What Do I Do If I Find A Stray Pet In Winter?

PET CHECK BLOG Pensive stray dog going missing

\\\ Finding Missing Pets

\\\ updated November 2021

What To Do When A Stray Pet Turns Up At Your Door

For three years in a row, a stray cat turned up at our front door as soon as the temperature outside started to drop”.

The lovely little black longhaired mix breed cat was disheveled, her coat filthy and matted heavily and clearly hungry. There wasn’t any question that this cat was not ‘rough’ living.

There wasn’t the internet to dive into and log onto various national and local websites that help to repatriate pets or advice on what to do, no social media to report the loss, however, we duly contacted the local vets to ask if a cat was reported missing, contacted our local pets charity and registered the missing pet, put up signs around the village that a cat had been found with contact details. Those things to try and help repatriation of pets haven’t changed very much today and people finding strays are still advised to do this.

In the meantime, our existing re-homed cat from a charity accepted this stray feline immediately, and both lived happily side by side, in a warm home, where they were free to come and go as they please, but always returned. No pet owner was ever found.

Thousands of pets go missing each year, some straying off of their own accord, or others are taken from the streets as the growing problem of UK ‘pet theft’ records. Many owners search tirelessly for their animals and this upsets them when they have no answer for the reason why they disappeared.

Unbelievably, the year after, a second shorthaired cat joined us around the same time in almost identical circumstances, as did a third, the following year after that. Our family never knew that it was such a problem of feral and/or stray pets without homes and how they needed our care when temperatures were dropping.

Stray dog

How Covid-19 makes helping strays a little more difficult

The recent pandemic Covid-19 has bought a new way, a new order in the way we do things. Even to the point that helping and taking in stray pets have a new code of practice to follow.

Vets recommend taking precautions –

  • Wash hands with soap and water before and after touching an animal
  • Avoid close contact with pets from other households and stray animals as you simply do not know where they have been.

Today, we have the luxury of the pet websites helping to repatriate, dog and cat charities who record missing pets and look after them up and down the UK when handed in, mobile phones and 24/7 social media registering pictures instantly of local strays, dogs, and cats that are microchipped and even helpful GPS tracking devices monitoring pets movements.

It’s just not cats and dogs being reported missing but surprisingly and frequently tortoises, parrots, ferrets, and rabbits.

\\\ Helpful tips for repatriations of strays

  • Pets can be very frightened, so take care approaching them. Most will be so cold and hungry that they are unlikely to fight – or dogs try to bite. Most will be thirsty so providing them some water will help them to be calm and co-operate.
  • Take a quick photograph before they have anytime to leave. This is useful for posting on ‘Lost and Found’ pet boards.
  • Check if the pet has a collar and id tag which may indicate if the pet is microchipped or have an owner ‘phone number so call up.
  • Both dogs and cats can be wearing trackers which means that their owners should know where they are. Call the contact information inscribed on the tracker device if no one finds you and the pet.
  • You may have to try and put a lead on a dog if they have a collar.
  • Contact your local charity and inform them of the stray in your care. They may have facilities to read a microchip or ask you to go to the local vet where it could be read and ownership established.
  • Pop the details on the social media platforms you use and other localised and national websites available for lost pets.
  • Putting up ‘found’ local signs, along streets, with a contact detail can help.
  • Checking with local vets if any similar pet has recently been treated. 
  • Report the stray on the local council website as found.
  • Provide a stray cat with a warm shelter outside, water and if possible some food.
  • Dogs are a little more tricky to accommodate, but again provide a secure warm temporary shelter, preferably not tying up the dog but where the shelter doesn’t allow him to escape and provide water and some appropriate food if possible.

\\\ GPS Pet Tracking Devices

Using GPS (Global Positioning System) pet tracking devices have become more popular, and sophisticated over the years, allowing you to locate your dog, cat, or other pet within 1-2 metre distance of their position when wearing a tracker on their collar when roaming freely.

These can be essential items for those dogs that like to wander, may get distracted, or bolt. GPS trackers are now modestly priced, lighter to wear, and deals available for the different ways an owner requires to use them.

The insurance company’s like owners to use trackers particularly when they are attached to expensive breeds and other exotic animals and sometimes will offer a discount on the premium being paid.

Cats roam as they are known as feral animals and can be harder to prevent their disappearance. Cats can wear lighter-weight GPS trackers.

\\\ Useful Contacts

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National organisations have ‘Lost and Found’ information such as Cats Protection League call 0845371 2718

Call your local RSPCA or check their website for information on posting lost and found which may lead you to the website Petslocated.com where the pet’s details can be logged.

Animal Search operates the largest free UK website for ‘Lost and Found’ pets and animals.

Contact your Local Authority Dog Warden. The Council must legally hold onto a stray dog for only 7 days (5 days in Northern Ireland) before they can rehome him, pass him onto a rehoming organisation, or have him humanely put to sleep (information supplied by The Dogs Trust).

The police suggest you register your pet lost with Dog Losa free service.

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