Dear Cathy,

I found a cat on the street with a collar but no tag. I fed her and took her to my vet’s office to check for a microchip. Since no microchip was found, I had her blood checked for HIV, etc. and her teeth cleaned before I brought her home. The bill was $450.

This kitty, apparently, was left on the streets; there were no lost signs in the neighborhood. After 14 days, however, I spotted a sign. So, do I give the cat back to people so ill-informed that they don’t even look for her for days, fail to tag or chip her, and clearly leave her outside in a heavy traffic area? The sign said that “she did not come home one night,” like they dumped her out in the cold to be struck by a car, attacked by dogs, or poisoned? Do I keep her? At this point, I feel I should keep her.

I belong to several animal organizations and am an activist. I can’t count the number of pets that I have rescued or picked up off the street. I can’t imagine anyone so ignorant that they let a cat run loose in this day and age. Also, do you have any tips on getting her accustomed to indoor life? She wants to go out, but so far, I have been keeping her busy and in a back room if I leave any door open to the outside. — B. Anne, via email

Dear B. Anne,

It’s wonderful you rescued this cat and got her checked for a microchip. That is the exact right first step for anyone finding a lost pet.

The second step is to let your neighbors know you found a lost pet. Did you put up signs around the neighborhood to say you had found her? Did you report her as “found” through the city shelter or humane society?

It’s hard to know why the family didn’t get signs up sooner, and easy to jump to conclusions when we don’t know the entire story. Regardless of when they put the signs up (they may have posted on social media or called the animal shelter first) if they took the time to make signs and put them up around the neighborhood, one has to assume they love their cat and want her back. The fact that the cat has been spayed gives us a small clue into their care for her.

Although I am an advocate for keeping cats indoors, I don’t judge people too harshly for letting their cats outside at night since it was once a common practice that many people grew up thinking it was OK to do. It takes time to educate people about the safety of keeping cats indoors, but this practice, in general, doesn’t mean they are bad cat owners.

While ID tags and microchips are also the hallmarks of a responsible pet owner, not having them doesn’t mean the person doesn’t love their pet. What it often means is that they either don’t understand the importance of ID’ing their pets or don’t have the resources to pay for a microchip. With their cat now missing, it’s possible they may regret not providing proper ID.

As you are now seeing, some cats are very persistent about wanting to go outside. As a result, some cat owners give in to this pressure and let their cats outside at night. I am not saying this is right, but some people still think it’s OK to do.

So, my question to you is, what would you want someone to do if the situation was reversed and it was your kitty that didn’t come home one night? Would you hope and pray someone would call you about your cat? I know you already love this cat and have invested money into her welfare, too, but if your answer is yes, you would want someone to call you, then I think you know what you have to do.

Dear Cathy,

Here is another tip for the Christmas tree. I put the tree and gifts in a corner and surround them with an X-Pen. I can enjoy the lights and holiday colors, and the curious hounds can’t get into mischief.Sharon, via email

Dear Sharon,

Placing an X-Pen (which is like a playpen for dogs) around your Christmas tree is a great tip for keeping your dog’s away. It won’t work at all for cats, but it’s a great tip for dogs. Thanks for sharing.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state.