Cats and dogs (and other animals) become strays for a variety of reasons. Far too often, however, the reason is that their owners no longer want them. The number of animals which are dumped by roadsides or abandoned outright is staggering.

Over 70 million cats and dogs are believed to be strays in the United States.

Many of these animals have learned to fend for themselves on the street. That doesn’t mean they are not in danger or don’t need help.

There are simple ways that you can make a big difference in the lives of these animals. Here are a few suggestions that may help the animals in your neighborhood.

You Can Form a Neighborhood Watch

To start, you must know the difference between a pet that is allowed outside and a stray. You’ll find numerous cats wandering city neighborhoods who go back to loving homes. If the animal looks cared for, has a collar, or wears a tag, then there’s a good chance they are near their home.

It is when cats (and some dogs) look disheveled, dirty, with matted fur that you should become concerned. These cats are struggling to care for themselves. To intervene, try offering a small amount of food to start the trust-building process. In time, you’ll be able to get them to a local vet, shelter, or rescue project.

Never Make Assumptions

Some kitties will seem malnourished and act like they never get fed, yet go to their veterinarian regularly and have three square meals per day. Other kitties will appear well-fed but then come from homes where they are not wanted.

If you spot a pet in your neighborhood which looks like it needs help, don’t make the automatic assumption that the pet is unloved. Seek out more information. That way, you can reserve your resources for the animals who really do need some help.

Put Together an Emergency Kit

You never really know what you’ll come across when you’re looking out for the strays in your neighborhood. That is why you should put together an emergency intervention kit. Even if you never have a need for it, keeping one at home and another in your vehicle could save the life of a pet one day.

The kit should contain a pet carrier, some bottled water, an adjustable lead, treats, flares, blankets, and first-aid supplies. Having a strong-smelling food is helpful too. Make sure you keep a log of the emergency numbers and addresses for your neighborhood for pets also, like your local animal shelter, veterinary clinics, and animal control.

Be Consistent with Your Efforts

Word gets out around your neighborhood about your efforts. The strays will make their way to you if they need some food, water, or comfort. You’ll find neighbors are often willing to help, assuming you have a plan which allows these animals eventually find forever homes or get off the streets.

And unfortunately, you will also discover some neighbors will be resistant to your efforts.

What these animals require is consistency. If you provide them food, then withdraw it, they may be left without any other resource.

Every neighborhood needs an animal angel. Could that person be you?