A stray cat or kitten may be:
A Lost Pet
An Abandoned Pet—This, sadly, seems to occur fairly often
A stray—adult, kitten, pregnant female or mother with kittens
A feral (wild) cat
A group of feral cats
As a privately run shelter, RappCats can take into its Adoption Center only healthy, tame, adult cats that are capable of being adopted. We are, however, often able to assist with finding foster homes, or helping to adopt cats needing new homes. RappCats currently receives more calls regarding lost or abandoned animals than we can accommodate. We often encourage callers to explore other options or continue to provide for the cat until its owner can be found, until we can find foster care or accommodate it in the Adoption Center, or until you are able to place the cat in a new home. To help you help the cat, we’ve put together some resources that will hopefully improve the outcome for the kitty that recently brightened your doorstep asking for some assistance!
Please review the following information and suggestions. Please also feel free to contact RappCats if you have additional questions.
Note on public shelters: Many municipal shelters, even those with general no-kill policies, may become overcrowded quickly, especially during kitten season, and there are often simply not enough homes for the animals they are trying to help. Even if you find a municipal shelter willing to take your cat, we urge you to be informed about their policies for housing and keeping cats. There are very few completely no-kill shelters for cats, especially during kitten season.
Until you can determine its health status, assume that the cat(s) may present a health threat to your pets! We suggest isolating any found cat from your pets for two weeks, or until you have been able to receive advice from your veterinarian.
Exercise extreme caution in approaching and handling an unknown cat! Remember, any cat can bite or scratch, often when you least expect it, especially a frightened or injured cat! Wounds from cat bites or scratches can be serious, and should receive immediate medical attention. Unknown cats (including kittens) can carry serious diseases, many of which can be transmitted to humans - including rabies. If you are bitten by an unknown cat, immediately wash the wound thoroughly. Without exposing yourself to harm, attempt to immediately have the cat humanely confined for observation for possible rabies, keep the cat isolated from other animals and people, and immediately contact your medical provider. Contact the Rappahannock County Health Department for more information and to report the bite. If you are uncertain how to handle an unknown cat, RappCats can provide suggestions and assistance. Common sense measures to avoid a bite in the fist place can protect both you and the frightened cat!
The Virginia Department of Health’s website provides the following information regarding bites from wild animals:
Don't panic...but don't ignore the bite, either. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and lots of water. Washing thoroughly will greatly lessen the chance of infection. Give first aid as you would for any wound.
If possible, capture the animal under a large box or can, or at least identify it before it runs away. Don't try to pick the animal up. Call an animal control or law enforcement officer to come get it.
It's critically important that you notify your family doctor immediately and explain how you got the bite. Your doctor will want to know if the animal has been captured. If necessary, your doctor will give the anti-rabies treatment recommended by the United States Public Health Service. Your doctor will also treat you for other possible infections that could be caused from the bite.
Report the bite to the local health department.
For more information see:
First Steps to Take
Arrange for food and water for the cat(s). IMPORTANT: Isolate food and water for the stray from that of your pets (at least until the cat is tested for infectious diseases)!
Isolate the cat(s) from your other pets. This is probably easiest to do initially by keeping your pets indoors or placing the homeless cat in a spare room that is separate from your pets, if the homeless cat can be safely handled. RappCats may be able to assist with cages to help isolate a cat.
If it is not appropriate or possible to bring the cat inside, arrange for temporary shelter for the cat. This will include protection from the elements and from predators, and must include access to food, and to fresh water at all times.
Try to determine if the cat is friendly and/or accustomed to humans (see WARNING, above, and Feral (Wild) Cats, below). Most cats that approach you for help will be used to humans. RappCats can provide advice and assistance on handling and evaluating a found cat.
If there are immediate medical conditions that should be addressed, contact a veterinarian (see Medical Emergencies, below).
Once you have tended to any immediate needs, initiated a search for possible owners and identified a safe place for the cat(s) in or near your home, get them to a veterinarian ASAP. The vet will be able to roughly estimate the age of the cat and do a wellness check.
The vet will also be able to advise you on recommended health tests, including FELV (Feline Leukemia Virus) and FIV (Feline Immune Virus). These diseases are communicable to other animals and treatment and placement of cats with FELV/FIV has many special requirements. Some veterinarians may suggest that cats with FELV and/or FIV be euthanized. RappCats does not recommend the euthanization of otherwise healthy cats with FELV, as many FELV-positive cats may live healthy, happy lives for months or even years. FIV cats, especially, can live perfectly healthy, normal long lives, and euthanization of an otherwise healthy FIV-positive cat is rarely appropriate. Please contact RappCats to help you decide what to do with an FELV or FIV-positive cat. Some organizations exist for the purpose of taking these cats, which can live symptom-free for years.
The vet will also be able to advise you about which vaccinations are necessary. A Rabies shot will be required if there is no proof of a current vaccination. A FVRCP (Feline Distemper/combo) vaccine is also often recommended.
The vet can also advise on whether or not it is appropriate to spay/neuter the cat (once the necessary time for a potential owner to reclaim the cat has elapsed). RappCats urges the spay/neuter of all cats! One unaltered cat and its unaltered offspring can produce over 420,000 kittens in only seven years! There just aren’t enough loving homes for all these little guys so please help by spaying or neutering your cat!
If space and finances allow, RappCats may be able to take the cat into the RappCats Adoption Center. As a private shelter, we can ony take into the Adoption Center healthy, tame, adult cats capable of being adopted. We may, however, be able to help find foster homes and/or adoptions for other cats. Please contact RappCats for further information.
Does the Cat Belong to Someone Else?
Does it have a collar?
Does it have a microchip? Local vets can check for presence of a microchip.
Does it have a ‘V’ Shaped clip in one of its ears? This may indicate that the cat has previously been spayed or neutered and returned to its location. This is commonly done in TNR (trap, neuter, release) situations.
Virginia law requires you to report found cats you choose to help to the Rappahannock County-sponsored animal shelter - the Rappahannock Animal Welfare League or RAWL - (even though RAWL is not generally otherwise funded to handle Rappahannock cat issues) within 48 hours by calling 540-937-3283; and to make a reasonable attempt to find the owner. This will help ensure that owners seeking lost cats can be reunited with their pets.
If you have found an abandoned cat, it may need immediate medical attention if it shows signs of lethargy, has wounds, appears to be in pain, or has other obvious signs of illness or injury. Local veterinary resources include the following:
Local Veterinary Resources:
Rose Hill Veterinary Practice PC
Small Animal Clinic
21 Christmas Tree Lane
Washington, VA 22747
Blue Mountain Animal Clinic
307 Collins Avenue
Luray, VA 22835-2114
Clevenger's Corner Veterinary Care
18157 Lee Highway
Amissville, VA 20106
The Rappahannock County sheriff’s office is responsible for responding to situations involving injured, sick, neglected or abused animals, and it is our experience that they will make every effort to work wih you about the best way to handle the situation. However, be aware that they will have authority to make decisions regarding the care, treatment and ultimate disposition of such animals.
Winchester Animal Hospital
c/o Valley Emergency and Referral Center
210 Costello Drive
Hope Advanced Veterinary Center
140 Park Street SE
Vienna, VA 22180
Fax (703) 281-0149
The Life Centre
165 Fort Evans Rd NE
Leesburg, Virginia 20176
Phone: (703) 777-5755
Fax: (703) 777-9968
Pender Vet Animal Hospital
4001 Legato Road, Fairfax VA 22033
Pender Vet Animal Hospital
4508 Upper Cub Run Drive
Chantilly, VA 20151
Feral (Wild) Cats
Feral (or wild) cats are special animals. Many organizations are focused on spaying/neutering feral cats and helping to manage and treat feral cats and feral cat colonies. Alley Cat Allies () offers the following information (under frequently asked questions) about the differences between a stray cat and a feral cat:
A stray cat:
Is a cat who has been socialized to people at some point in her life, but has left or lost her indoor home, as well as most human contact and dependence.
Can become feral as her contact with humans dwindles.
Can under the right circumstances become a pet cat once again. Stray cats that are re-introduced to a home after living outdoors may require a period of time to re-acclimate; they may be frightened and wary after spending time outside away from people.
A feral cat:
Is a cat who has either never had any contact with humans or her contact with humans has diminished over time. She is not socialized to people and survives on her own outdoors. Most feral cats are not likely to ever become lap cats or enjoy living indoors.
Can have kittens who can be socialized at an early age and adopted into homes.
RappCats will help with feral cats by providing information and advice, trapping assistance, spay/neuter, and vet care when finances allow. RappCats will only work with feral cats where the landowner will allow the cats to remain and/or be returned to their same location, or where another suitable home site is available. RappCats cannot take feral cats into the RappCats Adoption Center.
Nursing Females and Kittens
If you have found an outside adult female cat, please check to see if she has been nursing kittens. Enlarged or swollen nipples can be a tell-tale sign. If she has, please refer to 'Immediate Response,' above. Continue to provide food for her (kitten food is best for nursing moms) and, in the meantime, try to locate the kittens. Young kittens need to nurse every two hours, so do not confine or trap the momma cat unless you are absolutely certain you can also trap the kittens. A kitten may die within hours without nourishment and protection from a mama cat. Also, kittens under 8 weeks of age will do much better when kept with the mother cat. If you have located a mama cat and kittens, contact RappCats for further information and assistance.
RappCats is not able at this time to take nursing mothers or kittens into its RappCats Adoption Center, as kittens/nursing mothers require special care that our Adoption Center is not currently able to provide. However, we often have foster homes available. and we can help with food, information, and with vet care if finances allow. We can also help find homes for mama cat and kittens when the kittens are old enough to be weaned.
There is a low cost spay/neuter assistance program available through the Rappahannock Animal Welfare League (RAWL) that sends animals to the Shenandoah Spay/Neuter Clinic in Harrisonburg on a regular basis, usually monthly. Please contact RAWL at 937-3283 for more information. Individuals may also make an appointment to take their animal to the Shenandoah Spay/Neuter Clinic. That phone number is 540-437-1980.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has developed a database of low-cost spay/neuter programs. Visit their website and type in your zip code. A list of programs will appear.