I found a stray pet...what should I do?
Have you ever seen a pet running loose in your neighborhood or in danger on a busy street? Maybe you wanted to help, but weren't sure what to do. Here are some guidelines for getting the pet safely contained and reunited with his/her family.
Get the pet to safety
Do not put yourself at risk to capture a stray animal. If the animal seems aggressive or if it is in a dangerous location such as a busy highway, please call the authorities. In a city, call the police or animal control. Outside city limits, contact the highway patrol or the sheriff's office.
If circumstances make it safe for both you and the dog/cat, try to capture and safely contain the animal. Always be very cautious about approaching an animal you do not know. Speak softly and do not make eye contact (this can be interpreted as a threat). Coax with food, if the animal is reluctant to come near. If the pet is a dog, secure with a leash, or something that serves as a leash. Contain in a fenced yard, a small room in your home, or in your car if the temperature is comfortable with good air circulation.
If the pet is a cat, know that many cats do not like to be held. Contain in a pet carrier or box with lots of ventilation holes, a small room in your home, or in your car if the temperature is comfortable with good air circulation.
If the pet you found is a kitten or kittens, this is a special circumstance. Please see the article below.
The pet has been safely contained...now what?
Sometimes people find a pet and assume that they are free to keep the animal or give it to whomever they choose. This is absolutely not the case, and doing so may be a violation of the law.
ALWAYS assume the pet has an owner. Even if the pet is in poor condition or has injuries, it may be due to many other factors that have nothing to do with its rightful owner. Perhaps the pet went missing some time ago and has endured hardships during its time running loose. Sometimes, sadly, pets are stolen and mistreated. No matter the condition of the pet, it may have a loving owner who is desperately searching for their companion.
To reunite the pet with its rightful owner, please follow the steps below.
1. Is the pet you found a kitten (or kittens?)? If so, please read this article about finding kittens.
2. If the pet you found is not a kitten (or kittens), is the pet wearing a collar? If so, is there an ID tag with phone number or address? Use that to contact the owner. If there is a rabies tag, contact the organization or clinic who issued the tag to identify the pet and owner. And if there is a city tag, contact the city.
3. If there is no collar or no ID: Please call your local police department, animal control office, veterinary clinics, and to animals shelters to report the pet as found and to see if anyone has reported the pet as missing. In our area, call ACARF at 620-496-3647.
4. If no owner can be identified, please have the pet checked for a microchip at a local veterinary office or at an animal shelter.
5. If there is no microchip or if the microchip registry is unable to contact an owner, make simple "FOUND" posters with a photo of the animal and your contact information to post in your neighborhood. Please also provide ACARF with a good clear photo of the pet to post on our Facebook page as found; we will also need the general location that the pet was found, the date, and a contact phone number for you.
6. If no owner can be immediately identified, are you able to fully care for this pet temporarily while an attempt is made to find the owner through posters and social media? If no owner is found, can you also care for the pet until a new home is found? If you can, please provide the pet with needed veterinary care, such as treatment for any injuries, vaccinations, and spaying/neutering.
To find new owners to adopt the pet, please list the pet through "Rehome," the simple, free, and effective rehoming service that we now use at ACARF. You can find the ACARF link to Rehome here:
7. If you are unable to care for the pet until the owner or new adoptive owners can be found, call your local police department or animal control office if you are within city limits and they will take the pet to your local shelter or pound. if you are not within city limits, contact your local animal shelter to see if you are able to surrender the pet there. If you are in our area, call ACARF to see if we have room to accept the found pet.
What should you do if you find kittens/a kitten?
Please read this helpful article from Adoptapet.com:
“The first thing you can do if you find baby kittens outside is to assess the situation. Do not immediately scoop them up, unless they are obviously in immediate danger or suffering. Danger for kittens could be harsh weather (cold, rain, or excessive heat), cars, dogs, or wildlife. Suffering could be sick or injured.
Why not pick up kittens right away?
You don’t want to steal a mom cat’s babies!
Many baby kittens you find outdoors are being well-cared for by a “community” or “feral” mom cat. Community or feral cats are often in a “colony” of cats, fed and cared for by one or more caretakers. Responsible caretakers do their best to make sure all the cats in their colony are spayed and neutered so they can’t make more kittens. However, sometimes a newcomer joins a colony and has babies before they can be trapped, neutered/spayed, and released (TNR). Or sometimes there are caretakers who don’t realize they need to get the cats fixed.
If you find baby kittens, Mom cat might be out looking for food, or moving her kittens to a new nest. If kittens are in a relatively safe place and not injured or sick, ideally you will assess and do a “kitten stakeout” to see if mom comes back. You may need to wait a couple of hours. As long as the kittens are warm enough, healthy kittens can survive a couple of hours without food. Stay as far away as you can while still keeping an eye on where the kittens are located. If you are too close (some experts say closer than 35 feet) mom cat might wait for you to move away before she returns.
If mom cat returns…
If mom returns, you can celebrate! If she moves the kittens to a new nest, you may not see her again. If she has made a nest on your property, you can set up a temporary mom cat shelter or just feed her until the kittens are 5 weeks old...At about 4 to 5 weeks you’ll see the kittens also eating the food you are leaving out for the family.
If mom cat doesn’t return…
If mom cat doesn’t return, or it’s dangerous to leave the kittens to see if she does, you’ll need to capture and safely contain the kittens. Average kitten litter size is 2 to 6 kittens, but occasionally there are more. Be sure to return to the spot at least twice after a few hours to make sure you didn’t miss a kitten!”
At ACARF, we are usually full on our cat side with a waiting list, but you can call us at 620-496-3647 to make sure.
If we are full, your choices are to advertise these kiddos as found, take them to another no-kill shelter (here is a list to other no-kill shelters within reasonable driving distance: ), or to foster them yourself until they are old enough to be adopted, at which time we would ask you to list them for adoption through ACARF’s link on Rehome (, a pet rehoming service that posts pets to be rehomed on Adoptapet.com, a nationwide pet adoption database.
If you will be caring for the kitten/kittens yourself, here is a very helpful guide:
A link to a kitten age prgression chart on the awesome cat website, Alley Cat Allies, to help you determine how old a kitten is: https://www.alleycat.org/resources/kitten-progression/