What to do When You Find a Cat

I found a lost/stray cat. What should I do?


In Ottawa, there are no laws preventing cats from roaming outdoors. A safe, healthy cat likely has a home and will return on her own. If you are concerned the cat may be homeless, check out the tips below for helping stray cats return home.

If you find a cat who is injured or in-distress, please contact the Ottawa Humane Society at 613-725-3166 ext. 223 to make arrangements to bring the cat to the shelter.

Found Kittens?

Five steps to help a stray cat get home:

  1. Does the animal have identification?

    Collar and/or ID tag:
    A collar or tag may have the cat’s home number or address. If the cat has a municipal tag, call the City at 311, and they can help track down where the animal lives. Microchips: Microchips are a permanent form of electronic ID inserted under the animal’s skin. If you do not see a visible form of ID, the animal may have a microchip. You can take the pet to your nearest veterinary clinic or the OHS to have him scanned for a microchip at no charge. If possible, please call ahead to make an appointment before bringing the cat to the OHS so we are able to help you as fast as possible!
  2. Try a paper collar!

    Give the cat a paper collar:
    A paper collar is a great way to determine if a cat in your neighbourhood is a stray, or if she has a home. Just add your name and phone number to this printable OHS paper collar then, attach it to the cat and let her back out in the neighbourhood.
  3. Reach out electronically!

    Post to social media:
    Take a good photo of the cat and circulate it on your Facebook or Twitter networks with the location in which he was found. Encourage your friends to share the photo on their page. Post and search online: There are websites dedicated to helping lost animals return to their owners. On each of these websites, you can also publish a “found pet” post:


  4. Search the neighbourhood

    Talk to people in the neighbourhood: Neighbours in the area, especially other pet owners, may know the cat you found. Knock on doors around where you found him to ask if they know whose cat it is. Put up posters: Create a poster on your own, or use the OHS template to make one easily. Include a photo, description of the animal and where it was found, and a contact phone number or email. Post these in as many places as possible near where the animal was found (telephone poles, local park, grocery stores, closest vet clinic).
  5. Contact us!

    If you’re unable to hold on to the cat and believe it is truly lost, find out how to admit the cat to the OHS.

More tips!

Be safe!

If the cat appears injured or ill, or you think he needs help and you are trying to catch him, be safe! Frightened cats may scratch or bite. If the cat seems unapproachable, do not attempt to catch him. Call the City of Ottawa at 311 for assistance.

Found the cat’s owner?

If you find the owner, remember to let any of the groups that you’ve contacted know, so that they can update their records and focus on the animals that still need their help.

Don’t be a part of the problem!

Legally, you can’t simply keep a cat that you’ve found. You must take steps to find the owner, including reporting the cat to the Municipal Animal Shelter, operated by the OHS.

You should also not feed outdoor cats in your area. That may prevent them from going back to their “real” home and could eventually lead to their homelessness.