What to do with stray and feral cats

Should you feed stray cats? Who do you call? What are the best steps to keep them safe? All will be answered.

It truly does break our heart to think of any cat living on the streets as a feral or stray. In our eyes, all cats deserve a loving home where they can curl up and snooze the day away without a care in the world, that’s what they were built for. Anything less is an injustice to cat kind, but unfortunately is the reality for many street kitties all over the world.


Each lost soul has their own story, whether they’ve escaped their homes, lived their whole lives outside, or tragically been abandoned by their humans, they are tough creatures and amazingly adapt quickly to these challenging environments. But knowing what to do if you come across a stray or feral cat can be tricky. Instinct tells you to try and bring them home and smother them with love, but for a lot of street cats life on the outside is all they know. Read on to learn all about what to do if a stray does happen to enter your life, and what to do next to keep them as safe as possible.

A good place to start is it’s important to remember there’s a huge difference between Stray and Feral cats. Here’s some easy ways to tell them apart (courtesy of Cats Protection). 


  • More likely to be friendly to humans and appear well groomed and fed
  • Tend to be lone rangers
  • Will often hang around near houses and in gardens
  • Could be microchipped if they are a lost or abandoned pet
  • Have suddenly appeared and seem lost or new to the area


Feral Cats

  • Not so friendly to humans and often fearful due to a lack of human socialisation
  • May be alone but often live in groups with other feral cats
  • Tend to avoid humans and live away from populated areas
  • Unlikely to be microchipped
  • Feral cats will choose a place to settle in more permanent shelters unlike lost cats trying to find their way home


What to do if you find a cat

If you do come across a cat in your local area you believe to be homeless there are steps you can take to help. Assessing whether you think you’re dealing with a stray or feral cat is important to know whether to step in, you can use our guide above to help.


If you’ve happened across a friendly fellow that’s in need of a helping paw, looking for a collar/identification tag is a great place to start in steps to finding the original owner of the little guy. If your four-pawed friend seems pretty comfortable around you and being handled, then a trip to local vets is the ideal course of action. Your vet will be able to scan for microchip and hopefully get in touch with their humans.


Lucky for the strays, we are living in the days of social media. Sharing pictures online of your furry discovery is an amazing way to search and reunite the cat and their owners. Tread carefully though, always ask lots of questions and request proof of ownership to anyone that comes forward to claim the cuddle monster, you don’t want to get it wrong. There are many lost pet groups on Facebook where you can share pictures – nextdoor.co.uk is a great local community forum, and even Instagram can help to spread the word.

A little more of an old school approach is the paper collar technique. Us experienced cat people know those little explorers love to roam, so even though you think you may have come across a stray, it could just be that you have a hungry adventurer on your hands, just trying their luck for an extra dinner.  Cats Protection has a great printout available here that you can print at home, fill out and attach to the cat. If the cat does have an owner they’ll hopefully get in touch to let you know they are safe and sound, but if you don’t hear anything, you can make a trip to the vets or call your local Cats Protection to help you with the next steps.

Should you feed them?

As humans it’s our natural instinct to want to help, but is feeding a stray or feral cat the right thing to do? According to our friends at Cats Protection it’s best not to, as tempting as it may be to serve up some supper. If the cat does have an owner, feeding the friendly face could just keep tempting them back for more, leaving their cat human concerned of their whereabouts each day. It could also be possible that your new outside pal has serious tummy issues or unknown diseases and feeding them the wrong thing could cause serious upset. It’s best to try and get them to the vet first before laying out lunch. If you already have furballs of your own, an unfamiliar cat around their environment could cause them stress, so bear this in mind too.


The best steps when finding a cat that seems to have lost its way are to ask around and spread the word. Check with neighbours, put up posters and use social media to get as much local attention as possible. Always check for collars and ID tags. If you believe the cat is seriously unwell or injured then reaching out to the RSPCA is the next thing to do as they will be able to assist you in getting the cat to safety and providing any necessary treatment. Check out lost and found sites in your area, and if it’s possible, get the cat to your nearest vet to check their health and for possible microchips to make a reunion with their owner more likely. 

It’s important to know where to start and what’s best for these cats if they are in a sticky situation. Doing right by the little guys is sure to bring you good karma in the future, and who knows you may even end up with a new furry bestie in the process. If there are any cats in your local area that are causing you concern, it is always worth checking out the situation and following our handy guide to get them to safety if they have found themselves stuck. Cats love an adventure, but often do get carried away on their travels, so a helpful human hand will never go a miss if they are lost, to get them back to the home and family they belong to. 

The Republic x

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By Lois Roberts

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