(Adapted from FAQ on the Cat Rescue Christchurch website, with their permission)

I’ve found a stray cat – what should I do?
You first need to check to see if the cat is someone’s cat from nearby, or is a lost cat. Pets on the Net give great advice on how to do this.

You can contact the Palmerston North SPCA for a Stray Cat Pack that includes a paper collar template, to put on the cat and see if anyone responds (thin card is less likely to rip off).

If you have ensured the cat doesn’t belong to someone, and you can touch and pick up the cat, see below for what to do next. If you can’t get near the cat, he/she may be an unsocial stray. Manawatu Alley Cat Trust can help with catching and desexing unsocial strays to prevent them from breeding and producing more unwanted strays. Contact us immediately, before the cat(s) reproduce (and if there are kittens, contact us as soon as you see them so we can catch them young enough to be socialised).

I’ve got a friendly stray cat who needs a new home; can Manawatu Alley Cat Trust  take him/her?
Manawatu Alley Cat Trust  does not have a shelter. We focus on helping unsocial strays by desexing them through our Trap, Neuter, Return program, and by uplifting kittens for socialisation and rehoming. Our rescue kittens are cared for by volunteer fosterers in their own homes until they are adopted into permanent homes.

If the cat is friendly, i.e., you can pat and pick up the cat, we recommend that you rehome the cat via Trade Me. You must have first checked thoroughly that the cat does not belong to someone nearby, or is someone’s lost cat (see question above, “I’ve found a stray cat”). To advertise on Trade Me, put as much information and photos of the cat as possible – the more, the better. Unique personality traits make a cat stand out from the crowd so do mention them! Make sure the cat is desexed.

Can Manawatu Alley Cat Trust take older unsocial kittens or adults to socialise and rehome?
Unsocial kittens, i.e., those who cannot be touched or picked up, have usually been born outside and have had little or no human contact. They can be reliably socialised up to 10 weeks of age, and with more time and patience, up to 12 weeks of age. If you wish to try to socialise kittens yourself, see here for advice.

I’ve found a sick or injured cat – what do I do?
In an emergency, take the cat to the nearest vet or an after hours veterinary clinic if the daytime vet is closed.

Check if the cat belongs to someone nearby.

If the cat can be handled, call the SPCA for help.

If the cat is an unsocial stray cat (i.e., you can’t get near the cat), we may be able to help with trapping the cat for veterinary treatment. Let us know if the cat has already been through our TNR (Trap Neuter Return) program and is in need of veterinary care (the cat will be missing an eartip as shown in the diagram to the left).

I found some stray cats and have started feeding them
Desexing these cats is the highest priority. Feeding stray cats can help them to produce more kittens, so they must all be desexed immediately. You should only feed stray cats if you are able to continue doing it in the long term, particularly in the case of unsocial stray cats (those that cannot be handled by people), as they are unable to be rehomed.

Manawatu Alley Cat Trust specialises in capturing unsocial cats in humane cage traps, for desexing. So even if you cannot get near a cat, we are able to catch and desex the cat! You may think that you can befriend stray cats by feeding them, however this won’t work with unsocial cats who have had little or no handling. Contact us immediately for help.

Why is desexing unsocial strays so important?
Cats breed very quickly. Female cats can first go on heat as young as 4-5 months of age, when they are still kittens themselves! Female cats can have 2-3 litters per year, with an average of 3-5 kittens per litter. So you can see how one or a few stray cats can quickly end up to be many cats. Stray cat overpopulation can cause complaints by businesses or people living in the community, and pest control may be contacted and the cats killed. Manawatu Alley Cat Trust is a no-kill organisation and Trap Neuter Return is the no-kill way of controlling stray cat numbers. Desexing unsocial stray cats can save their lives!

But don’t all cats need to live in homes with people?
All kittens need to be handled at a young age (3-12 weeks of age) to be socialised to people. If they have no or very little interaction with humans at this age, they will not be able to be handled by people. These are ‘unsocial’ cats as they are not socialised to people, and survive on their own outdoors. Most unsocial cats are offspring of abandoned or lost domesticated house cats. They are very unlikely to ever become lap cats or enjoy living indoors, and find it stressful to be put in this position. Also read this article about unsocial stray cats living happily outdoors.

Taking unsocial cats to an animal shelter usually results in euthanasia. Trap Neuter Return is the humane way of helping these cats, by desexing to control their numbers and improve their health.

How can I determine a cat’s gender and tell if the cat is desexed or not?

Click here for an explanation and short video on how to determine a cat’s gender.

While you cannot see whether a female cat is desexed or not, you can often tell by looking and/or feeling, whether or not a male cat is desexed. See here for an explanation. The photo to the left is of an unneutered adult male cat – note the full testicle sac.

Unsocial stray cats who have been desexed are normally eartipped so that they can be identified as desexed from a distance. The tip of the left ear is removed under anaesthetic by a veterinarian, so that the ear appears flat across the top (see diagram at left).

How can I tell the age of stray kittens?
Unsocial kittens are best caught before 10 weeks of age, but can be socialised with more time up to 12 weeks of age.

See here for pictures and information to help you determine the kittens’ age.

If you have known about a group of stray cats for a while and see them regularly, you may be able to work out the approximate age of kittens based on timing. If you know or suspect an adult female cat may be pregnant then notice her disappear for a few days and return not pregnant, note down the date she disappeared and contact us for help. Additionally, mother cats will often keep the kittens hidden away until they are 5-6 weeks of age when they will begin to explore. So when you first sight the kittens, they are likely to already be 5-6 weeks old. Contact us immediately so we can catch the kittens for socialisation and rehoming, before it’s too late.

I’ve found a ‘nest’ of very young kittens by themselves in my garden
It is likely that the kittens have a mother cat who will come back to them. Leave them where they are and do not touch them. Contact us for help. If the mother cat is unsocial the best thing is for the kittens and mother to be trapped at the same time, once the kittens are 5-6 weeks of age (weaning age but young enough to socialise and rehome). The mother can be desexed and the kittens socialised for rehoming.

There’s a cat coming inside and eating my cat’s food
Cats’ territories do not fit in with human boundaries which means that neighbour’s cats and stray cats are likely to come onto your property or even into your house! Another cat eating your cat’s food is not necessarily a sign that the cat is homeless; many cats are opportunists and will happily eat their own food as well as that of the neighbour’s cats! The key to preventing this is to simply not allow other cats into your house. Magnetic cat doors or microchip cat doors are good solutions as they only allow your cat(s) through the door. Your cat(s) must wear a collar with the magnetic key for the magnetic cat door to work, or be microchipped for the microchip cat door. Sureflap sell microchip cat/pet doors, and a microchip pet feeder that only allows your microchipped pet(s) to access the food.

There’s a cat fighting with my cat and/or spraying
Given that these problem behaviours are usually caused by unneutered male cats, desexing them will often alleviate the problems. Manawatu Alley Cat Trust can help you with catching stray cats for desexing.

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