Is it really a stray cat?

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Our first instinct when we see a cat hanging about our property is to presume it is a stray. Often this is not the case.

Most experts recommend that if the cat looks healthy then make a bowl of water available, and if cold offer a sheltered place to sleep outside under a porch or in a shed. Food should usually be avoided at first unless the cat looks like it is in distress, skinny, injured or looks uncared for. Providing food can simply mean the cat will set up base with you rather than return home.

If you can approach the cat a paper collar with your phone number and a note to give you a call will be appreciated by owners who probably do not realise what their cats are doing - it may be simply that they are at work during the day. If the cat remains for more than a couple of days then contacting neighbours, posting a found notice on, or getting the animal checked for a microchip can also be worthwhile.

If the cat has been with you for a reasonable period of time and you are not wanting to offer it a home, then contacting the SPCA or any of the major shelters is probably advisable.

If a cat is unapproachable it could be an "unsocialised" cat. Such cats usually do not like to be touched and keep a good distance from you. In these cases it pays to seek advice or assistance with capturing humanely. Again the SPCA will be able to advise on this, also most larger centres in New Zealand have dedicated groups caring for unsocialised cats and colonies.

If you find a kitten, then these should not be left to fend for themselves as they are most likely unable to do so. Ideally a kitten should be given proper care while the owner is located, or the SPCA contacted so they can provide proper care and rehome once the kitten is well enough.

Prepared by the NZCAR team, with input from the RNZSPCA.