Ask Elizabeth: 04/09

Dear Elizabeth: A tomcat started hanging out underneath our back porch recently. At first, I thought he was a neighbors cat. He was wary initially, but underneath his gruff exterior is one sweet cat. I have started calling him Lucky. How should I determine if he belongs to someone? If no one claims him, how can I find him a home?

The most effective way to determine whether your friendly, back porch tenant is a neighbors cat is to ask if anyone knows whose cat he might be. Take a photo and make flyers which you can pass out to neighbors and post around the neighborhood. Post signs at local shops, veterinary hospitals, and post offices. Drop off a flyer at your local animal shelter and let them know that you have

Bev Caldwell


Lucky. The animal shelter folks will let you know what the laws are regarding found animals. Check the lost and found section of your paper to see if anyone is looking for Lucky and post your own notice there. Make a collar for Lucky from a wide piece of elastic – write a message to his owner “Owner, please call (insert your phone number)” on the elastic and see if you get any responses. Ask a veterinarian or animal shelter to scan him for a microchip, which could identify an owner.

In all likelihood, Lucky is a stray, or formerly owned cat, in desperate need of a friend. He is, indeed, lucky to have found you! And Lucky is in good company – an estimated 49 percent of cat owners report that their cats were adopted as strays. I too was a stray at one point, abandoned just beyond kittenhood on a farm. I was trapped and eventually made my way to the top of the ivy tower at the Cornell Feline Health Center. But I digress … the point Im trying to make is that there are millions of stray cats wandering the streets right now, in search of a good meal, a warm bed and an understanding friend, and many of those cats have unlimited potential to become loving household pets or beloved Ivy League mascots.

Even if you werent planning on adding a cat to your family, I hope that youll consider adopting Lucky. Pets add so much to peoples lives, providing love and companionship, teaching children about responsibility and caring for others. Studies have shown that pet owners are happier and healthier than those who do not own pets. All of these benefits can be had for the relatively low cost of food, shelter, and veterinary care.

If you dont locate Luckys owner and youre not able to adopt him, Im glad youre willing to take him off the streets and find him a home. Animal shelters usually have too many cats and limited resources and may euthanize cats if no owner is found in a few days. Cats admitted to shelters often pick up infectious diseases. On his own, Lucky would struggle to find food and shelter and would face many dangers (cars, viral infections, parasites, predatory animals, cruelty). In addition, an unneutered cat contributes to the cat overpopulation problem. Kittens that are not socialized to people at an early age become feral and impossible to tame. They produce their own feral kittens, which eventually reproduce … there are currently over 40 million feral cats in the United States, all struggling to survive.

The first step, whether you decide to keep Lucky or find him a home, should be a trip to a veterinarian. Place him in a towel-lined cat carrier or cardboard box with air holes punched into the sides. Use packing tape to tape the box shut – a frightened cat loose in the car could cause an accident or might escape. The veterinarian will decide which vaccinations and blood tests are necessary, will schedule a neutering procedure for Lucky, and will check for health problems. Stray cats are prone to external parasites (fleas, ticks, ringworm, ear mites), internal parasites (roundworms or tapeworms), viral infections (feline leukemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus, upper respiratory viruses) and various wounds.

To minimize health risks to your own pets and children, isolate him until hes received a clean bill of health. If you cant afford veterinary care, contact animal shelters to see if they offer low cost vaccination and neutering programs. A healthy, neutered cat will make a better pet and will be easier to place. If you need to find him a home, first ask all your friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers, and then advertise in newspapers and post photo posters. Ask for references and question potential owners carefully … after all of your hard work, you wouldnt want Lucky to end up in a less-than-ideal situation. Thank you for helping Lucky! Love, Elizabeth