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Warm weather means more pet cats will be heading outside. The Berkshire Humane Society is cautioning cat lovers that not every feline wandering their neighborhood is a stray in need of help.

Berkshire Humane Society: How to Tell a Stray From an Outdoor Cat

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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The safest place for cats is indoors away from cars, predators, diseases and other hazards. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Humane Society appreciates well-meaning people picking up cats they believe to be "strays" and bringing them to the shelter but cautions against this act unless a person is positive that the kitty is, in fact, a stray.
With warm weather on the horizon, residents are bound to see more cats roaming their neighborhoods, many of whom are outdoor cats just going about their daily routine.
"During the spring and as the weather starts to turn cold, the beginning of winter, we see an influx of people rightfully being concerned about the cats that they see outside," feline manager Erin Starsja said. "In warmer weather like this, indoor-outdoor cats that are owned tend to spend more time outside, so they're more seen, so we see an influx of those coming to us."
The Humane Society says you can tell if a cat is just passing through and has a home if they are confidently roaming around during the day, appear clean and healthy, and are not searching for food.
There are also obvious indicators such as a collar and a tag.
On the other hand, if the cat is hiding, scared, looks dirty or disheveled, is hungry, or appears injured or distressed in any way the shelter advises to get help immediately by calling a local animal control officer or the Berkshire Humane Society directly for advice or help.
Mistaking an outdoor cat for a stray and bringing it to the shelter can be problematic in many ways, Starsja said, as the cat — and its family — may be traumatized in the process, it is time-consuming for shelter staff and takes up space from animals in need.
"We are open admission, so any animal that needs to come to us, we will gladly accept and we don't discriminate based on any feature of the animal, so when we get cats and it's pretty clear to us that they have a home, they have an owner, it can, unfortunately, be time-consuming sometimes to try to find that home, oftentimes, we can't," she added.
"And it does take up space for cats that maybe need to come into us. You know, as we fill up with all these strays coming in, the ones that don't need to come to us are holding up space for the ones that do need to come to us or those that need to be surrendered by an owner for legitimate reasons."
If a cat is found, there are a few things that can be done to confirm it does — or does not — have a home. Fliers can be posted expressing concern for the feline's well-being that includes a picture, description, and a way to be contacted by the owner.
Another way to locate a furry friend's owner is to make it a collar by cutting a strip of paper to roughly 3/4 inch wide and closed with tape, and with a written message on it something along the lines of "Am I yours? Please call (your name and phone number)" to show the owner that someone is concerned.
Kitties can also be scanned for a microchip, which is done free of charge by many local veterinarians, and if the cat is microchipped with current registration the owner can be contacted.
If a cat does not come home, the Humane Society recommends taking immediate action by looking for them, posting fliers, and contacting local veterinarians, animal control officers, and rescue groups.
Starsja's professional opinion is that indoor cats have a safer lifestyle than outdoor cats.
"I personally feel like it's always safer to have an animal indoor, the number of threats that are growing to cats outside is kind of scary whether it's traffic, or whether it's wildlife, as the city populace kind of grows and expands, the wildlife doesn't know where to go so you're facing both dangers," she said. "Cats can sometimes cause damage as well to other people's property or to birds, and they're exposed to ticks and fleas and other illnesses that other cats may be carrying so it's definitely a much higher risk if the cat is outside.  
"There are no laws against it, but it's definitely my opinion, it's definitely safer. The average lifespan of an indoor-only cat is usually double that of a cat who's outside."
For more information on how to best help "stray" cats, what a resident should do if their cat does missing, or to have a cat microchipped to help them return home quickly in the case that they get lost, call Berkshire Humane Society at 413-447-7878, Ext. 124.

Tags: Berkshire Humane Society,   cats,   

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