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Vet Tech Rounds: Dos and Don’ts of Caring for Stray Pets

Pet Care Tips 4 min read
Vet Tech Rounds: Dos and Don’ts of Caring for Stray Pets

If you’re anything like me, when you see a ‘stray’ pet on the streets, all you want to do is help and take it back home with you. As a kid, I remember asking my mom if I could keep any animal that even just walked across our lawn. In most cases, these pets were already well-loved, but some did genuinely need help.

In general, a loose dog is most often ‘lost’, whereas it can be a bit harder to tell with a wandering cat. It is always tempting to bring a pet in off the streets and give it a loving home, but there are some important things to consider before doing that.

stray cat






Do’s of Caring for Stray Pets

Post notices

Post fliers around your neighborhood or make posts on local social media groups about the pet. This could be a very well-loved and missed pet whose people are desperately wanting their friend’s home. There are many local Facebook groups specifically for posting about lost and found pets.

Check for ID

Obviously, if the pet has a collar, someone has loved it at some point. Check the collar for any ID. If there is no obvious ID, if possible, bring the pet to your local vet to be checked for a microchip. These chips store a unique ID number that links up with the pet owner’s information and have been responsible for reuniting countless pets with their families, even years after they may have gone missing. Pets may also have an ID tattoo inside their ear or a breeder tattoo that may be in their ear or abdomen.

Ask Around

Go door to door and ask your neighbors if they recognize the pet. Perhaps there were some neighbors who recently moved in or moved out. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people to leave a pet behind when they move.

Provide Shelter

Create a safe place for the pet. This could be a small, covered box out of the elements with a cozy blanket or you can create something a bit fancier for them, like an insulated pet home. It’s important to provide a secure place for them to sleep to keep them out of harm’s way when predators come out at night.

Provide Food

It’s important to make sure stray pets receive nutrition, so providing wholesome food will be very helpful. However, be sure not to just leave food out. Try to provide the food only when you see the pet to avoid attracting other wild animals like coyotes, raccoons, or skunks.

Provide Healthcare

If you notice a stray pet that seems to be in distress or is suffering from an illness. Try your best to bring them to a veterinarian. It’s obviously not expected that you will cover the costs of veterinary care, but if you’re unable to, expect that the vet will take them in and work with your local animal shelter to arrange for appropriate care of the pet. In this case, you most likely will not have any further contact with the pet.

Friendly cat and dog on the street

Don’t’s for Caring for Stray Pets:

Bring Them In

If you have other pets it’s especially important to not bring stray pets into your home. It’s impossible to know the health condition of these pets. There are many illnesses that may be very contagious like Feline Leukemia Virus or Parvovirus. There is no way to know how these pets will interact with your pet, or how your pet will react to a new pet in the home. This could lead to dangerous aggressive behavior.

Give Too Much Love Too Quickly

If a pet is truly a homeless stray, they are not likely used to home life.

If a pet is truly a homeless stray, they are not likely used to home life. Trying to treat these pets like you would your own may be scary and overwhelming for them. Take your time, don’t try to pet them or pick them up if they seem nervous. This could result in injuries to you and keep the pet from trusting humans in the future. Some cats may even be feral or born outside of a home. In this case, they will be difficult to bring into a home and may prefer the ‘wild’ life.

stray dog

Assume They’re Homeless

Not all pets you see around the neighborhood are homeless. This mostly applies to cats. Many cats are allowed outdoors to roam. Feeding a cat that you assume is stray may actually be harmful, as this may limit how often the kitty returns home. If you’re unsure whether a cat has a home, you can put a small collar with a note and your contact information on them, and hopefully hear back from the owners after he returns home, be sure to use a ‘safe release’ collar. For example: “Am I your kitty? I’ve been hanging around at Mary’s house, please call Mary at 555-1010 and let her know I’m loved!”

stray cat

Remember to always consider your safety first. If you don’t think the animal is approachable or unsure how to care for a stray pet, you can call your local shelter or police and let them know about the pet roaming your neighborhood. And don’t forget that shelters and rescue organizations could always use some help, donate and volunteer when you have a chance.

If you decide to foster stray pets while looking for a home for them, you can help provide some health care with natural supplements. NHV Felimm to improve their immune system and to support FIV and FeLV kitties. Yucca to help with digestion and to reduce inflammation and discomfort. Matricalm to reduce stress and Inulin PK as a natural dewormer.

Have any questions about stray pets and bringing a rescued pet into your home? Contact a NHV Pet Expert.

Johanna RVT

Johanna RVT

Johanna is NHV’s in house Registered Veterinary Technician. Technicians are the veterinary equivalent of a human nurse. Johanna has over 10 years of experience in different types of veterinary clinics and hospitals. She has seen and assisted in the treatment of a variety of medical conditions and injuries. She will share her experiences in her monthly blog series “Vet Tech Rounds” to help our extended NHV family learn about common preventable medical cases and other interesting stories of vet clinic life.

Published: July 19, 2019

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