If the cat is friendly enough to pet and pick up, try to get the cat into a carrier and scanned for a microchip; any animal shelter, veterinary office, animal hospital, 24-hour animal emergency center, or animal control facility will scan the cat for you, no charge, no appointment necessary. If you can borrow a scanner, this online look-up tool Microchip Search | AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup will tell you either what microchip company manufactured registered the microchip and their phone number, or what shelter/rescue group/veterinarian the chip was sold to (the implanter).
You must then call the vet, shelter, rescue group or microchip company and each organization will inform you of their protocols for notifying the registered owner of the cat. Talk to your neighbors to determine if it could be a lost, escaped, or abandoned house pet from nearby. Put up some “found cat” flyers in the alleys and your neighbors’ mailboxes. Post in Facebook groups: Lost Cats of Illinois, Lost Pets of IL, your local neighborhood, and any lost and found pet groups that serve your area. Postal carriers and dog walkers are also great sources of information about neighborhood animals.If you’re able to take the cat into your home, secure the cat in a bathroom, basement, enclosed porch, or in any room by itself away from your pets so the cat does not transmit a disease or parasites. Cat viruses such as distemper and calicivirus are only transmissible to other cats. However, fleas, ear mites, upper respiratory infections and intestinal parasites can be transmitted to other species. If possible, apply an over-the-counter topical flea treatment between the cat’s shoulder blades. Do not put a flea collar on the cat. Flea collars are a choking hazard and ineffective.
If you can’t bring the cat inside, see if you can find a friend or local neighborhood Facebook group who can.If you cannot hold the cat, Chicago residents with proof of residency can email email@example.com and request intake at Chicago Animal Care & Control (CACC). Formerly known as the “city pound” CACC’s live outcome for cats has been on par with the national “no-kill” rate (93%+) in recent years, and is a safe place to relinquish a cat. Dozens of “Homeward Bound” approved rescue groups transfer cats out every day for their own foster and adoption programs.
If the cat runs from you such that you are not able to capture it, the cat may be a lost and scared house pet (stray). More likely, it is a feral cat (born outside and unsocialized to people). Check for an eartip, which is the international mark of a sterilized, vaccinated free-roaming cat. During surgery for spay/neuter ¼” is removed off the top of the left ear. Free-roaming cats are ear tipped to avoid repeated trapping. Put some food out for the cat at the same time every day, to keep it in the area. Regardless if it’s feral or a lost house pet, feeding it will get the cat returning to the same place, which will make it easier to trap. You can then use a humane trap to capture the cat and take it to get scanned for a chip, and spayed/neutered if it’s not already.
If the cat is eartipped, known to be part of a nearby colony and it doesn’t appear injured or in distress, just leave it alone. It’s just exploring! If the cat is NOT eartipped, trap the cat using a humane trap, bring it to a low-cost spay-neuter clinic for a “TNR” (Trap-Neuter-Return) surgery, return the cat outside and continue to provide food and shelter. Most spay/neuter clinics require feral cats to be in humane traps. If the cat is sick or injured, it may require more care than a spay/neuter clinic is able to provide. Many private vet practices do not see feral cats or may have other requirements. Call first and explain the situation.
The first step in helping kittens you find outside is assessing how old they are and determining if and when to intervene. Alley Cat Allies’ How Old is that Kitten is a great resource in estimating the age of kittens. Once you understand the kittens age, you can decide how to help them. What to do with kittens is not an exact science. Each situation and each litter of kittens is different. There are, however, a few important rules of thumb:
- Never remove young kittens that can’t eat on their own. Kittens younger than 5 weeks should stay outside with mother, unless she is friendly and you can get them all inside together.
- Never remove kittens without first getting the mother cat, or trapping them all at the same time. Mother cats can disappear if their kittens are suddenly gone, only to have many subsequent litters
- Kittens that are older than 8-10 weeks, have not received any human contact outside and are truly feral, will be extremely difficult to socialize.
- Kittens 12 weeks and older should be Trapped-Neutered-Returned (TNR’d) unless they are already handlable and seeking affection
Refer to What to do with kittens for additional information. If you are interested in socializing kittens yourself, please refer to our Socializing Kittens guidelines.If you wish to adopt the kittens out directly from your home, be sure to get them spayed or neutered, vaccinated, dewormed, microchipped and treated for any fleas or ear mites. Take an adoption application, check references, call the applicant’s vet and ask for an adoption fee of at least $75. Animal welfare organizations can also assist either in intaking kittens or in providing vetting while you foster them to get them ready for intake.