SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

What to do if you find a healthy stray animal?

SPCA has limited resources and space within our Centres, so we must prioritise the intake of sick, injured and vulnerable animals. If the animal you have found is not sick or injured there are some things you can do to help. We have provided some tips and advice below.

If the animal you have found is sick, injured or vulnerable, please see the advice here: https://www.spca.nz/report-animal-cruelty

Specific advice for...


Cats often have quite large home ranges and commonly roam around the neighbourhood. If you find a healthy cat that you suspect could be a stray, the first thing to do is confirm that the cat is unowned. A number of useful methods to identify if a cat has an owner are described in the general advice section below.

One of the most useful tools for finding out if a cat has an owner is the “paper collar”. You can download a paper collar print out here.

Write your details on the collar and put the collar on the cat. If the cat is owned, the owner is likely to see the cat within 48 hours and hopefully will get in touch with you to reassure you that the cat is owned.

Until you have confirmed that the cat does not have an owner, we recommend that you do not feed the cat. The cat may be on a specific diet for health problems such as diabetes or allergies and feeding could put its health at risk. Like us cats will still eat what’s tasty even if it isn’t good for their health!

If you have confirmed that cat does not already have an owner and would like to take on responsibility for the cat, please contact your local SPCA for advice. You will need to get the cat desexed and microchipped.


If you have found a stray dog, please contact your local council. If the animal is registered, then they’ll be able to quickly reunite the dog with its owner. You may also want to visit your your local council animal shelter and check their lost board. You can also try to identify the owner using the methods described in the general advice section below.

Farmed animals

If you find livestock in a public place, such as a road or reserve or trespassing on your land, please contact your local council.

General Advice

Scan for a microchip

Take the animal to your local vets and ask them to scan them for a microchip. If the animal is microchipped they will be able to quickly reunite them with their owner.

Ask the neighbours

Knocking on the door and asking neighbours if they own the animal or if they know who does can speed up the process of reuniting the animal with its owner.

Post on Animalregister.nz/LostPet

Check the ‘lost’ listings and create a ‘found’ listing at www.animalregister.co.nz/LostPet. This is a national database and the key website we recommend everyone uses.

Create a flyer

Make a flyer with a clear picture, description and your contact details. Distribute it locally via notice boards, mailboxes, neighbours, community centres etc.

We have a flyer template for download to make things easier.

Use social media

Embrace the power of social media to spread the word and try to find the owners. There are plenty of lost and found pages on Facebook that can be used, and Neighbourly is also a great way to find an animal’s owners.

Check Trade Me

Look on the Trade Me Lost & Found section to see if anyone is looking for their lost pet. You can also advertise your found animal on here for free.

If you have tried all of the suggestions listed but were unable to get help or find the animal’s owner, please get in touch with your local SPCA Centre.

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