At the start of the covid-19 lockdown our whole family was at home and the weather was very warm so we spent a lot of time in the garden. A lot of cats visit our garden and most ignore us but a very friendly tortoiseshell cat would turn up sometimes and was so sociable that we would pet it and the kids had fun playing with it.
At first, we'd see it every few days. Then it started turning up at the back door and miaowing to be let in: it would persist in this for 30 minutes or so before giving up. One day it came and sat in the pouring rain and we took pity on it and let it in to dry off. It seemed completely at home, so confident that it went and sat on a fleece under a sofa and took a nap.
After that it started visiting us daily, then several times a day, always expecting to be let in if we weren't in the garden, and sometimes we did. Its behaviour suggested it might be hungry - it would particularly focus on someone with food or drink, miaowing very loudly - so although we've avoided giving it a "meal" we did give it the odd tiny bit of cheese as a treat.
We began to worry that it might be a stray although it doesn't look like one - it appears well groomed and fed and is clearly well socialised. We tried putting a paper collar on the cat with a contact number but it returned the next day without a collar and we got no call.
Then we posted on the neighbourhood group to see if we could find the owner: several people replied to say they'd seen it and to comment on how friendly it was. One person said they thought it belonged to someone on the street but they couldn't say who.
The cat is now visiting repeatedly every day and it will sit for hours miaowing loudly and expecting to be let in. It also turns up in the night, jumping on the windowsills and peering inside. It's a lovely cat and we're happy to have it around but this level of attention is getting a bit worrying, not least because we don't want to deprive it's caring owner of a well-loved pet.
What's the best course of action to take here? Is there anything we can do to discourage the cat from visiting so often, without driving it away completely? Or are we going to have to try and scare it away for the sake of its owner?