When Should You Bring A Cat To A Shelter?

If you encounter a cat that appears sick, injured or in immediate danger*, please make every effort to rescue the cat and bring them to the animal shelter associated with the jurisdiction where the cat has been found. If you have found a cat in one of San Diego Humane Society’s service areas and you bring the cat to one of our shelters in Escondido, Oceanside or San Diego our admissions team members will scan the cat for a microchip, enter the cat’s description and photo into our Lost Pet database and search for a match. We will also provide care and comfort to the lost cat.

At San Diego Humane Society we recognize cats require a different sheltering methodology than found dogs and other small pets. Cats have a better chance of returning home on their own when they are left in the area in which they were found. This has been born out by scientific studies and experience: less than 5% of stray cats entering animal shelters are reunited with their owners. Also, according to a 2010 study of California animal shelters, 70% of cats entering California animal shelters were euthanized.

For these reasons, we employ a comprehensive approach to reuniting 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 since we’ve been able to achieve a nearly 10% Return To Owner rate for cats, three times the national average.


Is That Cat Really Lost?
How can you determine if a cat is a lost pet or a cat who just spends time each day outdoors, or simply a free-roaming, community cat?
A few indicators can help you decide: 
  • If you encounter a cat who is wearing a collar and tag, more than likely the cat belongs to someone in your neighborhood;
    • If you are able to, call the phone number on the tag and inquire if the cat is actually lost, or if the cat is just spending time outdoors.
  • 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 a visible form of identification or ear tip, the cat probably resides in the neighborhood and is either allowed to spend time outdoors or may, in fact, be lost.

*This includes cats found in areas where there are canyons, coyotes and busy streets.