When a dog is on the street alone, we assume something’s wrong. After all, why would a dog wander around without its owner? When we see a cat roaming – let’s be honest, we usually don’t give it a second thought, because most people believe that pet cats need to get out every now and then in order to be happy. That misconception is causing cats to lose their lives by the millions each year, because there are too many of them roaming - and breeding. There are more cats in animal shelters than dogs, and a much bigger percentage of cats are euthanized as a result. So, what can we do to help stem the tide? Here are a few tips from Betsy McFarland, senior director of Companion Animals for the Humane Society.

  • Spay or neuter your cats. Too many are euthanized in shelters because of “accidental” litters.
  • Keep your cat indoors. Almost 40% of urban cat owners - and even more rural owners, allow their cats to roam unsupervised. These cats can wind up lost, or fall victim to automobiles, predators, disease and other outdoor hazards.
  • Get to know the cats in your community. By paying attention, you’ll know which are owned, and which are strays needing help.
  • If you do find a cat - try to locate the owner. Post “found” signs, place an ad, and alert veterinary offices. You can also take the cat to a vet and see if it’s been micro-chipped. Many pets these days are. If you think the cat’s a stray, try to find a no-kill shelter that’ll take care of it until it’s adopted.

How do you tell the difference? McFarland says a lost pet may approach you - but will likely be nervous and avoid close contact. They often meow and look scruffy, and when you offer food, they’ll probably eat it immediately, even if you stay close by. However, stray cats may look well-groomed because they’ve adapted. They’re often silent and unlikely to approach, unless extremely hungry. Even then they’ll eat only after you move away. Stray cats can fall victim to street hazards, too. So, the next time you see a cat alone, McFarland says don’t assume that someone else will help. That cat may be waiting for YOU to step in and save its life.