Stray Cats

Town Cats does not accept stray cats

We all experience free roaming cats in our neighborhoods or in the areas where we work. These cats generally fall under a few categories:

  1. Stray Kittens – Please review details below. The first priority is to determine if their mother has abandoned them – you need to wait and observe. The mother could be out hunting or just hiding nearby. Kittens that appear well cared for are probably just waiting for mom.
  2. Feral cats – cats that are highly unsocialized to people and avoid human contact. They are generally the results of stray house cats that have been outside for two or more generations.
  3. Stray cats – cats that are unsocial or sometimes social to people that originated as house cats but were abandoned or accidentally lost. They may enjoy human companionship but not necessarily direct human contact. Many people see them as “community cats”.
  4. Owned outdoor “pet” cats – cats that are owned by someone in the community who chooses to allow their cat to run the neighborhood. These cats may be extremely friendly or they may be temperamental and only allow handling to a certain point.

In all four of these categories the cats may be happy and healthy hanging out in the neighborhood, but may not do well in a shelter situation. The majority does not solicit or want human contact and some will “shut down” or act feral (hissing/striking) when in a cage. Historically the cats brought into shelters that are not friendly to people or comfortable in a caged environment will be held through any legally required holding period and then euthanized. Nationwide less than 2% of the stray cats brought into shelters as reclaimed by their owners. Statistically it is more likely that a cat will return home or be found by their family if left alone in the neighborhood than being taken into a shelter.

Stray Kittens- If you find them:

Step #1 Visual Cues: Your first course of action is to wait and watch. While doing so, try to read the visible cues that reveal the health of the kitten(s). Look for signs to indicate that they may have been without care for a significant amount of time: crying or squalling due to lack of nutrition, fur that is matted or dirty, severely underweight, or significant lethargy. Where did you find them? Are they in a safe, fairly clean and dry environment? If they are out in the elements, this is cause for concern as they may not be able to regulate their temperature and stay warm. Are they in any danger from predators, like dogs, raccoons, or opossums? Is the nest secluded or near a roadway where they might be hit if they wandered off?

Step #2 Time and Space: Once you’ve assessed the situation, walk away if there is no immediate danger. Most cats, particularly if they are feral, are not likely to return if they smell or see humans. While they don’t want to abandon their litter, innate self-preservation will cause this behavior. Leave for several hours to give them the time and space to return. You can go back and check on the situation in 4-6 hours.

Note: If you find the kittens are in dire need of medical attention, starving, or vulnerable to predators, then you can remove them.

Step #3 Return Visit: After several hours, return and check on the nest. If mom has not returned but all looks well, give it a bit more time. Try again the next day. You want to give the mother as much time as possible to return to her litter, which will give the kittens the best chance for survival. Not only do nursing kittens need nutrition from their mama, they also receive antibodies and immune support from her milk. Therefore, it is inadvisable to remove them unless absolutely necessary.

If Mama does not return to the nest: If the mother doesn’t return to the nest, or you find the kittens in poor health or danger, you may choose to remove the kittens. Before you can do anything else, you want to make sure the kitten is not hypothermic or hyperthermic. Kittens cannot control their body temperature, so help them regulate their body temperature before trying to feed them – especially if they have been exposed to cold temperatures. A heating pad on low, a warm water bottle, or even a sock filled with rice and put in the microwave can all provide a steady but mild heat source to a cold kitten. To prepare a rice sock get an old sock with uncooked rice or white beans, then tie the open end into a knot. Microwave the sock for 60 seconds, then place it in the nest. DO NOT BATHE KITTENS!

If the Mama cat returns to the nest: If mom returns and the area is relatively safe, leave the kittens alone with mom until they are weaned. You can offer a shelter and regular food to mom, but keep the food and shelter at a distance from each other. Mom will find the food but will not accept your shelter if the food is nearby, because she will not want to attract other cats to food located near her nest. Six weeks is the optimal age to take the kittens from the mother for socialization and adoption placement. Female cats can become pregnant with a new litter even while they are still nursing, so don’t forget to get the mother cat spayed or you will have more kittens soon!

Humane Society Silicon Valley – Stray animals at HSSV

HSSV houses stray animals from the city of Sunnyvale only.  Animal control licensing and field services are provided by the City of Sunnyvale.

San Jose Animal Care and Services 

San Jose Animal Care and Services provides animal control services for and houses stray animals from the cities of San Jose, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Milpitas and Saratoga.

Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority (SVACA) 

Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority provides animal control services and houses stray animals for the cities of Santa Clara, Campbell, Mountain View and Monte Sereno.

County of Santa Clara Animal Shelter 

County of Santa Clara Animal Shelter provides animal control services and houses stray animals for the unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County.

Palo Alto Animal Services

Palo Alto Animal Services provides animal control services and houses stray animals for the the cities of Palo Alto, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

Your city not listed?  Try our list of regional animal shelters.

Free Roaming Cats in Your Neighborhood

What should you do about the free roaming cats in your neighborhood? Because so many of these cats will not do well in a shelter. it’s not in their best interest to bring them into a shelter. Removing them from the neighborhood often creates a vacuum effect where more cats will come into the neighborhood or other animals like raccoons and opossums will fill the void. If the cats are healthy, then they have found a food source and just need to be altered and returned to the neighborhood. 

To help identify an owner a cat in your neighborhood you can try to post flyers in the neighborhood, and at local vet hospitals, grocery stores and coffee shops, etc. Here’s a link for a poster you can make and print.

Contact your local shelters and fill out a “found” report. Take the cat to a vet or shelter and have them scanned for a microchip which should identify the owner and the owner’s address. You can also create an ad on Craigslist http://sfbay.craigslist.org/pet/ or in the local paper.

Kittens should be brought into your local shelter or vet to determine their age and needs for care. If you’re able to foster them by providing a place for them to stay until they are old enough to be altered and re-homed, tell the shelter or vet and they may be able to provide you with food, litter, etc. through a foster program. If they’re old enough to be altered and are acting unsocial/feral then they might be good candidates for the TNR (Trap – Neuter – Return) program in your area. If they’re with their mother it’s a good idea to catch the kittens, and then use them to trap the mom so she can be altered and returned.

I Don’t Want Cats in My Yard

Ask around and see if anyone is feeding the cats or even feeding their own cat outdoors. You might find that some people in your neighborhood are already caring for the cats you see in your yard. Talk with your neighbors and any caregivers if you have concerns about cats in your yard. Work to find a solution that works for everyone involved. The key to keeping unwanted cats out of your yard is to remove any potential food and places for shelter. Just like wildlife they look for places to live that have easy food sources and safe shelters.

I Enjoy Having Cats in My Yard

If you have decided that you enjoy having kitty company in your yard, here are some resources to help you get them spayed and neutered so they don’t multiply. This link has local shelters/rescues, a list of low cost spay and neuter assistance, food pantries and more.