When should you bring a cat to a shelter?
If you find a cat who appears sick, injured or in immediate danger*, please bring them to the animal shelter associated with the jurisdiction where the cat was found.
Cats require a different approach than dogs and other small pets for the following reasons:
- Less than 5% of stray cats entering animal shelters are reunited with their owners.
- According to a 2010 study of California animal shelters, 70% of cats who entered California animal shelters were euthanized.
- The best outcome for healthy community cats is to return them to their outdoor homes.
For these reasons, we take a comprehensive approach to reunite lost cats with their families. We use technology, social media and community networks to increase the likelihood of family reunions rather than encouraging finders to bring healthy cats to shelters. Our approach is working — we've been able to achieve a nearly 10% return-to-owner rate for cats, three times the national average. However, this success still means that 90% of cats are not reunited with their owners, which is why it is essential for owners to microchip their pets (and keep the information up-to-date!).
Is That Cat Really Lost?
How can you determine if a cat is a lost pet, one who just spends time outdoors each day, or a free-roaming community cat?
- If a cat is wearing a collar and tag, they likely belong to someone in your neighborhood.
- Call the phone number on the tag and ask if the cat is actually lost.
- If you meet a cat who is missing a small portion (1/4-1/2 inch) of the tip of one ear, this indicates the cat has been spayed/neutered and is a free-roaming community cat.
- No action is necessary unless the cat appears injured, sick or in immediate danger.*
- If the cat is friendly but doesn’t have identification or a tipped ear, they probably live in the neighborhood and may be a community cat, lost or allowed to spend time outdoors.
- Note the cat’s description and location and attempt to locate an owner by following these tips on what to do if you find a lost or stray pet.
*Immediate danger refers to a drastic change in a cat’s environment that puts them at risk of imminent injury or death (such as a wildfire, hazardous construction, etc.). .
When should you bring kittens to a shelter?