As we all know, cats love to wander and they can stray very far even if they do have a loving home to go to back to. But, how do we know if the cat we've found wandering the neighbourhood is lost, just out for the day, or is used to living outdoors?
The first thing to consider is whether the cat is feral or a true "stray". A feral cat is essentially a wild cat which lives outdoors and doesn't have a home. Normally these cats aren't used to being handled by people, will look healthy and may live as part of a group. These cats are happy living outside and should be left well alone. On the other hand, a stray cat who is looking for their home is more likely to be friendly, trying to get inside your house and looking a little sorry for themselves. Take a look at this poster made by Cats' Protection to help you differentiate http://www.cats.org.uk/uploads/documents/Stray_feral_Facebook.png
We have produced a document here to help with considerations when finding a cat which you believe is "lost".
Following the advice within the document will 1) ease the pressure on busy veterinary practices to better manage space which is required by animals needing veterinary attention and 2) likely provide the best chance of any found cat finding home again.
The George Veterinary Hospital document - IS THIS CAT REALLY LOST? (click to open)