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|Frequently Asked Questions|
How to Get an Escaped House Cat to Come Home
Your house cat that isn't allowed outside just got out. Your cat is probably excited and happy to be outside, but scared as well. Don't panic, there are ways to get it back.
- Never assume your cat will simply walk back home or even be able to find it. Once an indoor cat has gotten out it is in an entirely foreign environment and easily disoriented. You must also act immediately. Don't wait until after work to walk around calling for your cat. The animal is probably frightened and may not come to you.
- Place an ad in your local newspaper and other local sources. Include your telephone number as well as cell number. It's the fastest and easiest way for someone to get a hold of you if they find your pet. Some people will actually go out of their way to help you find your lost pet, and if they happen to see it roaming around at 1AM, what good will having an e-mail address do? You might not get the message until the following morning, and then your pet might be gone from that area. I know we all want to preserve our privacy and don't want every whackjob in the city calling us. But what's more important? Finding your pet or preventing a few potential crank calls?
- Mention approximately where you live (where the pet was lost) because, again, some people are naturally helpful and might roam around your neighborhood (if they live in the area). When you don't specify an area, we have no clue in what neck of the woods your pet was lost, so there’s no point of people keeping their eyes peeled when they're out and about. For all we know, your pet was lost 20 blocks away from our area. The more concise you can be, the greater the chance that someone might actually be willing to pay attention to those surroundings. A couple of nearby cross-streets would be helpful, and creating a location box even better (for example: East of A street, West of B street, North of C street and South of D street.) The most unhelpful posts are ones with no street given, no city mentioned...nothing. Just a "My cat (Mr. Whiskers) is lost! He's an orange tabby! Reward if found! I miss him so much! Please help!" It's not the least bit helpful. I know you’re distraught, but try to look at it from the point of view of someone who might actually try to look for your cat.
- If you have a lost cat, they tend to stir a lot between 9pm and 5AM, when things are quiet and streets are calm. Generally, they sit on walls, at the edges of driveways, atop picnic tables, steps and will cower under cars. Many times, you'll see a pack of cats wandering around the neighborhood because they're all heading to that little old lady's house who leaves food out for them every night (and sometimes they just seem to enjoy chilling with their kind, and perhaps hoping some other cat might know the way back home.) Point: look around (and ask around) to find out who feeds the strays in your area, and then go from there.
- If your cat is skittish and you happen to spot him, suddenly approaching him will only startle and terrify him, sending him running for cover. If you see him, sit down, speak his name softly and allow him to come to you at his own pace. Do not get over-anxious and make him think you're upset or going to hurt him. Stay emotionless and calm. Cats can easily detect a person’s excitability, and in the state of confusion and trauma associated with being out in the great big world for who knows how long, your cat might see you as a threat and head for the hills. Don't chase your cat. It'll only drive him further and further away from your area, and he will likely not want to return.
- Creating a little bed box for him in a quiet, dark area of the garage or property is also a great idea. Perhaps place a used toy or blanket in it, to give off a familiar scent to potentially draw him in and keep him nearby. It will be necessary for you (more than likely at night) to go outside for a bit and wait to see if you’re cat returns. When he’s hungry enough, he may come back, but unless you’re there to greet him and encourage him, he may just wander off again.
- Typically, a cat won’t cross a major road (under most circumstances) even during quiet periods of the night. Generally most lost, scared cats are usually within a few buildings of their home, and will stay within the boundaries of major streets. Cats have an internal sense of roughly where they live, but with fright and confusion running rampant through their minds, they will need your help to show them the way home.
- As you may have guessed, your best chance of finding your cat is at night. During the day, a scared cat is going to stay concealed in crawlspaces - just far too much noise and activity to endure in the daylight hours. Bottom line is, if you want your cat back, you're going to have to walk around at night and call his name, to reassure him that everything is alright. It may take days, weeks and is some cases, months to find your cat. It really becomes a matter of crossing paths with them. If you ask your neighbors if they've seen your cat and they say no - don't get frustrated. Remember that the average person is outside only long enough to get from the house to the car or vise-versa, or to take out trash, walk the dog or get the mail. Those few moments are brief and the odds of your cat being exactly where the person is in those few moments is very slim. Keep looking in the same places. Just because your cat wasn't in those bushes when you looked in the morning doesn't meant they aren't there now.
- Cats are not big travelers and are often found near their home. If the cat is not used to being outdoors, they tend to stay very close to home for the first week or so. Try looking when it's very late and check not only your street, but the ones on either side of yours. Even though it may seem a bit of a distance to us because we have to stay to streets and sidewalks, they're actually much easier to get to for a cat because they simply cut through yards. Walk around the perimeter of the house and 4-5 houses next to it, across the street from it and behind it. Consider driving around for an hour or more at about 2 miles an hour looking - covering each street 4-5 times.
- Go out with a hand held spotlight (not flashlight - too weak). You can get them at Target and look everywhere! You'd be amazed how much that helps. You can do broad sweeps across yards and driveways and look for the reflection from their eyes. Under cars, bushes, houses, porches, alleys, etc. Calling their name doesn't always help because they're scared, but talking a bit louder in soothing, praising tones helps. So does having a can of favorite food. (for when you find them or to quietly bribe them out of hiding). Most people make the mistake of looking during times that a cat would normally be napping - daytime. They're frightened so most of their normal routines and actions are out the window. They'll be hiding somewhere very nearby almost completely out of sight.
- If you post flyers, please include photos, very specific cross streets (one being your own.) You could even say 'the 500 block of Main Street' to include your house but not give a specific address. Post flyers within several blocks of your home. Cats don't travel like dogs, but you never know if they sprinted out of fear.
- If they're used to being outdoors, then it may simply be a matter of waiting for them to return. If they're an indoor cat then you will have to look every single place you can think of - under bushes, in sheds, crawl spaces under houses, behind dumpsters, etc. Try to search systematically. Cover your entire yard (front and back), in your garage and the bushes between you and your neighbors house. Talk to your neighbors and let them know you are looking for a lost cat and would it be okay if you look in their yard a few times - even very late at night. It's best to let them know and get them involved if you can.
- Finally - make sure you are checking the correct shelter for your pet! Go online to find your town and which shelter your local animal control officer would use. You can even view some of the animals online. Please keep in mind that they do not post photos of all the animals they have and sometimes at the bottom of each shelters page there is a separate link for animals turned in by the public. Often animals turned on by the public are kept in a separate area then animals brought in by animal control. Some shelters even have separate areas for where an animal was found: within county limits or city limits.
- If you know your cat's around and are still having trouble getting him or her to come to you, you can use a humane trap. These can be borrowed or rented from your local shelter or a rescue group. You line it with newspaper (on the bottom) and bait it with a smelly food like mackerel. You then cover the trap with a towel so that it feels like a den. If you catch a wild animal, then you must release the animal as in all 50 states you need to be permitted to trap wildlife.
- It can work out for you, but you have to be willing to meet your scared, lost pet halfway. Just sitting around your home hoping and posting on Petfinder or your local newspaper isn't going to get the job done. It's very important to place an ad in the paper immediately. The person who lives behind you may have no idea the cat in their yard is yours but they may check the lost and found. Every little bit helps! Good luck.
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