Pet books go into detail about choosing your new pet. They talk about choosing breeds or going to the shelter and choosing the right pet. They advise making multiple visits and making sure the animal is comfortable with you before you take it home. They talk about making sure you have the right supplies on hand, food, litter, grooming brushes and such. It’s all very good advice if you planned on acquiring a new pet, such as a show cat or any kind of dog. With ordinary moggy cats it never seems to workout quite that way.
As any cat’s person will tell you, cats find people more often than people find cats. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturer’s Association (APPMA) 37.7 million homes have at least one cat in residence, and there are 90.5 million pet cats in the United States. Sixteen percent of owned cat are adopted from shelters. According to the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) the total number of pedigreed cats, in the US, in 2004, was 46,543. Making pedigreed cats around 1% of the total pet cat population. This makes the number of found cats around 83% of the owned cat population.
Stray cats show up from nowhere, make you feel sorry for them or make you fall in love with them. Before you know it you’re thinking the poor thing is just too sweet, too cute or too pathetic to turn away.
It goes something like this; first, you see her in the corner of the yard, darting after something. Then she’s at the door, half starved with her fur falling out. She has a sad tired mew, and eyes that say, “I’m not used to this, help me please.”
You’re hooked. They sense a soft heart and pounce. The cat will then proceed to take over your life, with gusto of a cute fuzzy dictator.
First water, there is nothing quite so nice as cool clean water, after you’ve been drinking from puddles. While she’s drinking try to determine whether she has any injuries. Does she have matted fur that could indicate scabbing? Is she limping? If she appears injured and you can’t take her to a vet, call the local humane society or animal control office and ask if they or any local shelters accept injured animals, www.pets911.com has database searchable by zip code.
Once the cat has had a drink, offer her a little food. If you don’t have cat food, leftover chicken, tuna or lunchmeat will work. Only give her a little bit, otherwise she could overeat and make herself sick. Don’t leave food out for her this could attract undomesticated animals.
Try to keep very young children and toddlers away from the cat, until you’re sure of her temperament and health. If you have other pets, keep the stray separated from them until she has been to the vet. Cats pass viruses around like kindergarteners; once one has it they all have it.
Attempt to locate the owner. Place an ad in the local paper, ask around the neighborhood and put up flyers at local groceries, vets offices and shelters. Always hold back something to help you identify the real owner. You don’t want to save the poor thing only to turn her over to someone who doesn’t have her best interests at heart. There are people who answer found and free ads to acquire animals for illegal and cruel purposes.
If you can’t locate the owner, and the cat was in poor health it’s probably been abandoned or lost. You have three choices keep her, find her a home elsewhere or take her to a shelter.
Most shelters are overcrowded and under finical restrictions that limit the number of cats they can take. But if you absolutely can’t have the cat in the house, call around to the different shelters. If it’s important to you that the cat not be euthanized verify it’s a no-kill shelter.
Whether you’re going to keep her or find a home for her, give her a good bath and take her to the vet. These actions will test your new friendship but there is no way to avoid either. If you would like to keep her, but can’t afford a vet, call the local shelters and see if any of them offer vouchers for shots and spay/neuter services. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) estimates the average cost of spaying or neutering around $75.00, in the United States.
If you don’t have a cat carrier, cut small some holes in a cardboard box, put some towels in the bottom, put the cat in and tape it shut. Use just enough tape to hold the box surely closed, but not so much you’ll have trouble getting her out of the box at the vet’s office. (Important Hint: Take the tape and scissors with you to re-close the box for the trip home. It won’t take any cat worth their fur long to figure out how to get out of the box.) While that may sound extreme, it’s not safe to have an unrestrained animal in the car, especially one who is not familiar to you. Put a plastic bag between the box and your car seat, in case of accidents.
Even the most sweet-tempered and loving cat can become over-stimulated and upset in the vet’s office. Be prepared to have an agitated cat on your hands, bring some treats and a towel. Wrapping the cat in the towel will help reduce injuries from her claws and it may help calm her, if she feels like she’s hiding. Bring a stool sample so the vet can check for worms and parasites. The vet will take a few blood samples and test for the feline diseases.
If the blood work is ok, then the cat will need to go back for rabies shots and any other vaccinations required in your area. Talk to the vet about the best time to spay or neuter. Be sure to ask the vet about the best flea and tick control products for your area.
Find a friend to help bath the cat, an extra pair of hands is a big help. A bathroom or laundry room with a door is good room to bath a cat in. Hold her firmly and beware of claws and teeth. Use warm water, work the shampoo into the fur as much as you can, rinse thoroughly and have lots of dry towels on hand. Give her some treats and let her be for a bit. You will not be her friend until she is dry or hungry.
If you can’t keep her, try family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, church or club members. If you can’t place it with friends, family or a person you know, ask the perspective adopter for enough money to cover the cost of the vet bill. This will reduce the risk of the animal ending up in the hands of someone with nefarious intentions. Be upfront about any traits that may make her a poor fit for a situation. You don’t want to pass along an unsuitable pet to a friend. It’s better for her go to a shelter than to a home where she won’t be happy and your friend will be unhappy with you.
Stray cats make wonderful pets. Even if you weren’t planning on getting a pet, consider taking in that stray cat. Pets give so much more than they require from us. Water, food, veterinary care and clean safe environment are not very much to ask in return for love and companionship. Studies show that people who own pets are healthier and happier than non-pet owners. The right pet can boost the moral of the elderly and make a noticeable improvement in their quality of life. Pets help us teach our children the importance of caring for others and can be fun lesson in responsibility. What ever you decide, don’t leave the stray in the street to become a nuisance animal. She deserves better. If you can’t keep her, find her a home or take her to a shelter.