Considering adopting a lost cat - how to tell if truly lost?

Two weeks ago I was out trying to get pictures of a storm in the middle of the night. Before it was actually raining, but there was lightning and wind, a little black cat that was I’m guessing about 6 months old ran up to me. He was really friendly - wanted to be pet, curled up in my lap, even went to sleep. He was clearly domesticated, but had no collar.

I figured that if he was an indoor/outdoor cat and knew how to get home, he’d have run home well before the storm arrived I would imagine. Once the rain started, he seemed clueless about where to go - making a futile effort to hide under me, some guard rails, and some trees. I let him sit in my car.

I’m not at home - I’ve been staying with friends who wouldn’t take him in. I called some people who might take him in or adopt him, but no one was interested. It would be 2+ weeks before I was going home, and though I was tempted to take him with me, I had no place to keep him in the meantime.

I went out there again a few times since, but hadn’t seen him. But then today I saw him again when I was driving by - he was running between two houses and I had somewhere I had to be, so I couldn’t really stop to check on him, but I’m fairly sure it was him I spotted, not far from where I found him originally.

Anyway, I took some pictures and posted them to craigslist, and checked the local newspapers - nothing.

He looked healthy - no problems with his fur, skinny but not sickly so - he seemed young so being smallish seemed normal. He wasn’t obviously starving - no ribs sticking out or anything. I did get him two cans of food and he gobbled those quite enthusiastically but that’s pretty normal for even a non-starving cat.

So anyway - I’m going home in a few days. I was thinking of taking him with me. I’d hate to stick a cat in a car for a 30+ hour trip, but he seemed mellow when I took him with me to see if I could get someone to take him in. Better than letting him starve anyway.

Obviously I don’t want to steal anyone’s cat. But the owner of an indoor/outdoor cat wouldn’t fail to put a collar on him, would they? And he didn’t lose it for one day - I spotted him twice 2 weeks apart and no collar either time. If I can catch him again in the daytime, I can take him to a vet to see if he’s microchipped. But other than that - if my craigslist ad has no answer, and there are no matching ads in the newspaper, is it safe to assume he’s lost? A lost cat would have a hard time surviving the winter here (Cleveland), so I’d hate to leave him if he really is lst, since he seemed like a great cat.

What would you do? I only have a few days left here, and a busy few days at that, so I can’t go around posting “found” ads at every vet or anything like that. If I end up finding him, I’d take him to the vet to check for chips before I took him, but what if there’s no chip and no collar?

Was it the cast of famous Broadway play? I’d definitely try and give them a home.


I had a friend years ago that had a small tabby female cat that they had gotten for their kids. They moved across country with the cat. This was an indoor/outdoor cat and still had its claws. But the cat was forever losing its collar. About a year after they had been living in the new neighborhood, they were in the front yard with the kids and the cat playing. A little girl came riding by on her bike and stopped in front of their house. The girl said, “Fluffy, where have you been, we’ve been looking all over for you?” And begin calling, “here fluffy, come here girl.” My friend realized the girl was calling their cat. He said, “this is our cat, Sugar.” The little girl started getting upset, so my friend picked up Sugar and walked with the girl back to her house to talk to her parents. Turns out Sugar had been coming over to their house for several months and they were feeding her and sometimes even letting her in their house. They assumed she was a stray since she had no collar. My friend explained that Sugar was definitely their cat and that they had moved their with her from across the country. All ended well, and they started keeping collars on her.

So this cat may belong to someone, you never know.

We had a fine cat stroll into our back yard and appear friendly. We checked with vets, checked with the pound, and looked for flyers, because obviously he was a very great cat and someone had lost him. Nothing. So we took him to our vet to check for a chip, and decided if there wasn’t one, we get him neutered and given shots and then he’d be our cat, and so he has been.

He is an indoor-outdoor cat but doesn’t have a collar. However, now he is chipped.

But what if your little black cat belongs to someone who lets him out? You might be jacking their cat. He might be not lost, but adventurous, with a large range. Definitely check for a chip. Maybe the owner hasn’t checked Craigslist because he doesn’t consider the cat lost.

I’d probably make a quick sweep of the neighborhood going door-to-door with the cat asking if anyone knows who the owner is. If that produced no results I’d have no regrets taking him.

A cat adopted us recently, I was walking through the kitchen one morning and it was on the windowsill staring in at me. My wife started feeding it and it went from there.

We called the animal shelter and left a report with them, and called the nearest vet office. Plus we watched the classified ads.

But really when you let a cat roam outside you have to be prepared for them not to come back.

People down the street assumed our very friendly, always ready to be fed, cat was a stray (houdini at getting his collar off). They turned her into the humane society. Fortunately she was chipped so we got a call right away.

Is there a shelter in your area where they can check for chip and/or hold the cat til the possible owners out there notice it’s missing and call? (anyone who’s had a friendly, roaming cat knows this can be a couple of days)

Very similar experience, except the people who found him didn’t have him checked for a chip (which he does have) - they posted “lost cat” flyers and one landed in our mailbox. By then Archie had been gone a whole day, which was long enough to make us think it was strange but not long enough to really get worried. Funny thing was, by the time we received the flyer and called, Archie had already made his escape from their apartment by jumping out of their second-floor window. My husband hung up the phone to find Archie meowing at the patio door to be let in.

My cat had been missing since Saturday. He had no collar or chip as he was *supposed * to be an indoor cat (something which he apparently disagrees with.) I did fliers, posted online, mourned the loss…

I let the dog out this morning, put a load of laundry in the dryer, and then went to let the dog back in. There he was, waiting patiently to be let in next to the dog.

I’m so happy! And I’m getting the escape artist a collar and chipped at his next vet visit…

To the OP: It’s hard to tell with cats! It was four days for mine, so it is conceivable that my cat just went to visit someone else…

That’s pretty much the bottom line for me, too, but it’s kind of a tough call - if this is an area where people just let their cats roam, then his owners are just doing what everyone else does. If he is a stray, though, winter will be tough for him and he’d be better off with you, SenorBeef. I think for due diligence you’d have to check for a chip as well as going door-to-door in the neighbourhood. If no one claims him, then you’ve got yourself a new little kitty friend. :slight_smile:

what **cat whisperer **said. imho, cats should be indoor-only animals for many reasons, not the least of which is the getting lost issue. at least with senorbeef, the little guy is safe and warm and knows where his next meal is coming from.

Get a cheap collar and attach a waterproof card or plastic tag that says: "If this is your cat, please call __________(insert your cell phone number). If he has a home, hopefully they will give you a call. No call. . . your cat.

Some people don’t even respect collars. My friend’s cat, Raffi, disappeared and after several weeks of searching they found him streets away with a new name tag that said “Ralfie” and someone else’s phone number. The people who’d taken him claimed he’d lost his tag (but not his collar) and that it was coincidence that they’d given him a similar name, and mumbled when asked why they hadn’t had him checked for a microchip.

Take a look at his GPS. Is he where the little blue dot says he should be? If not, then he’s truly lost.



Take him to a vet and have him scanned for a chip. Check out lost pet ads in the local paper and on Craig’s list. Look around where you found him and see if there’s any Lost/FBI’s most wanted posters on telephone poles. Bang on doors and ask people – in the area where you found him – if it’s their cat or if they know whose cat it is.

Or do none of those things and enjoy your new kitty.

ETA: Having read the OP, what I would do is take my new kitty home. I’d pick up a cat carrier first and one of those cardboard disposable litter boxes. That way you can let him out (say, in your hotel room) with access to a litter box while traveling. And I’d definitely name him “Bernie” (for Bernie Kosar… since you found him in Cleveland.)

Our cats were all outdoors cats. Even though we chipped and technically owned them, we always assumed that they were also “owned” by some of our neighbours, and they moved around on a timeshare agreement.