowing kitten under a car in front of my house in the middle of the night. What do you do if you find a stray kitten or cat? How do you know if he was abandoned, is lost, or is just out for a stroll? What about a cat that seems sick, should you rush him to the emergency vet, wait till the morning, or care for him yourself? These are complicated questions and every situation is different, but given my stray-cat-magnet abilities (stray cats and kittens regularly materialize no matter where we are), I’ve written some tips and steps you can follow to help make sure the kitten or cat you find is well-cared for while you try to locate his owner, or a rescue or a new home to adopt him.
If the cat is a healthy-looking well-cared for adult, he or she may be a neighborhood cat paying you a visit – how do you know? This really depends on your neighborhood and the cat. There are some neighborhoods where many cats are free roaming, loosely owned by people that feed them. In my neighborhood, even with coyotes having killed most of the outdoor cats, we still have a few. If I am approached by cat that appears to be asking for help, is wearing a tag, or is one I haven’t seen around before, if he agrees I will take him inside and try to locate his owner.
“Help I found a friendly dirty skinny meowing kitten! What should I do first?”
1. Isolate if you have other pets.
Stray kittens often have fleas, mites, or other sicknesses that can be highly contagious to other cats or dogs. Shut the kitten in your bathroom and stuff towels along any gaps under doors. Do not allow them to interact with your other pets.
2. Immediate care.
Make sure they are warm, dry, have water and food. If you don’t have canned cat food or dog food, 1/4 cup of cooked boneless chicken is safe. Some bathroom floors are cold, so make a thick nest of towels to keep kitten as warm as possible. If kitten is wet or really cold, you can dry & warm him with a hair dryer set on “low” heat and gently warm the air around him from a foot or so away while you hold him in your arms. Don’t blow directly on him.
3. Ask your neighbors.
Sometimes kittens get out and can look pretty bad after just a few days. Kittens usually don’t go far. Canvas your neighbors to see if anyone lost their kitten.
If you’ve decided you are going to keep the kitten, either for yourself or to find him a rescue or adopter, here are some good steps to follow for the first few days of care.
1. Vet checkup
First ask them to scan the kitten for a microchip. You usually don’t even need an appointment for a chip scan, but it is certainly advisable to get them a checkup in the first day so they can be treated for fleas and parasites (super common in kittens found outside), and tested for Feline Leukemia and FIV before being vaccinated.
2. Intro to pets
After the vet checkup says kitten is healthy, you can decide if you want to try an intro to your other pets. Be aware that some sicknesses (colds and viruses) can incubate for up to two weeks, so follow the advice of your vet when it is safe to intro to your pets. Check out our Cat to Cat and Cat to Dog intro articles.
3. Take photos, ask for help
Cat rescuers are a dedicated and knowledgeable bunch! Many will be very happy to help a sympathetic cat-caring newbie rescuer with much more advice tailored specifically for your found kitten or cat, your area, and your home. Especially if you email them a cute photo of your furry find and let them know you are willing to foster (or are adopting) and are just looking for their expertise. Facebook is also a great way to reach out to friends and friends of friends — you might be surprised to discover how many cat enthusiasts you almost know!
4. Find him a home?
If you housed the cat for the legally required amount of time (varies by city) and have not been able to find the cat’s owner, and you are able to temporarily care for the stray kitty until you can find a permanent home, try creating a profile on Rehome. The online Rehome by Adopt-a-Pet.com service can help you find an adoptive home for the stray you found after the legal stray holding period is over. Once you create a Rehome pet profile, the cat will be posted on Adopt-a-Pet.com to help you find a local adopter.