How Long Before a Stray Cat is Legally Yours?

So, you have been putting out food and water for a stray cat that keeps on visiting your property for a few days now. It can be tempting to welcome it into your home to keep it from going hungry and thirsty and being at risk of getting hurt ever again. And now you may be wondering: how long before a stray cat is legally yours?

As a general rule, the stray cat’s founder becomes the legal owner if no owner shows up and it serves the stray holding period. The period usually varies from five to seven days, depending on if the animal is tagged or microchipped. In some cases, the stray holding period is 48 to 72 hours only.

One very important step needs to be taken when you come across a stray cat, and you wish to adopt it: do everything that you can to find its owner first.

Otherwise, you may wind up penalized or even incarcerated! If no owner claims the stray animal after a while, which we will elaborate on later (so don’t stop reading now!), then the cat is yours to love.

Read on if you wish to adopt a stray cat because the two of you have grown to like each other.

What to Do When You Find a Stray Cat

cat with collar

Adopting a feral cat and turning it into an indoor or house pet is virtually impossible. It can be both challenging and dangerous for the person. Similarly, it can be extremely stressful for the animal.

It’s a different story for a stray cat — it can be tamed and trained without much trouble, in most cases.

Unfortunately, turning a cat that you find on the street or your property from a stray to a pet is not a good idea. It’s for the fact that it is illegal, particularly if the cat is not really a stray animal but someone else’s pet. This is why carrying out the necessary steps when you find a stray cat is a must.

Here are the different steps to take…

Check Whether the Cat is a Stray or Not

If the cat looks healthy and clean, there is a huge possibility that it belongs to someone in your neighborhood. A stray cat is dirty and unkempt, unlike a feral cat that looks well-groomed.

Does the cat trust you and allow you to come close? If so, check for the presence of a collar or tag. Give the owner a call if his or her contact details are printed on the collar or tag. Allow the person to know that the animal is on your property. Schedule for either a drop-off or collection. In the meantime, give the cat some food and clean water.

Locate the Cat’s Owner

If the cat regularly shows up on your property and doesn’t have a collar or tag, there is a simple way to establish whether it has an owner. It’s none other than using a paper collar. A paper collar is a collar out of a strip of paper with your contact details and a short note for the owner to call you because its cat regularly drops by.

Attach the paper collar around the neck of the cat, using a piece of tape to connect it. Besides making a paper collar from scratch, you may simply print this paper collar template.

Ask Around Online and Offline

The internet makes it convenient to carry out all sorts of tasks, including finding the owner of a cat that pays you a visit on a regular basis. Take snapshots of the feline and post them on community groups on Facebook or any local group online. You may also show the pictures to your neighbors and ask if any of them recognizes the animal.

Feel free to make posters, which you may post around the area, most especially high-traffic ones. You may also upload digital copies of your posters on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Take the Cat to the Vet or Rescue Center

Worry not if the stray cat doesn’t have a collar or tag. That’s because it could have a microchip, which is an identification tool about the size of a grain of rice and implanted under the cat’s skin, between its shoulder blades. The microchip contains an ID number for identifying the owner of the cat, and a scanner can read it.

Bring the stray cat to the nearest veterinary clinic or rescue center. If the animal is microchipped, the owner will be contacted. If no owner turns up after the stray holding period, the animal can be placed for adoption.

These are the steps that you may take when you find a stray cat. Especially if you have fallen in love with it and you want to give it a home to make sure that it’s going to be happy and healthy for the rest of its life (or all of its nine lives), you must carry out these steps — unless you don’t mind having a brush with the law.

And this takes us to a pressing question that needs an answer…

Can you legally keep a stray cat?

stray cat

A stray cat should be returned to its rightful owner. Most statutes require the finder of the stray cat to attempt to return the animal to its owner before he or she can assert ownership. To legally keep a stray cat, the owner of the animal should fail to claim it within the stray holding period.

In the eyes of the law (well, at least in most states), any animal that can be legally owned is considered personal property, and that includes a stray cat. Just about anything that you own and can be moved from place to place — your cell phone, your wallet, your laptop, your TV, your car, etc. — is personal property.

And because a stray cat is someone’s personal property, its owner could sue you for stealing his or her cat if you adopt it. If you don’t want any trouble, follow the above-mentioned steps on what to do when you find a stray cat.

Just Before You Adopt a Stray Cat

When it comes to adopting a stray cat, the expression finders keepers (losers weepers) does not apply. Instead of having a loving purring pet, you could end up paying a fine or winding up in jail if the animal is someone else’s pet. Before you decide to adopt a cat, establish whether it’s a stray cat or someone is looking for it.

Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to locate the cat’s owner — if it’s indeed someone’s pet.

There are many ways to check if the animal is a stray cat alright or simply missing and has ended up on your property because it feels safe there. From checking its collar or tag, placing a paper collar around its neck, asking around online and offline to take it to the vet or rescue center, there is never a shortage of ways.

Consider yourself fortunate if no owner claims the cat within the stray holding period, which typically lasts for five to seven days. That’s because the stray cat will be put up for adoption, and you may become its loving owner.

Related Questions

Will a stray cat be happy indoors?

Stray cats were once socialized, which means that they were previously indoor or house pets before losing their home (either by straying from home or being abandoned) or contact with humans. Unlike feral cats that can rarely be tamed, stray cats can be trained to become indoor or house pets again.

How long until a pet cat is considered to be abandoned?

Statutory abandonment provisions can vary from one state to the other. In California, for instance, a pet is considered to be abandoned if it’s not picked up by its owner within 14 days after it was initially due to be picked up, from the date stated in the veterinarian’s notice of relinquishment.

Photo credit: ©

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The Pet Rescue.

Similar Posts