A Cat's Life Might Just Be Hanging in the Balance
July 21, 2007 6:25 PM   Subscribe

There's a little kitty that's been showing up near my apartment. He's cute as a devil, very affectionate, and appears to be in good health (if undernourished). I'm wondering what, if anything, I should do with him? Picture and more info inside.

He has a collar, but no name tag, which leads me to suspect that he belongs to somebody. But I haven't seen any missing kitty signs around the neighborhood, so I don't think tracking down the owner is going to work for the time being. I'm a cat owner but, as much as I'd love to take the little dude inside and feed him, I don't know if that's the best idea. I wouldn't want little Cosmo (my 4-year-old cat) to get upset or diseased or covered in fleas.

I don't know much about animal control and shelters here (Los Angeles), except they seem to be overcrowded and maybe not the best place for an animal.

Just to be clear, I don't really feed need to do anything. He's certainly not bothering me and doesn't appear to be in any imminent danger. But if anyone has any good thoughts or suggestions about what might be best for him, I'd love to hear from you. Thank you.
posted by dhammond to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
You can always just bring him to a shelter or vet to be scanned - He may have a microchip with his owner's contact info. He also might just be a neighborhood cat out for walk.
posted by mzurer at 6:29 PM on July 21, 2007


I suggest taking him to a shelter and seeing if he's got a microchip in him first. The same thing happened to me with a dog, and it turned out he had a microchip with all the owner info so it worked out really well. :)
posted by every_one_needs_a_hug_sometimes at 6:30 PM on July 21, 2007


opps, too late.
posted by every_one_needs_a_hug_sometimes at 6:30 PM on July 21, 2007


Are you sure he's not just an indoor/outdoor cat?
posted by Airhen at 6:45 PM on July 21, 2007


You could also attach a little note to his collar asking if he belongs to anyone & if not you plan to adopt him. If I ever had a cat & found a note like that on him, he'd be spending some time indoors for sure. And getting a tag.
posted by scalefree at 6:58 PM on July 21, 2007


If you feed it, it's yours.
posted by tylermoody at 7:02 PM on July 21, 2007


Is he always by your apartment? If he comes and goes, have you tried following him? Even still, throw a bowl of dry food on your stoop for the little guy. This too can be a test: If he dives on it like there's no tommorow, he may be lost. If he has a few mouthfulls and gives it up, he probably isn't. This may work better with that old stale dry food that's been under your counter for the last few years.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 7:09 PM on July 21, 2007


Following him was my first thought, too.

Slightly less time intensive would be calling the local vet(s) and asking if they know him.

The collar looks kind of like an "indoor" collar to me (admittedly I have limited knowledge, our cat wears the flea&tick kind--with a tag). No tags is kind of odd for an indoor-outdoor cat, too... But obviously he does have someone who loves him.
posted by anaelith at 7:12 PM on July 21, 2007


He has a collar, but no name tag, which leads me to suspect that he belongs to somebody.

In which case, leave him alone. I've had problems in the past with people messing with my cats and it totally pisses me off. They have collars and are healthy and there is no reason for anyone to touch them. Just as there is no reason for you to mess with this one.

Just to show how this can have unintended side effects, one of my cats was on a special diet because he had major liver issues, and whenever the well meaning people up the road gave him food it made him sick. We couldn't keep him inside all the time because he really hated that (plus inside-only cats are not normal here, pretty much everyone lets their pet cats outside), so we got his name-tag engraved to say 'don't feed me' and that mostly worked. But then some other arsehole grabbed him off the street one day and took him to the after hours vet, totally ignoring the fact he had a phone number on his collar, we only lived two doors down and we had been doing so for nearly two years (he was a distinctive cat, everyone in the area knew who he belonged to). Not only did I have to pay $100 to get him back but the vet fed him inappropriate food making him really sick (again), and shortened his life significantly. It's very distressing to have to have your cat put down because someone can't mind their own business.

If you have any reason to think this belongs to someone, which you really really do, then don't feed it, don't let it in your house and don't keep it (that is stealing, plain and simple). You can look for lost cat posters, ring the SPCA to see if one fitting this description has been reported lost, ask the neighbours if they know who owns it, and just generally take reasonable steps to make sure it's not someone's lost pet. But other than that it's not yours and you have no right to so much as touch it. Stop assuming otherwise.
posted by shelleycat at 7:24 PM on July 21, 2007


Is it just me or does the kitty's collar look tight?

I would not feed him, but I would put up some flyers in the neighborhood with his photo captioned "Found".
posted by JujuB at 8:12 PM on July 21, 2007


shelleycat, I don't agree with you. First of all, if your cat is wandering onto someone else's property, it's not really your cat, is it? It's subject to whatever anyone chooses to do with it - including taking it to the pound, feeding it, killing it, whatever. They didn't shorten its life by taking it to the vet - you shortened its life by letting a special-needs cat out.

Telling someone who is trying to be helpful to ignore a cat that is potentially lost and hungry seems strange for a supposed cat lover.

We feed a little stray. I assume it's a stray. If someone owns it, they let it out on the coldest nights. It has had frostbitten feet, it's been chased by coyotes, it's been clawed by wild animals. We can't get near it, but it would be inhumane to ignore it. We feed it. Of course we do. And we bought it a heated pad to sleep on in the winter. If someone "owns" it, I'd like to throttle them for neglecting it.

I have no way of knowing, as it doesn't have a collar, but it does seem to know what people are about. Still - it is very wild. My assumption is that it was owned and got lost - but how the heck am I supposed to know that? My only responsibility is to see that it doesn't freeze to death, starve to death, or die of thirst on my watch.
posted by clarkstonian at 8:19 PM on July 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm a five cat lady and I feed the strays (and the one roving glutton) in the neighborhood.
Put some food out and watch. If he goes crazy eating, he's not being taken care of. Get a good look at him and pet him a bit, see if he's dirty/bony--another indicator. I have only indoor cats, but I've had indoor/outdoor and know some others and none that have parents are starving or look 'lost'.

Ask the neighbors and put up a poster locally. If no answer in a few days, get him scanned for a chip. If no chip, give him a bath, get him checked out at the vet and take him home to love.

I will also take a cat I know to be mistreated and/or neglected, for the cat's sake. But only when I'm sure. And I don't think of it as stealing, but rescuing.
posted by pywacket at 8:23 PM on July 21, 2007


Definitely put up the "Found Cat" signs if he looks like he doesn't have another home and other people feeding him. I'd be pissed as hell if somebody took the liberty of taking my pet to the animal shelter.

Outdoor cats wander, so it's not safe to assume.
posted by evil holiday magic at 8:57 PM on July 21, 2007


First of all, if your cat is wandering onto someone else's property, it's not really your cat, is it?

Bullshit. My neighbours also leave their cars on the street, that doesn't mean I can drive them whenever I like. As I said, letting cats out is the norm here, the neighbourhood is awash with pet cats. They all have collars and (generally) name tags, as does mine, and anyone who doesn't get that that makes it an owned cat (and therefore not up for adoption or yours to grab) is totally clueless. Cats can not be confined unless you keep them in a cage (and yes your house is just one big cage). I want something caged I'll get a stuffed toy.

With my sick cat I had a choice, ruin his quality of life by shutting him in and watch him actually hurt himself as he tried so hard to get out (he really hated it that much) or labeling him carefully and letting him live the life he was used to. If a vet is too stupid to respect that notice on his name tag (and this vet really was, 'yeah I read that and didn't care'), and both the neighbour and the vet were too lazy to ring the phone number on the name tag, then there's really nothing I can do to combat that idiocy. I only got him back because the vet contacted the SPCA who then took the time to ring us and let us know where he was. Taking some time to find out who the cat belongs to or if it's really lost before messing with it makes sense and is respectful, and really shouldn't be that hard.

If he goes crazy eating, he's not being taken care of.

Not necessarily. I've had very food oriented cats that will eat as if they're starving, even if they've just had a full meal. I left the food out by accident once and one of them ate until she threw up, then kept eating. My vet says some cats are just like that. I've had to talk with neighbours about these cats asking them not to keep feeding them and it's frustrating. Hungry does not mean underfed.

This stray kitten looks kind of young, so may be thin because they're still growing. I recently adopted a rescue kitten and she's growing so fast that she's not putting on any extra fat despite eating a great deal. So she's still pretty thin. But she's in good condition otherwise and the vet says she'll catch up with the rest once puberty is over. So don't go so much on how thin the kitten is but it's overall condition. If there are reasons to think it's genuinely starving and unowned then sure, things are a bit different and some food may be useful. But a new cat in the area in good condition, wearing a fancy collar (we had one just like that, it was pet shop nice not supermarket cheap) and probably owned by someone, yeah, leave that cat alone.
posted by shelleycat at 9:22 PM on July 21, 2007


Oh, and micro-chipping varies a lot depending on where you ares. It's still mostly unheard of over here whereas in Aussie where my sister lives all cats get it done. Mine aren't chipped but then many vets don't have readers yet either (this is changing). If you're going to rely on that one thing then be sure it's compulsory or so widely spread as to be unheard of it not being done. A local vet will be able to tell you how much weight to give if there isn't a chip. Because the cat already has a collar you should have strong evidence before you decide it doesn't have an owner.
posted by shelleycat at 9:26 PM on July 21, 2007


Get a little tag, write a note in it requesting the owner call you, and put it on the kitten's collar.
posted by you're a kitty! at 12:34 AM on July 22, 2007


In which case, leave him alone. I've had problems in the past with people messing with my cats and it totally pisses me off. They have collars and are healthy and there is no reason for anyone to touch them. Just as there is no reason for you to mess with this one.

Maybe it's a cultural thing, since your profile says you're from NZ... but here in the states, that's just a little insane.

Here in the states, people do not let cats wander from house to house around the neighborhood. Pets are kept indoors or in fenced-in yards, and if I find a pet wandering to my place, I'm going to assume it's its owner either:

a) abandoned it
b) lost it

So I may pet it.. feed it... feel guilty for it a bit... and that's not me "messing with someone else's cat".. that's me caring a bit for a little fuzzy thing that appears to be either lost or abandoned.

Yes, if it has a collar you should try and find the owners rather than taking it in yourself. However, the tone of shelleycat's response is just kinda disturbing/nuts. It's obvious you (dhammond) are being compassionate and want to do what's best for this kitty. See if he's microchipped.

If you're willing to potentially take him in if nobody claims him, you could also take him in temporarily and put up some "found cat" flyers...
posted by twiggy at 1:52 AM on July 22, 2007


If he goes crazy eating, he's not being taken care of.

Not necessarily. I've had very food oriented cats that will eat as if they're starving, even if they've just had a full meal. I left the food out by accident once and one of them ate until she threw up, then kept eating. My vet says some cats are just like that. I've had to talk with neighbours about these cats asking them not to keep feeding them and it's frustrating. Hungry does not mean underfed.


I've had bulimic and food crazy cats too, but I think you have to take the entire situation into account. Yes that's a nice collar (zach our aby has one just like it) but there isn't a tag. But if the kitty is skinny, dirty and needy you may have a lost cat on your hands. ANd if he keeps coming back to see you frequently. Folks where I've moved don't think much of pets and discard them all the time, simply moving away and leaving(cats especially) to take care of themselves. Often with collars. I volunteer at the animal shelter and have seen it too many many sad times.

I really think a found pet flyer would be a great idea. I still think feeding mooching cats is a good idea too, but of course would stop if their person came by and asked. Around my neighborhood all but one of the cats I feed are strays and I haven't located the owner of the bigboy moocher, but everyone on the block feeds him too. He's some kind of ambassador.

I have a 17 year old diabetic on a special diet too. My cats have never been wanderers (they go outside with me, in the back yard for about 30 minutes at a time)so I'm lucky that way. I think the 'don't feed me tag' is a great idea. I have a 'diabetic' tag on Ninny's collar in case she gets out .

Good luck with the little guy OP and thank you for being such a
caring person.
posted by pywacket at 7:42 AM on July 22, 2007


But if the kitty is skinny, dirty and needy you may have a lost cat on your hands. And if he keeps coming back to see you frequently.

I disagree. My four cats roll around in the dirt all the time, and they're very friendly (which can come across as needy) to a lot of folk who approach them to pet them. That cat doesn't look underfed, he looks young and active.

I have four indoor-outdoor cats, none of them have collars (rubs away at their fur no matter how loose they are) and none of them are microchipped (but my neighbourhood is fairly casual). It's cool to leave out some dry food/water for him if you think he needs it, but there's absolutely nothing here that suggests you need to do anything else.

I agree with shelleycat and disagree completely with clarkstonian. Cats are independent animals that wander as part of their natural personalities - just because it hangs out in your yard, you don't have the right to do whatever the hell you want to it. Unless you see them in a state that makes you think their life/general health is in danger, there's no need to mess with them.

However, it is really cool that so many people are inclined to take care of neighbourhood animals. dhammond, if I were you, I'd drop a few flyers through people's mailboxes asking if he belongs to anyone they know, and if it's OK to feed him, if he needs taking care of during the day, that kind of thing. At worst you'll find no one cares, at best you'll either get a new cat and get to know your neighbours. Think about putting up posters in a 1 mile radius - I've seen my cats hanging out in the weirdest places sometimes.
posted by saturnine at 8:08 AM on July 22, 2007


I disagree that if a cat comes in to your property you can do what you want to it, but with regard to feeding vs leaving it alone then I would say you have to take in relative risk for the animal based on typical cases. On balance, the cat is likely to be better off for being fed rather than going hungry. It's like wearing seatbelts vs risk of being trapped in a car in a crash, the risk is much more significant from not having the seat belt so it makes more sense to go with that behaviour.
posted by biffa at 8:33 AM on July 22, 2007



Maybe it's a cultural thing, since your profile says you're from NZ... but here in the states, that's just a little insane.

Here in the states, people do not let cats wander from house to house around the neighborhood. Pets are kept indoors or in fenced-in yards


That is not at all true. Many, many people in the US keep outdoor cats. In dense urban areas, indoor cats are probably more the norm, although outdoor cats certainly not unheard of. (There is a neighbor cat that frequently visits me here in San Francisco; I play with it and pet it, but wouldn't think of asserting control over it as it appears healthy and taken care of.) In more suburban and rural areas, outdoor cats seem to be more the norm. My family in the suburban South has always let its cat wander outdoors, as do most other cat "owners" in that neighborhood.

BTW, unlike dogs, it's nigh impossible to contain a cat with a fence.
posted by mahamandarava at 8:57 AM on July 22, 2007


We'll have to agree to disagree saturnine . I've rescued, fixed and rehomed a lot of animals and have a good sense for when one has been abandoned. I'll always err on the side of taking care of the cat vs worrying about someone's "property." Which is not to say that I would take the cat without due diligence. Which is why I keep mentioning the flyer--it's something I've done to good effect several times--and been thanked for caring for the cat until the owner was located.

But then I'm not into animals as property and I'm rather crazy about cats, so ymmv.
posted by pywacket at 12:14 PM on July 22, 2007


Okay, I gave him some food yesterday, which he devoured rather quickly. He seemed quite hungry, so I felt better knowing he was getting a full stomach.

I'm going to attach a note to his collar and see if that leads to anything. If I don't hear from anyone and he sticks around, I'll put up a few signs.

At the very least, I hope that his owner (if he has one) will have the good sense to get a tag for the little guy. We're right next to a fairly busy street, and it doesn't seem like a good place for him to be wandering.

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone.
posted by dhammond at 4:06 PM on July 22, 2007


Tee hee... even before you said he had a collar I knew the little ratbag had an owner!

Just looked closely at your pics. The boy likes his dirt, huh? His eyes are always clean, even though he has boogers in some. And inside his ears are squeaky clean too.

The fleas in the last half I would imagine came from who beat him up. It didn't look too serious though. The size of the chunks of fur loose will usually indicate how bad it was and keep an eye out for little wounds. They heal quick sometimes too quick and they get abscesses.

Greedy and clever kitties often have more than one adopted family... :) They will tell you nobody feeds them :( (with a face just like the kitty in Shrek...) Being a good judge of kitty flesh I suspect he is both greedy and clever (But favours adoration slightly more so his skills will be developed accordingly).

It's possible he is a stray by deffinition but I assure you he 'has a place to crash that's cool.'

When you pat him does it feel like built up grime or just surface dirt. Real strays have a certain texture shall we say. To know for sure loosen his collar off a couple of notches. If he comes back and it's tightened - somebody noticed and cares ;)

But yeah as a rule don't tamper with peoples kitties. I guess it would be like your best mates lovely but somewhat trampy wife, you can't be rude but there are certain boundaries.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 10:25 PM on July 23, 2007


Update! I left a note on the collar and got a call back from his owner. His name is Mimi (they thought he was a girl when they adopted him) and, even though he doesn't have a tag, they said they were going to get one for him. Phew.

Not that that's going to help the fact that he has a girl's name, but I guess that's another AskMe thread...
posted by dhammond at 10:27 PM on July 23, 2007


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