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What to Do When You Find a Cat or Kitten

One of our most frequently asked questions is "I found a stray cat (or kitten); now what do I do?" and the answer is that there is no easy answer. But here are some general pointers to help guide you on what to do next.

NOTE: please read the kitten section carefully if you have found a kitten! 

1. Determine if the cat is feral or domesticated. Feral cats are often anti-social, hissy, and will run away
if you try to pick them up or even just approach them!  Another easy indicator is if the cat has a tipped ear (meaning part of its left ear has been cut off). This is a sign that the Tuscaloosa Spay and Neuter Incentive

Program has trapped the cat, had it fixed (spayed/neutered) and released it back into its habitat to live out

its life. Do NOT try to trap these cats again or turn them over to Animal Control. They are happiest outdoors

and likely belong to a colony with a feral feeder (someone who takes care of the colony by feeding them and monitoring for health issues). EXCEPTION: if you see a cat with a tipped ear that is acting EXTREMELY friendly, it may belong to someone. If it lets you pick it up, take it to a vet to have it scanned for a microchip. Some cats are determined NOT
to be feral after they've gone through the TNR procedure and are turned over to organizations like ours
to be adopted out.

2. If you find a feral cat and are interested in helping it get fixed to reduce the cat population, please contact TSNIP for assistance. They have humane/live traps and resources to have feral cats fixed in the Tuscaloosa area. Visit their website ( for more information. It is much easier to trap one cat now than a litter full of kittens plus Mama later! 

3. If the cat you found is NOT feral and it will let you rescue it, first take it to a vet to be scanned for a microchip. It may be a lost pet and it can easily be reunited with its owner that way. 

For more information on how to safely trap a stray cat and what precautions to take/things to consider, check out:

4. If a scan doesn't turn up microchip information, post flyers in the area it was found and post pictures in area Facebook groups such as Tuscaloosa Missing Pets and Feline Friends of Tuscaloosa. 

5. The Humane Society of West Alabama can also post "found" animal information on our Facebook page; email with pictures, your contact information, and the area in which the cat was found. 

6. If you can keep/foster the cat until an adopter is found, fill out the Courtesy Listing form to have the pet posted on our PetFinder page:

7. If you cannot keep the cat, please contact us or Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter. ALL cats/kittens must be vetted and checked for diseases prior to entering our shelter. We are a cage-free shelter, so diseases can spread very quickly if we're not extremely vigilant in our vetting process. 

Important Note RE: What to Do When You Find a KITTEN!

It is incredibly important to never separate a kitten from its mother. It is hazardous to the health of both Mama and baby. Mama is best equipped for the job of caring for her kittens. She feeds them, bathes them, and helps regulate their body temperature. Check out this video for more information on keeping Mama cats and kittens together here:

1. If you find a kitten, check everywhere for a Mama. It's possible she's just moving her kittens from one location to another and will be coming back for that kitten. Do not move it until you are absolutely certain it is alone. 

2. If the kitten has been abandoned, you will need to make sure it has a heating pad available to take the place of Mama. Kittens cannot control their own body temperature, so they need to have a warm space (heating pad, hot water bottle) available to them. 

3. Kittens cannot drink (cow, goat, almond) milk! If they are too young to eat wet food, they need Kitten Milk Replacement (KMR) instead; it can be found at pet stores or big box stores like WalMart. Especially young kittens need to be fed every 2 to 3 hours (or longer depending on their age) and need to be stimulated to go to the bathroom. 

Please reach out to the HSWA or Metro Animal Shelter for more information on what to do with kittens.
Even if we can't take them into our shelter or foster homes right now,
we can help guide you through the process of caring for them!


The Kitten Lady also has a series of informational videos on how to foster young kittens. Her YouTube Channel is a fantastic source of information!

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