Every day in France 8,000 kittens are born and only one-in-12 of them will find a permanent home.
"It's shocking," said Lynn Stone, of French cat welfare charity Les Chats de Quercy. "Every June we get a wave of unwanted kittens, then a second wave in mid-summer and a third wave in the autumn. It's the result of owners not sterilising their cats."
This statistic makes it easy to imagine that it is simply a case of adopting any cat you find. But the charity says this is not the best approach.
"Nine times out of 10, especially in the summer months, the owner isn't far away and the cat is simply out exploring," Ms Stone said. "If you leave it alone, it will go home of its own accord." If you take an unidentified cat (ie an animal which is neither chipped nor tattooed) to the police or to a local vet, it will end up in a pound and may be destroyed.
It is legal in France to put down unidentified cats if they are unclaimed after eight days and many over-crowded and under-funded animal centres do just this.
If you are convinced the animal is lost, the first step is to look for a tattoo in its ear. If it has one, phone the national register on 0810 778 778 to find out the name and contact details of the owner. If it does not have a tattoo, take the cat to the vet to see if it has a microchip, so that its owner can be traced. Vets will check for a microchip free of charge.
If it is chipped, the animal can be returned to its owner. If not, the next step is to place 'cat found' adverts in local shops and vets' surgeries. You should also alert the local animal refuges and cat charities that you have found a cat, in case the owners turn up looking for their pet.
There are also a selection a well-established websites which reunite lost pets with their owners, so place adverts on www.chat-perdu.org and petalert.fr, filalapat.fr and chats-perdus.net. It is more than possible that your 'lost cat' has owners who will come forward.
It may be a few weeks before the owner comes forward, having been away on holiday. "Which is why we recommend trustedhousesitters.com," said Ms Stone. "When people adopt cats from us, we give them a month's free subscription to the site. It's so much better to have someone looking after your cat properly while you're away, than just relying on luck and good weather to keep them safe."
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