How to Drop Off a Lost Cat at the Shelter


Helping a stray cat find its owner and taking a lost cat to an animal shelter are noble and selfless acts. It's heartbreaking to find a stray cat meowing for its owners and missing their owners. Leaving this lost pet on the streets is unsafe and could endanger the animal. Therefore, taking them to a shelter ensures their safety and helps their owners find them more easily.

Animal shelters exist to provide care for stray, abandoned, or surrendered animals. According to Best Friends Animal Society, there are over 4,063 animal shelters in the United States, 52% of which are no-kill shelters. This means you have a variety of options to find an animal shelter near your zip code.

Is It Legal To Drop A Cat At A Shelter?

Yes, dropping off a cat at an animal shelter is generally legal. However, you must follow specific procedures and protocols when surrendering a cat.

While taking a cat to a shelter is legal, abandoning your pet cat is illegal and considered a crime. For example, in Massachusetts, abandoning a pet can lead to a fine of up to $2,500 and a potential prison sentence of up to five years. Similar laws are in place in nearly all 50 states in the United States.

9 Ways To Take A Cat To The Nearest Shelter

If you find a pet, there are specific procedures you must follow when taking it to the nearest shelter, whether you are surrendering your pet or dropping off a stray cat.

If you encounter a stray cat, bringing it to the nearest shelter is a humane decision. Many cat enthusiasts prefer no-kill shelters, where cats are not euthanized due to health issues, overcrowding, or other concerns.

Before taking the cat to the shelter, however, it is important to try to find its owner. Check for any identification, such as a collar, tags, or any microchip inserted in their neck.

Additionally, you can post on social media platforms or pet sites like Pawmaw to help reunite the cat with its owner. In the meantime, provide temporary care while you continue your search for the owner.

1. Contact The Shelter

Contacting the animal shelter is the second most important step before dropping off a pet. Whether you want to drop off a feral cat or stray cat or surrender your cat, you must complete the necessary paperwork.

However, before dropping off a cat at a shelter, we recommend checking the local or state laws. Some states in the United States have specific regulations regarding animal abandonment or surrender. Additionally, you may be required to pay a fee to drop off a cat."

This revision clarifies the actions needed and simplifies the structure for easier understanding.

2. Gather Information About The Shelter To Drop Off The Cat

As you prepare to drop off a feline friend at an animal center, gathering crucial information beforehand is essential. Before taking the cat to the shelter, consider collecting the following details about the lost cat.

3. Ensure They Are Available To Take Your Pet

Before taking your pet to a shelter, ensure they can accept new animals. With an estimated 60 to 100 million stray cats in the United States and only around 4,000 cat shelters nationwide, these facilities can often reach full capacity.

Unfortunately, shelters that are fully booked may not be able to accommodate additional animals due to capacity constraints. It’s advisable to check whether the shelter has space available to take in your lost pet.

4. Learn The Shelter Intake Procedures

Not all shelters may accept walk-ins for dropping off a cat. You may need to schedule an appointment before dropping off the pet. It is important to call the shelter beforehand to confirm if they accept lost cats. 

You must also familiarize yourself with their specific intake procedures and protocols. Some shelters may charge specific fees to drop off a lost animal.

5. Operating Hours

Only a few animal shelters operate 24 hours a day. It is crucial to note their information regarding their operating hours. Knowing the shelter’s operating hours ensures you arrive during their designated intake appointment. You must call or visit the shelter’s website to find their operating hours.

6. Procedures In The Shelter

There are various protocols for reuniting lost cats with their owners. It's important to learn about the holding period before proceeding with pet adoption. Make sure to bring a clear photo of your lost animal and, if possible, provide any relevant health or veterinary records you may have. These procedures are crucial as they help break the taboo of reuniting cats with their owners.

7. Use A Comfortable Carrier And Secure Transportation

You must use a secure and comfortable carrier to transport your feline friend. Ensure the carrier provides proper ventilation and comfort during the journey. It is important to remember that your responsible actions contribute significantly to the well-being of lost animals

8. Bring Your Animal To The Shelter

It is important to arrive at the animal shelter within the designated working hours so they can be well prepared beforehand. You will need to follow their procedures for the drip-off and provide any relevant information about the cat’s behavior, health, and circumstances. And thus, you can drop off the cat at the shelter. 

9. Stay Informed About Your Dropoff Animal

After you drop off a lost cat at the shelter, you must be well-informed about the drop-off animal. Make sure to ask about the cat’s status after drop-off. Some shelters update or provide after-adoption information.  


Dropping off a lost cat at a shelter and helping a stray cat find its owner is noble. You should follow various procedures and protocols before taking a cat to the nearest shelter. There are various trips and tricks to find the pet’s owners.

It is crucial to contact the right shelter, ensure its availability, and confirm its operating hours. Additionally, you need to familiarize yourself with the proper lost-and-found procedures and use a comfortable carrier. 

To reunite a stray animal with its owner, you can seek help from Pawmaw, which has decades of experience reuniting cats with their owners. Pawmaw’s straightforward procedures provide a platform for reuniting lost and stray pets with their families. Someone once said that cats miss their owners, so do their owners.


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