Dear Critter Corner: I found a very friendly stray cat over the weekend while walking my dog. I already have a cat at home and have never taken in a stray. What do I do next to keep all of my pets safe and happy?

Thank you so much for looking out for the stray cats in your community, especially in this hot weather during the summer months. In order to keep your pets safe at home and the stray cat (we’ll call it Dallas for now), you’ll want to keep your pets separated from Dallas as Dallas may be unvaccinated and may not have been spayed or neutered. This will help prevent any accidents from occurring and the sharing of any fleas, ticks and infections.

Once you’re able to keep all of your pets happily separated, be sure to set up Dallas in a quiet enclosed area with food, water, a litterbox, toys, a crate and anything else that Dallas may find comforting. Then it’s time to call your local shelter and see when you can bring Dallas in to get scanned for a microchip, in case Dallas has an owner looking for them. If the local shelter is willing to take Dallas into their care, they can then provide Dallas with vaccinations and a behavior and health evaluation, and determine if Dallas was spayed or neutered. Once Dallas completes these evaluations, they can then have a chance to be put up for adoption and adopted out to their forever home.

If instead you would like to become Dallas’s forever home, then you would still need to either take them to a low-cost clinic for vaccinations and/or a local vet for a health exam. Some organizations do offer free vaccinations and free spay/neuter surgeries depending on your city and county. Be sure to check online and call the organization for the most up-to-date information as an appointment may also be required. Thereafter, integrating Dallas into your household of pets will take time and patience through a slow introduction of smells, sights and positive interaction.