Sometimes it feels impossible to walk down a street without seeing posters from owners desperate to be reunited with their lost pets. This raises the question of what you should do if you find a pet that seems to be lost – some of your natural instincts won’t actually help the situation and may put you at risk!
Today we’re taking a look at the situation to help you make the right decisions if you’re ever confronted with a lost animal.
Is It Really Lost?
There are lots of different reasons you might be seeing a ‘pet’ animal without its owner. It might not be a stray, and it’s well worth checking to make as sure as possible before you take action.
Cats can be very independent wanderers: if you see a cat on the street, it’s more likely to be simply exploring than it is to be lost and far from home. Don’t be deceived by begging behaviour: even well fed cats may try to seek out extra meals and treats from other households in the neighbourhood.
There’s also a chance it may be a feral cat. Feral cats are much rarer in the UK than they are in the US, but there are still significant numbers even in built up areas. Feral cats were born in the wild and have had little or no human interaction. Approaching a feral cat may be dangerous. Instead, call the RSPCA or local animal charity.
It’s vanishingly rare for dogs to be allowed to wander far from their owner’s care, so if you find a dog with no owner in evidence in the local vicinity, you may well have found a stray!
Be careful about approaching a stray animal that appears to be injured. Your safety has to be your first priority – followed by the animals! Manhandling a hurt animal when you’re not an expert may cause more trauma. If you’re not sure what to do safely, talk to a vet online or over the phone for advice.
Taking in a Stray Pet
The most important thing you can do with a pet you believe to be stray is to check for ID from the owner: most dogs and many cats wear collars with contact details for their owners, so if you’re able to safely approach the animal, check under its chin and you may be able to solve the problem there and then.
Failing that, the next step is to try and get the animal to the nearest vet. A vet can make sure they’re safe and healthy, and also check them for a microchip which will allow the owners to be notified.
In the meantime you may find yourself caring for the lost pet, and if the owners can’t be reached, the opportunity may be there for you to become a full time pet owner!