Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
A week ago, this poor 3-legged cat wandered into my garden, and I started to leave milk and bacon outside. She now comes to my garden at about 5 p.m. every day and I figured she only eats smoked ham. Now I’m able to feed her with my hand (as opposed to previously leaving stuff in a plate outside). It looks like she has a good friend, a fat cat who stands a couple of meters away from her when she eats my food. The fat cat allowed me to pet him (or her I don’t know), but the 3-legged cat would move away slightly indicating she doesn’t feel comfortable with me petting her.
I would really appreciate any advice as to how to tell if the timid 3-legged cat is a stray or has an owner and what would be the best thing to do next, as I’ve never had any pets before.
Siouxsie: We think the odds are good that she either has or up until recently had an owner.
Thomas: Since she has three legs, the odds are good that someone cared enough about her to take her to the vet when she was seriously injured, at which point the leg was amputated. Very few cats are born missing an entire leg.
Dahlia: Also, your three-legged kitty has a fat buddy. It’s very rare to see a fat street cat. Of course, this fat cat may simply be a pregnant cat.
Siouxsie: The first thing you should do is ask around your neighborhood to see if you can find anyone who owns one or both of the cats. If you have a camera–or you can borrow one–you can make flyers with photos of the cats to distribute to neighbors who aren’t home or post on area bulletin boards.
Thomas: We don’t know how it is in the UK, but in the US, many newspapers have free “found” advertisements. If so, you can run a small ad with a few details about the cats and the general area in which they were found. If not, you could post something similar on your local Craigslist or similar online classified ad website.
Dahlia: Don’t include too many identifying details, though. You don’t want people coming to claim them and then doing nasty things like selling them to research labs. If one of them is a brown tabby, for example, just say “tabby,” and instead of specifying which leg is missing on the three-legged cat, just say “3-legged cat.” When you get calls or e-mails, be sure to ask the responders for a more detailed description. If they “don’t remember,” they’re not the owners.
Siouxsie: Contact the animal rescue organizations in your area to see if anyone has reported missing cats that look like the ones you’re seeing in your yard. Call local vets to see if they have a three-legged cat as a patient. They may be able to help track down the cat’s owner and reunite the cats with their family.
Thomas: If you don’t get any response to your queries in a week or so and you’re not ready to adopt the cats yourself, contact your area animal rescues again and see if they might be able to catch and take these cats in for a health screening.
Dahlia: If you find you want to adopt one or both of these kitties, you’ll have to catch them and take them to the vet to get a health check. The best way to catch stray cats is with a humane trap that you bait with food. Sometimes animal rescue organizations have humane traps you can borrow to help catch stray cats.
Siouxsie: While you’re waiting for answers to your queries, we’d strongly recommend that you begin feeding your visitor with cat food rather than people food. Canned cat food is quite tasty to most cats, and it has the nutrition they need. Although bacon and milk fill your three-legged guest’s stomach, those foods lack nutrients that cats need in order to stay healthy.
Thomas: And if you decide to take one or both of those cats in, be sure to educate yourself on what you need to do to keep them happy and healthy. We’ve got lots of information here, of course, we’ve made a number of our favorite books available through our Amazon.com store.
Dahlia: Good luck to you and your furry guests, Annie! Please let us know how things turn out.