When You See Cats.....
The goal is to find out if the cat or cats belong to a neighbor and are just being "let out", or if the cat is a stray which is a domesticated "lost" cat, or if the cat is truly a feral (wild) cat.
If the cat is friendly (you can pet it and/or pick it up), check to see if it is wearing a collar and an ID tag. If not, it's likely that it's a stray.
If the cat appears to be a stray*, and you can secure the cat in your home or with a friend or another safe area (not outside), get a photo or a visual description of the cat and contact your local vet, post the cat as lost on Facebook with Sam The Parrot , Kamm's Cat Guardians
and PawBoost . You can also post flyers in the area where you found the cat or even on community bulletin boards or local businesses with their permission. If no one comes forward after 15 days (state of Ohio) of your initial attempt to find the owner, you may declare the cat as yours and become it's new owner, or surrender it to a rescue who can find an adopter for it.
We do NOT ever recommend posting an animal on Craigslist, especially as "for free to a good home". If posting it as lost, REQUIRE the owner to provide PROOF that the cat is theirs (photos, vet records etc). Too many animals have suffered at the hands of a "free listing" either to dog-fighting to be used as bait or other forms of abuse.
If the cat keeps it's distance and/or will not let you pet it or handle it, that is a strong indication that it is feral or wild and does not seek out humans for anything other than food and shelter.
The goal with a feral cat is to gain it's trust by feeding it at a regular time each day. This will make it easier to plan any trapping to prepare it for the spay/neuter. If you see the cat's left ear is "tipped", that means it was already fixed and likely vaccinated against rabies and the FVRCP (protects from 3 common viruses). If you feel like making a difference, plan to Trap-Neuter-Return!
Refer to the tab "When You Need To Trap Cats" under the "What To Do When..." button in the menu near the top of the page.
*Stray vs Feral: A feral cat almost always looks well-kept and clean. A stray is usually dirty and bedraggled looking. This is because strays are domesticated, used to living inside and being taken care of so when they end up outside, they aren't "street-wise" enough to care for themselves. (ref. https://www.alleycat.org/resources/feral-and-stray-cats-an-important-difference/#CatsTrapped )