Honiton residents urged to leave other people’s pets alone

Warning after missing cat Gizmo, 16, is returned to owner after undergoing unauthorised surgery.

THE RSPCA has issued a strong warning to animal lovers in Honiton not to take in other people’s pets.

Wendy Brooks, 38, of Laburnum Close, has been reunited with her 16-year-old cat, Gizmo, after weeks of worry.

Well-meaning people, who had taken the cat in, went on to have Gizmo operated on - even though his vet had advised against it, because of his grand age.

“If someone takes in an animal that they know to have an owner, it is theft and a matter for the police,” said an RSPCA spokeswoman.

“It is important that people do not feed other people’s cats, because the animals could be on special diets or medication.”

The RSPCA says anybody who takes in a cat they believe to be a stray should take steps to let the wider community know they have done so - to give the owner a chance to come forward.

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The charity can supply paper collars for suspected strays, so the cats can be let out and given the opportunity to return home. The collar displays a number for the owner to call, to let the RSPCA know the cat is not a stray.

“Some older cats that people think are strays are owned,” said the spokeswoman.

“It is not uncommon for them to go into other people’s homes.”

The spokeswoman stressed the importance of having pets microchipped.

Mrs Brooks put posters up on the Heathfield estate after her cat went missing. She later received a call from a woman who said she believed she had Gizmo.

“I was livid,” Mrs Brooks said.

“Gizmo is well-loved here.

“I am scared to let him out now, which is not fair on him.”

Mrs Brooks is particularly concerned that Gizmo was taken to a veterinary practice outside Honiton and operated on.

“I was told by our vet that he was too old to go under an anaesthetic,” she said.


What does the RSPCA advise people who phone reporting a stray?

The RSPCA will attend a stray cat if it is sick or injured. If the cat is in good health, we advise the caller (if they are willing to take on responsibility for the cat until a new home is found), to make all reasonable enquiries to find the owner. This can include putting advertisements in newsagents, vets, calling the local police and animal shelters to report finding the cat. We also suggest contacting the Cats Protection on 01403 221927. Further, we would advise the caller to take note of the date and time that they make each call and the name of the people they speak to, so that they are protected from accusations of theft later, if the owner is found. We will also send out paper collars as I mentioned to be places on the cat to see if there is an owner.

How does someone know if a cat is a stray?

There is a real difficulty in ascertaining whether a cat is a genuine stray, as cats naturally roam. There are no set criteria to identify a stray. It is normally a multitude of different things, which cause someone to question a cat’s ownership eg. health, weight, general appearance, the cat doesn’t appear to have a home to go to and constantly hangs around your own home crying for food.

What questions do we ask people who bring in strays to the centre?

When an animal is taken in by one of our animal centres, in all instances it is signed over & the name or address of the person handing the cat over is taken. They are then interviewed and asked for their reasons for bringing the animal in. If it is an alleged stray they would be asked questions such as the condition of the cat and how long it had been hanging around. If the centre feels strongly that it is not a genuine stray and the cat is in good condition, the advice could be to take the cat back to where it had been found.

What happens next?

Any strays that are taken in by the RSPCA are checked to see if they have been microchipped and the cat undergoes a thorough health check.

Lost and found registers are kept at animal centres and regional headquarters. Animal centres will not always advertise a found cat as our centres are generally well established within communities and vets will often refer people to us. It is also sometimes better not to promote the description of the cat as this can make sure that those coming to find their cat are genuine.

How long do you hold the cat before rehoming?

Our policy is to then keep the cat for a clear seven days before rehoming (although it will often be 2 to 3 weeks if not more before we will rehome). This gives any owner a reasonable chance to claim their animal.