Could Brits’ confusion be fuelling the UK’s stray cat crisis?

Research by Cats Protection found that many people are confused by what to do when they find a stray cat and almost half of Brits would not approach an unfamiliar cat.

Unlike domestic dogs, who primarily live indoors and usually only venture outside with their owner, it’s often difficult to know whether a cat is a stray or simply exploring the neighbourhood.

According to the RSPCA, officers rescued more than 22,000 cats and received more than 150,000 calls about cats to its national control centre in2018.

To help control the stray cat population in the UK, dispel popular myths and clear up any cat confusion, natural cat food specialists, Webbox Natural has published a guide to help people identify a stray cat and know what to do if they find one.

There are 10.9 million domestic cats in the UK and 24% of all UK adults own one so it’s no surprise that cats often wander too far from home, but can you tell if a cat is in fact lost, or if it is simply exploring?

The team at Webbox Naturals have shared the five tell-tale signs:

Appearance – If the cat looks underweight or unwell, with visible symptoms such as matted fur, sore eyes or a visible injury, it’s likely the cat has wandered too far from home and can’t find its way back. A cat will often make its way home if unwell or hungry, so if you spot a cat looking a little worse for wear, it’s likely they need to be reunited with their owner.

Collar and Tag– If you regularly meet the same cat that you think might be lost, check if they have a collar and tag. If they do, but you think they are far from home rather than simply wandering, it’s likely they are a lost domestic cat. Some cats may lose their collar, however, especially if they have been caught in an accident.

Microchip – If you come across a cat you suspect is lost or stray, but they aren’t wearing a collar with a tag, it’s worth checking their microchip. Your local vets will be able to do this and it will help you reunite the cat with its worried owner.

Temperament – the majority of domestic cats are friendly towards humans, even if they are fiercely independent. If you frequently notice a cat that appears lost and is friendly towards you, it’s likely they are lost rather than feral.

Regular sightings – sometimes it’s tricky to determine if a cat is lost or exploring. If you regularly see a cat around your house, it’s likely they live nearby, but if they seem distressed it’s worth investigating. However, before you take the cat to your nearest vet, it might be worth checking in with you neighbours beforehand. You don’t want to be accused of stealing someone’s cat.

Paper collar method – this old-fashioned method has been reassuring worried cat lovers for years. If you’re worried about the welfare of a cat, simply attach a paper collar to a cat with your details and a note for any potential owner to contact you. If you notice the cat is still wearing the collar after several days, and the owner hasn’t been in contact, it’s likely they are a stray.

Once you have determined that the cat you have come across is in fact lost, Webbox Natural recommend the following steps:

Towel and crate – if you need to restrain a cat so you can return it to its owner or take it to the vet, use a towel and a large crate to keep moggy safe for a while. The stray cat may be a little overwhelmed, so a thick blanket will protect you from claws and the crate will keep the cat safe while you start investigations.

Contact owner – if you find a cat you think might be lost, contacting the owner is of course your first priority. This is a simple task if they are wearing a collar and tag with up to date details. Alternatively, you may have to check social media – including local community groups and lost pet pages – to try and track them down.

Contact local vets or RSPCA – if you can’t locate the owner and you’re becoming increasingly worried about a cat’s welfare, contact your local vets or the RSPCA who will be able to advise on next steps.

Camile Ashforth, Senior Brand Manager at Webbox Natural said: “We all love cats at Webbox Natural so it’s important to us that Brits are equipped with the right knowledge to help reunite strays with their owners. It’s often much easier to tell when a dog is stray of lost as cats are such independent animals, so we hope this information comes in handy.”

To read more advice from Webbox Natural you can visit https://www.webbox.co.uk/news-and-events.